Archive for the ‘online learning’ Category

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part Three: New information on the follow-up activities in Bau-ABC

January 22nd, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I have been developing a series of  posts that reflects on the Final Review of our EU-funded Learning Layers project (one year ago) and on the achievements of the follow-up activities. My first post focused on the review event and on the blogs with which I have documented the event and the follow during the year 2017. In my second post I summarised the current phase of the follow-up projects – in particular on further uses of the Learning Toolbox (the main result of Learning Layers’ Construction pilot). This reporting was based on a series of working meetings and conversations that we had last week with different partners. In the second post I discussed follow-up projects and initiatives with several partners involved. In addition, I brought forward the use of Learning Toolbox as support for conference presentations and posters (see the showcases) also in our field. In this third and concluding poster I will focus on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training activities and related initiatives of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. (As I have reported in my blogs in the years 2012-2017, Bau-ABC was the major application partner in the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot and the central venue for developing and testing the Learning Toolbox.) My report below is based on the information that Bau-ABC trainers shared with us in the working meeting last week.

Use of Learning Toolbox in the regular apprentice training activities

In the context of the Learning Layers project the LTB was developed to be used in the context of apprentices’ projects (normally of one week’s duration) during their stay in the training centre Bau-ABC. At that time the LTB was introduced and tested in a few training occupations (and the results were discussed in evaluation workshops and in interviews with the trainers). Now we were interested to find out, how the Learning Toolbox is being used after the project period.

Lothar Schoka, trainer for the occupations in well-building and borehole building (Brunnenbau, Spezialtiefbau) informed us on the use LTB in his area. It appeared that the use of LTB had become everyday practice in their projects. The information is available in the trade-specific stack, the apprentices get quickly used to working with the toolset and they can combine the work with their mobile devices and work in the computer class. Thus, the use of LTB is a sustainable outcome of the Learning Layers project.

Use of Learning Toolbox for the transversal theme ‘health and safety’

Another arena for working with the LTB has been the transversal theme ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). In Spring 2017 a working group of Bau-ABC trainers started to discuss the possibility to use digital tools to support training and learning in this field. At that time I had a chance to accompany and support the start of the working group. After the summer holidays the working group continued with regular meetings and concentrated on using the LTB. Now, trainer Thomas Weerts (the shop steward for health and safety in Bau-ABC) reported on the current phase of the work. The trainers involved in the work had agreed on common content structures for ‘health and safety’ to be covered in their trade-specific stacks for LTB. Thomas himself is developing the ‘mother stack’ for the theme ‘health and safety’ that guides the users to groups of trades and to specific trades. (This ‘mother stack’ will also provide a template for the trades that are still developing their own stacks.)

Use of Learning Toolbox in the project “Workcamp GreenHouse”

A further arena for using the LTB was presented by the trainer Markus Pape (responsible for training carpenters). He is currently working in a nation-wide project “workcamp GreenHouse” that has been launched by several training centres in the construction sector. The project is building exhibition areas and items to demonstrate ecological/sustainable solutions in building houses (with emphasis on energy-efficiency, ecological isolation materials etc.). Altogether, the project is shaping a wide range of modules to introduce these principles in the training for construction sector. In the meeting he presented an overview on the modules and explained, what modules would be suitable for piloting with the LTB. For this purpose he invited the LTB developers to prepare a proposal to be introduced to the project consortium.

Use of Learning Toolbox to support language learning alongside apprentice training

A further arena for working with the LTB is the support for language learning for non-native speakers alongside apprentice training. During the Learning Layers project this area was already explored in a workshop with several Spanish apprentices who were having their training in Bau-ABC. In the meantime a separate working group in Bau-ABC had been developing this idea further. Melanie Campbell (as a coordinator of the related Mobipro-EU project) presented a plan for shaping the LTB stacks that support general orientation (blue tiles), trade-specific vocabulary (green tiles) and communication skills (red tiles). We discussed this plan together with her, the trainers and a supporting language teacher. The developers of Learning Toolbox came up with proposals, how to introduce elements of gamification and motivational support for learners.

– – –

I guess this is enough for an overview. To me this was an important update since I am trying to link cooperation with these initiatives to my participation in our new EU-funded project (TACCLE4 – CPD). In this project we are supporting the training of teachers and trainers in using digital tools and in shaping digital contents for learners. As I see it, the LTB can play a major role in promoting these activities in the field of vocational education and training (VET). But, to be sure, I need to explore this prospect deeper and have more meetings with Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part Two: Working further with the follow-up projects

January 21st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest blog I started a series of blog posts that reflects on the final review of the EU-funded Learning Layers project (exactly one year ago) and on our progress with follow-up initiatives. The first post looked back at the review event and at the blogs that I had written on the event and on the follow-up activities. At the least it gave a picture of a ‘milky way’ of posts reporting on meetings with different partners – either within ongoing projects or as preparation of new initiatives.

