Archive for the ‘online learning’ Category

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

September 18th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

September 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interim assessments by Bau-ABC trainers during the project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding remarks

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

More blogs to come …

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

September 13th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

The different meanings of  ‘digital divide’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come … 

 

Bringing Learning Toolbox to users – Part Two: Workshop with craft trade companies in Bremen

September 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series of reports on the newest events in the fieldwork of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its key product Learning Toolbox (LTB) developed in the construction sector pilot. The LTB has been shaped together with our application partners in the North-German construction industries and trad to support workplace learning and/or learning in the context of work processes. With the two workshops that we organised on Wednesday (7.9.) and Thursday (8.9.) we wanted to present the Toolbox and to bring it close to users. The previous post covered the workshop with researchers from our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB). This second post focuses on the workshop that we had with representatives of craft trade companies and construction sector professionals from Bremen region.

Introducing the Learning Layers project and the Learning Toolbox

In this workshop the moderator Werner Müller (ITB) and the representative of the developers of the Toolbox Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) focused on the efferts of the project to support learning and knowledge sharing in the context of work and organisations. In particular Gilbert demonstrated the use of the Toolbox with different examples on practice-based learning and on getting access to relevant information and deeper know-how in work situations. See Gilbert’s slides here LTB-WS_Handwerksbetriebe.

The case for using Learning Toolbox at a construction site presented by Thomas Isselhard

After the introductions our application partner Thomas Isselhard from the network for ecological construction work (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen – NNB) presented the case with which he had trained himself to become an active user of the Learning Toolbox. Thomas is an architect with expertise on renovating old buildings and work with ecologically sound  construction materials. He is now in charge of a special construction site in Verden. The old building that is under preservation order (Denkmalschutz) needs to be renovated thoroughly. However, due to the preservation order there are further requirements how the work needs to be done. And therefore, there are frequent changes in plans and instructions – and repeated needs for real-time communication between and advice for the teams that are working on the site. In the following video clip Thomas and Werner discuss this issue when visiting the construction site:

Concerning the introduction of the Toolbox in their working Thomas refers to their standard procedures, files and use of colours in paper-based archiving. It has been convenient for his fellow colleagues and collaborators to use the similar structure in creating digital tiles in the Toolbox (for specific phases and documents) and to equip them with the colours that have been used in paper-based archiving. Therefore, he has a general prototype stack (of such tiles) that he can copy for new cases with which he will use the Toolbox. In the following video clip Thomas expresses this in his own words:

Thomas gave us several examples from everyday life situations, how much miscommunication and unnecessary delays (due to waiting times) can be avoided if different parties involved were equipped with such a Toolbox and had the updated information (without confusion on versions) at the same time available.

Discussion on other prospects or working issues to be considered

In the discussion several issues were raised from the perspective of the companies. In the beginning some participants were concerned, whether construction workers are ready to use digital tools and insert information in writing. Thomas stated immediately that the Toolbox is very easy to use and that users can adjust it to their needs without heavy training. Others emphasised that there are several ‘paperwork’ duties that can be immensely facilitated with such an interactive tool. Furthermore, the Toolbox makes it easier to manage different communication channels and versions of documents that are being used. Also, the Toolbox makes it easier to distinguish between archives and working documents – and to make this distinction transparent to all parties. Yet, for regular use, the participants needed clarification on storage of data (cloud – central server – local server), on different levels of privacy and sharing, on access to public resources (official maps held by public authorities) and on the policies and pricing for subscriptions. These, as we see it, will be clarified by the end of the LL project, when the support of the Toolbox is continued by a new service provider.

– – –

I think this is enough of this workshop. We got a clear impression that the Toolbox is reaching the stage of maturity and that the craft trade companies are ready for further talks on actual use of it in their work. However, given the relatively short time of piloting, we all understand that there is a need for further support by research & development activities. From this perspective we in ITB are pleased to note that we have several follow-up projects that can provide such support. Therefore, we will keep working with such follow-up activities.

