Archive for the ‘learningtechnologies’ Category

Wrapping up the Learning Layers experience – Part Two: Celebrating research & development dialogue with practitioners

October 29th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest blog I started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. As I mentioned,we are in the phase of  concluding our project. For us this is not just a matter of presenting our results with individual reports or demonstrating the achievements with individual tools. An essential part of this phase is to reflect on our experiences on the whole – what have we learned and achieved together. I started my reflections with the theme ‘digital transformation’ and how we have experienced it as lived practice and as research challenge. In this second post I try to describe, how this has characterised our work as researcher partners in research & development dialogue with our application partners in the Construction pilot of the LL project.

The process dynamics: Research & Development dialogue with multiple activities and many iterations

Shortly before the start of the project I recorded  with our colleague Graham Attwell a video interview in which he presented some key ideas for the forthcoming project. Graham made a realistic point that

in the beginning the users don’t know, what the technical developers can offer them and the developers don’t know why and how the users would use their products’.

Graham saw the great chance of the LL project in turning such ‘don’t know – don’t know’ constellation into a ‘getting to know – getting to know’ type of dialogue. This was his anticipation in Spring 2012.

The real life in the construction pilot turned to be far more colourful. In Graham’s reflection the technical partners and research partners were treated as one group. And finding a common design idea and ways to put it into practice didn’t appear as complicated as it turned out to be.

Altogether, the process dynamic that led to the development of Learning Toolbox (LTB) was characterised by  a long  search for an appropriate design idea that makes sense for the trainers and apprentices in construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. This process did not lead to a quick listing of requirements for external software developers to do their job. Instead, the lack of developer resources was compensated by co-design workshops and further iterations involving research partners, intermediate technicians and application partners – who were preparing the grounds for software developers to enter a process of research & development (R&D) dialogue. Thus, the key characteristics and expected functions of  LTB were  in a ‘getting to know – getting to know’ type of dialogue – but the developers and their know-how had to be integrated into this process.

The multiple roles of accompanying research during the process

Concerning the role of our ITB team (Institut Technik & Bildung) in this process, the best term is ‘accompanying research‘. This concept arises from German innovation programs in working life and in vocational education and training (VET). Originally two German concepts have been used, which may have somewhat different connotations – Wissenschaftliche Begleitung (scientific accompaniment) and Begleitforschung (accompanying research). The former might be seen as a more open approach, whilst the latter may emphasise a more focused research design. In the innovation programs in working life such research was used to monitor, whether the innovations improved the quality of working life. In VET-related pilot projects (Modellversuche) the role of research was to monitor and evaluate the implementation of pedagogic innovations. In both cases the accompanying researchers tended to have co-participative and co-shaping roles. However, the responsibility on the success of pilots was on the application partner organisations.

Concerning the LL project and the co-design process of Learning Toolbox (LTB), the role of the accompanying research team of ITB was even more co-participative and co-shaping than that of the predecessors. Moreover, the research challenges was also more open – the researchers had to grasp the challenges in the course of the interactive and dialogue-oriented process. When the process moved on to the active deployment of the LTB, the researchers were needed as facilitators of the dialogue and as co-tutors in the training activities. In the final phase the accompanying researchers were needed as counterparts of evaluation researchers – to interpret together the findings. All this can at best be characterised with the term ‘agile accompanying research‘.

The role of training interventions as capacity-building in the field

In the light of the above it is essential to emphasise that the co-design activities and the research interventions were not enough to give the process its strength. A crucial part was played by the training interventions at different phases of the process. In the earlier phase of co-design process the ITB and Pontydysgu teams arranged a series of Multimedia training workshops for voluntary trainers of Bau-ABC Rostrup. At a later phase the ITB and Pontydysgu teams together with advanced Bau-ABC colleagues organised the Theme Room training campaign (see my blogs of November and December 2015). These training interventions were not merely general orientation or user-training for certain tools. On the whole these training interventions were capacity-building for Bau-ABC as a whole organisation and for the trades involved.

Here it is essential to emphasise that the training interventions were essential dialogical elements in the process. All parties were engaged as learners – trying to find out, in what ways digital media and web tools can be introduced into construction work and into workplace-based training. And all this supported the development and deployment of the LTB as an integrative toolset to work with.

– – –

I think this is enough of our experiences with research & development dialogue in the LL project and in the Construction pilot – in particular with the application partner Bau-ABC. In the next posts I will look more closely to the challenges to show impact and to draw scenarios on the basis of such experience.

More blogs to come …

 

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Four: How to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning?

September 18th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three latest posts I have presented reflections on “Digital Divide 4.0” (regarding the concept, see the first post). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my second post I discussed, how this concept reflects the initial difficulties of our project work in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC.

