Archive for the ‘mobile learning’ Category

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part Two: Feedback during a working visit to Bau-ABC

April 6th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

On Tuesday the 4th of April we had an interesting working visit in Bau-ABC in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. I, Lars Heinemann (both from ITB) and Martina Lübbing (from Pontydysgu) were on a whole-day visit in Bau-ABC to collect feedback and situation assessments after the first weeks of piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) (see my previous post). In addition we discussed several initiatives to support the pilot activities during the LL project and afterwards. Below I try to give an account on the points and working issues that are most relevant for the whole LL project.

Building upon the work of the pioneering trades

During our visits in the working areas got a picture how the Bau-ABC trainers had experienced the first weeks of the pilots and how to support the next steps. With the pilot group of carpenters (Zimmerer) the LTB had been received well and also apprentices from other groups had shown interest. (However, this other group is right now preparing for interim examinations, so therefore an introduction of LTB would not be well-timed and can at best take place in the autumn.) The pioneering group will shortly return to Bau-ABC and work in another trade – with the bricklayers (Maurer). This cooperation has been built in into the preparation of the stacks for this pilot group and the trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) Markus Pape and Kevin Kuck have been working together.

A similar possibility is available with the pioneering group of well-builders (Brunnenbauer) which is now having a school period in the same area and then switch to work with the trade of machinery and metalworking (Maschinen- und Metalltechnik). In order to support the use of LTB in that period the pioneering Lehrwerkmeister Lothar Schoka volunteered to contact his colleagues in that trade and advise them on preparing similar LTB stacks for their trade.

Integrating new trades and learning areas into the pilot with LTB

On our visit to the working area of road-builders (Strassenbauer), pipeline-builders (Rohrleitungsbauer) and sewage builders (Kanalbauer) we explored new possibilities to extend the pilots. One of the experienced trainers, Stefan Wiedenstried, is now for the moment working with the pipeline builders and expressed his interest to prepare similar stacks for that trade as his colleagues had done in other trades (and Gilbert Peffer for the road-builders before the kick-off event). In a similar way, the shop steward for health and safety (Sicherheitsbeaftragte) Thomas Weerts expressed his interest to prepare stacks for health and safety instructions for apprentices in Bau-ABC. This learning area was already discussed on an earlier working visit of LTB developers in Bau-ABC in February. Now we have a chance to take this initiative further.

Support measures and further activities

Alongside these talks we discussed the need to update the user’s manual for LTB (originally written by Jaanika Hirv during her internship period in Bau-ABC during November-December 2015). In addition we discussed the need to prepare online instructions  (as a tile or as a stack) that would be easily accessible in the LTB. The ITB-Pont team took this issue with it as homework. As a further step we had discussions on the prospect to start a new cycle of “Theme room” training in Bau-ABC and to introduce the work with LTB as a new theme. Here we expect Bau-ABC to have internal discussions and then we can start preparing the new cycle in greater detail.

I think this is enough of the general picture. We also took up several working issues on the infrastructure, access problems and proposals for improvements. I will discuss some of these in my next post.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Mobile Learning – the Dream goes on

February 29th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

“What killed the mobile learning dream?” asks John Traxler in an article for Jisc’s Digifest. John goes on to say:

Mobile learning was e-learning’s dream come true. It offered the potential for completely personalised learning to be truly any time, anywhere.

ltbInstead, we’ve ended up with mobile access to virtual learning environments that are being used as repositories. So, in practice, students reading their notes on the bus.

He’s right but I am not sure his reasons are sufficient. The main problem John sees is that when early projects were developed into mobile learning, they were based on supplying participants with digital devices. This was expensive and limited the scale and sustainability of such projects. Now new initiatives are emerging based on BYOD (bring your own Device). This is more sustainable but raises its own questions.

Bring your own device, enabling students to use their own equipment, introduces more questions: is there a specific range of technologies they can bring, what’s the nature of the support offered, and have we got a network infrastructure that won’t fall over when 20,000 students turn up with gadgets? What kind of staff development is needed to handle the fact that not only will the students turn up with many different devices but tomorrow they’ll have changed to even more different devices?

All this is true. And as we prepare to roll out the trial of our Learning Layers project funded Learning Toolbox (LTB) application we are only to aware that as well as looking at the technical and pedagogic application of Learning toolbox, we will have to evaluate the infrastructure support. The use of Learning toolbox has been predicated on BYOD and has been developed with Android, iOS and Microsoft versions. The training centre where the pilot will take place with some 70 apprentices, BauABC, covers a large site and is in a rural area. Telecoms network coverage is flaky, broadband not fast and the wireless network installed to support the pilots is a new venture. So many issues for us to look at there. However in terms of staff development I am more confident, with an ongoing programme for the trainers, but perhaps more importantly I think a more open attitude from construction industry trainers to the use of different technologies than say from university lecturers.