More blogs to come …

 

Bringing Learning Toolbox to users – Part One: Workshop with ITB researchers

September 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week we have taken further steps in the fieldwork of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its key product Learning Toolbox (LTB) developed in the construction sector pilot. The LTB has been shaped together with our application partners in the North-German construction industries and trad to support workplace learning and/or learning in the context of work processes. With the two workshops that we organised on Wednesday (7.9.) and Thursday (8.9.) we wanted to present the Toolbox and to bring it close to users. With researchers from our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – we wanted to discuss interfaces and future cooperation prospects. With representatives of craft trade companies in Bremen region we wanted to discuss specific needs and opportunities for using the Toolbox in their work – and to get feedback for further development. In this first post I focus on the workshop with ITB researchers.

Getting an up-to-date picture of Learning Toolbox and where it can be used

Many of the ITB colleagues had already participated in earlier events in which we had informed them of the LL project, on our work with the construction pilot and on the participative design processes that led to the development of the LTB. Therefor, Werner Müller (ITB) gave a very brief over view and then handed over to Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) who represented the developers of LTB. Gilbert gave an up-to-date presentation on the key features of LTB and on its usability in different working and learning contexts  – see Gilbert’s slides here: LTB-WS_Handwerksbetriebe

As a part of his presentation Gilbert also demonstrated live the mobile application, the editor (Tilestore) and the Online Guide. Finally, he gave a sneak preview to some new functions that are being tested and will appear in the next version.

Engaging ITB researchers as users of Learning Toolbox

Together with the LL team of ITB Gilbert had prepared a specific application – a stack – in the Learning Toolbox to support the preparation of an internal ITB event (“Klausurtagung“) later this year. With this stack (see the screenshots below) he showed, how the information on the forthcoming event can be delivered and the participants’ contributions can be obtained in an interactive way.

Screenshot ITB Klausurtagung 1

We became aware of the questionnaire that has been prepared and of the opportunity to contribute via using the LTB.

Screenshot ITB Klausurtagung 2

Discussion on the potential use of Learning Toolbox in further ITB projects

In the following discussion we mainly focused on possible use of the Toolbox in other (ongoing or forthcoming) ITB projects. We discussed issues on data protection, data privacy and confidentiality – who controls, who has access. We also discussed the potential to develop the Toolbox as a contributor to e-portfolios of apprentices and trainees. Several questions were raised on the role of social media (e.g. Facebook) and on good or bad examples how it is being used. In the light of our multimedia training activities with our application partners (in particular the training centre Bau-ABC) we could give insights how they are using Facebook to promote professionalism and commitment to their trades via specific FB-groups.

Altogether, many of these questions could be responded with reference to field visits and working events on which I have reported on this blog during the recent months. With some of the questions we could refer to issues that would come up with the discussions with craft trade companies in the workshop scheduled for the next day. And with some questions we took note for the developers of the Learning Toolbox. We still hav work to do in the ongoing project.

– – –

I think this is enough of the first workshop. In my next post I will report on the workshop with representatives of craft trade companies in the construction sector.

More blogs to come …

 

Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part Three: Introducing Learning Toolbox to craft trade companies

September 1st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I have been writing a series of blog entries to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. After my sick leave I have been catching up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction sector pilot. In particular I have been interested in the news on the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) – both in work-based learning and at construction sites.  With my first post I summarised where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB before the summer break. With this second post I reported summarised recent feedback on the use of LTB by construction sector apprentices. In this third post I will give insights into the introduction of LTB to craft trade companies in construction sector.