Last week we (the ITB team) had a series of meetings with the developers of the Learning Toolbox and with interested partners in the construction sector in North Germany. In the following I will give a brief summary on the ongoing projects and emerging initiatives that build upon our work with the Learning Toolbox in the Learning Layers project. (For more information on the Learning Toolbox see the website.)

The DigiProB project – Learning Toolbox supports continuing vocational training (CVT) of Bau-ABC

As has been reported in my blogs of the year 2017, the German-funded project DigiProB has started already during the last months of the Learning Layers project. The aim of the project is to develop and introduce digital tools that support training and learning in the continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes in the construction sector. In particular the project focuses on the CVT programmes that upgrade skilled workers to foremen (Vorarbeiter), to specialised construction site managers (Werkpolier) and general construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier). The project had a twofold aim:

  • to support the integration of training contents into integrated projects and
  • to provide the participants digital tools that support their self-organised learning between course periods.

In the year 2017 major progress was achieved with a working group of part-time trainers (lecturers) responsible of different subject areas. A development website was launched to shape a set of integrated projects and for uploading relevant content. In addition, a working agreement was reached, how to integrate this development website to the course management system of Bau-ABC and how to make the digital content available for the learners. In this arrangement it was agreed that the Learning Toolbox will be used as the learners’ tool (and interface with the learning content). In the meeting last week several points were discussed on the finalisation of the software architecture to be used in the pilot activities in the coming weeks.

The ‘Social competences’ initiative – bringing the Learning Toolbox to construction companies

Another follow-up initiative that was started after the final review was the company-specific pilot with the construction company H. This company is a medium-sized enterprise that has specialised in pipeline-building and installations (water and electricity).  The company has several regional offices and its construction teams are working in a wide area in North Germany. The starting point of the cooperation was a feasibility study that was prepared by the developers of the Learning Toolbox (with support from the ITB team). This study made recommendations for the improvement of the system solutions and the software architecture of the company – to improve the sharing of information between the offices and the construction teams. Already in this context the Learning Toolbox played a role. As a spin-off from this study, the partners prepared also a project initiative to use Learning Toolbox as means to improve the communication and knowledge sharing between apprentices and in-company trainers. The pre-proposal had been accepted by the funding body and the partners were invited to submit a detailed proposal for a project that is due to start in Spring 2018. This proposal was discussed last week in the meeting between the partners involved in the project.

From ‘BIM-Table’ to ‘BIM-Koffer’ – preparing hardware solutions for mobile construction teams

One of the pain points for promoting the use of digital tools in construction work was the lack of appropriate hardware that is robust enough and well-protected from bad weather conditions, but at the same time provides access to relevant apps and software. On larger construction sites the companies have tried to introduce ‘BIM-Kiosks’ or ‘BIM-tables’, mainly to support the work of construction site managers and/or supervising engineers. This idea was picked by several Learning Layers partners (including CIMNE, ITB and some craft trade companies) but with the emphasis on similar needs of SMEs, smaller construction sites and mobile teams of construction companies. The construction sector partners have strongly underlined the need for a ‘mobile office hardware set’ (BIM-Koffer) that could provide a WLAN for the construction site and link to internet from remote locations. Whilst the design of such a hardware solution hasn’t fallen into the scope of funding programmes, a pilot team has come up with a plan to prepare a prototype that can be used in small-scale pilots and eventually in funded projects. In this initiative both the access to BIM software and to Learning Toolbox play a role.

Bringing Learning Toolbox into conferences – also in the field of vocational education and training (VET)

One of the delightful news of the year 2017 was the broad-based and successful use of Learning Toolbox as a conference tool to create ePosters (and mini-posters for poster-walls) in the AMEE 2017 conference. This pioneering exercise has been well documented by the introductory videos and by the showcases on the Learning Toolbox site. Based on this success story, another way of using Learning Toolbox with ‘hybrid posters’ was tested in the EC-TEL 2017 conference.

Now, when preparing the 2018 conferences, the ITB team has initiated contacts between the Learning Toolbox developers and organisers of conferences in the field of educational research (or research in vocational education and training (VET)). Even if we may not be able to make major steps forward this year, we are in a good position to start preparations for similar pilots as in the above mentioned conferences

– – –

I guess this is enough updating on the projects and project-like initiatives that involve several partners. On top of this we learned a lot of further work with the Learning Toolbox within the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. But that is already a topic for a further blog post.

More blogs to come …

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part One: Looking back at the event and the follow-up

January 19th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

One year ago we had the pleasure to organise the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (2012-2016) here in North Germany. The main argument to locate the meeting ‘in the field’ was that in this way the consortium and the reviewers could get a better impression on the impact of our work on the application partner organisations and their work. Therefore, we had most parts of the review meeting in Verden at the premises of Norddeutsche Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen (NZNB). This centre for ecological construction work had worked as an application partner in the construction pilot of the LL project. Also, in the premises of the NZNB the participants could see the permanent exhibition and attend live demonstrations on working with ecological materials in construction work. The idea, to bring the review to such a location was received well. Also, trainers from the construction industries’ training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup could participate and give their contributions on the impact of the project on their work. The pictures below give an impression on the environment and on our tour round the premises.