The bigger issue though for me is pedagogy. John hints at this when he talks about mobiles being used to access virtual learning environments that are being used as repositories. The real limitation here is not in the technology or infrastructure but a lack of vision of the potential of mobiles for learning in different contexts. Indeed I suspect that the primary school sector is more advanced in their thing here than the universities. Mobile devices have the potential to take learning into the world outside the classroom and to link practical with more theoretical learning. And rather than merely pushing learning (to be read on the bus although I have never quite understood why mobile learning vendors think everyone travels home by bus), the potential is to create a new ecosystem, whereby learners themselves can contribute to the learning of others, by direct interaction and by the sharing of learning and of objects. Dare I say it – Learning Toolbox is a mobile Personal Learning Environment (at least I hope so). We certainly are not looking to replace existing curricula, neither existing learning technologies. Rather we see Learning Toolbox as enhancing learning experiences and allowing users to reflect on learning in practice. In this respect we are aware of the limitations of a limited screen size and also of the lack of attraction of writing long scripts for many vocational learners. This can be an advantage. Mobile devices support all kinds of gesturing (think Tinder) and are naturally used for multimedia including video and photographs.

So what killed the mobile learning dream. Lack of understanding of its true potential, lack of vision and a concentration of funding and pilot activities with the wrong user groups. That is not to say that mobile learning cannot be used in higher education. But it needs a rethinking of curriculum and of the interface between curriculum, pedagogy and the uses of technology. So the dream is not dead. It just needs more working on!

If you would like to know more about Learning Toolbox or are interesting in demonstration or a pilot please contact me graham10 [at] mac [dot] com

Refugees and the challenge for education in Germany

November 5th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

One of the big talking points at last weeks DISCUSS conference in Munich was the current influx of refugees into Germany and the challenges for public services. It seems up to 5000 refugees are arriving daily at Munich’s main railways station.

Most participants at the conference would agree with Marcel Fratzscher, the head of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), who is reported in today’s Guardian newspaper as saying  the hundreds of thousands of newcomers this year as well as the hundreds of thousands more expected over the coming years, are a major opportunity for Germany and that its strong financial position makes it ideally placed to welcome them.

“In the long run the refugees are an incredible opportunity for Germany,” Fratzscher said. “Because of the surplus in the public budget, and a labour market that’s doing incredibly well, there’s probably never been a better moment in the last 70 years for Germany to deal with the challenge.”

But the concerns expressed by participants in the DISCUSS conference were more short term. Germany has an incredibly well structured and functioning state and local government bureaucracy. But at a time when under pressure it is proving insufficiently flexible to deal with new demands, a position made worse by the rigid hierarchies common in European public services. Furthermore there is little communication between the different services involved in supporting the refugees, resulting individuals being sent from department to department and back again.

For education one of the longer term challenges will be developing infrastructure for instance the need for more kindergartens. In the short term the major challenge is developing provision for language learning and skills and knowledge for employment. Traditionally, refugees have attended language learning courses, prior to enrolment on work orientated programmes. instead now a new programme is being developed called “Living and Working in Germany” which will integrate language learning within work orientated education and training. This programme is designed to last for eight months, with five hours a day of attendance. However, at present the curriculum is still being developed (I only talked with researchers from two German Lander, or regions, and provision may well be different in other German states). Responsibility for the programmes is with the adult education services, often allied to the universities. But they clearly do not have enough teachers for these programmes. In response to this the requirement for teachers to have a special qualification for teaching German as a foreign language is being relaxed. A major pedagogic issue is that the refugees are being treated as a homogeneous group, with well qualified graduates in classes alongside those lacking basic education.

The challenge of ramping up provision is considerable. It was estimated that at the moment less than five per cent of newly arrived refugees are enrolled on courses. Just who gets a place on the courses seems to be somewhat random and this is leading to tensions. Whilst their asylum applications are being processed refugees are not allowed to work in Germany and boredom is seen as a major issue.

One of the learning cafe session groups at the conference focused on the challenge of providing education for the refugees looking for ideas for immediate initiatives and projects. Ideas included the need for better careers advice and occupational guidance, traditionally in Germany integrated in the education and training system. Another idea was to involve Meisters, qualified trade crafts people and owners of Small and Medium Enterprises, in the training programmes. A further idea was to develop mobile applications for language learning and vocational orientation. Although access to computers is limited, many of the refugees have smart phones which are critical to keeping in touch with families. A big issue is how to identify the skills and competences of the refugees and how to recognise or accredit these (I will write a further article on this). It was also pointed out that the European Commission has funded many projects for working with refugees but the results of these projects has all too often failed to be sustainable or properly disseminated.

If anyone would like to be interviewed around ideas of how to deal with these challenges or indeed about the immediate responses, please get in touch by Skype or email. My skype address is GrahamAttwell.

