Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 1: The sustainability commitments

March 31st, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few years my blogs on “Working and Learning” have been almost exclusively on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I will have a look at something else – and this ‘something else’ is happening in my home country Finland. Yet, when I have got to the end of my story, I think it has quite a lot of relevance for the LL project.

1. Looking at facebook, listening to the radio podcast

This all started when I looked at the facebook page of a friend of old, Mr Sauli Rouhinen from the Finnish Ministry of  the Environment. I had known Sauli from the time when he was a junior researcher at the University of Tampere and I was a student at the same university. Sauli was specialising in social ecology and was well positioned to start in the newly established Ministry of the Environment when it was taking its initial steps. What is more important, is the fact that he became the civil servant in charge of the government commissions for and civic participation in the national strategies for Sustainable Development.

During the weekend I discovered that Sauli had been interviewed by the Finnish public radio (YLE) for a special program on economic affairs “Mikä maksaa?” (Twist of words between the questions: ‘What does it cost?’ and ‘ What does it take to achieve …?’). And this time it was all about Sustainable development. So, I took my time and listened to the program and it was worthwhile. For those who understand Finnish (we are over 5 million people who speak this language), here is the link:

2. The Finnish approach to engage people, organisations and public bodies via commitments

In the program Sauli told firstly about the early stage of the work with the theme ‘Sustainable development’. This phase produced green papers, white papers and recommendations which were well-written but did not have a strong impact on decision-making and everyday life. In the next phase the overarching strategy papers were chopped down to smaller ones – but this led to a multitude of strategies on which nobody could have an overview.  Therefore, narrowing down the focus didn’t improve the chances to implement the strategies and to monitor the impact.

The fundamental change in the approach was taken when the campaigning for sustainable development was turned into participative process based on Sustainability commitments. As a first step, eight central goals for sustainability were formulated as concise documents that provided a basis for making one’s own commitments. Then, different kinds of organisations as well as publicly known opinion leaders were invited to make their specific commitments. In this way the leaders of the campaign (the civil servants and their supporters) could reach public bodies, civic organisations (like employers’ federations or trade unions but also other voluntary organisations) and individual companies or chains of companies. And the ones who had made such commitments were enabled to invite others to join in this process.

3. How are such commitments made and how are they put into practice?

Firstly, it is worthwhile to note that the sustainability goals require specific measures to change the status quo in order to ensure the attainment of these goals. Secondly, the organisations or individuals have to specify their actions and set clear objectives in a time frame that they have defined for themselves. Thirdly, they have to define indicators or clarify in an alternative way, how their progress can be monitored. When all these criteria have been met, the Ministry of the Environment will register the commitments. After the registration, the organisations are obliged to report on annual basis on their progress in reaching their objectives.

Initially this process with Sustainability commitments was launched by a small ‘task force’ in the ministry. However, when the process started to take off, it became hard for the civil servants to check the draft commitments and to give feedback on them. Therefore, in the current phase the process is being taken to a database. After this transition, it is possible to use web tools to check whether the commitments meet the criteria. Also, the database works as a social network platform for a community of practice. So, the community is expected to give feedback on the proposals and on the progress. Here , it is necessary to emphasise the role of some NGOs like the one - “Yllätetään yhteiskunta” (‘Let’s surprise the society’) – that play an active role in mobilising such civic participation and public interest.

4. What kinds of commitments have been made and and what kind of actions have emerged?

Currently all registered commitments can be viewed on the platform - Kestävän kehityksen toimenpidesitoumukset ( – Commitments to measures for sustainable development). The opening page gives a general introduction and them lists the most recent registered commitments. At the bottom of the page there are link buttons to different domains of sustainability commitments such as “Työtä kestävästi” (‘To work in a sustainable way’) or “Hiilineutraali yhteiskunta” (Carbon-neutral society) or “Luontoa kunnioittava päätöksenteko” (Decision-making that respects nature).

Looking more closely at the domain “Työtä kestävästi” (‘To work in a sustainable way’) we see different actors making different kinds of commitments:

  • The Ministry of Education and Culture has committed itself to organise campaigns that raise awareness on sustainable developments in different educational sectors.
  • The OKKA foundation has committed itself to produce training materials on sustainable development for different educational establishments.
  • Some regional consortia of vocational schools and colleges have committed themselves to obtain sustainability certificates in their initial vocational education programs.
  • Some consortia that have already obtained such certificates for initial vocational education and training (iVET) have committed themselves to obtain such certificates for the continuing vocational education and training (cVET) provisions.
  • The national grouping of co-operative shops, markets and catering services (S-ryhmä) commits itself to introduce principles of sustainable development at work to its trainees and apprentices….

I think this is enough to give an idea of the Finnish approach to work with a participative process of Sustainability commitments. In my next post I will discuss, how this kind of approach could be taken up in the field of vocational education and training (VET) and in the Learning Layers (LL) project.

PS. After publishing this blog I was informed by Sauli that he has presented the Finnish approach at the events of the  European Sustainable Development Network  and that they have published his presentations as well as the Finnish Commitment template. I am happy to share this news.