Special challenges for Learning Toolbox in the work of electric engineering companies

At the end of June 2016 some members of the LL team of ITB visited the company Siever + Knüppel (one of our application partners) to discuss specific challenges that could be met with tools like LTB. So far our pioneering examples had been from the context apprentice training and project work on training sites. Dieter Siever (the director of the company specialised in electric engineering) gave us a manifold picture of unexpected incidences, changes of plans and potential mismatches between different trades involved in construction work and electric engineering in reparation and maintenance work. In the course of discussion we found several points in which the LTB could be adjusted to give support for necessary measures. A summary of these discussions is available in the following blog article:

Special challenges for using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in a craft trade company

Particular challenges for the use of Learning Toolbox in managing construction sites

Recently the Verden-based architect Thomas Isselhard (our application partner from the networks for ecological construction work) has got the responsibility to manage a special construction site in Verden. In addition to the complexity of ordinary construction sites there are special requirements from the perspective of maintaining cultural heritage (Denkmalschutz). In addition to this, the construction site is located next to a street that is used as open market area once a week (due to which there are restrictions to the work and transport).

Thomas had already made his experiences with testing the LTB. Therefore, he was keen to find out, how LTB would help him in supervising the craftsmen (from different trades and companies) involved in the work as well as managing the contacts with clients and other stakeholders (e.g. public authorities). Some members of the LL team of ITB have made a working visit to Verden to discuss this case with Thomas and are preparing demonstration materials with reference to this special case.

Workshop on the use of Learning Toolbox for craft trade companies in construction sector

The above mentioned working visits are closely related to the preparations (of the LL team of ITB and the LTB developers) for a workshop to introduce LTB for craft trade companies in Bremen region. This workshop will take place in ITB next week and we are looking forward to introduce the newest version of LTB there. Also, we want to collect similar exemplary cases from the companies to find out specific points of intervention. So, I assume that by the end of next week we have more to report from this front.

More blogs to come …

Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part Two: Fresh feedback on the use of Learning Toolbox

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series of blog entries to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Because of my sick leave I felt the need to catch up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction pilot with the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) – both in work-based learning and at construction sites.  With my first post I summarised where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB in our field activities earlier this year. With this second post I provide insights into fresh feedback on the use of LTB by construction sector apprentices.

The field visit of Markus Manhart (University of Innsbruck) to Bau-ABC

In the meantime our colleague Markus Manhart from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) was on field visit at the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC in Rostrup to collect feedback on the use of LTB by apprentices and to interview their trainers. Markus has shared his results with us and I can only do justice to his good work by making his report available via this blog post.

Markus told that he organised two Focus Group sessions (focus on LTB) with six carpenter apprentices (project Holzbau) and had two interviews with their trainers (Bruns, Pape).  In addition he had three Focus Groups with altogether 14 apprentices from another trade (Baugeräteführer) on the use of video annotation tool AchSo. Since the use of mobile devices is restricted (or not allowed at all) during their working periods in construction companies, Markus asked them to reflect on their experiences with using the tools in Bau-ABC (from the initial introduction to present date). Below I give extracts from Markus’ reports (with next to original wording but to some extent edited by me – PK):

First finding: “Guiding replaces strict instructions”:

There is some evidence for a tool-supported change of the training patterns at Bau-ABC. In the past, apprentices and trainers had a rather hierarchical perception of training activities, characterised by limited  autonomy for learners (= apprentices). Trainers told what to do and apprentices expected to get detailed instructions. Using LTB (and also AchSo) is partly contributing to a change towards more autonomous learning. The trainers tend to give apprentices more room of manoeuvre how to prepare and implement their projects. Instead of strictly instructing them, trainers tend to take the role of ‘guides’ for the apprentices. However, the increase of autonomy seems to be dependent on many factors: characteristics of learners, type of learning materials and achieved knowledge. Finally, the interpretation of the trainers on their own role will influence greatly, how such change can occur.