In this post I shift the emphasis to another part of the German vocational education and training (VET) system – to vocational schools. This is partly triggered by a recent working meeting with a vocational school teacher, who wondered, why their school was not included into our project.  Indeed, for us in ITB and in the training centre Bau-ABC it is a key issue, how to bridge gaps between formal and informal learning when developing workplace-based learning. In my short answer I referred to the funding priorities that emphasised strongly the promotion of informal learning (and SMEs as target groups). In order to understand this it is useful to look back at the development of earlier policies to promote e-Learning or Technology-Enhanced Learning (on the one hand) and initiatives to promote professional development of teachers and trainers in VET (on the other hand). Yet, we need to ask, why the conceptual gap between parallel earlier policies and initiatives has remained. Moreover, we should reflect, how our work in the LL project could help to bridge the gaps.

Background: Earlier e-Learning as ‘alternative’ for institutionalised education and training

Looking back at the educational initiatives in 1980s and 1990s there was a gradual movement in efforts to create new opportunities for open learning. This was reflected in the terminology – ‘remote learning’, ‘distance learning’, ‘open distance learning (ODL)’, ‘blended learning’ – all these referred to different steps and measures to open access to education and learning. Suddenly, at the end of 1990s and at the brink of the ‘New Millennium’ there was a great hype on ‘eLearning‘. In the newer initiatives there was a clear tendency to push the institutionalised education (and the adult education movement) aside. Some protagonists tried to bring forward private providers and new ‘career spaces’ via commercial eLearning programs as the innovation leaders. This was reflected in the separate European funding opportunities for e-Learning of that time. However, concerning the projects on the uses of e-Learning by work organisations, I remember that they concluded that the take on eLearning provisions was low. Instead, wider European surveys – like the the ones of the project “ICT and SMEs” – provided valuable information on the ways that SMEs actually used to support (organisational) learning.

Shift of emphasis: Teachers and trainers in VET as ‘key actors for lifelong learning’

Whilst the above mentioned developments emerged from fringe areas in education and training policies, the next wave – the follow-up of the EU Lisbon Summit 2000 – was part of an overarching development of EU policies. In the field of education and training this took shape firstly in the European Commission strategy document Education and Training 2010 and the aim was to promote a digital learning culture to support global competitiveness of European economy. In the first phase this follow-up was promoted by European working groups and supported by commissioned follow-up studies. In particular the follow-up study for the Maastricht meeting in 2004 drew attention that the engagement of teachers and trainers (notably in vocational education and training (VET) was lagging behind regarding the promotion of digital learning culture.

This gave rise for the European Commission to introduce new initiatives to stimulate trans-national cooperation and European exchanges with different formats: the Eurotrainer surveys, the TTplus framework project, the network ‘Trainers in Europe’, the policy-makers’ Peer Learning seminars and the Europe-wide series of ‘regional’ consultation seminars for different stakeholder groups. Altogether these measures increased the European knowledge basis on VET teacher education and training of trainers across Europe. However, these activities did not provide a basis for common qualification frameworks – instead they recommended the continuation of such participative dialogue forums with emphasis on learning lessons from recent innovations.

Another shift of emphasis: Focus on digital media and mobile technologies to support informal learning

In the meantime the development of web technologies and the spread of mobile devices had given new impulses for technology-enhanced learning. This became manifest in the wider use of online learning platforms, e-portfolios and open educational resources (OER). Now, there was less talk of sidelining the educational establishments but promoting specific initiatives (the networks of open universities) or by joint services (for consortia of member universities). Parallel to this there was a need to explore, how new forms of online learning could be promoted in working life, in particular in such occupations that were characterised by SMEs (and not catered for by university-industry alliances). Partly, the newer policy priorities were looking for genuinely work- and organisation-based modes of (informal) learning, partly for ways to reduce training costs by promoting flexible learning alongside work.

The experience with Learning Layers: The role of trainers and facilitators as change agents

In my two previous posts I have discussed the issue ‘digital divide’ in its current forms (“Digital divide 4.0”) in general and in the light of our fieldwork in the Learning Layers project. Also, I have given insights, how we have made progress with our application partners in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC and in the network for ecological construction work (NNB). In both cases we have not relied on stand-alone tools or self-learning of practitioners (with the help of online tutorials). With the Learning Toolbox we have managed to develop – in a co-design process with the users – an integrative toolset that meets several basic needs and is easy to expand by the users themselves. Also, we have trained the pioneering users in joint learning sessions to work as peer tutors and mentors in their own communites and networks. However, the wider use has always been dependent on the interest of new users (and anticipation of practical benefits for them). Here, the success factor is to introduce Learning Toolbox as one instrument to promote knowledge sharing, coordination of tasks and real-time communication – and in this way work-related and organisational learning.