More blogs to come …

Preparing for LL field workshops – Part 2: What about the “Datenschutz”?

March 27th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I started a series of blogs on the preparation of the forthcoming Field Workshops with the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  With the first post I gave an update on what all has been changing regarding the use of technology and development of tools. In this post I will discuss what implications this has on Data protection/Data Security (“Datenschutz”).

1. Stock-taking on documents for Data Protection/ Data Security

I have already reported in an earlier blog that Graham Attwell drew my attention to the documents of FutureLearn (consortium of British universities for organising MOOCs). Later on, as a response to my e-mails I have got access to some other reference documents:

  • Tamsin Treasure-Jones sent me the links to Ethical clearance documents (for the LL research activities in the healthcare sector) and to the related Agreement on Research Data Management Procedure between TLU and Leeds.
  • Joanna Burchert sent me the Datenschutzerklärung (declaration on Data Protection/ Data Privacy) of the expertAzubi project and a Learning Unit (Lerneinheit) document of the LernenPlus project with Deutsche Bahn.

 2. Adapting the existing documents for the LL pilots in the construction sector

Below I give an overview on four kinds of documents and discuss, to what extent they might be applicable for the LL construction sector pilots and what adjustments would be needed.

2.1. “Agreement on Research Data Management Procedure” between TLU and Leeds

Original context: This agreement is linked to the Ethical clearance of the research activities in the healthcare sector (by the University of Leeds and by the NHS). The GP practices can be involved only in R&D activities in which the management of research data is covered by bilateral agreement between the two universities that are working with/ storing the data.

Adaptability: In the construction sector the situation is in multiple senses different, since no overarching ethical clearance is required and due to the Layers Box installation the data management is primarily under the control of the application partner. Yet, a similar agreement can be drafted to regulate the use of Layers Box and the mutual responsibilities with RWTH as the primary counterpart.

2.2. “Datenschutzerklärung ” (DP/DS declaration) of the expertAzubi project

Original context: This relatively short (two and half-page) document has been drafted as a single ‘Terms & Conditions/ Intellectual Property rights/ Data Protection’ document for the users (apprentices) of the expertAzubi platform that was provided as a regional platform for apprentices in Bremen region. Here the main thrust is to make the users aware that they are responsible of content and communication on the platform and to draw their attention to principles of good practice. The document was presented to the users to be signed as precondition for registration.

Adaptability: Regarding the current construction sector pilots (with LTB and complementary tools) such a single document seems more appropriate for a user organisation (like Bau-ABC) than for individual users. With such a document it is possible to address the issues mentioned above and the combined use of LTB, platform and complementary tools. From this point of view this would serve as the agreement of the organisation to join in the pilot.

2.3. “Code of Conduct”/ “Data Protection”/ “Privacy policy” documents of FutureLearn

Original context: In the set of the more simple DP/DS documents of the FutureLearn consortium we see the following differentiation between the target groups/organisations and the purposes of documents:

  • Code of Conduct (Verhaltenskodex) is a short document for individual users as their individual commitment to the given regulations and principles of good practice. The users are expected to sign this as a precondition for registration as a user.
  • Data protection policy (Datensicherheit-Policy) is a relatively short document that clarifies the principles for gathering and using data in the context of the courses (or for us: pilot) and the mutual commitment of different parties to ensure data security.
  • Privacy policy (Datenschutz in a narrower sense) is a more overarching document for the regulating the privacy issues between the FutureLearn as a service provider and the partner universities and other partner organisations.

Adaptability: The original documents have been drafted for a context in which data are available due to registration, participation in courses, submitting tasks, comments and other contents. In this respect the construction pilots with LTB, and other tools are somewhat different but yet analogical. The Code of Conduct is rather close to what we need. The Data protection policy is of the kind that our application partners would prefer to have. The Privacy policy comes into picture regarding the transfer of data between LTB, SSS and the platform.

 2.4. Learning Unit “Datenschutz” of the LernenPlus project

Original context: The “LernenPlus” project has worked with apprentices and trainees (pre-vocational education) of the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) and promoted their capability to use digital media and web tools in their work-related learning. In this context the project has developed a learning unit for apprentices/trainees on different aspects of data protection and good practice. Here, the point is to provide a context-oriented and exemplary learning aid to these issues. The Learning Unit document includes information inputs and exemplary tasks (that refer to working and learning situations). Also, the document contains a section of recommendations regarding private use of social media.

Adaptability: The original document was not that directly linked to a focused pilot with tools (like the construction pilot with LTB, complementary tools and Yet, the approach with short information inputs, exemplary content-oriented tasks and questions for reflection (and recommendations regarding use of social media) are appropriate for the piloting with apprentices and young construction workers. In our pilots we should develop such a material for the trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and company representatives who will introduce these issues for their apprentices/ construction workers.