Interim reports on LL fieldwork in Bau-ABC – Part Three: Indications of achievements of the LL project

October 2nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two previous blogs I have reported on the results of a  field visit to the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) and our ITB-colleague Lars Heinemann interviewed Bau-ABC trainers to get feedback on the pilot testing of LL tools. In my first blog I  gave a brief news report, whilst in the second blog I discussed in closer detail the remarks of the trainers Markus Pape and Lothar Schoka.

With this third blog I try to relate these fresh interviews to our earlier encounters and on the changing circumstances and changing practices. Here, I want to draw attention to the new activities that have come into picture during the LL project and due to initiatives of the LL project. I try to link my comments to the points that I raised on the interviews in my previous blog:

Initial awareness of digital media, web tools and mobile devices

In the beginning phase of the project (January 2013) the ITB team made some early interviews with Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices. At that time both our awareness as well as the awareness of the trainers and apprentices was not advanced. None of us had a holistic view on the usability of digital media, web tools and mobile devices. In different trades the trainers could refer to some apps and tools. Yet, the trainers had mixed feelings about domain-specific apps for construction sector (some being apps for professionals, others for lay users and altogether with varying quality). Also, the use of web resources and Facebook groups was at an early stage. Furthermore, the use of mobile phones was banned during the training because it was perceived as mere distraction.

Workshops and User Survey: Awareness of web tools, readiness to use mobile devices

In the next phase (Spring 2013) the LL project started co-design workshops with apprentices and trainers (in different groups) to identify points of intervention and to specify the emerging design idea(s). In Autumn 2013 the ITB team organised a User Survey that covered most of the apprentices that attended their initial training periods in Bau-ABC.

The discussions in the workshops and the results of the questionnaire revealed that the apprentices were not at all informed of the existing construction sector apps and had made very little use of them. However, the apprentices indicated that they had made use of their smartphones to support their work and workplace learning (e.g. via web searches or by documenting their work  and learning results).

Co-design of LTB, Multimedia Training and follow-up activities

In Spring 2014 the co-design process brought into picture the framework of Learning Toolbox and parallel to it the LL project arranged Multimedia Training workshops to Bau-ABC trainers. Due to these processes the emphasis in the co-design processes shifted from expectations (on the design work of others) to initiatives (how to develop one’s own training practice with the help of new tools). In this phase the trainers started to work with their own trade-specific blogs and provide digital access to their training contents. Also, the trainers developed their own ideas, how the emerging LTB could be used in Bau-ABC (as was demonstrated by the videos for the Tallinn consortium meeting in the Autumn 2014).

Taking steps to customise and use LTB as integrative set of tools, apps and services

In the light of the above presented background, the interviews of the Bau-ABC trainers (see my previous blog) demonstrate remarkable progress in the LL project. The Bau-ABC trainers are becoming owners of LL-initiated innovations and in customising the LTB for their trades (to be used in training and working contexts). Also, the demonstrate clearly, how their overall competences in using digital media, web resources and mobile devices have grown during the project and due to the support from the project. And thirdly, due to peer tutoring and peer learning they have developed into multipliers who can bring their colleagues and apprentices to an active piloting phase.

I think this is enough for the moment. We will get back to Bau-ABC and our other application partners in a short while.

More blogs to come ...

Interim reports on LL fieldwork in Bau-ABC – Part Two: Feedback from the trainers

October 2nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous blog I reported on the field visit to the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) together with our ITB-colleague Lars Heinemann interviewed Bau-ABC trainers to get feedback on the pilot testing of LL tools. In particular they wanted to get feedback on the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB), which we are developing together with our partners in the construction sector. In my first blog I could only give a brief news report and to raise some issues/requests to be considered by the developers of the LTB.

Now that I have listened the recordings, I find that the colleagues have had a very interesting discussion and that we can learn a lot of the points made by the Bau-ABC trainers Markus Pape (carpenter) and Lothar Schoka (well-builder/borehole builder). With this second post I try to pick some of their interesting points and reconstruct a red thread across their conversations:

Motivation to use digital media, web tools and mobile devices

Both trainers emphasised that their apprentices are very inspired when they get a chance to use mobile devices to access digital contents and web resources during their training and in the context of work. Compared to mere written instructions or paper-based documentation, the apprentices feel more motivated (since they are all eager to use their devices at any rate).

Usability of mobile devices, LTB  and digital contents

Both trainers made several points on the usability issues that emphasise the relevance of LTB:

  • Access to documents, web resources and real-time communication is often a problem at construction sites (no space for looking at papers or folders, no chance to have stationary PCs or even laptops). With mobile devices, communication apps and the toolset of LTB many problems can be clarified in real time. Furthermore, LTB can essentially facilitate communication between different trades and working groups on same construction sites or quality control between the teams and their supervisors.
  • The structure of LTB – tiles, pages and stacks – makes it easy to use without making it overly complex. This is essential for users in craft trades who expect tools that work properly in real work.
  • Both trainers emphasised the benefits of LTB in supporting well-structured web searches (with appropriate terminology) and steering it to good quality sources. Moreover, Schoka emphasised the possibility to use QR tags to direct searches to appropriate sections of user manuals and instructions for maintenance.