Follow-up: What role for teachers and trainers in promoting digital agenda in vocational education?

In the light of the above we (the partners working with the construction pilot of the LL project) have good reasons to consider, what role could teachers in vocational schools play in the follow-up phase. In the German dual system there is a constant challenge to improve cooperation between the fundamental learning venues: enterprise (workplace and the intermediate training centre) and school. In this respect the Learning Toolbox will offer new prospects. Also, the new importance of European mobility schemes (training of apprentices from Spain, Greece etc. in Germany) and the integration schemes for refugees provide new challenges for teachers and trainers in VET. Here, we believe that the introduction of Learning Toolbox could help different parties work together. I will get back to these issues soon.

More blogs to come …

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Two: Observations on the uses of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC

September 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest post I started a series of reflections on the concept “Digital Divide 4.0” (see my previous post ). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  In particular these thoughts have been triggered by our LTB workshops (covered in my earlier posts) and our working visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. With this blog I try to give insights into our observations on ‘digital divide 4.0’ in the beginning phase of the LL project and into the role of our project work in overcoming such divides. Here I would like to emphasist the role of participative design processes, capacity-building measures and the user-driven deployment of LTB in the training activities of Bau-ABC.

Findings on the use of digital tools and mobile apps in the early phase of the LL project

In the beginning phase of the LL project the ITB team carried out several interviews among Bau-ABC trainers and representatives of craft trade companies regarding their use of digital tools, web platforms and mobile apps. Likewise, we carried out (in collaboration with Bau-ABC) a user survey among the Bau-ABC apprentices.

Without going into details, both the interviews and the survey gave a picture of a scattered landscape of stand-alone tools, apps and platforms. The trainers and company representatives had looked at different sites but were not convinced of the quality – it was difficult to distinguish, what tools/apps were meant for professional use and what for hobbyists. The apprentices new very few of them and had hardly any experience with them.

In general, this picture corresponds with my characterisation of ‘digital divide 4.0’ (see my previous post). Both our interview partners and the apprentices responding to the survey were users of smartphones, had acquired a considerable web capability and were exploring, how to use the new tools and technologies. Yet, the trainers and company representatives experienced a kind of Tantalos-situation (see my previous post) – having a multitude of possibilities but not getting a hold of them. Likewise, the apprentices were frustrated because web tools, apps and mobile devices played no role in the training.

What was the role of co-design processes and multimedia training?

In the co-design workshops with Bau-ABC trainers we were looking for ways to support their pedagogic approaches (action-oriented learning, self-organised learning) in context-specific training projects. Likewise, in the workshops with apprentices we were looking at characteristic working tasks and specific situations in which digital tools would be useful. This all was fed to the development of the Learning Toolbox.

In the Multimedia Training we (the facilitators from Pontydysgu and ITB) helped the Bau-ABC trainers to find their own approach to using digital tools and web resources – and to editing their own contents. The most important achievements of this phase were the trainers’ own WordPress  blogs with which they have made their training materials publicly available. (See Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog.)

Interim assessments by Bau-ABC trainers during the project

In between the Bau-ABC trainers have contributed with their interim assessments that have given important impulses for the development of the Learning Toolbox and for reshaping of the multimedia training arrangements:

  • In August/September 2014 the Bau-ABC colleagues couldn’t participate in the LL consortium meeting in Tallin. Instead they prepared a video message that was later on edited into short videos. These outlined different contexts for using the Learning Toolbox in the training of Bau-ABC and in different work situations. In one of the videos four trainers discuss their pedagogic principles (action-oriented learning; self-organised learning) and how they see the possibilities to promote such learning via Learning Toolbox (see below).

  • In May 2015 the Bau-ABC trainers made an interim assessment on the earlier Multimedia training (2013 -2014) and on their internal follow-up (2014 -2015). They came to the conclusion that Bau-ABC needs to organise a training scheme for the whole trainer staff to bring the media competences to a common level and to work out joint approaches for using the respective tools, apps and platforms. This provided the basis for the Theme Room training campaign that was implemented in November 2015 by tutors from Bau-ABC, ITB and Pontydysgu (with on-site support by Jaanika Hirv from TLU). This campaign was a major step forward to prepare the Bau-ABC trainers to take the role of active users of the Learning Toolbox.