- – -

I guess this gives a picture of the kind of homework we are doing with the issues ‘Data protection’/'Data security’. To me this is just the beginning phase of the exercise – an effort to create a minimum set of documents for the pilot phase. When we are extending the pilot activities we are facing new issues. However, I want to emphasise an interesting shift of emphasis – with these draft documents and working issues we are making the “Datenschutz” issues a matter for participative design processes. We are not merely bringing ‘expertise’ on the rules and regulations. Instead, we are facilitating  joint learning processes and working together for the solutions.

More blogs to come …

Preparing for LL field workshops – Part 1: What is new with the tools and technology?

March 27th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

After the Design Conference of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project we have returned back to everyday life work. For the ITB team and our cooperation partners in the construction sector pilots this means that we are preparing for a new round of Field Workshops with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). We would have wanted to start these workshops earlier but we understand that we have to be patient about the development of tools and supporting technologies. With this post I try to give a picture what all is changing since our previous workshops. In my next post I will discuss what is changing regarding Data protection/Data Security (“Datenschutz”). Here some key points on the development of tools and technology and on the implications for the pilot activities:

1. Transition from meeting rooms to pilots in training areas and working environments

Our previous pilots have been co-design activities with a preparatory character. We have had conversational workshops, storyboard workshops (producing working/learning journey maps), stakeholder talks (giving impulses for the development of LTB) and ‘demo camp’ workshops (with mock-ups and giving more specific feedback for the development of LTB). Finally, our colleagues in Bau-ABC prepared videos where the showed exemplary contexts and processes, in which LTB could be used. Also, Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) were assembled to give their views how they would use the LTB and how they are developing their blogs to support such pilots.

As I have reported in my blogs last year, we have harvested a number of ideas, how the the Learning Toolbox – as an integrated mobile framework for web resources, tools and apps – can support learning and working in the construction sector. So, after all these preparatory measures the natural step forward is to enter pilots in the field – in the training areas and in the context working and learning (with LTB as support tool).

2. What is new with the infrastructure?

A major hurdle for all such pilots has been the limited infrastructure that has not provided access to internet in the training areas of Bau-ABC. This has not only been a problem for demonstrations and piloting in Bau-ABC but also a more general problem for piloting with the LL tools in the construction sector.

In this respect the solution that has been developed by the LL partners in RWTH Aachen – the “Layers Box” – has been of vital importance. As I understand it, the Layers Box is a local ‘server ‘ that enables the user organisation to use LL tools in a predefined range and is linked to the RWTH server that hosts the LL infrastructure. As I understand it, with such a ‘technology package’ the user organisation has control of its own engagement in the pilot activities as regards the use of technology and tools. At the same time RWTH is in the position to give remote support for the functioning of the infrastructure and tools that have been installed.

As we have been informed, the Layers Box has been successfully installed in Bau-ABC and our colleagues are now taking care of the preparations to enable pilots in the training areas.

3. What is new with the piloting with tools?

Looking back at the earlier workshops and stakeholder talks, we only had rather early versions of the Learning Toolbox available (powerpoints, wireframes and temporary software solutions that enabled some demonstrations). The hard work with the software architecture and with the links to attached servers and platforms has progressed gradually. The Alpha Beta Camp in Aachen earlier this year was an important milestone in getting different contributions from different software developers work together. Now, as we see it, we are waiting for the crucial steps in this work to get LTB work on the basis of a local Layers Box installed in Bau-ABC.

As I see it, the new phase will change the pattern of cooperation from co-design sessions (the results of which were communicated to developers) to more collaborative Dev-Ops mode (in which the user/designers can make some adjustments themselves or suggest changes in a rapid prototyping process). In order to enter such phase the developers and we – the intermediate facilitators – need to get an updated picture what is possible and where we may be hitting the limits.

Altogether, the echoes that we are getting from the developers are promising and we are looking forward to bringing our pilots ahead after the easter break. In the meantime we have some other homework to do with the Data protection/ Data Security (“Datenschutz”) issues.

More blogs to come …



After the LL Design Conference – Part 2: Talks on Activity Theory and Change Laboratory processes

March 19th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I have reported on the Year 3 Design Conference of the Learning Layers (LL) project that took place in Espoo, Finland last week. Immediately after the Design conference I had a chance to discuss with researcher Marianne Teräs (University of Helsinki) on her work with Change Laboratory processes. For me this discussion is part of the follow-up of the Theory Camp of the LL project – Reviewing Activity Theory and the related methodologies of intervention research (of which the Change Laboratory has become most famous). I had approached Marianne because her work had focused on healthcare sector and vocational education of nurses (which are both relevant to the LL project as a field of piloting and as context for potential spin-off initiatives. Below I try to summarise the main issues of our discussion and my impressions and conclusions.

1. Change from practitioner to intervention researcher

Firstly we discussed the development of Marianne’s career from trained nurse (with occupational background) and the transitions to vocational teacher and teacher educator (working in a vocational college for healthcare). From this background she was one of the teachers/teacher educators who were involved in a pilot project to develop a pre-vocational education scheme for migrant youngsters who wanted to be trained for healthcare occupations. Since the project team in the college had encountered several problems they were looking for a structured process to work through the challenges and issues. From this point of view they volunteered as a  counterpart for the research group of Yrjö Engeström to work with a Change Laboratory process (at that time called Culture Laboratory). During this project (that started in 2001) Marianne was contracted as an intervention researcher whilst a colleague of hers worked as project manager on behalf of the college. When the project was over, she returned to her job as a vocational teacher educator. However, after some time another project was started to develop models of integrative vocational education of learners with migrant background within ordinary vocational education programs. In this phase Marianne took over the role of project manager on behalf of the intervention researchers (supported by other members of the research team and participating teachers). After this latter project she has continued her career as researcher in other projects.