Use of trainers’ and apprentices’ own web resources and digital contents

  • Both trainers have created their own domain-specific blogs (Zimmererblog, Brunnenbauer und Spezialtiefbauer) for uploading their instruction sheets for apprentices’ projects and for presenting other contents. By making their own LTB stacks they can provide access to the right documents when it is appropriate for the training schedules.
  • Schoka made a special point on the short videos that have been produced and uploaded by apprentices on the well-builders’ Facebook group. These short videos may serve several purposes. Now, thanks to LTB, they can be used in a more targeted way.

 Changes in training and learning practice

  • Both trainers are in the process of linking the pilot testing of LTB to specific training projects and content areas via their own stacks and with specific sets of tools, apps, instructions and tasks. In this way they are creating their own multimedia environments in which they are involving their apprentices as digital learners.
  • The two trainers have brought into picture different strengths in using digital media and web resources. Pape has been the pioneer in creating domain specific blogs. Schoka has been active in developing the well-builders’ Facebook group as a community resource. Partly these have activities have been started in the Multimedia Training of the LL project and partly they have been inspired by such support. Moreover, there has been a great deal of peer learning between the trainers, so that they early movers have shared their experiences with others.

I think this is enough of the points that I have picked from the interviews. I do not try to give an exhaustive report. The colleagues from UIBK will work further with the interview materials and put them into a wider context by linking the results from construction sector and healthcare sector to each other. My point was to pick these comments from Bau-ABC for an interim assessment.

With my third post I try to relate these points to earlier interviews and talks with Bau-ABC trainers (and apprentices)In that context I try to demonstrate, how their approach to using digital media, web tools and mobile technologies has changed during the project and due to their involvement in participative design process.

 More blogs to come …

Reports on ECER’15 Budapest – Part One: The symposium of LL, Kompetenzwerkst@tt and Employ-ID

September 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent posts have been reports on the Bremen International VET conference (2.9.-4.9.2015). The very next week many of the participants met again in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER’15) in Budapest (8.9.-11.9.2015). Here again, I will start my reporting on the session that was initiated by our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Then, I will give reports on some other sessions that were based on similar intervention research projects. Finally, I will make some comments on the conference (or on the program of the VETNET network) as a whole and on the general assembly of the VETNET network.

Learning Layers works together with Kompetenzwerkst@tt and Employ-ID

This year our plan was to have a joint symposium between the LL project and two neighbouring projects – the German project “Kompetenzwerkst@tt” and the European project “Employ-ID” with which we already had a joint session in the Bremen conference (see my previous posts). We also took into attention the conference theme “Education and transition – contributions from educational research” and developed our own ideas, how this could be applied to the three projects that we brought into joint session. For us – in this session – transition was related to evolution of project ideas and conquering new terrains for research & development work.

Originally we had submitted another proposal for a research workshop to discuss evaluation issues in complex European projects that promote users’ competences in digital media, web tools and mobile technologies. Due to clashes with other duties we had to withdraw this session (with the hope that we can get back to this topic some other time).

Kompetenzwerkst@tt proceeds to e-learning software and e-portfolios

We started with the Kompetenzwerkst@tt project that has the longest history to build upon. The literal translation “Competence workshop” hardly reveals the project idea and the connotative meanings of ‘competence’ in German language. Initially, the project started as a curriculum development project to base vocational learning on holistic approaches to occupational fields of activity (Handlungsfelder) and characteristic Working and Learning Tasks (Lern- und Arbeitsaufgaben (LAAs)). The process of analysing the fields of activity and specifying characteristic WLTs had been practiced in different occupational contexts and in transitional training contexts. This had led to the phase of preparing a series of handbooks covering the conceptual foundations, the methodologies, different spin-off innovations and the occupational fields that have been piloted so far.

In the presentation of Falk Howe and Werner Müller (both from ITB) the main thrust was given on the development of e-portfolios in the context of the Kompetenzwerks@att approach. They gave a brief overview of the previous stages of the project and then illustrated, how the previous work (on the fields of activity and working and learning tasks) was reflected in the structure of software and in the pedagogic support for learners. In this way we got an idea, how the e-portfolio can be used in retrospective sense (for documenting already acquired experiences and learning gains) and in prospective sense (for shaping and illustrating learning scenarios).

Learning Layers proceeds from apprentice training to continuing vocational training

In the case of our LL project we had a shorter project history as our starting point. In our case  we had started with our pilot activities in the construction sector with the training centre Bau-ABC with special attention on apprentice training. Therefore, the co-design processes that we initiated were firstly focusing on digitisation of training/learning materials. Then, in a further iteration we shifted the emphasis to Learning Toolbox – a framework for managing contents, apps, web resources and communications via mobile devices. Now, in the current phase of project (when we still have to do a lot of field testing and exploitation of results) we need to look for spin-off projects.