Reflections on the deployment of Learning Toolbox and on the feedback from the users

In February and March 2016 we started the active phase of deployment of the Learning Toolbox with some Bau-ABC trainers in their training projects. Already at that stage we could see that the trainers quickly developed their own ways to use stacks, pages and tiles to shape their training projects:

  • In the trade of well-builders (Brunnenbauer) the emphasis was given on a specific project folder that is supported by content tiles (Reference materials) and collection tiles (photos and videos). When the pilot group of well-builder apprentices moved on to training periods in other trades (metalworking, borehole building), the trainers in these trades provided similar project folders.
  • The joint project of carpenters (Zimmerer) and bricklayers (Maurer) was based on a common mother-stack that was linked to daughter stacks that presented the respective subprojects to be carried out during training periods in the respective trades. In addition, the mother stack provided links to other daughter stacks that provided collections of tools and of further learning materials.

When collecting feedback on the use of Learning Tools the LL researchers involved (mainly Markus Manhart from UIBK) could conclude that the trainers were becoming owners of the innovation and that the apprentices had adopted the use of Learning Toolbox as ‘their way’ of managing the projects. In particular the following observations were of interest:

  • From the pedagogic point of view the trainers had set somewhat different accents. Some of them put an emphasis on equipping the apprentices with comprehensive sets of reference materials and challenging them to do selective and searches for their purposes. Here one could use the metaphor of ‘well’ for the stacks as stable learning resources. Other trainers put an emphasis on curiosity- and interest-based learning and with respective opening of new pages or tiles for apprentices. Here one could use the metaphor of ‘watering cans’ for the stacks as learning resources that are adjusted to the learners’ progress. Consequently, their apprentices have developed either explorative or level-by-level progressing learning approaches.
  • From the infrastructural and organisational points of view the trainers concluded that the deployment of Learning Toolbox had been carried out as a limited pilot. Now the time had come ripe to make commitments for the whole organisation (including the infrastructure and the availability of mobile devices for all training areas). The apprentices had experienced difficulties due to limited internet access – both in the training centre and even more when they were on construction sites. Yet, they emphasised the advantages of using Learning Toolbox vis-à-vis the time when they had not had such a toolset. Also, they put a major emphasis in having the necessary tools in an integrated and contextually adjusted set. However, very few had been able to convince their employers or supervisors of the benefits of the Toolbox. Here, it apparent that the company representatives have to find their own ways to use such a toolset and to become aware of the benefits from their perspective.

Concluding remarks

I believe this is enough of our learning journey in the context of the Learning Layers project and with focus on the project activities in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. To me this story serves as an example, how participative design process, capacity building and user-driven tool deployment can work well in the long run. As I see it, we started in a situation that could be characterised as ‘digital divide 4.0’ and worked through processes that helped us to overcome such divides (including us as researchers and our counterparts in the training centre). However, the story shows that we need extra efforts to help the construction companies to find their ways forward. I will get back to this in my next blog.

More blogs to come …

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part One: How to overcome such divides?

September 13th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With this post I will start a series of reflections on the concept “Digital Divide 4.0” (to be explained below). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  In particular these thoughts have been triggered by our workshops last week (see my previous posts) and our working visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC (to be covered in my next posts). All of a sudden I started thinking, what kind of ‘digital divide(s)’ we are encountering.  And in addition to this, I got struck by the question: In what ways can the Learning Toolbox help us to overcome such divides?

The different meanings of  ‘digital divide’

As I see it, debates on the topic ‘digital divide’ have come and gone in several waves. In the more recent debates the authored have characterised their point of view with expressions like ‘Digital divide 2.0’ or (in some cases) ‘Digital divide 3.0’. This, of course has been shadowing the authors view on the evolution of web technologies, uses of web and the perception of the gaps that cause the respective divide.

I am not an expert on this topic but my rough picture of this history is the following:

  • The initial discussion on the topic ‘digital divide’ (which we could now label as the phase of ‘Digital divide 1.0’) drew attention to lacking access to computer technology and computer literacy as main problem. Thus, strategies to overcome digital divide were directed to provide access (private and public) to devices and to promote computer literacy by different campaigns involving formal and informal learning opportunities.
  • The second phase of these debates – named by some authors as ‘Digital divide 2.0’ – has shifted the emphasis on computers and computer literacy to Internet, World-Wide Web and to social networks. The key problem is seen in the lacking or poor Internet connections and web-literacy. Thus, the strategies to overcome digital divide have emphasised the necessity to promote access to internet and to engage the users as participants (clients) of social networks and networked services.
  • The third phase – arising from the previous one and only rarely distinguished as ‘Digital divide 3.0’ shifts the emphasis to mobile devices, in particular to smartphones. In this perception the lack of Internet access via mobile devices (and/or the lacking capability to use them for real-time Internet searches and communication) is the main problem addressed by the concept. And, consequently, the main emphasis is given on informal coaching, tutoring, mentoring, scaffolding etc. to get the potential users over the hurdle and turn them into active users.

