Archive for the ‘LTB-Blogs’ Category

Introducing Learning Layers tools to construction companies – Insights and working issues

May 17th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Once again I am taking a look at some of the follow-up activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the construction sector. As I have mentioned in my earlier blogs, my ITB-colleagues and the developers of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) have started cooperation with some German construction companies to launch company-specific pilot activities. In the first phase they agreed to start with feasibility studies. Last week the LTB developers were in Bremen and made some field visits to different sites of our partner organisations with ITB colleagues. At the end of the week we had a wrap-up meeting with one of the companies in ITB (and thus I could attend as an observer).

The approach

In the “Exploitation report” of the LL project we (in ITB) had already outlined our approach to such feasibility studies in the following way:

“Development of a framework for ‘Betriebsbezogene Analysetage’ for identifying company-specific points of intervention (for introducing tools and web resources), working interfaces (for identifying staff involved) and feedback processes (for specifying the benefits of tools etc.) to be supported with Learning Toolbox and affiliated tools and web resources.”

For me the point of interest was to learn, what kind of insights these field visits would bring into discussion regarding

  1. the use of digital media and web tools (in general) in the companies and in their trades, in particular
  2. as support for organisational and cross-organisational cooperation (specific to their trade) and
  3. as means to enhance process optimisation, learning and knowledge sharing across the organisation.

Getting an overview

Our counterpart in this discussion was the medium-sized company H. that is a major regional player in pipeline-building (Rohrleitungsbau) especially supply circuits (Versorgungsleitungen) and service pipes (Hausanschlüsse). It works together with the major electricity providers, water and gas suppliers and telephone and cable providers. Given the wide regional range of activities the company has in addition to its main office several branch offices and installation teams allocated to these offices. The company has framework contracts with its clients that include ordinary orders as well as procedures for emergency repairs. As a result, the company had adopted a ‘federative’ lean organisation that gives a lot of autonomy to the branch offices and to the teams that are working in the region. However, a major constrain for the organisation was to get the reporting of the work of the installation teams (and the clearance of ‘mission completed’) arranged in a smart way.

Given this complexity the LTB developers and my ITB colleagues carried out a series of interviews with the manager and the central IT specialist (in the central office) and with representatives of branch offices and skilled workers at different sites. With reference to the interview grid they then prepared a flow diagram that made transparent the work processes (including working interfaces), information flows (including interfaces with different forms for work orders and reporting) and points of intervention (where use of digital tools and web resources can contribute to process optimisation)

Insights and working issues

In the wrap-up meeting the representatives of the company H. discussed the preliminary findings with the LTB developers and my ITB-colleagues. Here I do not want to get into very specific details but highlight some of the main results:

a) Readiness to use digital media and web technologies: Firstly, already regarding the interaction with client organisations, there is a considerable variety between the ones that use up-to-date digital media (and web technologies) and others that rely on paper-based orders and printed reports. Inside the company the use of digital media and web technologies is generally accepted. Yet, in reporting from the field (with smartphones) there are still some teams that prefer using paper-based reporting.

 b) Multiple dependencies and a variety of digital documents: In this trade (Rohrleitungsbau) it is typical that for one installation job the company has parallel orders from an energy provider, gas provider, water supplier etc.  Typically these organisations use different software solutions, templates and forms. Also, the framework contracts include emergency repairs that need to be started without a separate order – but to be reported with yet another form. As a result the company H. has to deal with several types of digital and analogue documents that are not compatible with each other.

c) Engagement of different parts of the organisation in reporting: The installation works of the company are rather short-cycled ‘projects’ with one or two days’ duration. Yet, given the above mentioned diversity of software solutions and documents (and the varying readiness to use digital tools) there is a tendency towards duplication of reporting work at the construction site and in the office.

d) Autonomy of units/teams and knowledge sharing across the organisation: As has been mentioned, the organisational units at different branch offices – and the teams working in the field – have a great deal of autonomy. Also, their capability to find their own solutions is appreciated. The same is also the case with their way to handle the administrative reporting. However, the management is interested in encouraging knowledge sharing and exchange of experiences across the organisation. Yet, it appears that it is easier to arrange traditional training events (with frontal presentations by external experts) rather than events for shared learning within the organisation. The manager was looking for arrangements to support knowledge sharing among the skilled workers and with focus on improvements in work processes.

Working perspectives and lessons learned

The team of LTB-developers and ITB-colleagues will produce in a short while a brief report with further working perspectives and recommendations. However, already at this stage the flow diagram and the opportunity for joint reflections was appreciated – in the final meeting and during the field visits. Below I make some brief remarks, how (on the basis of the experience with the Learning Layers) the problems can be dealt with and how the organisation needs to engage itself in the next phase:

Concerning the multiple dependencies, different software solutions and document templates there is a possibility to introduce technical solutions – by introducing a company-specific database that communicates with the other kinds of documents (and manages the conversions). This requires some coordination in the central office, whilst the branches and the working teams should get their own documents, which they can at best handle. Furthermore, for the workers in the field it is possible to provide optional choices for reporting via typed documents or scanned documents (that can be converted in the central office). Such solutions would offload the administrative work from the teams and speed up the reporting for the clients. Here the manager emphasised the need to offload skilled workers from unnecessary administrative tasks. To him this would increase the attractiveness of craftsman careers.

