Archive for the ‘mobile learning’ Category

Piloting with AchSo and getting feedback on Learning Toolbox – Part Three: Introducing Augmented Reality to construction vehicle drivers

May 26th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest blogs on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I started a series of reports on a field visits in the construction sector – and in particular in the training centre Bau-ABC. Our visitors from Aalto University (Finland) have introduced their tools and our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) gathered feedback on our pilot with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my first post I reported on the introduction of video annotation tool AchSo. In my second post I  reported on the feedback that apprentices have given after using the LTB. In this third post I will report on the introduction of Social Augmented Reality (SoAR) – also a tool developed by the colleagues in Aalto University.

The idea of Social Augmented Reality (SoAR)

For lay people (like myself) the most likely encounters with Augmented Reality have been the commercial applications that have provided some kind of pop-up information windows or visuals that enrich web-based information. In such applications there is a basic layer of information that is complemented with an additional one – to the benefit of the consumer-viewer. As a contrast, the idea of the Social Augmented Reality (SoAR) is to provided enriched communication with all channels of mobile devices: speech, video and tagging (drawing). When using SoAR in mobile phone calls, the counterparts can see each other and talk to each other (like using Skype), they can switch the screens that they are viewing and they can tag live videos by drawings. Whilst this idea had been presented in some consortium meetings of the LL project, we had first put the emphasis on introducing the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (in March) and then the video annotation tool AchSo (on the two first days of this field visit). On the third day of the field visit we had the chance to introduce SoAR to a group of apprentices specialising as construction vehicle drivers (Baugeräteführer).

The introduction of SoAR in Bau-ABC

Since the visitors from Aalto and UIBK had spent the second day of visit introducing the AchSo video annotation tool for a group of construction vehicle drivers (Baugeräteführer), the step to introducing AchSo (see my first blog of this series) was a smooth transition from one tool to another. Sanna Reponen presented the functionality of the tool at the outdoor training areas and the testing started immediately. Normally, the driving and operating of construction site vehicles (caterpillars with different additional features) is organised in groups – one is the driver, two others are supporting the lifting and adjusting operations while others are waiting for their turns. The supervising trainer is not all the time present – since the training is based on the culture of self-organised learning (apprentices are expected to grow into independent task preparation, planning and implementation).

Now, in the beginning, the trainer got a mobile phone in which SoAR was uploaded and one of the apprentices got another one. In this way the trainer was able to rotate between different training areas and his office without losing contact with this group of trainees. During one of the first test calls there was a real problem case, when the cylinders of the caterpillar started making unusual noises – just when the trainer was out of sight. Thanks to the use of SoAR the apprentices could show him the case and from the noise he could conclude, where the problem might be. And he could give in real time advice, what measures to take to solve the problem (or at least to avoid any damage). After this ‘real’ case, several other apprentices made similar test calls and the trainer responded from different locations. Altogether, the communication worked well but the background noise from the engines of the vehicles was a major disturbance. (However, the trainers have already tested earmuffs that can filter the background noise and these can be used with SoAR as well.)

At the end of the day we had a feedback session with the apprentices. They gave very positive feedback on the test situation and were looking forward to further development of the tool. In a similar way the trainer had made a very positive experience with his testing. Altogether, we concluded that SoAR is a very positive add-on to the Learning Layers tools.

– – –

I think that this is enough of this field visit. We made immediate arrangements to push forward the work with Learning Toolbox in some further trades and in the area of health and safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). We also made preliminary arrangements for a similar field visit (for introduction of AchSo and SoAR combined with further evaluative measures). So, there is more work to be done before and after the summer break.

More blogs to come …

Piloting with AchSo and getting feedback on Learning Toolbox – Part Two: Apprentices’ views on using the Learning Toolbox

May 25th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I started a series of reports on our latest field visits in the construction sector – and in particular in the training centre Bau-ABC. We are now having visitors from Aalto University (Finland)to introduce the tools AchSo and SoAR. In addition, our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) are getting feedback on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my first post I reported on the introduction of AchSo and how it was received. In my second post I will report on the feedback that apprentices have given using the LTB. Here I just want to give some impressions on the procedure and on the discussions in the groups that I observed. I leave it to the UIBK colleagues to give more detailed account.