What are we missing from this picture and how – in this respect – could these divides be overcome?

Whilst the above presented picture seems valid, to us it is one-sided: the technologies (as such) appear as the driving force and the users only need to get access to the devices and to the respective ‘literacy’ to use them. In this way the ‘ordinary’ users need to be educated to be able to use the technologies in the way the designers have planned.

However, from starting from very the beginning of the LL project and up to present date we have experienced another type of problem constellation that we could characterise as ‘Digital divide 4.0’. Here we have a situation in which the potential users have access to appropriate devices and to average digital literacy but are confronted with a multitude of stand-alone apps, tools, platforms and services – the relevance of which remains a riddle to them. Thus, the users lack orientation and guidance that would help them to make informed choices for options that match their needs. This can be characterised as a Tantalos-situation – by analogy to the antique tale. (Tantalos was stuck into position next to fruit treas that were quasi at his reach but kept their branches out of his reach. Likewise, he was standing next to a river, but when he bowed down to drink, the water escaped his lips.) Therefore, this new divide is not characterised by lack of access to (and command of) particular technologies but lack of overview and strategic mastery of them in terms of user-competences.

What is so specific in the Learning Toolbox regarding ‘Digital divide 4.0’?

In the light of the above we are happy to announce that on several occasions we have been able to witness that the introduction of the Learning Toolbox has clearly contribute to processes that help to overcome such Tantalos-situations. At the moment our experiences are episodic and limited in numbers. Yet, we can start looking at the turning points and at the criteria for overcoming the kind of ‘Digital divide 4.0’ that has been typical of the situation before our pilot activities.

– – –

I guess this is enough as an introduction to the topic. In my next post I will have a look at our fieldwork and on our observations concerning the use of the Learning Toolbox to overcome the kind of digital divide I discussed above.

More blogs to come … 

 

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Online Guide published!

June 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today is a great day for our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. As most of the readers of this blog will know, the key product of our project’s pilot activities in the construction sector is the  integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my recent blogs I have mostly reported on our pilot activities with LTB in the North-German construction sector training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup.

This afternoon the LTB developer team sent out the message that the new LTB Online Guide has been published here: http://ltb.io. I take the opportunity to provide some screenshots on this masterpiece.

Startpage

This is where you start with the LTB Online Guide:

Screenshot 2016-06-16 17.59.58

Stacks, Screens and Tiles

This picture gives you an overview of screens that belong to the same stack (and contain tiles).

Screenshot 2016-06-16 18.00.45

Stack editing

This picture shows a stack in the edit mode.

Screenshot 2016-06-16 18.01.43

I think this is enough for a ‘sneak preview’. I recommend all interested readers to have a good look at the newly published LTB Online Guide and then follow the instructions. The pilot users have found the tool worth developing and using.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers in dialogue with DigiProB project – Part One: Preparations for the new project

May 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project has recently entered an interesting new phase. In the Construction pilot the Learning Layers project has a chance to work together and share experiences with a spin-off project. Recently, the German-funded DigiProB has also started its work in the German construction sector. Two LL partner organisations – the training centre Bau-ABC and the research institute ITB – play a major role in the new project that can be called as a spin-off from the LL project. Whilst the LL project is focusing on workplace learning from the perspective of skilled workers and apprentices, the DigiProB project shifts the emphasis on training of  construction site managers. With this series of blogs I try to give a picture of the conceptual preparation for the new project (part one), on the lessons to be learned with initial interviews (part two) and on the prospects for using LL tools in the new project.

I start by looking back at a symposium at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2015) in Budapest that was initiated by the LL team of ITB. In the symposium we brought together three recently completed or ongoing projects with focus on digital media, web tools and support for workplace learning. With their recent work the three projects (Kompetenzwerkstatt, Learning Layers and EmployID) had -reached a transition stage. From this perspective the symposium provided an opportunity to learn from each other and to draw conclusions for a new phase activities. Below, I will focus on the contribution of the LL team in this symposium and on the interim conclusions from the discussion.

Outline of DigiProB presented in an ECER symposium in Budapest 2015

In our contribution to the symposium we shifted the emphasis from the Learning Layers  project to a designed spin-off project (DigiProB) which we expected to be start soon. The context of this project is the training of construction site managers – a vocational progression route for former skilled workers.

In a recent reform the training of certified construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier) has been regulated with new nationwide standards. The tasks of the certified construction site managers include organisation and controlling of work processes, supervision of construction workers, subcontractors and apprentices as well as monitoring the compliance with health and safety regulations. The new examination model with integrative tasks and project work seeks to push forward a more holistic learning culture.