Concerning the enhancement of learning and knowledge sharing across the organisation the experience of Learning Layers opens interesting prospects. Firstly, work process-oriented and technology-supported multimedia training can increase the readiness for knowledge sharing. Moreover, linking such training to shaping new stacks for Learning Toolbox can bring into picture practical solutions for such sharing. Here it is important to start from such tools and technologies that offload the participants from unnecessary burdens and make it possible to improve one’s contribution. Here the “Theme Room training” and the co-development of Learning Toolbox in the training centre Bau-ABC can serve as examples.

– – –

I think this is enough of our discussion in the wrap-up meeting. The LTB-developers and my ITB-colleagues will finalise their conclusions and recommendations in a short while. What strikes me in this discussion was the fact that we looked far deeper into learning in organisational contexts (and into process-optimisation in cross-organisational cooperation) than during the LL project. Moreover, it is difficult to find similar cases in the literature that we have been using. So, we have been dealing with an inspiring and challenging case. We hope that we can continue working together.

More blogs to come … 



What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Four: Further steps with Bau-ABC trainers and ‘health and safety’

May 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

One month ago I wrote the third post on follow-up activities of our completed EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL).  In the three posts I informed on our initiative on digital media in the area of ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). Before the Easter break I had had two meetings with full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) of the training centre Bau-ABC. I reported on the starting points of the initiative, some positive surprises and some challenges to modify the approach already after the first two meetings. Then we had a few weeks’ break due to the Easter holidays and the major conference and trade fair Bohrtechniktage (the former Brunnenbauertage) on Bau-ABC premises in Rostrup.

Now I was back from my holiday trips and some of the trainers in Bau-ABC were also available. This time we didn’t have the whole group assembled. Instead, we came together last Friday as a smaller team drawing conclusions from our previous meeting. With Thomas Weerts (the shop steward for health and safety in Bau-ABC) and Josh Dreyer (responsible for health and safety in his trade) we had a productive brainstorming session and we came up with a working agenda  for continuing the process with the wider group of trainers. Below I try to give a picture of the key points (and the slight reorientation of the approach):

1) Collection of key contents for ‘health and safety’ training in different trades

Our first conclusion was about the way we should go further with the mapping of key contents for training of apprentices regarding the theme ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). So far we had collected all kinds of exemplary documents – both overarching documents for all construction trades and specific documents for particular trades and risk situations. From now on we set ourselves the task to identify key content areas and key documents that function well in apprentice training. As a next step we asked the trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in different trades to identify such content areas and documents in their trades. (Josh Dreyer already presented his favourites for machine- and metal techniques.) Based on the proposals from different trades we will gather a collection of key contents/documents in domain-specific folders in Google Drive.

2) Shaping a common core and format for ‘health and safety’ training across  the trades

Based on the above presented approach Thomas and Josh proposed that the trainers from different trades should agree on common core contents (and standard presentation) for the entire field of health and safety. Here they also emphasised the role of visualisations and the use of standard symbols as means to draw attention to the central messages.

3) Production of a set of videos to introduce the ‘health and safety’ contents (general and trade-specific)

Our third conclusion was related to the use of videos. Here I referred to the positive role of the Bau-ABC videos produced by Bau-ABC staff for the Learning Layers project (on possible uses of ‘Learning Toolbox’ in training and at work). Therefore, I proposed that we should produce similar videos when we have made progress in selecting the key contents (for different trades) and the common core contents (for all trades). However, here Thomas and Josh emphasised that we should try to develop a similar collection of exemplary videos that are available in the net.

4) Use of moodle as digital media to present the core contents and software solutions to support them

Our fourth conclusion was that we should firstly use the moodle ‘course’ that I had created for the theme ‘health and safety in construction work‘ as a platform to present the results of the above mentioned tasks. Then, in addition to this, we should present briefly other software solutions to be used in the training – such as the Learning Toolbox that was developed in the Learning Layers.

5) Preparation of proposals to develop learning units and learning designs in funded projects

Our final conclusion was that we should try to identify some simple exemplary cases to demonstrate the use of digital media in learning units (Bau-ABC training projects) and learning designs (modes of implementing them). Here, we should be looking for ways to continue their development with funded projects. Also, in this respect we should be looking at such innovations like serious games that focus on health and safety in construction work.

– – –

I think this is enough on the results of our meeting. Thomas Weerts has sent out a group message to Bau-ABC trainers responsible for training in health and safety to collect their proposals for key contents and documents. After the meeting I had a discussion with Melanie Campbell who emphasised the need for similar mapping exercise with focus on the training of Spanish apprentices in Germany (supported by the project Mobipro-EU). We will get back to these issues in a short while.