In our joint presentation I covered firstly the work within the LL project and gave a picture of its evolutionary phases. Then I gave some insights into the Learning Toolbox and its functionality and into the search for appropriate spin-off projects with emphasis on continuing vocational training (CVT). In the second part of our presentation Ludger Deitmer gave an overview on the CVT framework in the German construction sector with three different levels: Foreman (Vorarbeiter), Specialised site manager (Werkpolier) and general site manager (Geprüfte Polier). In our current project initiative we focus on the new training regulation of the general site managers. In addition to their traditional introductory courses they are required to complete situational tasks and a comprehensive project report. With these last mentioned tasks they are expected to demonstrate their occupational and managerial competences. In the third part of our presentation Werner Müller discussed some restrictions, barriers and challenges to our project work in construction sector (in general) and in the learning contexts of apprentices and more advanced craftsmen. He concluded the presentation with an innovation map (to guide us) and with some open questions.

Employ-ID piloting with  MOOCs for Public Employment Services – lessons for others?

The third project in the symposium – Employ-ID – focuses on the changes in the public employment services (PES) in Europe (with major pilots initiated in the UK). The background of the project is in the changing role of PES organisations due to changes in working life and occupations. Whilst the previous model was to select and guide the right people to appropriate jobs, the current changes have shifted the focus completely. Now these services are required to produce and process data of changing labour markets and employment prospects for different target groups and stimulate initiatives for employment and self-employment. Moreover, they are required to prove their efficiency and to cope with policies towards privatisation or semi-privatisation. Yet, they are to comply with the strict guidelines of data security and data protection.

In the light of the above Graham Attwell had to give us a lot of background information to bring us to the central theme of his presentation – to pilot with adapted MOOCs (Massively open online courses) in the British public employment services (as the first pilot). This mode of staff training was selected since the time pressures and financial constraints are making it difficult to implement traditional forms of staff training. Moreover, it appears to be difficult to make use of (individual) learning gains in an organisational context. From this point of view the project team participated in external MOOCs and then designed a pilot MOOC with a more interactive and discursive nature. In the implementation the number of participants and the openness of pilot were reduced. Yet, the technology of the major British MOOC provider Futurelearn was used. Altogether the pilot seemed to have been well received by the participants due to its actively interactive character. Yet, the participant’s report by Jenny Hughes (who had been involved both as a trainer and as a learner) indicated that the current technology still is far from mature stage.

Altogether, it appeared that we had gathered into a joint symposium three projects that have a lot to learn from each other. This is even more striking since the persons are working side by side or (as some of us are) crossing the boundaries of the two projects. We noticed that the e-portfolio application of Kompetenzwerkst@tt very well complements the Learning Toolbox. We also noticed that the functionality of Learning Toolbox may essentially enhance the Kompetenzwerkst@tt. And the lessons from the pilot MOOCs are important insights for the forthcoming pilots in vocational education and workplace training.

I think this is enough of our symposium. In the next blog post I will focus on similar sessions with interactive research and ‘stealthy’ interventions.

More blogs to come …

Catching up with the Learning Layers news – Part One: Working with the Story of Year 3

August 20th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My latest post on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project was written just when I started my summer holidays. This year the holidays in North Germany (and in our application partner organisations) started relatively early. Therefore, when I/we were already on holidays, there was this and that happening at the consortium level and in other fields of work (in particular in the healthcare sector in UK). Therefore, it is appropriate to do some stock-taking to make sure that our fieldwork is fits in the plans of the consortium and takes into account the progress in the healthcare sector. With this post I try to summarise the recent discussions at the consortium level – mainly on the preparation for the Year Three review and the implications for our fieldwork. In the next post I will have a look at the recent progress of the LL work in the healthcare sector.

The first steps of the recent discussions were already taken in the Consortium meeting in Tallinn (in June 2015, see my earlier blogs). Already there we agreed that we should try to make our contributions for the Year Three review meeting more coherent. The plan was to put integrated stories of LL work in both pilot sectors (healthcare and construction sectors) into the centre. In a similar way we should make visible the progress in tool development and implementation with integrated demonstrations (linked to the stories). Parallel to this we should reduce the number of deliverables into five thematic reports (and indicate, how the work of eight work packages is represented in them).

During the summer meetings these plans have been developed further and they have some implications for the tool development and fieldwork in the construction sector:

1) Concerning integration of technologies we have the challenge to show how the infrastructural solution (“Layers box”) and the integrative tool set (“Learning toolbox” – LTB) can be implemented in application partner organisations (such as the training centre Bau-ABC and the Agentur).