The major challenge for adapting the new requirements in the training scheme lies in the construct of the curriculum. In general, the curriculum is based on a two-phase model. The first phase (ca. two months) is provided by presence courses in the training centre. During this period external part-time lecturers provide courses in the main areas of expertise for the future construction site managers.  The second phase (which has now been shaped in the light of the new regulation) is based on self-organised learning activities of the participants alongside work. This phase includes integrative learning tasks and production of a coherent project report. With the integrative tasks the participants are expected to demonstrate their capability to manage complex construction sites and supervise related work processes. The project report should make transparent their competences in planning, preparing, implementing, documenting and assessing construction projects.

The task of the DigiProB project is to introduce digital media and web tools to support integrative learning of the participants (with the learning tasks and project work) and pedagogic reorientation of the trainers (to facilitate the learners in such learning).  Here, the new project DigiProB should take into account the prior work of the Learning Layers project.

Interim conclusions of the discussion at the ECER symposium

In its contribution the ITB team drew attention to  following tensions between the new requirements, the traditional mode of delivering the courses and lack of support for the self-organised learning:

  1. The new training regulation was introduced with short introduction events that familiarised the trainers on the new guidelines. However, these events did not provide an in-depth training for trainers to adjust themselves to new requirements.
  2. The part-time trainers are engaged as subject specialists and responsible for specific blocks in the presence training. They do not have an overarching responsibility on the supervision of integrated learning tasks and project work.
  3. There has been no clear model for developing online support, arranging peer tutoring and promoting peer learning among the participants.

The interim conclusions of  the ITB team were formulated as follows: For the new spin-off project it is necessary to build upon the experience with the Learning Layers pilot but to take into account the differences between presence learning within training centre (supervised by full-time trainers) and dispersed self-organised learning (supervised by part-time trainers). Secondly, it is essential to equip the trainers with didactic know-how and learning technologies to support the dispersed learning activities. Thirdly, it is crucial to facilitate peer learning among the participants and to raise their awareness of their own learning.

– – –

At this point I leave our discussions at the ECER symposium behind. Now that the DigiProB project has started its initial activities, it is interesting to see, what kind of new experiences we are making and how the initial picture starts to change. From this perspective it is interesting to have a look, what we are learning from the initial interviews and from the dialogues on the usability of LL tools in the new project. These topics will be discussed in the next posts of this series.

More blogs to come …

Possible use of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC training – three exemplary cases

February 22nd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week we had two working visits to the training centre Bau-ABC in the contexts of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The aim of these visits was firstly to clarify, in what kinds of projects Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) have planned to use Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the forthcoming pilot phase. Secondly we wanted to clarify what measures need to be taken to facilitate the Internet access in Bau-ABC. Thirdly we wanted to clarify, how to link third party apps or complementary tools to LTB to meet specific needs. The two latter points have been covered by internal notes. The first point merits public attention, therefore this blog gives a quick overview on the plans of Bau-ABC trainers.

During the two visits the Bau-ABC trainers presented three exemplary cases for implementing LTB in their training.  The first case (developed together with Lothar Schoka) focuses on apprentices projects in  trade of well-builders (Brunnenbauer). The second case (developed together with Thomas Weertz) deals with training materials and facilitation of learning in the transversal area ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). During the second working visit a third case was brought to picture by Markus Pape and Kevin Kuck – a joint project of Carpenters (Zimmerer) and Bricklayers (Maurer).

a) The Brunnenbauer-pilot is adjusted to the start of a new group in Bau-ABC and the introduction of the LTB comes along with their induction to project-based learning. The use of LTB will not cover entirely the documentation of project work of apprentices (plans, reports, certificates) but will support it. The main thrust for the trainer is to provide support material (Zusatzmaterial, e.g. Extracts of relevant DIN-norms). Also, the work of apprentices can be supported with digital worksheets (lists of tools and materials) that can be produced with the help of apps made available via LTB. Here, the apprentices could present digital interim versions and get feedback before completing the projects. As a use-case for two-way communication, Schoka indicated that apprentices can produce and share photo sets of construction sites of their companies as eventual targets for on-site-visits of the whole group.

b) Concerning the theme “Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz”, the competent body in the construction sector (BG Bau) has produced a comprehensive set of modularised reference materials (Baukasten) and a special program for young craftsmen. In addition to these, Bau-ABC uses a special compendium for trainers (KomPass). These materials are available on the net. In addition, in each of their projects the apprentices are required to fill a risk analysis form regarding possible occupational hazards with the tasks (Gefährdungsbeurteilung). The advantage of using LTB with this theme is that it enables delivery of compressed information (checklists, extracts of information sheets, model solutions with feedback) as well use of Quiz tools (ordinary quiz or detecting errors).