LL Final review 2017-01-18

What we (the LL Construction pilot) presented in the review meeting

After the event I wrote several blogs focusing firstly on the preparations and event itself, secondly on our report on the Construction pilot in which our ITB team had played a major role and thirdly on the conclusions from both pilot sectors of the LL project (Construction and Healthcare). At this moment I do not want to repeat what we said and what I wrote at that time. Here you have the links to the blogs of last year:

Final Review of Learning Layers – Part One: The Event and the Arrangements
Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Two: Presentations on the Construction Pilot
Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Three: Comparisons between and reflections on the pilot sectors

Altogether, we – reporting from the sectoral pilots – gave a picture of pilot teams working intensively with the application partners in the pilot organisations (in particular with the training centre Bau-ABC and the network for ecological construction work). The development of the digital tools and the mobile learning technologies was driven as a participative process in which the technical partners adjusted their ideas to the contexts and users’ potentials. These messages were summarised in two further blogs that I wrote shortly afterwards – to support the final edition of our final ‘final report’ that we were required to submit in addition to the final reporting on the website “Learning Layers Results“.

The Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot – Part One: The project experience in a nutshell
The Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot – Part Two: Impact of project activities in Bau-ABC Rostrup

In this way we managed to reach a phase in which the Learning Toolbox was a usable tool in different contexts of the construction pilot – and its potentials had been discovered in other application contexts.

What has happened with the follow-up activities after the Final Review

By the time of the review meeting we had already reached the phase of preparing and launching follow-up activities. For us – the research team in ITB and the developers of the Learning Toolbox – it was clear that we have to work together with application partners in the construction sector. The introduction of the Learning Toolbox had been started, but it was not a self-mover. Participative design, training interventions, accompanying research and knowledge sharing was needed – both between ‘old’ partners and ‘new’ users. Therefore, we started working with several parallel follow-up initiatives that started to take shape gradually. This process can be reconstructed with the help of my blogs that I have written in the year 2017 on different follow-up events:

What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part One: The follow-up activities are taking shape
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Two: Bau-ABC trainers working with digital media and ‘health and safety’
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Three: Getting deeper with vocational learning, ‘health and safety’ and digital media
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Four: Further steps with Bau-ABC trainers and ‘health and safety’
Introducing Learning Layers tools to construction companies – Insights and working issues
Shaping digital tools for continuing vocational training in construction sector – the DigiProB workshop in May

Working further with the Learning Toolbox – Overview on current activities in construction sector

These were the blogs that I wrote before the summer holiday break. After the summer holidays my work situation changed slightly and I didn’t have a similar possibility to accompany parallel activities. Yet, I could make some notes on the further progress with the activities in North Germany and on the use of Learning Toolbox in conferences.

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part One: Notes on meetings with application partners
Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part Two: LTB-based ePosters become success stories in European conferences

So, as we can see from the long list of blogs, there was all the time something going on. And indeed, the Learning Toolbox was being developed for further contexts and users. Moreover, we – as accompanying researchers – felt the need to work with these initiatives. In particular, we wanted to learn, how the introduction of digital tools into work-related or organisational learning opens new frontiers to be explored. But this is already a topic for a further post.

More blogs to come …

TACCLE 4 CPD – Developing continuing professional development for teacher trainers

December 9th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of November we had the kick-off meeting of the new Erasmus Plus project “TACCLE 4 – CPD” hosted by ITB at the University of Bremen. This project is a new kind of follow-up of a series of projects with the brand name ‘TACCLE’. So, let us firstly have a look at the development of these projects.

The TACCLE projects as support for teachers who are developing online learning

TACCLE 1 took the pioneering task to prepare a handbook as “Teachers’ aids for creating content for e-learning”. The result was a generic handbook that informed of basic web tools and online learning resources and equipped teachers to use them.

TACCLE 2 shifted the emphasis to work with online handbooks that were targeted for teachers in different subject areas as well as to primary school teachers.

These projects were also supported by specific TACCLE courses funded by the Comenius and Grundtvig programmes.

TACCLE 3 shifted the emphasis to teaching programming and coding for school children and worked mainly with the project website.

More information on the two first generations of TACCLE projects is availble on the video interviews with Jenny Hughes (recorded for the Coop-PBL in VET project in 2012):

Jenny Hughes on TACCLE 1 project: Getting teachers to produce their own web content (Part1)

Jenny Hughes on TACCLE 2 project: Reaching out to new teacher groups and subject areas (Part2)

TACCLE 4 project as support for teacher trainers with focus on technology-enhanced learning and online resources

Looking back, the earlier TACCLE projects have been successful and even more the TACCLE courses. This had created a demand for courses, workshops etc. based on the projects and their materials. This gave rise to a new project that focuses on practitioners who are developing  Continuing Professional Development (CPD) initiatives for teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. From this point of view the TACCLE 4 – CPD project was shaped to draw upon the prior experiences and to expand the work from school-based education to other educational sectors – Adult Education (AE) and Vocational Education and Training. From this perspective the project was based on a limited number of partner organisations, some of which had been involved in the previous ones and some bringing new countries and/or educational sectors into the picture.