2. Whose initiatives, whose innovations

As already indicated above, the initiative for the first Change Laboratory was taken by the vocational teachers/ teacher educators struggling with a new pilot scheme. At that time preparation of migrant youngsters (with very heterogeneous ethnic and educational backgrounds) was a new experience to most of them. Also, the pre-vocational education scheme was a new construct to be piloted with new target groups. From this point of view the first project was characterised by voluntary participation of teachers/ teacher educators committed to the pilot. The work of the Change Laboratory gave rise to several parallel working groups (with respective educational change agendas). Some of them faded away soon but some of them sustained and their work was continued years after (when the second project was started).

Whilst the first Change Laboratory project focused on a specific preparatory scheme dedicated for migrants, the second project focused on integration of migrants into ordinary vocational education programs. The background was given in the national educational policy and at the local level the director of the college wanted their college to become an innovation leader within this initiative. In this respect the director gave this project a high priority and the participation of teachers was made mandatory. Partly the implementation of the project could benefit of the prior project but to a great extent it had work with a stronger integration between occupational subjects, language learning and intercultural education.

3. Collecting background materials, documenting the laboratory sessions and drawing conclusions

In our discussion Marianne made me aware of the intensive participation of practitioners within the research work. Although the intervention research mainly focused on the process of the Change Laboratory sessions, it was essentially supported by the collection of background materials (or ‘mirror materials’). In this process both teachers and vocational learners played an important role by producing their own notes or audio or video clips to document facts, episodes or impressions with relevance to language learning, vocational learning and intercultural encounters. It is worthwhile to note that the learners were immediately involved in the first Change Laboratory project but not in ia a the second one which became more a teachers’ project. Yet, via a broad involvement of learners (alongside teachers) in the production of the background material the project could ensure the presence of their voices in the Change Laboratory.

These materials were used mainly as support materials to prepare the scripts for the Change Laboratory sessions in which the work with the curricular initiatives was promoted. These sessions were documented by videos, individual notes of the intervention researchers and by written analyses of the videos. By such thorough documentation the researchers could ensure that they covered the richness of the discussions, paying attention to main themes (laid down by the script) and corollary themes (that may have given rise to spin-off processes).

4. Encounters between theory and practice

Research articles often give a picture of the Change Laboratory projects as heavily theory-driven projects. Marianne admitted that the articles give priority on presenting the theoretical background (Activity Theory, Activity Systems) and its adaptation and utilisation in the Change Laboratory processes (identification of generative themes/contradictions, expansive learning cycles and boundary crossing practices). However, when looking at the everyday life practice of the projects, she drew attention to the need to find a balance between the conceptual tools of researchers and the practice-related tools and instruments of teachers. In this balancing process the intervention researchers had to negotiate, to what extent the conceptual tools could be used as common tools and to what extent they should be left to secondary analyses. The strategies to manage these encounters have often remained as ‘tacit knowing’ although some researchers have paid attention to the epistemological aspects of such dialogical research processes.

5. Lessons for the Learning Layers project and its spin-out initiatives?

I had initiated our talks as an initial step in preparing a forthcoming workshop on methodological lessons from Activity Theory, Change Laboratory processes and on their relevance for intervention research projects like the LL project. Here it is not possible to enter this discussion in detail. Yet, it is worthwhile to note the far more complex character of the interventions in the LL project vis-à-vis the ones we had discussed. Having said that we took note of several analogies between the participative processes, user-engagement and expectations on expansive learning. Given the fact that the LL project is expected to roll out and scale up innovations in using mobile technologies, digital media and web tools in workplace learning, we noted several points of common interest for further cooperation.

More blogs to come …

After the LL Design Conference – Part 1: Sessions and Lessons

March 16th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts I have reported on the preparation for the Design Conference of the Learning Layers (LL) project. Last week this conference took place in Espoo (at the Otaniemi campus of the Aalto University in the special building “Design Factory”). Now it is time to summarise the results and draw conclusions for the forthcoming work. Below I try to give a picture of the main sessions and the key results:

1. Building upon the Critical Path Analysis

This was the first joint event of the consortium after we had finalised the Critical Path Analysis (CPA) that was required by our reviewers. We could now see that it was an exercise worth doing. Instead of building upon separate tools and dispersed design teams we were now focusing on more integrative “tool arrangements”. We could now see better the tool arrangements responding to the ‘learning stories’ that addressed different developmental challenges (working with documents, physical artefacts, learning episodes, complex working & learning challenges).