c) The joint project of Zimmerer and Maurer was based on the traditional technique of building houses with wooden frames and brick walls (Fachwerkhaus). Bau-ABC projects with smaller constructions using that technique serve as cooperation exercises between these two trades. By using LTB and creating a joint stack it is possible to

  • give an overview on the common project (as a whole),
  • on related standards,
  • to distribute the tasks between the trades
  • to organise the boundary-crossing exercises of Zimmerer and Maurer in each others’ tasks and to
  • coordinate the collaboration between the two trades.

After these working visits we are heading towards the pilots in the coming weeks and arranging the necessary support. We will report more on the pilots when we take further steps with the implementation.

More blogs to come … 

LL Consortium meeting in Innsbruck – Part Two: Working forward in the meeting

February 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its consortium meeting in Innsbruck.  In the previous post I discussed the ‘warm-up’ event that the hosts organised with representatives of Austrian clusters and networks. In this post I discuss the work in the meeting and the general results. In the final post I will discuss the  results of exploitation sessions (from the perspective of construction pilot).

In a similar way as I did when reporting on the preparation, I will try to capture the main thematic blocks and the essentials of the conversations and conclusions:

1) Overview of the current phase of the project – working perspective: In his opening presentation the scientific coordinator Tobias Ley (TLU) restated the approach to present the results of the final year in one single package – with the emphasis to support the exploitation activities. This approach was reconfirmed by the partners.

2) Further development of the DevOps-Use model: Ralf Klamma (RWTH) presented an updated picture on the DevOps-Use model and how it has been introduced into the LL project. As the newest development he reported on the Community Application Editor (CAE) as a further support for dialogue between users and developers. Here again, the plan to produce a conceptually based overview on design-based research and design patterns in the LL project was restated.

3) Production of ‘training materials’ and dissemination materials: Pablo Franzolini (CIMNE) gave a brief presentation on this topic. He drew attention to the work that had already started with the healthcare pilot and the tools/combinations of tools that are used. Currently, this work has resulted in a relatively wide set of “Frequently Asked Questions” videos with short duration. Whilst this work was appreciated, we concluded that there is a need to coordinate the efforts to produce such materials and more content-related promotion videos. A working group was set up to prepare a proposal for producing “Layers OER” materials (and to address the orientation to OER in the follow-up phase).

4) Documentation of project achievements with “scorecards”: TLU had prepared a short workshop session to test the draft ‘scorecards’ by filling them with exemplary project activities. In the first phase we described the situation before the LL project, the intervention of the LL project and (inasmuch as it was possible) the situation after the intervention. In the second phase we used coloured cards to specify different aspects of the impact. This exercise helped us to get a common understanding on the kinds of activities to be reported and on the kind of impact to be stated. (TLU will follow this up.)

 5) Deployment of LTB and related evaluation measures: In a set of group sessions we had the chance to discuss the technical development of LTB and plan the deployment and evaluation measures.

5a) Technical development of LTB: The developers had presented a working document that highlighted the following points: a) addressing the stacks to groups of users, b) creating a  stack file system (SFS), c) content creation and sharing with the help of SFS, d) enabling bottom-up communication via chat channel. The users reported on improvements that are needed in the navigation and in the instructions. In this conversation we reached an agree of the necessary measures to be taken by the end of February.

5b) Deployment and evaluation measures: Based on these conclusions we could reach agreements on the introduction of LTB for training purposes and on a synchronised start of evaluation measures. We identified primary pilot groups from the trades of carpenters and well-builders and agreed on a timeline for kick-off workshop (with tool introduction and focus group), interim workshop and concluding workshop. We also agreed on the accompanying communication and feedback. (The detailed results were summarised by the powerpoints of the UIBK colleagues).

6) The exploitation measures: During the first afternoon we had a general introduction to the exploitation model (see my earlier blog on the preparation of this meeting). We also got an explanation, what role a jointly prepared and agreed ‘exploitation manifesto’ can play as a working agreement. We also were briefed of the IPR issues to be clarified. With this preparation the partners were invited to present their exploitation plans and/or intentions. During these presentations we were asked to list our wishes to have bilateral talks (persons, topics). On the second day a special time slot was reserved for these talks. (During this session there was a fire alarm and all people were evacuated outside. As we were well prepared, we could continue our bilateral talks there as well.)