2) Concerning the integration of tools we have the challenge show, how the integrative tools set (LTB) enables us to use different LL tools and apps (and third party apps) in working and learning contexts (such as the Bau-ABC training projects).

3) Concerning the context-specific use of tools we have the challenge to make progress with trainers and learners so that they are able to create their own LTB-stacks to guide and implement training projects.

4) Concerning capacity building we have the challenge to make progress in implementing the Bau-ABC training model (the “Theme rooms”) that caters for organisation-wide engagement of staff to become well-informed and active users of LL tools in their work.

5) Concerning evaluation activities we have the challenge to arrange the collection of real-time evaluation data and reflection on the processes during an intensive field test phase.

Obviously, we have all agreed on the general direction and there has been progress along these lines both at the level of tool development and in user engagement. Yet, we can see that there are technical issues, coordination issues and time constraints that we need to take into account when we start working with the field activities. But, knowing what has already been achieved, gives us a good starting position.

I guess this is enough on this topic. In my next post I will look at the progress in the healthcare sector.

More blogs to come …

 

Getting into hands-on testing with the Learning Toolbox (LTB)

July 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent posts I reported on the Tallinn meeting of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. My general impression was that we made good progress in many respects. Shortly after the meeting this was confirmed when our software developers invited us to hands-on testing with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). As usual, the software that is released for first testing is not quite mature and there are all kinds of minor details to be settled before it can be rolled out to wider use. Yet, the crucial step has been taken and we are now working as users of the software.

To me it was important to get access to the tile store and to the process of creating new test stacks that arise from our fieldwork. Together with my ITB-colleague Werner Müller I had a joint session in which we scanned through our earlier working documents to see, how we can use that material. We wrote several feature requests (as cards on Trello board) to push some ideas into the next development sprint. Parallel to this we selected a topic for a test stack could serve as an ‘appetizer’ for other testers. After a brief tutorial session guided by our colleague Edwin Veenendaal (from our LL partner RayCom) we made the step forward.

The new test stack “Klarkommen im Bau-ABC” has three screens, each of them containing several tiles. The opening screen has three document screens – “Basic information”, “Daily Menu” and “The Map of Bau-ABC” (the two latter ones giving web links to the respective information on Bau-ABC website). In addition, there is an RSS tile (that picks the news from the BauBildung.net platform) and a navigator tile (that guides the user further). The second screen presents videos from Bau-ABC – the general overview and two LL videos that present the use of LTB in apprentices’ projects and in work situations. In addition, there is a tile for picking separate apps and the navigator tile to move on. The third screen focuses  on the theme Health & Safety (Arbeits- und Gesundheitsschutz). The content tile holds the place for basic information. The LL video addresses the issue in the training of Bau-ABC. The tile “First aid” holds the place for important information to be accessed in emergency situations. And the navigator guides us back to start.

Altogether, the making of a test stack was not a very demanding exercise. And with this limited number of screens and tiles or linked documents, embeds and linked apps we did not conquer new contents. Yet, it is impressive to view the newly created stack from the mobile application (either using mobile phone or tablet). It is very rewarding to see that it works and that other users can also enter with their test stacks. Just before the summer break this gives a feeling that we can make good progress with LTB after the holidays.

I think this is enough for the moment. I have already started my holiday period, but I wanted to share this experience before switching off. I hope that some of you can join us as testers of the LTB.  I assume that my LL-colleagues Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) and Raymond Elferink (RayCom) are ready to give more information.

More blogs to come (after the holidays) …

 

Results & Conclusions of our Tallinn meeting – Part Three: The 2nd session on construction pilot

June 26th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest posts I started a series to report on the Tallinn meeting of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In that first post I gave a picture of the preparation day. In the second posts I gave an overview on the inputs for the 1st session on construction sector pilot. These inputs were contributing to a picture on ‘integrated learning arrangements’. In this post I will continue with a report on our discussions on ‘technical integration’.

Since we had already had the initially scheduled  online demonstration on the functioning of Learning Toolbox (LTB) we dedicated this session on the relations between LTB and ‘complementary’ LL tools that had been presented in the preparatory meeting or during the healthcare sessions. Below I try to give a nutshell of our discussions and conclusions on different tools or apps brought into discussion.

1. ‘AchSo!’ video annotation tool

We started by emphasising the importance of video material and video annotations in the context of the training projects of Bau-ABC. We reminded of the twofold approach – videos to support training (reference videos, produced in advance under the supervision of trainers) and videos documenting learning (produced by apprentices during theproject to document phases of work and learning results). We had a lot of discussion on producing AchSo! for different operating systems (Android, iOS) and on the the functioning of AchSo! on different devices. The colleagues in Aalto agreed to produce a stable version of AchSo! (Android) by the 1st of October and to develop an iOS-version based on it by the Y3 review meeting. The colleagues from Bau-ABC volunteered to purchase Android tablets for trainers who would start using AchSo! with their videos before the iOS version is available.