2. Co-Design of the Learning Toolbox is taking further steps

Concerning the co-design sessions, I was mainly participating sessions that focused on the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). To me, these sessions were characterised by a new reunion of developers, co-designers and users in a live situation. Last year we had had an interruption of live workshops and face-to-face meetings due to administrative reasons. Then, when these were getting removed, new developers entered the stage and ‘interim managers’ had to hand over the tasks and bring them into cooperation with other developers. At the same time the application partners and other co-designers were tied up with other duties. Therefore, we only now got a chance to update each other on the results of the Alpha Beta Camp as well as on the plans for the forthcoming Field Workshops in Bau-ABC. In this respect it was important to make agreements on joint working meetings, to draw a timeline for the spring activities and to tune ourselves into the DevOps-culture of co-development during operative activities. Also, it was important that Raymond Elferink could give us a clear insight into the current phases of technical development and how the workshops can be linked to it.

3. Bringing different evaluation approaches into mutually complementing ‘package’

During the preparatory phase we had had some conversations in which consortium-wide efforts to shape an overarching evaluation approach had not met local efforts to evaluate the implementation and impact of tools. Although I did not attend many of the sessions on the evaluation issues, I got an impression that important progress was made. Crucial for the consensus was the point made by Jenny Hughes (Pontydysgu): “The results of local evaluation measures (on the implementation/impact of tools) are input for the consortium-wide evaluation of our achievements.” This gave us the clue, how to work together regarding the collection of data and reagarding the timing of evaluation measures.

4. Working with multiple roles and tasks in the exploitation activities

Third major element in the Design Conference were the group sessions on exploitation activities. Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink had prepared a game-like exercise for drafting exploitation activities. Some of the groups were based on tool arrangements (Learning Toolbox, Healthcare tool arrangements, AchSo!), some on joint services (Social semantic server) and some on collaborative groupings (LL Centre of expertise). Thus, some of these groups were very strongly grounded on the co-design work whilst others had to look forward with a bit more phantasy.

I do not wish to go into details of this exercise – partly because I was in a group that mainly focused on the healthcare sector (which gave me the role of an interested observer), partly because we had too little time to wrap up the results. However, it is worthwhile to emphasise that this exercise pushed us stronger to think about the transformation from project work (fulfilling our duties as project partners) to sustaining the results and achievements beyond the life-time of our current project (with new resources and groupings of interested parties). During this exercise I noticed that we had here and there some controversies of the roles that we are playing (owners of tools/innovations, partners, proto-customers, mediators, customers …). Some of the differences were settled in a short while, some needed more time. To me, the striking point was that this exercise helped us to think of our changing roles more thoroughly than the similar exercises in previous consortium meetings. Moreover, after drawing conclusions from this exercise we are in a better position to work further with the Business Model Canvases (with which we started working in Tallinn). Also, this exercise gave us a better perspective to work with consortium-wide and project-based follow-up initiatives (for which we have to get ourselves prepared alongside the project tasks).

 5. “Datenschutz” – Policies for Data privacy/ Data protection/ Confidentiality …

Whilst the above mentioned issues were the cross-cutting themes that shaped the whole event, this is clearly a corollary issue – not to be forgotten. We agreed that during the pilot phase we need a minimum amount of documents to clarify these issues for ourselves and our counterparts (organisations and indidividual users). Partly these issues have been covered in the Ethical clearance processes that our healthcare partners have gone through (under the auspices of the University of Leeds and the NHS). Partly these issues can be covered by adapting the respective light-weight documents of other similar organisations (like the FutureLearn consortium for organising MOOCs). However, the main thing is that we can address these issues alread in the pilot phase. Furthermore, we need to prepare ourselves for the transformation to follow-up phase, when we need legally well-grounded policy documents for the successor-organisations and/or follow-up projects that take our tools and services further.

Altogether, we got a lot of food for thought for preparing our forthcoming field activities. Also, we got some new coordinates for sectoral coordination and planning meetings. And finally, we got some inspirations to learn more from the neighbouring tool arrangements. Let us see what all is emerging out of this!

More blogs to come …

Preparing for the LL Design Conference – Part 2: Bringing the Learning Toolbox forward

March 6th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series of blogs that focus on the forthcoming Y3 Design Conference of the Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I compared the situation of the project before the Y1 Design conference (two years ago) and before the Y3 Design Conference (currently). I also presented my interpretation, how the project has worked forward from the results and groupings that were achieved in the Y1 Design Conference. In this second post I will focus on the tool (or set of tools and apps ) with which we are working with our construction sector partners – the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

As a part of the preparation of the Design Conference the host organisation (Aalto University) set up a wiki page to collect information on the development of our main sets of tools and of current pilot activities. I got the task to submit the information on LTB and found interesting to give a compressed situation assessment, where we are and what we are fecing next. Therefore, I want to share this information (questions and answers) via this blog:

1) What has been done?

The development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) was started in January/February 2014 as a second iteration of the design theme “Sharing Turbine”. The approach shifted from digitization of training/learning materials (the White Folder of Bau-ABC) to a framework of mobile tools and apps for apprentices, skilled workers and professionals in construction sector. This second iteration has been carried out as ‘development project’ with co-design workshops (in Bau-ABC) parallel to Multimedia Training (in Bau-ABC) and stakeholder engagement activities (hosted/supported by Bau-ABC).