For our institute – ITB – this project is an opportunity to draw upon the experiences of multimedia training and co-design of digital tools (mainly for construction sector) in the Learning Layers project (2012 – 2016). In the kick-off meeting we presented the work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and the follow-up activities in different contexts:

  1. In the initial VET the HAKS project with craft trade companies and by the informal working groups of Bau-ABC trainers;
  2. In the continuing vocational training by the DigiProB project that is developing a new software ecology that links together the course management and (via moodle) the trainers’ curriculum design platform (WordPress) and the learners’ interface (LTB):
  3. In the designed project ProBauKo and in a prior feasibility study the ITB team and the LTB developers have explored the possibility to link the use of LTB to company-specific knowledge processes and learning opportunities.

In the TACCLE 4 – CPD project we have to see, how to link these working perspectives (and the role of vocational schools) to the way in which the TACCLE projects have supported training of teachers and trainers. I am looking forward to an interesting period of work.

More blogs to come …

Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – “ToDo List” for conferences finally completed

October 19th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of April this year I had left behind all the work after the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. We had completed the work for the review and the additional tasks that were required to clarify the picture. At that time I was looking forward to revisit the project experience and wrote myself a “ToDo List” – outlining a set of working papers that I wanted to complete as soon as possible. This is what I wrote as my opening statement:

“Now, we have a chance to revisit the project experience and draw conceptual and methodological conclusions of our work in the Construction pilot. And I have booked myself in to three conferences to have a closer look at our achievements and how review them from a conceptual point of view.”

Little did I know at that time, what kind of intervening factors may cause delays to such plans. Instead of working three papers ready by the middle of August I had to take a break and give thoughts on something bigger than my work. Yet, having taken the time I needed, I am happy to announce that I have completed the ToDo List of late April. Today I have uploaded the last one of the designed three Working Papers on my account on ResearchGate. And in order to put the three Working Papers into a group picture, I published the following update:

“During the year 2017 I have written three parallel working papers that are the pillars for my re-examination of our work in the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. Together they provide insights into our methodological orientation and to two central theoretical themes in the context of a participative research & development project:

 

1) Accompanying research (“Begleitforschung”) between knowledge development and support for innovations in the field-Revisiting earlier developments and the experience in Learning Layers:
2) Begleitforschung in the context of digital transformation in vocational education and training (VET): Linking work process knowledge to ‘Industry 4.0’:
3) Begleitforschung as mediator between action-oriented learning and digital change: on the role of accompanying research in earlier pilot projects and the Learning Layers Construction pilot:
Altogether these papers give a picture of our approach and of our learning journey with co-design, collaborative learning and support for piloting with digital tools in the construction sector. These working papers will be developed further and linked to discussion on sustainability and transferability of the innovations with which we worked.”
– – –
I think this is enough of this effort at the moment. As I have indicated above. I need to do some work with the three papers to make the mutual relations more transparent and to fill some gaps. And I need to tackle the issue of sustainability and transferability of innovations – just as it emerged in the follow-up phase after the end of the project. But let us take one step at a time amd next steps afterwards.
More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part Two: LTB-based ePosters become success stories in European conferences

October 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I gave a progress report on our work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the follow-up activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot (2012 -2016). With this post I want to give visibility for the successful implementation of LTB as a tool for creating ePosters for large (European and international) conferences. This work has been led by the coordinator of the Learning Layers’ healthcare pilot, Tamsin Treasure-Jones and by the key developer of LTB, Raymond Elferink. Together with their support team they have pioneered with the use of LTB-based ePosters in the AMEE 2017 conference in Helsinki. I am pleased to publish their report on my blog. Many thanks to Tamsin, Ray and their team! From this point on I am using their text (slightly edited) and their pictures & links:

“Learning Toolbox – a transformative ePoster solution: AMEE 2017 as an example

Learning Toolbox as an ePoster solution is a spin-off initiative that emerged from the EU- funded Learning Layers research & development project. AMEE 2017 has been the pioneering ePoster client. AMEE is the very large (approx. 3,800 delegates) annual international conference of the Association of Medical Education (AMEE).

Overview of Learning Toolbox as the ePoster solution at AMEE 2017

These two short videos (which were created for the conference participants) provide an overview of the how the ePosters worked at AMEE.

ePoster_Video2 ePoster_Video2

https://youtu.be/6KUFHBhZGVs                https://youtu.be/QKQ5R1mZzlw

In total we supported 80 ePosters (this included 3 which we created with the authors during the conference itself, as they had lost their paper posters in transit!). You can explore and interact with all the ePosters on our AMEE 2017 ePosters Showcase page https://my.ltb.io/#/showcase/amee:

ePoster_Showcases

What is novel about Learning Toolbox?