More blogs to come … 



What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Three: Getting deeper with vocational learning, ‘health and safety’ and digital media

April 3rd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I referred to the fact that our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had come to an end and that we (the ITB team involved in the construction sector pilot) are working with follow-up activities. I then described briefly, how I came to start a joint initiative on digital media in the area of ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) with trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC. In my previous post I sketched the initiative roughly. Now – after our second meeting – I can give more information and I need to reflect on lessons  learned already at this stage.

Looking back – the achievements with the Learning Layers project

Firstly I need to remind myself how this initiative drew upon the achievements of the LL project. During the project some of the trainers had created WordPress blogs to present their training contents (Project instructions, support material and worksheets) to apprentices in their trades. Then, we had piloted the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) that had been developed during the project to support learning in the context of work. The trainers had found their ways to create stacks and tiles to support the apprentices’ projects (based on working & learning tasks). However, the transversal learning area ‘health and safety’ had not yet been covered during the project. And – moreover – from the perspective of promoting the use of LTB and digital media in construction sector, this area is important both for training centres and for construction companies. So, we started working together to conquer this terrain.

Mapping learning materials for ‘health safety’ – filling the gaps and reflecting on pedagogy

I had initially thought that we could proceed rather quickly by mapping the existing material that is being used and by analysing some options for learning software – then to start working with appropriate learning designs. But it struck me that I  had not thought of a necessary interim step – pedagogic reflection on the applicability of existing materials for the learning processes of apprentices and skilled workers. When discussing the potentially applicable learning materials the trainers informed me of several gaps to be overcome. Firstly, a lot of the reference materials are lengthy documents with detailed references to norms, standards and regulations. These, obviously, are not very easily usable in action-oriented learning (supported by digital media. Secondly, several checklists and work sheets for risk analysis (Gefährdungsbeurteilung) are designed for real work situations (involving skilled workers). However, for apprentices who are learning and working in the training centre the trainers need to develop adjusted versions. So, therefore, our initiative needed space and time – and digital tools – for such pedagogigic reflection. Furthermore, the trainers saw a possibility to shape an integrative approach that proceeds from general starting points through the main areas of construction know-how (Tiefbau, Hochbau, Ausbau) and special areas (Brunnenbau, Maschinen- und Metalltechnik) to specific trades (carpentry, bricklaying etc.) and to specific work processes (welding, sawing etc.). So, instead of taking this as an easy ‘packaging content to digital media’ exercise, we are in deep discussion on vocational learning and on appropriate ways to introduce digital media and know-how on ‘health and safety’ into working and learning processes.

– – –

I think this is enough for the moment. I have learned a lot and the trainers are pleased to work in this direction. And as far as I am concerned, this kind of process confirms once again the fundamental principles that we applied in the LL project – orientation to ‘work process knowledge’ and to ‘action-oriented learning’. Now I will have a holiday break but I am looking forward to continuing my work with the Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Two: Bau-ABC trainers working with digital media and ‘health and safety’

March 30th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I referred to the fact that our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had come to an end and that the final review has already taken place. For us – the ITB team that had worked in the construction pilot this has meant a change of perspective from developing and testing new digital tools to a phase of adaptation of these tools and setting them to new contexts. In my previous post I mainly focused on the cooperation initiatives with interested construction companies that wanted to test Learning Toolbox (the integrative digital toolset) for their purposes. These initiatives have started from mini-pilots with the option of working into something better. At the same time we wanted continue with the trainers of Bau-ABC Rostrup with a small-scale initiative that helps us to find a way to work further with the use of digital media in construction sector. For this purpose we selected the theme ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz).

Why this new small-scale initiative?

Looking back at the work of the Learning Layers project in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup we need to highlight that the co-design, development and pilot testing of Learning Toolbox (as support for apprentice training) became the core process. It was important to get the toolset ready for use and to find out, how it could at best be used once it had become a viable product. For this purpose it was necessary to focus on a limited number of trades with trainers who had become fit to introduce new tools in their training projects. This all worked, but there were several hurdles that couldn’t be overcome during the active period of the project. Also, the training schemes with digital media (the Theme Room training) couldn’t be continued parallel to the piloting. Finally, after the end of the project some other initiatives regarding the use of digital media came into picture. So, there was a need to see, how the Learning Toolbox could be put into a group picture with other web resources and/or other ways to use digital media.

In addition to the above it is worthwhile to note that the pilot testing of Learning Toolbox focused on apprentice training in selected trades – and on trade-specific projects. To some extent this effect could be bridged with joint projects between two neighbouring trades or by similar learning designs for a group of apprentices moving from its main trade to complementary projects from neighbouring trades. Yet, quite a number of trades remained in an outsider-position. From this point of view it was of interest for several trainers to join in a shared learning exercise that promotes the use of digital media and web resources (including the Learning Toolbox) within the common theme ‘health and safety’.

How are we working with the theme ‘health and safety’?

We have started by collecting (digital) learning materials that are being used for the theme ‘health and safety’ in a shared Dropbox folder and grouping it roughly into several sub-folders. Then we have started to develop a joint Moodle ‘course area’ (shared learning area) with the following ‘courses’ (focal areas):

  1. General learning materials (overarching web resources and/or cross-cutting themes)
  2. Domain-specific learning materials for the trades represented in the group
  3. Learning software options for training/learning in ‘health and safety’
  4. Learning designs to be developed with software favoured for specific purposes.