2) Who has done?

The technical development of LTB has been initially led by Pontydysgu (Pont) and supported by CIMNE. Once the administrative processes of replacing the software house Tribal by RayCom had been completed, RayCom took the lead of the Learning Toolbox development group. The Multimedia Training and the Co-design workshops have been run jointly by ITB and Pont with shifting responsibilities. The stakeholder engagement activities have been organised by ITB, Pont, CIMNE and Bau-ABC.

3) When? and 4) How has been done?

The technical development proceeded from the initial phase in Spring 2014 (wireframes, power points, mock ups on mobile devices) to a phase of integration meetings in Summer 2014 (Bremen in May, Graz in August). In the Autumn 2014 there have been smaller design sprints in Utrecht that have contributed to the more integrative Alpha Beta Camp in February 2014. The Multimedia Training was started in September 2013 and was continued as series of hands-on workshops from November 2013 to July 2014. During this period the training became capacity-building for using/developing the LTB and the platform

Parallel to this and partly integrated into the training sessions there have been co-design sessions with focus on LTB. The stakeholder engagement activities have been partly intensive discussions with company representatives (Brunnenbauertage, pilot workshops) and groups of trainers & apprentices (the Demo Camp in Bau-ABC). Partly they have served the purpose of getting wider range of companies and stakeholders involved in forthcoming pilot activities (the visit at NordBau trade fair, visit at Ostfalia FH etc.). Finally, as a support for the development of LTB, Bau-ABC produced a set of videos to highlight potential uses and benefits of LTB.

5) Why in this way?

Originally the Sharing Turbine design team was expecting support for software development from the software house Tribal. However, in a short while the contact persons left the organisation and were not replaced. After some time Tribal announced its withdrawal from the consortium. Then, after a relatively quick process of finding the replacement, the contracting process of RayCom was delayed several months. Therefore, the technical development was brought further by substitutes (with limited resources).

Thus, the integration meetings, design sprints and the Alpha Beta Camp have been catching-up events to bring the development process further. In spite of backlog in the technical development, ITB and Bau-ABC have continued the dialogue with stakeholders/ potential users has been continued to get feedback and impulses for further development. Yet, this kind of dialogue has reached its limits and can only be continued with a prototype version of the LTB (which is due to the Design Conference).

6) What are initial findings?

The purpose of this document is to collect background information and interim results of Y3 field activities. In the case of the LTB these have not yet been started. Some links to documents from earlier activities, to the Bau-ABC videos and to working documents for preparing the forthcoming Field Workshops are given below:

  • Google Drive folder for documenting Year 2 Stakeholder engagement activities: [1]
  • Introduction to articles and Bau-ABC videos published on the LL website: [2]
  • Working documents (EN and DE versions) for preparing the Y3 Field Workshops [3]

7) What are key issues at the moment?

At the moment the main issue is to bring the recent technical development work, the parallel plans for exploitation actions and the parallel plans for real-time evaluative measures into a coherent piloting approach. This requires also decisions on the role of complementary tools (AchSo! etc.), platforms ( and services (Recommender service?) in the forthcoming pilot activities.


8) What are key insights at the moment?

The pilot activities will be started immediately after the Design Conference in Bau-ABC with an introductory workshop with the trainers. This is followed by Field Workshops in the training areas of different trades with an aim to integrate the use of LTB to apprentices’ projects in their training in Bau-ABC. Once the first results have been achieved, bilateral/trilateral talks will be started with companies that have been contacted last year and who have agreed to start such pilots.

So, with this situation assessment we are heading towards the Y3 Design Conference. Let us see what all we can bring forward with our working days in Espoo, Finland.

More blogs to come …


Preparing for the LL Design Conference – Part 1: Comparing Y1 and Y3

March 5th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

As i have indicated earlier, the Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing itself for the Design Conference of the Year 3. This time the venue is the main Campus of the Aalto University in Espoo, next to Helsinki. This gives a chance to compare our current situation in the project with the one two years ago, when we had the Year 1 Design Conference in the Arabia Campus of the Aalto University in Helsinki. Here some thoughts of the changes between the early days and the current phase of our project.

1. What has happened in the fieldwork?

When preparing ourselves for the Y1 Design Conference we were in a very initial stage with our fieldwork, Speaking for our part – the work with the Construction sector in North Germany – we had only manged to complete in a rapid tempo the first round of stakeholder interviews and draft initial User Stories in Bau-ABC, in the Agentur and in some craft trade companies. Based on this, we organised the Application Partner Day visits in Bau-ABC and in Agentur to see the huge training area of the training centre and to see the construction site of the merging exhibition building. Altogether, we could at best destill some design issues but we were not sure, to what directions the project could move.

Now, two years later, we see that we worked out the ways forward to participative design processes, to progressive tool development and to promising pilot concepts. In the construction sector this has required several iterations and modifications of the initial design ideas but we have kept the processes going on. In Bau-ABC we have had several series of co-design workshops, capacity building workshops and stakeholder engagement events that have brought us forward. With Agentur we have had somewhat different process dynamic but nevertheless the impulses we have got from different encounters and partcipative events have pushed our tool development further as well.