Second finding: “From consuming to contributing”:

In the past, learning material was provided in a one-way communication from trainers to apprentices. Thus, apprentices were more consumers of learning materials and recipients of trainers’ knowledge. Now, the new tools (provided by the LL project) support a transition towards a peer-to-peer mode of treating learning materials and knowledge resources. However, in this context it is important to note that the asymmetry cannot be completely abolished. From the perspective of trainers it is clear that some learning materials and knowledge elements cannot be freely produced or acquired by apprentices. Also, the apprentices are aware of their limits in this respect.

What can be produced and shared in terms of peer-to-peer communication are problems with the apprentices’ projects or experiences with managing such projects (e.g. time management, planning work steps). What should not be produced and shared in such terms are instructions, how to perform project tasks (e.g. methods of how wooden beams should be prepared or constructed) and information on health and safety regulations (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz).

Third finding: “Digital transformation”:

In the light of the two aspects mentioned above, apprentices and trainers have described several episodes as exemplary cases, how the LL tools contribute to changes in training and learning practices. These can be treated as indications on digital transformation in the training and learning culture of Bau-ABC. (Below I give a nutshell summary, more information can be obtained from Markus Manhart.)

Interestingly enough, in the light of these examples digital transformation does not appear as a fundamental change of training and learning pushed by the tools. Instead, it is perceived rather as meaningful changes of specific practices. Regarding meaningfulness the apprentices gave the example on their obligation to document their daily project progress and achieved results.

When working with paper- and pencil-based documentation the apprentices had several possibilities to cheat the trainers with their reports. In general, they could write down what the trainers would expect to get from them (even when this wouldn’t quite correspond with the reality). Thus, if a task has taken a whole day, they could report having completed it in three hours. Or they could omit mentioning problems they had encountered with project tasks in their reports. In practice their trainers would not always be in the position to monitor their work very thoroughly. In such cases, the marks given on their performance would not reflect the actual performance of the apprentices. This deficit in controlling would favour the ones inclined to cheat at the expense of the more honest apprentices.

When documenting the work with project tasks with videos, the apprentices provide a true picture of situations, activities and results. This makes it possible for the trainers to assess, if the task was performed adequately. Thus, they are better informed on what grounds they can give the marks. In this way the changing pattern of reporting on apprentices’ projects serves as an example, how the use of digital tools in the interaction between trainers and learners enhances the apprentices’ commitment and motivation to appropriate task completion.

– – –

I hope I have done justice to Markus’ text and conveyed the message he intended. To me his findings are important clues for our conceptual interpretation on digital transformation in workplace learning – as demonstrated in the context of the training centre Bau-ABC. In my next post I will discuss our recent efforts to promote the use of LTB in craft trade companies in the construction sector.

More blogs to come … 

Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part One: Looking back at developments in 2016

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year my summer break was longer than I had planned due to health issues. Now I am back at work and trying to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In particular I have to catch up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction pilot with the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in work-based learning and at construction sites. Before going into the most recent developments (I will deal with them in the next posts) I will firstly summarise where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB in our field activities earlier this year.

Introduction of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training of the pioneering trades of Bau-ABC

In the middle of February 2016 we (the ITB team of Learning Layers) had a field visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC to prepare the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in some pioneering trades. These discussions are reported in the following blog entry:

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

In the middle of March 2016 we had the joint kick-off event to start the active use of LTB in the pioneering trades (well-builders and carpenters). In addition to the ITB team we had the LTB developers and the evaluators from the Universities of Innsbruck and Tallinn. The activities of the event are reported in the following blog entry:

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part One: The Kick-off event 14.3.2016

In the beginning of April 2014 we (the ITB and Pontydysgu teams) had another working visit to Bau-ABC to collect feedback on the functioning and actual use of the LTB. Our findings have been documented in the following blog entry:

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

Altogether we could observe that the use of LTB had become part of the ordinary training and learning practices of Bau-ABC trainers and construction sector apprentices.

Spreading the use of LTB into other trades/ learning contexts

Another series of field visits in Bau-ABC took place at the end of May and in the beginning of June.