We have started only quite recently, so it is not appropriate to go any deeper at the moment. I will get back as soon as I can give a fresh update. But I can already report that I find the trainers’ engagement very positive and very encouraging. We are making progress in bringing the results of the Learning Layers project further to practice.

More blogs to come … 



What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part One: The follow-up activities are taking shape

March 30th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

As the readers of this blog have observed, most of my posts since November 2012 have dealt with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. However, now the Learning Layers project has been  completed and the final review has taken place (I blogged on this in January and February). During its active period (2012-2016) the project supported the introduction of digital media, web tools and mobile devices to support workplace learning. Our organisation ITB was in charge of the sectoral pilots in North German construction industry and craft trades. The ITB team worked mainly with the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup and with the network for ecological construction work (NNB) in Verden. The main achievement of the construction pilot was the co-design, development and pilot testing of the “Learning Toolbox (LTB)” – an integrative toolset to support learning at work. The key activities and results reported by the ITB team are presented on the final website “Learning Layers Results”. So, now we have been moving on to follow-up activities.

By the end of the project the ITB team had started follow-up projects (funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education BMBF) with focus on training of construction site managers (DigiProB) and self-organised learning of adults in the context of ecological construction work (DieDa). After the Learning Layers the ITB team has also started several mini-pilots (on using the LTB) with interested construction companies and vocational education and training providers.

What have we learned in this transition phase?

Firstly, the transition has meant a step from a long-term project that engaged a Europe-wide consortium to small-scale follow-up initiatives. Secondly, it has meant a change of perspective from developing and testing new digital tools to a phase of adaptation of these tools and setting them to new contexts. Thirdly, it required a change of focus from solutions that could be scalable for wider exploitation to context-specific integration of digital media to company-specific work and business processes.

In this respect the cooperation that my ITB colleagues have been developing with some interested construction companies has been of interest. With one company (specialised in pipeline-building) they have agreed on a mini-pilot that starts with a one-week visit to analyse the needs, challenges and interests that provide the basis for introducing Learning Toolbox (and complementary solutions). With another company (specialised in wood constructions) they have found a possibility to link the Learning Toolbox to a complementary software solution (that focuses on domain-specific work processes). With both cases there is a challenge to bring the newer discussion on Building Information Modelling (BIM) closer to the work processes of skilled workers and construction site managers. And as we know from the pilot activities of Learning Layers, the Learning Toolbox was welcomed by construction professionals and apprentices as an appropriate toolset for learning in the context of work.

So, I wish my colleagues luck with their efforts to run their mini-pilots and to draft funding bids for new project proposals. In the meantime I am working with a parallel initiative with Bau-ABC trainers to promote digital media and web resources (including LTB) in the area of ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). But that is already a topic for another blog post.

More blogs to come …


Once more Learning Layers – Part One: Learning lessons from both pilot sectors

December 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Twice I have already tried to say goodbye to project work in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – in vain. Having completed the reporting on the construction pilot with the the forthcoming web documents (impact cards, learning scenarios and methodology documents) I thought that I could step to a follow-up phase. However, at that point I had not realised that there is one more pending task that we need to address in the context of our reporting. We need to have a closer look at the efforts, achievements and experiences in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – with a comparative view. We need to see, what specific lessons we have learned in each of them and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of both sectoral pilots. So, now I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell to summarise the picture of the two pilots in one document and to outline common conclusions.

In this series of posts I present some extracts from our draft document – firstly the starting points, then some insights into project work and some reflections on the parallel pilots and finally some emerging conclusions across the pilots. I hope that my colleagues accept my way of ‘thinking aloud’ in blogs and ‘blogging through’ the draft texts to maturity – this is the way of work I have learned during the LL project. So, here we go with the first extract:

“Challenges for research & development activities and for valuing the achievements

The Learning Layers project has worked in two pilot sectors – construction sector and healthcare sector. The aim has been to develop and introduce appropriate tools and technology solutions that support the application partners in workplace-based learning, knowledge sharing and networking – given the sectoral boundary conditions. However, during the project work the pilot teams have encountered also several hindrances as well as organisational and cultural barriers.

In the reporting of the project this has been taken into account by providing a picture on the progress in both pilot sectors. This may easily lead to particularisation of the view – the achievements of the project are to be judged on the basis of success in particular pilot organisations with the respective tools and measures introduced there. This would leave to margins the fact that the project worked towards integrative tool development and that the sectoral pilot teams tried to learn from each others’ experiences. Therefore, this document provides comparative insights into project work in the two pilot sectors and reflects on lessons learned when comparing the experiences and achievements.