Underlying our approach are several educational aims to transform the way in which posters (and existing ePoster solutions) are used in conferences:

Novelty-in-ePoster
Moving beyond PDFs

We wanted to move beyond a vision of ePosters as just an onscreen version of a paper poster (most ePoster solutions are effectively online PDFs with minimal interactivity). Learning Toolbox allows people to include a wide range of multimedia and interactive material in their ePoster including videos, surveys, presentations, web links and even apps.

Bridging between the physical and virtual worlds

We wanted to give the ePosters both a physical and virtual presence at the conference, and to allow easy bridging between these worlds. Existing ePoster platforms often only offer the ePosters online, so that they are easily overlooked in busy conferences. We used the mini-poster wall to actually give the ePosters a high profile (but small footprint) presence in the conference and a very easy way to move from the mini-poster to the ePosters.

ePoster_cubicle

Direct engagement & interaction between people

We wanted to support people engaging with the ePoster work and the ePoster authors (with traditional posters & ePosters this interaction with the author is only really possible during a very short timetabled presentation session). So Learning Toolbox also allows people to have discussions that are attached to the ePoster (viewable by all who interact with that ePoster) and the ePoster author can also send out messages to the ePoster. These exchanges can happen before, during & after the conference. Our educational aim is for this extra interactivity to help people to find and develop groups who have a shared interest in their research topic. This can be a particular issue at large conferences such as AMEE.

Bring your own device – ePosters in your pocket

We wanted to help people to feel very connected to the ePosters, to have them in their hands, in their pocket. You can also easily share an ePoster from one phone to another, allowing people to pass on the ePosters that interest them. Many traditional ePoster solutions rely heavily on expensive hardware (large screens or touchscreens). Learning Toolbox instead uses people’s own devices, supporting a more personalised experience.

Life beyond the conference

We wanted people to be able to take home the ePoster, to actually have them as a long-term learning resource that could be used by the ePoster author and those who had an interest in their topic. Learning Toolbox allows conference attendees to favourite and easily take home ePosters with them on their phone and it allows the ePoster author to add to and update their ePoster following the discussions at the conference”

– – –

This was the report of our pioneering team in AMEE 2017. If you want to have more information on the way the participants prepared themselves for the conference and how the ePosters were used, I would recommend you to follow the tweets of Tamsin Treasure-Jones @tamsinttj. And if you want to get more information, how to use ePosters in your conferences, contact Raymond Elferink and his team support [at] stack [dot] services

As I have heard it from Gilbert Peffer, who was also involved in that exercise, also other conferences and support organisations are interested to use ePosters. We hope that also our conference organisers in the field of Vocational Education and Training (VET) research will follow their example in due time.

More blogs to come …

Conversational learning and evidence based education

September 12th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I have missed out on this autumn’s conference circuit. I just DJg4lLdXUAAiqw8don’t have the money to pay for fees and travel (let alone beer) in attending these events. I am not sure that I actually miss the conferences themselves, but I do miss meeting friends and catching up with what is going on.

And of course, it is increasingly possible to at least dip in to conferences online these days. What with mobile phones and twitter you can almost watch the slides progressing in real time. This morning I noticed one presentation seemed to be getting a lot of my twitter feed. It was Mike Sharples speaking at the ALTALC tagged conference – it took me some time to suss out the ALC stood for the Active Learning Conference taking place at Anglia Ruskin University.

A couple of slides interested me.The slide above is based on the Open University FutureLearn platform. This sums up perfectly how we have used the platform in the EmployID project for running (sadly not open) courses on the Future of Work for employees from the UK Department for Works and Pensions (the UK Public Employment Service. The evaluation showed the courses to be a great success (more on this tomorrow). But I am not so convinced to what degree the FutureLearn platform helped our pedagogic approach – at best I would say it hindered us less than other MOOC platforms we have used.DJg2tuIXcAA5A_X

The second slide also rings true – at least to my experience in using technology for professional development. It is not always easy to link online professional development to practice. But I am ever more sure this is critical to effective learning. Learning spaced over time is an interesting idea in an age of quick bite learning. Of course it depends learning over how much time. Ideally the learning should evolve in line with the practice – but that is not easy to achieve.

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Two: My reflections on Accompanying Research in the Learning Layers project

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series of posts to wrap up my experiences in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. I presented a thematic overview and a working agenda to explore different aspects that came up in the sessions I attended. With this post I give insights into my own presentation.