The pioneering groups and their learning paths with Learning Toolbox

As I reported in my earlier blogs on the kick-off event of the pilots with Learning Toolbox (LTB) – see my posts of the 3rd of April and of the 6th of April – we started with two trades: carpenters (Zimmerer) and well-builders (Brunnenbauer). With the group of carpenters their trainer Markus Pape had designed a joint project with the trainer of bricklayers (Maurer), Kevin Kuck. This project was about traditional building techniques with wooden frameworks for brick walls (Holzrahmenbau, Fachwerkhäuser). Accordingly, the trainers developed a parent stack that covered the information resources and pointed to specific stacks for the two trades involved in the project and for accessing further knowledge resources. Considering the schedule of the group, they were at the moment having a school period in the nearby vocational school. Afterwards they will continue this project with the bricklayers. During our visit the UIBK colleagues arranged a group discussion with the apprentices at the school.

Concerning the group of well-builders, they started with a project in their own trade. Their trainer Lothar Schoka used the stacks to give them access to selected supplementary materials that are relevant for their project work. In the next phase the group proceeded to neighbouring trades (like machine and metal techniques or pipeline building) in which they get the foundation level training. At the moment they were having a period in Bau-ABC with metal technique. Thus, also the feedback on the use of LTB could be implemented alongside their work with the elementary exercises. Below I will give insights into feedback collected from discussions with this group.

Apprentices’ views on uses of LTB in training centre and in real work situations

The UIBK colleagues put on the board small posters that presented statements picked up from the kick-off event in March. Each statement expressed expectations on benefits of using the LTB. Now each participant had the chance to give votes, which of these expectations had come true – and which he would see as the most important (first, second, third). Here I could see in two groups, how the votes concentrated on a few statements. We were somewhat surprised that the apprentices found LTB easy to use – once the initial difficulties had been overcome. Also, given the relatively limited amount of stacks (and the structure of stacks for their domain) they found it easy to search the information they needed. Also, the chat function was praised as a functioning hotline for passing quick messages to trainers (although this was dependent on the online presence of individual trainers). Furthermore, the LTB was seen as a good tool to have an overview on the learning contents and on keeping the contents available (as priority contents) when needed.

After several positive remarks on the use of LTB as such, the apprentices in all groups made the point that they see the major benefits in using LTB in the intermediate training arrangements in Bau-ABC – which is primarily a learning environment. In the companies there are less people around, questions and answers are passed more directly, there is less chance to do searches and there is more time pressure. Furthermore, there is less tolerance for mistakes or discussing them on the web (privacy and data protection aspects). Partly these reservations are related to generation issues – younger construction site managers are more positive than older.

Then the UIBK colleagues asked, whether the apprentices would prefer to carry out their projects entirely with paper-based documentation or with LTB (if the latter option would be available). In this context the apprentices in all groups voted almost unanimously for the LTB option.

Finally, the UIBK colleagues asked about their expectations on using AchSo. Here they also emphasised the use in Bau-ABC. They drew attention to the possibility to focus on very small but important details or on points in which most mistakes are being made. They also referred to different potential in manual work as well as in complex activities with heavy machinery. They also pointed to the possibility to use video to facilitate the learning processes of those, who do not speak German as their mother tongue. In some groups there were discussions on the use of AchSo in instruction videos (prepared by trainers) and documentation of learning (prepared by apprentices). Altogether, the apprentices saw quite a number of possibilities. Yet, there was a tension between the fact that they have to complete their projects individually, whilst the use of videos requires cooperation with their peers.

– – –

I think this is enough at the moment. The UIBK colleagues will work more thoroughly through the material. But as a first impression this feedback already shows that the work with LL tools is received well and that both trainers and apprentices are making progress. In my next post I will report on the presentation of the SoAR tool (SocialAugmented Reality) by the Aalto colleagues in a further session in Bau-ABC.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

 

Piloting with AchSo and getting feedback on Learning Toolbox – Part One: Bau-ABC apprentices work with AchSo

May 24th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent blogs on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I have mostly focused on our pilot activities in the construction sector – and in particular on the introduction of the toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training centre Bau-ABC. This week we are again having field events in Bau-ABC but the main emphasis is given on the introduction of the complementary tools AchSo and SoAR that are presented by our colleagues from Aalto University (Finland). Alongside these activities our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) have been organising focus group meetings to get feedback on the use of LTB in the pilot groups that started with this toolset in March. In this first post I will focus on the introduction of AchSo and how it was received by Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and apprentices (Azubis).

Development of and piloting with AchSo in Finland

Whilst the Learning Toolbox (LTB) has been developed in the context of the co-design process in construction sector – and Bau-ABC as the main pilot environment to support the process – the development of AchSo has mainly been promoted in Finland. The LL partner Aalto University (later on referred to as Aalto) has taken further the video annotation tool that was so far developed by RWTH Aachen. With the name “AchSo” the developers want to highlight the usability of a video annotation tool in the context of (informal) learning at workplace. This is achieved by the functionality for shooting short videos, for visual tagging of details and for adding short written comments.