Starting points for the sectoral pilots

Starting points for Construction pilot

In the beginning phase  of the project following kinds challenges, problems and interests were identified in the initial interviews and stakeholder talks in the construction sector:

  • Recent innovation campaigns of construction industry and trades (see e.g. the joint document of construction sector stakeholders “Leitbild Bau”2009) highlighted improvement of human productivity as a major innovation factor. At the same time construction sector was suffering from lack of skilled workers and apprentices.
  • Construction companies that had pioneered with digital tools, mobile offices and first-generation apps at construction sites had made negative experiences with non-mature technologies, less user-friendly software solutions and compatibility problems between different tools and apps. Construction sector trainers had mostly encountered such ‘domain-specific’ apps that were designed for laymen users but were not adequate for professional use (or as support for learning).
  • Apprentices were not familiar with domain-specific apps and had mainly become familiar with digital tools, web resources via private use of Internet.
  • Most construction companies were very restrictive regarding the use of mobile devices at construction sites – partly due to data privacy issues, partly due to hazard risks and partly because use of such devices was perceived as distraction.

Given this background, the training centre Bau-ABC was interested in starting pilot activities that would give mobile technologies a new role in construction work, training and learning.

Starting points for Healthcare pilot (Prepared by Tamsin Treasure-Jones)

In the healthcare sector the Learning Layers project was working with General Practices within the UK National Health Service. These General Practices are independent, SME organisations (usually owned by a partnership of doctors) employing doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to deliver first-line healthcare services to their registered patients. In the early stages of the project the following issues were identified from the empirical work (interviews, focus groups, observations) and stakeholder meetings with these healthcare professionals:

  • There was an increased emphasis on collaboration both within General Practices (working in interprofessional teams) and between General Practices (working in the newly set-up Clinical Commissioning Groups and Federations).
  • This collaboration was currently being facilitated mainly through email and face-to-face meetings but healthcare professionals felt that this was not effective, was contributing to their information overload and was inhibiting the work.
  • The General Practice work was mainly office-based, using PCs, and the General Practices did not have wifi installed nor any plans to add this.
  • The key driver for the General Practices was healthcare service delivery and improvement, particularly through collaboration.

I think this is enough of the challenge that we are facing when comparing our project experiences and process histories in the two pilots. In my next post I will give insights into the processes – and into the findings that we are considering.

More blogs to come …


Four years blogging on, with and for the Learning Layers project – looking back and looking forward

November 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the four last years I have been blogging intensively on our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now the time has come to close that chapter. I have three reasons to make that statement:

  1. The project itself is at its final stage and our field activities are being closed.
  2. My contract with the project has already come to an end. At the moment I have not been yet been engaged in the follow-up activities that are still in the process of getting shaped.
  3. Due to health issues I am no longer available for field activities in the same way as before.

So, with all the good time passed with the LL project and with all due optimism vis-à-vis the open questions, I am well advised to to take a look back at my blogs and see, what all comes up there.

1.  Blogs of the years 2012 and 2013 – Working ourselves in into the project

Now, looking back, the blogs of the first year reflect a period when we all (research partners, technical partners and application partners) were working ourselves in into the project and finding our ways to work together. I have reported intensively of the initial field visits, of the Application Partner Days and of the work around the Helsinki Design Conference 2013. Also, I have reported of several rounds of co-design workshops and of the first Multimedia Training workshops. At that point we still tried to work with a massive digitisation agenda with the Bau-ABC “White Folder” and sought to narrow it down for rapid prototyping. As our main achievements I highlighted the good collaborative spirit in the co-design workshops and the readiness for shared learning in the Multimedia training workshops. Later on I started to use the concept ‘research & development (R&D) dialogue’ to emphasise this as something very valuable that we had established together.

The logbook of my blogs of these years is available on ResearchGate, see:

PK-Logbook of Working & Learning blogs on Learning Layers 2013

2. Blogs of the year 2014 – Taking the course to develop the Learning Toolbox

The second year was started with a planning exercise – to sketch ‘development projects’ as mode of operation that gives us more flexibility across the work packages and initial design teams. For the construction pilot this was an important signal because it helped us to highlight the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as our new working perspective. In addition to this important shift of emphasis I have reported intensively of the preparation and implementation of the Theory Camp (March 2014) and our follow-up with our contributions to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2014, September 2014). However, the main thrust in that year was clearly in our user engagement with our colleagues in Bau-ABC. We had a major promotion campaign on the idea of LTB during the annual Brunnenbauertage conference. We had an intensive “Demo Camp” promotion session with Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices alongside our consortium meeting in Bau-ABC. We had other outreach activities (the NordBau trade fair and a workshop with companies). Finally, the highlight of the year was the package of videos that we edited with Bau-ABC trainers to support the development of the LTB.

The logbook of my blogs of this year is available on ResearchGate, see:

PK-Logbook of ” Working & Learning ” blogs on Learning Layers 2014

3. Blogs of the year 2015 – The rocky road to Theme Room training and piloting with LTB

The first half of the year 2015 was characterised by hard work with software development and with preparing funding bids for follow-up projects. Neither of these topics was heavily present on the blogs. Therefore, there was quite a lot of reporting on interim events, on the Espoo Design conference and on several hot issues from Finland (the AchSo pilot in Finnish construction sector, the Sustainability Commitments, knowledge sharing on Activity Theory, joint event with Finnish promoters of apprentice training). In April we experienced the opening of the Learning Exhibition “nachhaltig.bauen.erleben” of our application partners in Verden. In May we visited the annual Training Day of Bau-ABC trainers, still with a simulation version of LTB. The turning point was the consortium meeting in Tallinn where we had our first discussion on the Theme Room training concept and a release of LTB with which we could proceed to preliminary testing. So, after the summer break we were already engaging Bau-ABC trainers in testing and in the autumn months we implemented the Theme Room training campaign – both topics well covered with blogs.