Background, work plan and modification of the plan

This year all my conference presentations focus on revisiting and reconceptualising our experience with the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. In particular I want to highlight the particular role of our “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) approach in the complex projects. Initially I had planned to write three parallel research papers and to present them in three successive conferences (see my post of April “Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – A “ToDo List” for forthcoming conferences“). I could partly implement it by preparing the first paper for the Stockholm International VET Conference in May – with emphasis on Accompanying research as promoter of action-oriented learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). Then, I could prepare a second paper that I intended to present in the Rostock International VET Conference one week before the ECER. In this paper the main emphasis was given on revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and linking it to newer innovation agendas – in particular to “Industry 4.0”. However, then – due to intervening factors – I neither had the chance to present this paper in Rostock nor to prepare a third paper for ECER. Thus, I had to postpone my work with the methodological development of Accompanying research in the Learning Layers project (compared with prior approaches in pilot projects and innovation programmes).

Looking back at Learning Layers project – and forward to the follow-up

As has been the case with some other presentations, I had to give some background information, how the Learning Layers project was shaped and how the two sectoral pilots (in Healthcare and Construction) worked. Then I had to give insights into the change in the design idea – from digitising learning resources to shaping of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to different iterations. Finally, I had to to draw attention to the complementary relations between co-design workshops, multimedia training and pilot testing with digital tools. Mostly, these activities were carried out in the training centre Bau-ABC of the North-German construction industries and trades. Here, the key achievement was the introduction of the LTB as a digital toolset to support (trade-specific) training and learning in Bau-ABC.

But I also managed to give insights into the follow-up activities that promote company-specific applications of the LTB (as contributions to overarching management of work-related knowledge processes) and similar uses of LTB in continuing vocational training (as support for integrative curriculum development and learning approaches). In addition, one follow-up process is shaping integrative approaches to ‘health and safety’  in construction sector. All these processes are taking further steps to reach real work contexts and users in work organisations.

Revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and analysing old and new innovation agendas

In the light of the above it was worthwhile recapitulating, what we had learned from studying the legacy of the “Work process knowledge network” of the years 1997 -2004. In particular it was important to compare the views on the role of VET and informal learning in promoting the acquisition of work process knowledge. Furthermore, it was important to take on board the recent analyses on three generations of innovation programmes in working life (‘Humanisation of work’, ‘Learning organisations’ and ‘Industry 4.0’). With the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’ I explored the recent analyses of German sociologists and educationalists on the general frontiers in the debates (techno-centric v.s. socio-technical approaches) and efforts to develop spaces and facilities for learning within work processes or to shape complementary learning spaces.

– – –

I think this is enough for a brief introduction. The long version of my paper is available on ResearchGate (see ‘Begleitforschung’ as contributor to digitisation in vocational education and training (VET) for construction sector – Linking ‘work process knowledge’ to ‘Industry 4.0’. The short version will be published in the proceedings of the Rostock conference (see the forthcoming conference proceedings). And my PowerPoint presentation will be published on the website of the VETNET network (see the Vetnetsite/2017 Copenhagen Presentations).

Concerning the feedback that I got, I note that the issue ‘scientific status of accompanying research’ has been discussed recently when the research work of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) in Germany has been evaluated. Indeed, I need to continue my work with this theme and inform myself the points made in this evaluation.

In my next posts I will discuss some key themes that were discussed in several sessions.

More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox – Overview on current activities in construction sector

June 16th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

After the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (see my blogs from January and February) I have tried to report on the follow-up activities in North Germany and with our partners in construction sector. In my blogs in March, April and May I have reported on ongoing projects or new initiatives in which the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) has played an important role. As these blogs have been based on particular meetings or workshops, the picture may have remained somewhat fragmentary. However, this week we have had a series of meetings with different counterparts. This has made it possible to create a group picture of ongoing activities.

Below I will report on the discussions in the three first meetings of this week in which I was present. Here it is worthwhile to note that none of these meetings was focusing only on specific uses of LTB as a dedicated tool for certain uses. Instead, all these meetings were discussing more comprehensive ecosystems of knowledge processes and software solutions (Ökosysteme für Wissensvermittlung und Software-Lösungen). In this context our counterparts were looking for different roles for LTB – as a part of an integrative software ecosystem – in promoting learning, training and workin in construction sector.

1. Bau-ABC Rostrup: New uses for LTB in continuing vocational training (CVT) and projects

In the meeting in Bau-ABC we discussed the prospects of developing an integrative software ecosystem to address course management issues, continuing quality assurance and integration of innovative pedagogic designs to regular training provisions. Here the meeting of Bau-ABC training managers, software developers (including LTB developers) and ITB researchers was partly building on the progress in the project DigiProB (see my previous post). Partly it was building on parallel planning of software solutions for course management and quality assurance. The key point was in the shaping of a software ecology that is linked to traditional data management solutions and receives the ‘mature’ results from development platforms. This would be the case with the DigiProB platform that is being used by lecturers in continuing vocational training (CVT) to create integrated project-based learning designs for CVT participants). In such a software ecology the LTB would serve as the participants interface for accessing digital contents and communication channels in such projects.