I stop my reporting on the meeting here because I (and my colleagues from ITB and Bau-ABC) couldn’t attend on the last day. Thus, I have missed the wrap-up of the exploitation sessions and the discussion on the exploitation manifesto. We will have an opportunity to catch up very soon. Therefore, in the final post of this series I will focus on the exploitation plans/initiatives of the construction sector partners.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

LL Consortium meeting in Innsbruck – Part One: Event with Austrian clusters

February 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its consortium meeting in Innsbruck. Before the project meeting the hosts from UIBK had arranged a special event to present LL tools for guests from Austrian clusters and networks. In this first post I will focus on this ‘warm-up’ event. In the subsequent posts I will discuss the general results of the meeting and the specific results of exploitation sessions (from the perspective of construction pilot).

The event and the setup

As indicated above, the hosts from UIBK had prepared a stakeholder event to present the LL toolsets and services (work in progress). The participants represented Standortagentur Tirol (a Tyrolean cluster organisation, Ausbilderforum Tirol (a Tyrolean forum of trainers in vocational education and training (VET)) and vocational teacher education programs from Pädagogische Hochschule Tirol and University of Innsbruck (Wirtschaftspädagogik). The meeting room was arranged as four round tables and the event was organised as a ‘world café’. Firstly Ronald Maier gave a brief introduction into the LL project and into the tools/toolsets to be presented. In each table the participants got a 10-15 minutes presentation to one LL tool/toolset.  Then the groups switched clockwise and got another presentation. In this way the following tools/toolsets were presented: “Bits and Pieces” (by Sebastian Dennerlein), “Learning Toolbox” (by Gilbert Peffer), “Living Documents” (by Christina Sarigianni) and “AchSo!” (by Markus Manhart).

The Learning Toolbox table

For me and the colleagues from Bau-ABC (Melanie Campbell and Kerstin Engraf) it was a natural choice to join Gilbert in presenting the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In these presentations we could give an overview of the LTB as a mobile framework and as an integrative toolset. We were happy to present fresh insights into the mobile app, into the tilestore and into the contexts of deployment in Bau-ABC. From the participants we got questions regarding the use of LTB in training and in work processes as well as use of LTB in a personal learning environment.We were happy to discuss the development so far and the potentials that we see in the LTB (but made the point that phase of deployment is yet to come). Our counterparts were happy with this information and expressed their interest to learn more in the coming times. At the same time Ludger Deitmer completed the whole round of topic tables and got an update on all tools/toolsets as they stand now.

The event did not last too long (approximately 90 minutes) and the time was effectively used in the groups. As was deeply engaged in talks in our table, I only have a vague idea on the discussions in parallel tables. Yet, my impression is that we altogether could give informative and interesting presentations. The participants were clearly interested and congratulated the project for a good event. We could happily recommend the organisers of the next consortium meeting to prepare a similar ‘warm-up’ event as well.

More blogs to come …

Stagnation or innovation in Technology Enhanced Learning?

January 12th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Just a quick note following up on my blog of yesterday noting the lack of new ideas in the exhibition at Online Educa Berlin. Today I read an interesting article entitled “Caputalism: Will Capitalism Die?” by Robert Misik on the Social Europe blog. Most of the article, as the title implies is given over to an analysis of the lack of growth and “secular stagnation” in western economies.

Misik says that “despite superficial impressions, the past 15 years may have produced practically no more genuinely productive innovations.” He quotes the economist Robert J Gordon who says:“Invention since 2000 has centered on entertainment and communication devices that are smaller, smarter, and more capable, but do not fundamentally change labour productivity or the standard of living in the way that electric light, motor cars, or indoor plumbing changed it.”

And that seems to sum up much of the developments in Technology Enhanced Learning. Whilst in the 1990s and the first years of this century there was something of an explosion in innovative uses of technology for learning through mainly the development of Virtual Learning Environments, since then genuine innovation has stalled, as least through the ed tech industry. Games based learning, Learning Analytics, mobile learning, MOOCs are all interesting but they do not, to paraphrase Gordon, fundamentally change education and learning, still less pedagogy. As Phil Hill says: “Didn’t we have bigger dreams for instructional technology?”

Misik speculates on the slow emergence of a new economy in which “more decentralized, self-managed firms, co-operatives and initiatives play a gradually more important role – so that, in the end, a mixed economy emerges composed of private companies, state enterprises and co-operatives and alternative economic bodies.” And that may be the way forward to for Technology Enhanced Learning, where the behemoths of the Ed Tech world play a lesser role, where governments continue to invest in innovation in teaching and learning with technology in education, where the importance of state involvement in education is recognised and where smaller more agile private sector enterprises become partners in developing new initiatives and pedagogic approaches to learning. Its nice to be optimistic!

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