At the end of May 2016 we had a three days’ working visit in Bau-ABC with colleagues from Aalto University, University of Innsbruck and Pontydysgu. The colleagues from Aalto were introducing the video annotation tool AchSo and the Social Augmented Reality tool SOAR. Alongside these session we had also evaluation workshops moderated by colleagues from Innsbruck. The feedback on the use of LTB has been documented in the following blog entry:

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

In the beginning of June 2016 we made some progress with introducing LTB to further trades and learning contexts.

Firstly I had a short session with two colleagues to prepare the introduction of LTB in the joint learning area ‘health and safety’ and in a trans-national mobility scheme that brings apprentices from Spain to German companies.

Secondly I worked with a Bau-ABC trainer to introduce the use of LTB in a new trade (pipeline builders) involving a group of well-builders getting trained in this trade (and already familiar with LTB). This session is reported in the following blog entry:

Learning Toolbox in Action – New project for Brunnenbauer apprentices in Rohrleitungsbau

Thirdly I had a special working session with a group of Spanish apprentices and project coordinator Melanie Campbell from Bau-ABC to explore the uses of LTB in supporting the newcomers from Spain during their apprentice training in Germany. This session is reported in the following blog entry:

Getting Learning Toolbox to Action – preparing stacks with and for Spanish apprentices

Publication of the online guide to Learning Toolbox (LTB)

In the middle of June 2016 we were happy to observe that the LTB developers had published a comprehensive online guide to Learning Toolbox (see http://ltb.io/). I provided a brief introduction to the guide in the following blog entry:

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Online Guide published!
– – –

I guess this is enough of the activities in the spring and early summer months of 2016. In my next blogs I will report on the most recent activities (based on the information I have got from my LL colleagues).

More blogs to come …

150 blogs on Learning Layers project – 200 altogether on Pontydysgu site

August 4th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

I have come back from my summer break – but not back to work and normal business. During my holidays I had to run through a series of medical tests/investigations and now I am on sick leave for some time. I do not want to go into details – some investigations are yet to come – but I know enough that I have to take a break from my normal work. This gives me a reason to spell out some thoughts on my blogging on this site. It so happens that I have reached the milestone of 150 blogs on our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and altogether the milestone of 200 blogs on Pontydysgu site.

In general, such numbers are not great achievements – veteran bloggers count their posts in thousands, not hundreds. And indeed, during my first years as a blogger I was not so successful in finding my approach and ways to work forward. With my first blog “I-Europe” I tried to stimulate a debate on European initiatives to promote vocational education and training (VET). Unfortunately, these entries were not so well grounded and attracted little attention. With my second attempt – with  my new blog “Working & Learning” – I tried get closer to the work of European projects and educational debates. Yet – for some time this remained at the level of irregular scraping. Some of the projects of that time were perhaps not that inspiring or they required blogging (or similar writings) on other platforms. Therefore, I had made some experiences but had not really found my own way of blogging.

This all changed with the start of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in 2012. The project has required us (ITB – research institute with focus on VET and learning in the context of work) to face new challenges. It has not been merely a matter of introducing new learning technologies and new learning concepts to the field (and study the impact). The project has been far more innovative in terms of exploring different options, involving users in co-design & co-development and in engaging us as VET researchers in different roles as co-developers, co-tutors and co-testers of new tools. From this perspective I have had the challenges and the opportunities to produce a more or less regular flow of blogs on new project activities, observations on parallel developments, links to inspiring research or to policies that have an impact on our work. And, moreover, the flow of blogs has not merely been recording of events, debates and happenings – they provide insights into our learning processes as research partners, developers and application partners. In particular they provide insights into our transformation from explorers to change agents and interpreters of the changes.