2. ‘Bits and Pieces’ and ‘KnowBrain’ as collectors of experiences

Concerning ‘Bits and Pieces’ we emphasised the need to develop tools that help workplace learners to collect their learning experiences alongside/based on workplace learning. Here, we noted the contradiction that ‘Bits and Pieces’ has been developed primarily for medical/nursing staff working at GP practices. Therefore, the software (for stationary PCs) needs a lot of space and the migration to mobile devices is not easy. Given this hurdle, the general conclusion was that LTB could take some components of Bits and Pieces and create respective tiles. Parallel to this, some functions of the KnowBrain application could be developed for Learning Logs. (Here we need more discussions before making commitments to particular milestones.)

3. ‘Confer’ tool for help seeking

With the ‘Confer’ tool (earlier called ‘Help seeking’) we took the point (that was already raised in the healthcare session) that it could help us to make transparent our complex development and piloting processes, like the recent initiatives with the LTB. (Here the point is to use our own tools to support our development processes – ‘to take our own medicine ourselves’.) RayCom agreed to take the development of this tool into the next sprint. We agreed on the same milestone as with AchSo! (the 1st of October) for a stable version.

4. ‘Locations’ app in making

Here we continued our discussion on the basis of the input of Adolfo and the TLU study group. RayCom confirmed that the LTB has already been equipped with several functions that can work with the sensors and use the app to be developed. Yet, there is a need to clarify the responsibilities and the resources needed. Graham Attwell emphasised that the issue of ‘locations’ raises higher level questions on interpreting ‘contexts’ – for this purpose we need to revisit the work of Sebastian Dennerlein for mapping different contexts in the construction pilot (for software development purposes).

5. Social Augmented Reality apps in making

For this part of the meeting Jana Pejoska (Aalto) arranged a short demonstration with Social Augmented Reality (SAR) using the vision sharing function with a colleague in Helsinki and making interactive use of marks on the screen. (Based on this demonstration, Melanie Campbell and trainer Marc Schütte provided later on a use case of the driver of excavator (or other construction vehicle) using augmented reality to get a better impression of the dimensions of the vehicle when driving it.) Here we noted that the current version is available on the web. There is a need of further development work for a mobile device. Yet, already at this stage it is essential to make arrangements for a working visit from Aalto to Bau-ABC to start testing with SAR during the September month.

Altogether, we could agree in a plenary session on several working perspectives and milestones regarding the enrichment of the Learning Toolbox.

At this point I had to leave the meeting due to private commitments. I am trying to catch up with the colleagues regarding the key points and conclusions of the remaining sessions. In particular I am interested to learn more on the work with the exploitation journeys and on the conclusions for joint exploitation plans. Let us see, if I can get my impressions on a further blog post – or if someone else does it for me on another blog.

More blogs to come …

 

Results & Conclusions of our Tallinn meeting – Part One: The preparation day

June 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In one of my previous posts (June 13th, 2015) I wrote about our preparation for the forthcoming Tallinn meeting of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now, with this series of blog posts, it is time to wrap up results and conclusions of our busy days in Tallinn. In this first post I will focus on our work during the preparation day (Tuesday 16th of June). In the next post I will focus on the sessions that focused on the construction sector pilot.

Due to favourable flight schedules the LL partners from North Germany (ITB and Bau-ABC) had decided to take flights to Tallinn already on Monday (15th of June) and to dedicate the whole Tuesday for a preparatory meeting. In the first partof the meeting we were working mainly with our ‘local issues’ with the ongoing construction sector pilot and on the exploitation issues (using German as common working language). Partly we were working together with our partners from Aalto University and Tallinn University. In these parts of the meeting  we explored the possibilities to enrich our pilot activities with complementary tools and apps (in particular AchSo! and Social Augmented Reality). Below, I try to give an overview on the two parts (and different ingredients) of our meeting and on the interim conclusions we reached at that stage.

 1. Discussions on our North German construction pilots

The most important input to this part of the meeting was Melanie Campbell’s report on their follow-up of the Training Day in Bau-ABC (see my earlier posts May 12th, 2015 and May 15th, 2015). After discussing our reports on the workshop sessions during the Training Day the Bau-ABC trainers firstly confirmed the results and conclusions. Thus, the picture we had got from the domain-specific training projects and on the use of digital media and Learning Toolbox seemed to them appropriate (see below the exemplary cases we prepared for the consortium meeting).