Alongside the case of the DigiProB project we discussed parallel possibilities to work further with the Bau-ABC trainers’ group that has been developing more systematic approach to the theme ‘Health and Safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). In a similar way we discussed the possibilities to use LTB to support context-specific language learning of the Spanish apprentices (in the Mobipro-EU project) and key issues preparing them for their workplace-based training at construction sites. For these themes the Bau-ABC participants and the LTB developers presented recently created or modified LTB stacks as means to support learning in these contexts.

2.  Agentur für Nachhaltiges Bauen in Verden: New software ecosystems for construction work

In the meeting at the agency for ecological construction work (Agentur) ITB researchers and LTB developers discussed with Thomas Isselhard on the new working perspectives from their point of view (Verden-based organisations and networks focusing on ecological construction work). As we remember, the LTB-use case in which Thomas demonstrated, how he can use the LTB as means to coordinate the work process at a construction site was well received in the workshop for construction companies in September 2016. Now, based on that basic stack we were looking at newer software solutions and mobile apps that can enhance the usability of LTB by craft trade companies. In this discussion a major role was given for construction process-oriented digital tools (Datenlogger) and for possibilities to develop Building Information Modelling (BIM) solutions from the the perspective of craft trades working together. In this context Gilbert Peffer presented the work of CIMNE with portable BIMtables and BIM screens as means to support knowledge sharing during construction processes. In this discussion we could link to a similar session in our previous meeting with Bau-ABC in which we had had a presentation on BIMtable and on a digital tool package (GreenHouse Koffer) for ecological construction work of carpenters. In our discussion in Verden the key point was that the integration of tools and software should support both construction processes and further maintenance. Therefore, the tools and software solutions should take into account planners, craftsmen and clients as the users. Here it is not possible to go into details but this meeting took further steps in planning of new projects with LTB as a key element in such software ecosystem.

3. Company H.: Rethinking the software ecosystem and promoting the competences of the staff

In the third meeting ITB researchers and LTB developers were discussing with representatives of the company H. In one of my previous blogs I have given a rather detailed picture of a workshop in which we discussed the preliminary findings of a mapping tour that the colleagues had done by visiting different sites of that company. Now in this meeting the colleagues presented a draft report on work flows, support systems, eventual gaps and risk zones and their recommendations. We had a rather detailed discussion – both in terms of situation assessment and possible improvements.

Here it is not relevant to give a detailed picture of the discussion. However, at a more general level it is worthwhile to note that the company representatives were looking at a holistic ecosystem for steering work processes, supporting real-time interaction and reporting as well as enhancing knowledge sharing within the company. From the organisational and pedagogic point it was interesting that the company was interested in the potentials of LTB, both from the perspective of process optimisation as well as enhancing the learning processes of apprentices. Moreover, the company was interested in supporting free spaces for exchanges among the apprentices and for organising events to take up their ideas, concerns and wishes. However, with all these interests the company was looking for improvements that could be implemented with the agreement of the staff and with a perspective to integrate different staff members to common processes.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these meetings. For me this series of discussions was inspiring as I could observe clear steps forward on several fronts. Moreover, this experience gave me a new perspective to ‘digital transformation’. As I now see it, such transformations are not just matters of pushing new technologies upon users (or to substitute a great number of users). Neither can such transformations be characterised as equipping of users with magic tools that radically enhance their powers. Instead, the innovative tools – in order to contribute to digital transformations – have to fit into emerging ecosystems of knowledge processes, steering, sharing and reporting as well as co-design processes in which developers become aware of such requirements. In all these meetings I saw signs of such processes. I am looking forward to observe the next steps.

More blogs to come …

Shaping digital tools for continuing vocational training in construction sector – the DigiProB workshop in May

May 23rd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Friday (19th of May) I visited a workshop hosted by my ITB colleagues for yet another follow-up activity of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time the German-funded DigiProB project had a workshop on preparing digital tools for continuing vocational training (CVT) in the construction sector. The participants (in addition to my ITB colleagues) were training managers from the training centre Bau-ABC, guest lecturers of their CVT schemes and the software developer supporting the project. I have had several encounters with the DigiProB project but this time I could witness that the participants were making progress in shaping digital tools to support their training activities. But let us first recapitulate what the project is about and what it tries to achieve.