The logbook of my blogs of this year is available on ResearchGate, see:

PK-Logbook of “Working & Learning” blogs on Learning Layers 2015

4. Blogs of the year 2016 – With seven-league boots in the final run

The clear highlight of the final project year has been the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) into apprentice training in Bau-ABC – and later in the year to construction site management in Verden. The progress in Bau-ABC has been covered with blogs on preparatory meetings in February, on the Kick-off event in March and on later working visits in April and May. The exemplary openings in the pioneering trades (well-builders; carpenters and bricklayers) and the transfer to neighbouring trades have been observed carefully. Also tests in other fields of application (Training in Health and Safety; Support for trans-national mobility) were introduced. And in-between we had fairly successful testing visit with AchSo and SOAR introduced by colleagues from Aalto. And after the summer break we were happy to find out during the evaluative field visits (together with Markus Manhart from UIBK and Jaanika Hirv from TLU) that the Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices had taken LTB as their own tools to use it with their accents as support for training and learning. This then paved the way for the high season of preparing the final deliverables (that I have discussed in my latest blogs).

The logbook of my blogs of this year is available on ResearchGate, see:

PK-Logbook of “Working & Learning” blogs on Learning Layers 2016

– – –

I think this is enough of my journey with the LL project as it has been portrayed on my blogs. Of course, the blogs are episodic snapshots and do not necessarily grasp the bigger picture (although I have tried to cover this level of analysis as well). Some of the blogs have been combined and reworked into articles on the LL project website and latterly into the “Learning Toolbox Chronicle”. As the running number of the blog entries is right now 176 (if I have not counted wrong), it is perhaps easier to get an overview from those chronicles than by walking through the heavier logbooks. But both types of collections are there. With this statement I close this chapter and take the next step  to move on.

More blogs to come …


Learning Layers goes ResearchGate – Construction Pilot and Theory Camp follow-up

November 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Quite some time my blogs have focused on producing contributions to the final deliverable of our (still) ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now these contributions are taking shape and are being edited as part of a group picture of the results of the whole project. This gives me rise to work with the question: How can we make sure that we take full benefit of the legacy of our project? One part of the answer is to edit a good final deliverable (that will happen). Another part is to make sure that the working documents and reflection documents produced at different stages of the project are not getting lost but are being ‘harvested’ as well. With both aspects in my mind I have recently worked to build up the Learning Layers presence on ResearchGate. I have created two project spaces – one for “Learning Layers Construction Pilot” and the other for “Learning Layers Theory Camp follow-up”.

RG project space for “Learning Layers Construction Pilot” – what for?

The decision to set up a project space for Learning Layers – and in particular for the Construction Pilot – grew out of the need to create commentary spaces that point to the Learning Layers materials that I am uploading to ResearchGate anyway. Firstly I used that space as means to provide some samples of information – news updates on series of blogs and lists of articles – as ‘starters’ to get familiarised with our project. Now that our final contributions are taking shape, this project space provides an opportunity for ‘sneak preview’. Moreover, since some of the draft documents will be edited shorter, I have uploaded the original draft versions (ODV) in full length.

As of today we find the following final documents of the Construction Pilot as ODVs on ResearchGate:

  • Use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) by Bau-ABC Trainers and Apprentices (Impact Card C-11, Construction pilot, Germany)
  • Multimedia Training for and with Bau-ABC trainers (Impact Card C-12, Construction pilot, Germany)
  • Learning Toolbox (LTB) as Support for Action-Oriented Learning in the Apprentice Training of Bau-ABC – Instances of Change (Learning Scenario S-09, Construction Pilot, Germany)
  • Learning Toolbox as Support for Organisational Learning and Cooperation at a Construction Site in Verden – Instances of change (Learning Scenario S-02, Construction Pilot, Germany) Motivation and Theoretical Contribution
  • Accompanying Research and Participative Design in the Pilot activities in the Training Centre Bau-ABC (Methodology Document M-10, Construction Pilot, Germany)
  • Training interventions as capacity-building for digital transformation in the Training Centre Bau-ABC (Methodology Document M-11, Construction pilot, Germany)

As the project is coming to an end, this space will also provide insights into follow-up activities.

RG project space for “Learning Layers Theory Camp follow-up” – what for?