2. How have we found the way to design ideas?

Looking back, we did not necessarily anticipate in the Y1 Design Conference workshops that the four parallel round tables would produce The Design Ideas and The Design Teams for the next one year plus perhaps longer. At that point we just seemed to be working with some exemplary needs raised by our application partners and tried to look for design processes that could respond to them. The dynamic of the event nevertheless gave the results of these parallel group processes a higher status than we may have expected. Moreover, when we started giving catchy names for the Design Ideas and creating a collective identity for the teams to continue, we had shaped the project in a new way.

So, we came out of Y1 Design Conference regrouped into four parallel Design Teams with more or less sectoral focus and perspective to tool development for particular needs:

  • “Sharing Turbine” based on the idea of digitising the instruction and learning materials of Bau-ABC (“the White Folder“) into digital learning resource to be shared and used across learning venues (training centre, company and vocational school);
  • “Captus” based on the idea to support the “Learning exhibition” of the Agentur for ecological construction work with the help of tools that capture knowledge and support experience-based learning in informal contexts;
  • “Pandora” based on the idea to work with local and regional interpretation of healthcare sector guidelines and support reflection on training contents and mutual advice in problem cases;
  • “Bits and Pieces” based on the idea to support real-time documentation and archiving of episodes and instances of learning, sensemaking on these elements and rearranging the them for further reflection (based on the original example of medical doctors archiving paper notes into cardboard boxes for further reflection).

Now, coming back to the current situation, we have clearly come out of these rather particularistic groupings and moved towards more scalable sets of tools and implementation scenarios.

3. How have we proceeded with co-design, tool development and piloting?

Here it is possible to give only rough outlines of the dynamic, iterative and reorienting processes that had led to the current sets of tools, frameworks and services with which we are working. In a nutshell they can be characterised in the following ways:

  • The design process that was started as digitisation of instruction and learning materials (the White Folder) got transformed into shaping of a framework (“the Learning Toolbox”) to manage mobile apps and tools for working and learning processes. Parallel to this the Multimedia Training helped the trainers to create domain-specific blogs for delivering instruction materials and learning resources. These are hosted by the common platform “”.
  • The design process that was started as specific support for the forthcoming exhibition turned into more general piloting with video annotation tools and augmented reality. For some of these pilots alternative fields and counterparts were found from other contexts.
  • The initial design idea of “Pandora” was differentiated into development of parallel tools, apps and services (“Living Documents”, “Reflect App”, “Help Seeking”). Whilst these were firstly, developed and piloted in different contexts in the same pilot region, the current work is bringing them closer to each other.
  • The work with “Bits and Pieces” has focused on different aspects and phases of the collection, sensemaking and reinterpretation processes with particular tools and software solutions . The current phase is looking for integrative approach (with links to other LL tools).

I leave my comparisons here. I may have given a somewhat idealised picture of the more complex and ‘messy’ process in which we have been working our ways forward. Yet, I believe that this picture helps to see from where we are coming and via what kind of efforts. Now we are gathering to take further steps ahead.

More blogs to come …

Insights into managed clusters – the Cluster Performance Blog

February 10th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

The Learning Layers (LL) project has been launched to promote and scale up innovations – on work-related learning supported by web tools and mobile technologies – in SME clusters. From the very beginning our project has taken it as a serious challenge to get a good understanding on cluster policies (as instruments for national and European policies) and on managed clusters (as vehicles for promoting and scaling up innovations).

In the beginning the issue ‘clusters’ was perceived mainly a particular area to be explored by few specialists (to get a big pictNowure). The insights and lessons were then supposed to be fed back to the pilot regions (in our case North Germany as the pilot region for construction sector). And – accordingly – our ‘cluster explorers’ gathered information and made contacts. Sometimes it appeared that there might be cases for regional ‘twinnings’ – clusters/networks in our regions appeared to have functional equivalents in other countries.

However, in the Norwegian landscape of managed clusters and in the Norwegian funding of cluster-driven innovation policies our explorers have detected a special laboratory for promoting innovations. The glimpses that I have got from the talks of our colleagues have given an impression of highly dynamic, interactive and sustainable approaches to regional and sectoral innovations. The earlier concepts of networks and groupings do not reveal the richness of the work.

Now I am pleased to note that our colleagues Gilbert Peffer and Tor-Arne Bellika have started blogging on their work. The Cluster Performance Blog informs us of the forthcoming interface event ‘Layers meets Agder’. In this context we can explore, how the services and patterns of networking in the Agder cluster region can support our sectoral pilots and/or pilot regions in scaling up the innovations. Parallel to this, the blog informs us of the ongoing European cooperation  between different cluster initiatives.

I am looking forward to learning more from managed clusters, their evolution, collaboration and expansion. Also, I am interested to find out, how knowledge alliances or strategic partnerships are being shaped in cluster regions.