As has I have reported earlier on my blog and on an article on the LL website, the Aalto team has piloted with the AchSo tool with a Finnish construction company, regional vocational school centres and with the Finnish Construction Workers’ Trade Union (see my blog of the 27th of March 2015 and the article of the 7th of July 2015 on the Learning Layers website). In the Finnish construction pilot the users of AchSo were trainees in full-time vocational schools that were completing their workplace learning period (Praktikum) in construction companies or apprentices that had switched from full-time education to apprentice contract. In both cases the vocational school teachers were responsible for the final assessment of the learning of trainees and apprentices. By using annotated videos the trainees and apprentices could document their working and learning tasks and demonstrate their learning gains.

Introduction of AchSo to apprentices and trainers in Bau-ABC

Now that we – the had got the pilot activities with the LTB started and some progress had been made, it was an appropriate time to introduce the AchSo tool and explore, how it could be integrated into the ongoing piloting with the LTB. For this purpose two colleagues from Aalto – Sanna Reponen and Matti Jokitulppo – came for a three-day event to introduce AchSo to different groups of apprentices. During the first day they presented AchSo to a group of well-builders (Brunnenbauer) who had already used LTB when being trained in their own trade. Now they were receiving training in the neighbouring trade of machine- and metal techniques. In this context the Bau-ABC colleagues chose to add the work with video annotation as an additional feature to the apprentices’ projects.

We started together with the group of apprentices when they were beginning their first mini-projects (duration one day) with metalworking. Firstly Sanna Reponen  gave the background information on AchSo and how to use it. In this context we also clarified the data protection, privacy and sharing-related issues when using such tools. Secondly the apprentices installed AchSo on their own devices or got spare devices from Aalto for the session. Thirdly the Bau-ABC trainers introduced the project task – cutting a metal plate to a measure, filing the edges and marking spots at given distances for further processing. This ‘project’ is a traditional elementary exercise with which apprentices and trainees are guided to pay attention to appropriate use of tools and to paying attention to quality requirements. After the introduction the apprentices started working with the tasks and – once they had made some progress – shooting videos of each others’ work at different phases. Parallel to this, one of the trainers also shot some videos on the work of apprentices.

It appeared that some apprentices shot only one video, whilst some others tried to cover all major phases of work with short video clips. One of the videos showed deliberately inappropriate use of tools. Others tried to portray good practice. At the end of the day the videos were shown as a gallery and some exemplary videos were played. In particular the videos with comments were shown. After this viewing we had a discussion on the benefits of the tool, on possible improvements that apprentices would wish and on the prospects for using it in the training at Bau-ABC and in the companies (with which the apprentices have their apprenticeship contracts).

Immediate feedback on working with AchSo

On the whole the apprentices were positive about shooting videos – although it was an additional task and required cooperation, whilst the project task was individual and each one had to complete it on his own. In the discussion the apprentices emphasised that they paid more attention to different phases of work when selecting, which of them to be documented with videos. The trainer emphasised that videos shot by apprentices gave him a better overview on the work of apprentices (instead of just going around the workshop and monitoring them individually in the short time). Secondly, it was agreed that such a documentation of training that takes place in Bau-ABC workshops makes it easier to inform the vocational school teachers of the the tasks that have been carried out in the training centre. At the moment the apprentices agreed that it was easier to start using the new tool with such elementary exercises. Yet, they saw more potential and more challenges in integrating the use of annotated videos into the more complex projects in well-building (Brunnenbau).

We also discussed some hurdles and limitations for using AchSo in real work situations (these were very similar to the issues that came up with feedback on LTB, so I will take these up in my next post). However, the trainer of the well-builders, Lothar Schoka, expressed his interest to get from his apprentices annotated videos from construction sites of their companies. These could highlight specific working tasks that could be observed on joint visits of the whole group or discussed more thoroughly in training sessions in Bau-ABC.

– – –

Altogether, we had the impression that the introduction of AchSo in this group worked well. However, we became aware of some technical issues that need to be observed when proceeding from such initial introduction to wider use of the tool. Yet, it appears that the use of AchSo as a complementary tool to LTB is not a problem to the trainers or to the apprentices. In my next post I will report on the feedback that we got in the sessions organised by the UIBK colleagues alongside the work with AchSo.

More blogs to come …

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 …

 

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