The second project space was created quite recently to ‘harvest’ the contributions to the Learning Layers Theory Camp (March 2014) that were prepared by the ITB team. Whilst there was some kind of follow-up at the consortium level with some meta-themes, the contributions provided by us were not discussed widely. Yet, we had put some effort to cover some theoretical, methodological and research-strategic issues. Now, in the final analyses and in the the transition to follow-up activities, it is useful to revisit some of these themes and our theoretical contributions from the earlier phase of the project. Currently we have following main documents allocated to this project space:

  • WP1/ Work Process Knowledge: Introduction to the reviewing of the legacy of the EU-funded Work Process Knowledge network (FP4 – TSER)
  • WP2/ Work Process Knowledge: Revisiting the Theme ‘Work Process Knowledge’ and its implications for vocational education and training – The position the WPK network
  • Commentary 1 on theoretical foundations of the Work Process Knowledge network (based on the synthesis article of M. Fischer and N. Boreham 2004) – 2014
  • Commentary 2 on empirical studies of Work Process Knowledge network – based on the interim synthesis article of M. Fischer and N. Boreham
  • WP Accompanying Research: Reviewing the role of Accompanying Research, Interactive Research and Action research as support for participative design processes
  • Commentary note 1: Activity Theory – Foundations, conceptual evolution, implications for a developmental research strategy – 2015
  • Commentary note 2: Activity Theory – Intervention research cases, Change Laboratory processes and research findings – 2015

As the project is coming to an end we will also rework with these materials as well when we are preparing (secondary) analyses of the empirical findings and reflection papers on our fieldwork.

– – –

I think this is enough of the Learning Layers presence on ResearchGate – as far as the project spaces “Construction Pilot” and the “Theory Camp follow-up” are concerned. Both will have a life beyond the funding period of the current Learning Layers project.

More blogs to come …


Presenting the Learning Layers experience – the Learning Toolbox Chronicle

November 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

One of the final efforts of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project has been the rearrangement of the dissemination articles that we had published on the LL website, section “Construction”. At the end of the project we felt that we should make it accessible as a more structured documentation of the process we went through with our construction sector partners. However, we knew that we cannot make intensive editing operations – the materials were already there and we could at best make them more attractive by providing easier access to them. Secondly, we needed to think beyond our project experience and to open perspectives for follow-up activities. This gave rise to present the history of Construction pilot as the story on the making of its main result – the Learning Toolbox. And so the articles of past years were give a new life as the “Learning Toolbox Chronicle” and as “Learning Toolbox Chronik (Deutsche Version)”.

Insights into the Learning Toolbox Chronicle (English version)

Under the new heading the articles appear as three volumes (annual chronicles):

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 1, 2014  covers the early phases from the Application Partner Days (APD) and from the early co-design activities (2013) to the outreach activities with the LTB concept in 2014 (Brunnenbauertage, Demo Camp, Nordbau and a smaller demonstration workshop with two active craft trade companies).

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 2, 2015  covers several interim events starting with the opening of the ‘Learning exhibition’ of our partners in ecological construction work in Verden and with the annual Training Day of the Bau-ABC staff. Later in the year we had workshops and conferences in Espoo, Bremen and Budapest and alongside the Bremen conference the publication of the LTB Beta version. This was celebrated with a field visit in Bau-ABC and with special sessions in the Bremen conference. (And let us not forget the visit of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency to Bremen to inform themselves of the Learning Layers project and of the emerging Learning Toolbox!)

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 3, 2016  covers major training interventions (the Theme Room training campaign) and a series of pilot activities and field events in Bau-ABC Rostrup (the major pilot site for the LTB). We also get insights into using the LTB for coordinating construction work processes at a special construction site in Verden.

Insights into Learning Toolbox Chronik (Deutsche Version)

In principle the German versions of the Chronicles cover the same developments. However, the number of articles is smaller (since we have only included articles of the years 2014 and 2015) that are closer to the application partners. But regarding the year 2016 we have covered all events and activities.

Bonus tracks and Online Guide

One of the highlights of the year 2014 was the joint effort of Bau-ABC colleagues to produce a series of videos on possible use of the LTB in their training and in construction work. These videos are also accessible via both language versions of the LTB Chronicles, see

Learning Toolbox videos from Bau-ABC (2014) – Overview 

One of the highlights of the year 2016 has been the publication of the Learning Toolbox Online Guide. It can also be accessed via the the Learning Toolbox chronicles.

– – –

I think this is enough of the new Chronicles. I hope that they serve their purpose and provide inspiring insights into the making of the Learning Toolbox. For us who were involved in this process they provide an opportunity to celebrate our joint achievements – researchers, practitioners and developers, all working together. And we already know that Learning Toolbox has a future beyond the current project.

More blogs to come …


Wrapping up the Learning Layers experience – Part Four: Interpreting the impact and drawing scenarios

November 1st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. As I have indicated, we are preparing contributions for the concluding deliverable of our project. In my previous post I discussed, how we are showing impact of our project with Impact Cards. Then I discussed, how this can lead to a particularisation of the picture. As a contrast, I tried to bring together the messages of different cards to show, how our interventions in the Construction pilot have had impact in terms of promoting digital transformation. However, my examples remained at the level of presenting local and context-specific success stories and progress reports. This gives rise to the question, what is the value of these achievements in terms of promoting the presented innovations. And this then leads to the question, on what grounds we can interpret this potential.