More blogs to come (both here and in the Cluster Performance Blog) …


Alpha Beta Camp and internal dissemination for Learning Layers

February 10th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts I have reported on the Year 2 review of the Learning Layers (LL) project and on the Critical Path Analysis (CPA)  that the project has carried out as a follow-up. This has been an internal exercise to set priorities and to concentrate on key activities. However, this (and the work with related project proposals) has tied us to backstage work. Now we are hoping to take further steps in our fieldwork and in stakeholder engagement. For the moment I can at best pass some short messages on current events.

1. The Alpha Beta Camp in Aachen (9.2. – 11.2.2015)

One of the aims of the project (and also a special recommendation of the reviewers) has been to overcome patchwork-like development of separate tools and apps for different users. Now, after some minor integrative efforts, the LL project is organising an Alpha Beta Camp (ABC) in RWTH Aachen. The time has become ripe for the designers and developers working in different teams to come together to a joint sprint session. For us who have been working with the construction sector – and in particular with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) this is an important milestone. As I see it, the colleagues who are working together in Aachen are trying to geththe LL tools (prototypes) and infrastructures work together at a new level. And as I see it, both pilot sectors – construction and health care – are represented by competent messengers of users. So, we can expect something to build upon in our forthcoming field activities.

2. Internal dissemination for the LL project in ITB

Last week I had a pleasant experience when visiting a meeting of one of the thematic research groups (Forschungsgruppe “Lernen in Arbeit” – FoG LiA). These thematic groups have been launched for sharing knowledge and insights across the departments of our institute. Whilst it is easy to agree that such work is useful, it is often hard to find time for such meetings in the middle of busy times in project work. Now I felt happy to present the Learning Layers to some of my colleagues with whom I had rarely had a chance to have in-depth discussions.

The FoG had developed a set of questions concerning the context of work and research approach of projects to be presented. Instead of responding to these with one ppt-presentation I arranged a guided tour across several earlier presentations:

  •  We looked at the construction sector presentation for Year 2 review to get an overview on the project (and on the work in the construction sector pilot).
  • We looked our presentation for the ECER’14 on accompanying research (Begleitforschung) in this pilot to get a picture of our multiple roles and on the evolution of the participative design process.
  • We looked at our presentations on “Work process knowledge” and “Workplace learning” for the Theory Camp session in Aachen (March 2014) to get an impression how we have brought ITB ideas on vocational education and training (VET) and on social shaping (Gestaltung) into European discussion.
  • Finally, we looked at Werner Müller’s ppt presentation on the Learning Toolbox (for craft trade company and for intermediate training centre) to get an idea, how the LL tools are supposed to support vocational and workplace-based learning.

After this guided tour and with the help of several smart questions, the colleagues wrote ‘answer cards’ responding to ‘question cards’ and assembled on overview on the LL project on pin-board.

To me, it was interesting to notice, how quickly the colleagues got an impression of a complex project, of our ( = the German partners’ roles), on the key ideas we have put forward and on the developmental steps we are taking. For me this was a clear evidence that there is a lot of shared understanding and intellectual commonality in ITB.

So, these were my interim messages. I am looking forward to the reports from Aachen and to next steps.

More blogs to come …

Back at work – facing the challenges of the new year 2015

January 22nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

So, after a lengthy holiday break I am back at work. As usual, when being one of the last ones to return from the holidays, you get overwhelmed by things that are on the move and you have to jump into running trains. With the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project we are doing the homework that we got from the Year 2 review meeting – preparing a Critical path Analysis. Partly within this process and partly alongside it we are finalising our plans for the year 2015.

The Critical Path Analysis was recommended by the reviewers to clarify our priorities (what is taken on board in the critical paths) and to specify our approach to less critical activities (sandboxing them as reserve activities). In many respects this has pointed out to be useful since this is not merely a routine updating of the work plan. Instead, the analysis has pushed us to become more aware of the key activities for the whole project and to find synergies between them. Due to this task we are getting clearer about the synergies at the level of software development, technology packages, linked services and framework tools etc.

While we are working with this task we are preparing proposals for conferences and plans for field activities. Furthermore, it is one of the key features of the LL project that we are looking for opportunities for transfer projects and opportunities to exploit the results alongside the project work. So, this all keeps us busy at the moment.

More blogs to come …

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    Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE from the Online EDUCA Berlin 2014

    We will broadcast from Berlin on the 4th and the 5th of December. Both times it will start at 11.15 CET and will go on for about 30 minutes.

    Go here to listen to the radio stream: SoB Online EDUCA 2014 LIVE Radio.

    News Bites

    Online Educa Berlin

    Are you going to Online Educa Berlin 2014. As usual we will be there, with Sounds of the Bazaar, our internet radio station, broadcasting live from the Marlene bar on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 December. And as always, we are looking for people who would like to come on the programme. Tell us about your research or your project. tell us about cool new ideas and apps for learning. Or just come and blow off steam about something you feel strongly about. If you would like to pre-book a slot on the radio email graham10 [at] mac [dot] com telling us what you would like to talk about.


    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at

    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”

    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.

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