Having said all this I feel sad that I cannot continue with the intensive observation and documentation of field activities in the same way as I have done so far. From now on I have to take the role of listener and thinker. Perhaps that is also a positive turn in its way – after all, the rich project experience needs to be digested and interpreted in conceptual terms. And surely, our experiences as accompanying researchers differ from the traditional patterns of doing such research. But, as I said in the beginning, I have to take some time out of regular project work to get myself fit. Nevertheless, I will be around.

More blogs to come …

Special challenges for using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in a craft trade company

June 30th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent blogs on the fieldwork of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I have mostly reported on our pilot activities with the toolset “Learning Toolbox (LTB)” in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. Earlier this week the ITB project team visited a craft trade company in electrical engineering to discuss the use of LTB in the context of ‘real’ working life – not only from the perspective of apprentice training. Our counterpart was the founder of the company and an associate partner in the project – Meister Dieter as we know him of the user stories of the first year. We had maintained the contacts at different phases of the project but now we felt that there is a need to discuss the potential use of LTB as a toolset that is reaching a mature stage.

Of our earlier talks with Meister Dieter we knew that he is engaged in both ‘traditional’ and in extraordinary projects in electrical engineering. Therefore we could expect him to present different kinds of special challenges for companies like his own and to make some thoughts, how tools like LTB could be helpful. Below I summarise some points of our lively discussion after we had demonstrated the LTB and how it functions. I will mainly focus on the challenges he presented – not that much on the specific contribution of LTB:

  1. Changes in the plans during the construction work: Craft trade companies are used to the fact that when architects visit construction sites, they often make changes to their plans. These tend to have consequences to the workload and the costs for the craft trade company (that have to be renegotiated). From this perspective a tool like the LTB can facilitate real-time documentation and negotiation on such issues.
  2. Different versions electric installations to be considered during the work: Partly due to the above mentioned reasons and partly due the specific nature of constructions sites (renovation, modernisation), craftsmen in electrical engineering have to work with different versions of installations (and respective drawing). There might be a co-existence between older, intermediate and newer versions to deal with. Here again, a tool like the LTB might help to bring clarity to the situation.
  3. Management of flows of photos from construction sites: Currently a lot photos are being taken, forwarded and stored to keep up to date the information flow from construction site to the company. This is a challenge for the filing systems that may not be sufficiently specific about the context and the actuality of the photos. Here, we assume, the Stack File System of the LTB might help to maintain transparency regarding the contexts and the actuality of photos.
  4. Management of working interfaces between different trades: Sometimes in bigger or complex construction projects the management of working interfaces between different trades becomes very challenging (and requires special experts to take responsibility). Here, a tool like LTB might help craftsmen from different trades to adjust their work to the work of parallel trade to avoid complications and delays.
  5. Project work in very specific circumstances: In addition to the above mentioned issues Meister Dieter gave some examples of project work, such as testing of specific instruments in unusual geographic locations or in offshore contexts. Here the challenges are related both to the equipment (to be tested and eventually modified) as well as to the use of manpower (when is the term of electricians and how can they adjust their contributions to the others’).  We took note of these examples to see, what solutions could be found in the further development process.

I guess this is enough for the moment. We had arranged these talks as a preparatory session for a forthcoming workshop with craft trade companies and LTB (to be organised in September). We will keep our preparations and our talks with partner enterprises going on in the meantime.

More blogs to come …

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    News Bites

    Peer Review

    According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers


    Teachers and overtime

    According to the TES teachers in the UK “are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week, according to research.

    A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.

    Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.

    Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.”


    The future of English Further Education

    The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned  the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.

    It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.

    The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.


    Skills in Europe

    Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).

    Skills Panorama, they say,  turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.

    The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/launch/.


    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      pbwiki
      Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
      Sounds of the Bazaar Radio LIVE
      Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.

      We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2015. See the info above. The stream URL to play in your application is Stream URL or go to our new stream webpage here SoB Stream Page.

  • Twitter

  • Sounds of the Bazaar AudioBoo

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Upcoming Events

      There are no events.
  • Categories