Below I will discuss these issues in the light of the two Learning Scenarios that we have prepared on the basis of the Construction pilot. In both examples we introduce firstly an exemplary case on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB). On the basis of such a case we then draw scenarios for further work with LTB and for dissemination of the innovation. And with both examples we can demonstrate the role of research and of our theoretical work in interpreting the impact.

LTB on construction site – the scenario on the work with multiplier networks

In the first “Learning Scenario” on cross-organisational learning with used as a starting point Thomas Isselhard’s presentation on the use of LTB as support for coordination of the work at a construction site and for real-time communication on plans, orders and reports. In the two videos recorded on his presentation Thomas gives a picture, how the use of LTB can help to avoid communication gaps between different parties involved (video 1) and how to get new users accustomed to work with LTB (video 2). The background text in the ‘Learning Scenario’ draws attention to the way in which the the functionality of LTB help to overcome the gaps. In a similar way the text draws attention to the benefits of LTB as an integrative toolset – customised for the users and by the users with their own sets of context-specific stacks and content tiles. Furthermore, the videos and the text give insights into the ways in which new users are introduced to using LTB while getting their instructions for the construction work.

This exemplary case shows the potential of making interactive use of LTB as a common integrative toolset for sharing knowledge and information between different parties at a construction site. In the ‘Scenario’ part of the document we step out from the site and shift the emphasis to different organisations and networks involved in construction sector. Thomas Isselhard is a member in several networks on ecological construction work and these networks have a wide range of specialised cooperation partners. In this respect the ‘Scenario’ outlines a spectrum of activities via which these networks can promote the use of LTB in sharing knowledge and promoting cooperation in ecological construction work and in different campaigns for awareness-raising.

LTB as support for apprentice training – the scenario on supporting learning in special learning areas

In another “Learning Scenario” document we draw attention to the way in which full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup have used LTB to support their training. In the background sections the document gives insights into the transition from working with paper-based materials to creating web-based resources that are available via trade-specific stacks and content tiles.

In further sections we present results from field visits in which researchers have had interview sessions with the trainers and focus groups with apprentices. Here we found an interesting difference between otherwise similar approaches:

  • Trainers who follow a problem-oriented training strategy tend to equip  learners with comprehensive resources. The apprentices need to search as self-organised learners  to find the problem-relevant information. In a nutshell, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘well’.
  • Trainers who follow an interest-oriented training strategy tend to provide in the beginning fewer resources and only gradually open access to new resources. The learners are nurtured step-by-step with new impulses and challenges once they have started to find their own solutions and ways of working. In this case, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘watering can’.

In the ‘Scenario’ part we stepped out of the trade-specific contexts of apprentice training and shifted the emphasis to specific challenges in the training of Bau-ABC. One issue that the Bau-ABC trainers had raised already at an early stage of the project was, how to make training in Health and Safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) more inspiring. Another issue was, how to provide easy and filtered access to DIN norms that are relevant for skilled workers. For both cases it is possible to provide interim solutions by providing an overview on the sets of resources via Moodle (or similar platform). Then linking LTB to the respective Moodle application (or similar application) the users could find the resources easier (‘LTB as a well’). However, in the training with these resources it would be possible to introduce some kind of ‘gamification’ to guide the learners from tasks that require general knowledge to more demanding cases that require special expertise (‘LTB as a watering can’).


We have also used these documents to highlight the role of our theoretical work in interpreting the impact demonstrated in these exemplary cases (as a basis for the scenarios):

  • We have interpreted the first case – the use of LTB at the construction site in Verden – as a micro-case that demonstrates organisational and cross-organisational learning in a local context. Here we underline that ‘organisational learning’ is not merely a result of good management skills or good consultancy. Instead, the key point is in finding the way to promote interactivity and responsiveness between site manager, craftsmen and stakeholders involved. This point has also been highlighted in the concept ‘work process knowledge’ that we have discussed in the project on several occasions.
  • We have interpreted the second case – the Bau-ABC trainers’ transition to use LTB – as an example of gradual digital transformation and as enhancement of their pedagogy. Here, it is worthwhile to emphasise that the trainers have challenged apprentices to become self-organised learners and to take ownership on their learning. With the use of LTB they have seen more possibilities – and the learners have felt themselves more empowered. In this way the use of LTB has strengthened the training and learning culture based on action-oriented learning in Bau-ABC.
  • We worked out these interpretations in the latter case by combining the empirical findings of a visiting evaluation researcher, the process-related knowledge of a ‘local’ accompanying researcher and the insights into instructional designs provided by an educational technology researcher. In this way way came to interpret the changes in Bau-ABC as indications of a digital transformation based on step-by-step transitions – not as an abrupt digital revolution with great leaps to unknown. Moreover, we could conclude these changes as contributions to the Bau-ABC approach that celebrates action-oriented learning – not as a radical paradigm shift in pedagogy.

– – –

I think this is enough of our work with the ‘Learning Scenarios’ and altogether on the theme ‘digital transformation’. In the coming days our deliverables will take shape and will be made available in due time. There is some more work to be done, but most of the Learning Layers experience is getting wrapped up. Then we have to prepare ourselves for the follow-up.

More blogs to come …

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