However, this discussion brought the Bau-ABC trainers to give some deeper thoughts on the needs for Multimedia Training that is needed, when the use of Learning Toolbox (with mobile technologies, digital media and web resources) will become everyday life practice in Bau-ABC. The trainers came to conclusion that they need to take more intensive measures to support Multimedia Training (and further capacity building) jointly. Here some of the main conclusions:

  • After the holiday break participation in Multimedia Training will be made mandatory for all Bau-ABC trainers and the trainers consider it as an essential part of their duties.
  • To enable flexible participation, the Multimedia Training will take place in (physical and virtual) ‘theme rooms/spaces’ (Themenräume). These rooms/spaces will be available for users for the time they require for individual familiarisation and mutual support. Once the users have ‘checked out’ from the rooms/spaces, they will populated by other themes (and the previous ones will be archived). In this way the Multimedia Training program is based on rotating between parallel/consecutive theme rooms/spaces.
  • The initial set of themes proposed by the Bau-ABC trainers are the following ones: Theme 1 – use of social media (facebook + word press/ buddy press platforms), Theme 2 – making use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) (stack-building, app-integration), Theme 3 – Creating learning material (video, pictures, drawings, quiz, comics …), Theme 4 – Data management (Data protection/ security, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Creative Commons. (This thematic block might require a constant room/ space throughout the Multimedia Training program.)

In addition to this initiative we discussed several practical issues on the implementation of such program with the support of internal facilitators and external support persons. We also discussed the requirements on infrastructure, software and supporting materials. (Here we took note of the existing material of TACCLE and TACCLE2 projects.)

In the light of this report we discussed, how to present some domain-specific training projects that can illustrate the use of  LTB by trainers and/or apprentices. Here we agreed on two exemplary cases: Building a parking place without barriers (for disabled people using wheelchairs) and Building a staircase (Brettschalung/Treppenbau). Here we noted, how the trainers differentiate between the preparation of multimedia contents for the training projects (in advance and as a specific task) and producing multimedia content as documentation of learning processes (during the implementation of the training projects). We also drew an illustrative picture of the estimated use of LTB by apprentices during an average training project (timeline with peak points in the beginning, by the end and after the completion of the project).

With these discussion we equipped ourselves for our contributions on the use of LTB in integrated learning arrangements (scheduled for Wednesday, 17th of June).

2. Discussions on enriching the Learning Toolbox (LTB) with complementary tools and apps

In the second part(s) of the meeting we discussed the contributions of different complementary tools and apps (hitherto developed separately) as enrichment of the LTB (in particular in the construction sector):

  • Adolfo Ruiz Tallinn University (TLU) presented firstly a design of ‘Locations’ by a group of Bachelor students of TLU. Their design was based on the placement of sensors (iBeacons) in different parts of a larger room. When people with smartphones moved around the room, the sensors recognised their devices and posed sets of questions to be answered. In this design the participants were expected to complete all sets of questions by moving around the room. In this way they participated in a competition. For the construction sector this relatively simple idea was attractive because it seemed to provide the techniques, how to support the preparation of working and learning assignments (or projects) in training workshops. Moreover, the fact that the sensors were communicating with a WordPress platform was even more interesting since Bau-ABC has started working with their domain-specific blogs using the platform BauBildung.net (powered by WordPress).
  • The colleagues from Aalto University (Jukka Purma, Marjo Virnes and Samuli Vainio) gave us inputs on the video annotation tool AchSo! and on the current pilots. We had already had several initial demonstrations of AchSo! working in simulated contexts and in review meetings, so we were keen to hear more on pilot testing in construction work, engineering studies and in healthcare studies. The colleagues informed us about clear achievements in documenting the learning processes and making the workplace learning process transparent for reflection after the event. Also, the possibility to annotate pictures and moving pictures with limited amount of text (or symbols) was welcomed. For the construction sector we raised the importance of using longer videos as raw material. Here, Mati Möttus (TLU) reported of his parallel tests of AchSo in the context of traffic surveillance (and with few ‘disturbing’ or ‘alerting’ incidents to be annotated and searched via tags or symbols. Also in this context we started a discussion on the prospects for developing AchSo both for Android and iOS operating systems.
  • The colleagues from Aalto University (mainly Jana Pejoska and Jukka Purma) gave inputs on the current phase of work with Social Augmented Reality (SAR). Since we had to skip the technical demonstration, we had very few impressions but we got a rough idea of the extended illustrations beyond the reach of traditional tools. (Later on Melanie Campbell and trainer Marc Schütte provided us a perfect case of the driver of excavator (or other construction vehicle) using augmented reality to get a better impression of the dimensions of the vehicle when transporting it.) With this discussion we agreed to explore the possibilities to pilot with SAR in Bau-ABC alongside LTB (and preferably with AchSo).

With these additional inputs we drew a picture of the current situation in developing LTB and our interpretation, how the complementary tools could be integrated (and who should be involved in the integration).

Altogether, we were happy that we had this opportunity for preparatory discussions with LL partners presenting complementary tools and finding common interests for further cooperation. With these interim results we were ready for discussing the bigger picture of integrated learning arrangements (in the construction pilots) and technical integration (of tools to be used in construction sector) in the actual consortium meeting. This will be discussed in the next post.

More blogs to come …

 

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