The DigiProB project – Pedagogic challenges for CVT trainers and participants

The aim of the DigiProB project is to support the successive CVT schemes in construction sector (Vorarbeiter, Werkpolier, Geprüfte Polier) with digital tools. In this context the project has to cope with several pedagogic challenges:

a) Limited presence training time: The above mentioned CVT schemes are supported by very short course periods with face-to-face training. Most of the learning has to take place as self-organised learning alongside the work of the participants in construction sector. (These schemes are targeted as upgrading schemes for skilled workers in construction sector and prepare them for management responsibilities at different level.)

b) Subject-based curriculum framework vs. action-oriented learning goals: The main pedagogic challenge for developing the above mentioned CVT schemes was the tension between the subject-based curriculum contents and the action-oriented learning goals. Thus, the presence training is based on subject areas covered by guest lecturers that have been invited as subject specialists (e.g. for construction processes, construction techniques and personal management). Yet, a central role in the curriculum has been given for complex learning tasks and an integrative project report.

c) Providing support for self-organised learning by dispersed part-time lecturers: A further challenge was the fact that the lecturers were recruited individually to cover their subject areas during the course period. Thus, they did not have a collective responsibility on promoting the participants’ learning beyond the course period. Yet, the lecturers were interested in providing further support inasmuch as they possibly could. Therefore, they were interested in working with digital tools for themselves and for their participants.

The DigiProB workshops – finding ways to provide support for integrative projects

During the last few months the DigiProB project has managed to establish a working group of active lecturers who serve as a pioneer group for developing integrative learning projects (and for introducing digital tools to support action-oriented learning in the CVT schemes). This working group has come together on monthly basis and now had its fifth meeting. I had visited their meeting only once – quite some time earlier – so I could now see the progress that the group had made. Below I try to sum up key achievements and working issues of this working group:

1. Working on two tracks to develop digital tools: Already at an early phase the working group took the course to two-track development of digital tools: a developmental platform for lecturers and a user-interface for participants. In this way the group avoided the risk of rushing to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ or ‘one-design-fits-all’ in introducing digital tools. For the moment the group is working primarily with the developmental platform to shape an integrative project that serves as a model for shaping further projects (and complex learning tasks). The shaping of user-interfaces can draw upon the progress with the work with this platform.

2. Shaping a model project to cover a wide range of content areas in an integrative vocational learning environment: Instead of using the developmental platform as a mere collector of training materials for different content areas the group has worked towards more integrative solutions. As a model project the group has chosen the construction of  a motorway service area (Autobahn Raststätte) with different sub-projects (including construction of  a kiosk-building with toilets, construction of special parking bay for trucks and lorries etc.). With such an overarching  theme the lecturers were challenged to incorporate their training contents as contributions to sub-projects of the whole project. Moreover, the real challenges in coordinating such project became transparent in the mutual adjustment of the sub-projects. This led to cross-cutting questions like the following ones: “Can the construction of the kiosk-building be started before the groundwork for the parking bays has been completed?” “Can the building materials for the kiosk-building be stored properly at the construction site when the groundwork is still going on?”

3. Working towards project-related and integrative learning goals: In general the digital learning platforms tend to shape such learning environments with reference to (atomistic) content areas and (atomistic) learning goals. The working group took a course towards project-oriented and integrative learning goals. In this respect the lecturers maintained the curriculum document and its main learning areas (construction techniques, construction processes and personal management) as reference points. Yet, instead of proceeding to a patchwork-like layout of learning units, the group insisted on keeping the projects and sub-projects transparent on the platform. Furthermore, the group insisted on formulating such learning goals that link the above mentioned learning areas to each other.

Interim observations and reflections

I guess this is enough of the main themes of the workshop. In addition, some lecturers presented their own ideas on specific apps (to be found on the learning platform H5P) as support for individual learning. Others introduced ideas for serious games that could be used in the context of these training schemes. Altogether, these ideas envisaged to support the self-organised informal learning of CVT participants (before or after the limited course periods).

Furthermore, the process in the working group reminded me of the Multimedia training schemes that were implemented during the Learning Layers project in Bau-ABC. This working group was going through a similar learning process as the voluntary Bau-ABC trainers in the earlier phase of Multimedia training. However, the Bau-ABC trainers could focus on the project-based learning periods and vocational learning tasks in their trades – and use their blogs as repositories for training materials. They were not challenged to develop integrated projects. For the working group in the DigiProB project it was essential to bring different content areas together in an integrative project – in order to make progress with shaping digital tools for the CVT schemes. Just as it was in the Learning Layers project, it is important that this pioneering group makes progress with the model project – then to be able to share experiences and know-how with other colleagues.

Finally, the process reminds me also of the introduction of the Learning Toolbox in the apprentice training in Bau-ABC (as a user-interface for vocational learners to support work process-oriented learning). Just as in the Learning Layers project,  the shaping of user-interfaces for the CVT participants needs to draw upon the pedagogic idea that are being developed by the DigiProB working group – then to be put into practice in the CVT schemes. From this perspective the earlier work in the shaping of the Learning Toolbox (for the apprentice training) serves as an advanced preparatory phase for the user-interfaces to be developed for the CVT participants.

– – –

I think this is enough of this DigiProB workshop. To me the participation as a visitor was a rich learning experience. And here I mean both regarding the development process of the DigiProB working group (as such) and the general picture of the learning Layers follow-up activities in construction sector (altogether). We (ITB and our partners) are building on the legacy of the Learning Layers project and its construction pilot. And we see new tasks and opportunities coming into picture.

More blogs to come …

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