Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

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 (listed here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EMUYVP_syJfFzrt36Q-C0mkSSB2Y0Ts_JFqgY14xq9o/edit#gid=0). These can be treated as indications on digital transformation in the training and learning culture of Bau-ABC.

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 …

Returning from Learning Layers Bristol meeting – Taking homework back to Bremen

June 23rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blogs I reported on the preparations for the consortium meeting of  our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project that took place in Bristol during the last few days. Now I am on my way back and have some spare minutes to reflect on the baggage of homework that I am taking from the meeting back to office. In general we had a very productive meeting – so many ideas sparking up that it was good to have colleagues taking notes (on the spot and at the other end of online connection). Therefore I just make some short remarks, how our talks helped us to bring our work further: In particular I was happy to see that we are finding a way to present our results as a part of a common group picture – rather than as stand-alone results of different partners or work packages teams working on their own. Below some main points on this:

  1. Evaluation and documenting the impact: So far more attention has been given on the use of specific evaluation instruments (focus groups, complementary interviews, impact score cards, logdata on use of LL tools) and analysing data gathered with these instruments. Now we opened up this discussion to consider, how to use complementary evidence that is being gathered alongside the fieldwork in the sectoral pilots and in the co-design work. Here we worked with a set of transversal themes (such as digital transformation, adoption of innovation and changes in (informal) learning practices).  This has implications for the work of narrower ‘evaluation data’, complementary data and the impact scorecards.
  2. Presenting our R&D methodologies: We have already earlier agreed to report our results with a single deliverable – a website – and that one section should be dedicated to R&D methodologies. For this section some partners had prepared draft documents that shed light on different ‘local’, sectoral or technical aspects of our R&D work. In the light of these drafts we made clear progress in trying to open up certain contributions (such as co-design work) to be presented from the perspective of both pilot sectors – construction and healthcare. And we developed a better understanding how different activities carried out in the project can be presented as part of a coherent whole.
  3. Outlining ‘learning scenarios’: At different points of time our project had been working with different sets of ‘use cases’, ‘user stories’, ‘learning scenarios’ or ‘learning stories’. All these had been characterised by a preparatory and explorative phase of the project – presenting possibilities to work with the tools and learning arrangements that we were developing. Now it appeared that we are building learning scenarios that rely on ‘lead theories’ and on the way way have built upon them when developing tools and learning arrangements. Here we are drawing upon the transversal themes (mentioned in point 1. and on the more specific impact cards). This was reflected in a very specific set of ‘learning scenarios’ and tasks to draft them.
  4. Working further with the exploitation agendas: Here our colleagues Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink presented a ‘generalised’ and at the same time well grounded model, how to adjust the prior partnership relations to new and renewed ones (with an exemplary start-up company for services in the centre). Alongside this example we also revisited the conclusions of the Aachen Integration Meeting on the co-management of the Open Source Software that has been developed in the context of the project. The most important point was that we found both models fully compatible with each other.

I guess this is enough for these spare minutes that I have had today. I am continuing my journey to Bremen (where I still have some meetings before I start my summer break).

More blogs to come …

Preparing for Learning Layers Bristol meeting – Part Two: Taking homework with me to Bristol

June 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I mentioned that  our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project will have its consortium meeting in Bristol next week. As preparation I have had a final run with reporting on activities that have taken place in the Construction pilot of the LL project – in particular with the deployment of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In the previous post I tried to give a picture, what we are achieving altogether with our user engagement and tool deployment – enabling the users to become owners of innovation. Yet, at the same time I drew attention at the hurdles we still have to overcome to get the best out of the ongoing processes. Now, in this post I shift the emphasis to the agenda and to the topics the we are working with – to prepare the final deliverable of the project. However, I will not discuss in detail the plans we have – instead I try to put together my thoughts on what we (as the Construction pilot team) can contribute to some main points.

Below I try to outline my thoughts and a todo-list, how to proceed with them:

  1. Impact scorecards: We have earlier this year to use impact scorecards to present, what difference the introduction of LL tools has made in different pilot contexts. So far we in the construction pilot have not been rushing to draft them. However, due to our recent field activities we can give a far more differentiated picture with emphasis on different user groups of Learning Toolbox and on the role of complementary tools. However, we are looking forward to enrich the gallery later on with the results of our forthcoming workshops with construction companies (scheduled for September).
  2. Text for the section ‘research & development methodologies’: Here we need to give insights into the way in which the participative co-design activities and the contributions of accompanying research have nurtured each other. In particular we need to draw attention to some lead ideas and theoretical concepts that have characterised our work, such as  a) enhancing vocational learning as  action-oriented and self-organised learning, b) supporting the acquisition and exploitation of ‘work process knowledge’ and c) promoting co-design as social shaping of work, technology and work environment. Here, I have drafted the structure for our contribution and collected the key materials from our Theory Camp contributions, conference papers, LL website articles and contributions to Y2 and Y3 deliverables.
  3. Contributions to ‘Learning scenarios’: With the scenarios we want to highlight a) how our ‘lead theories’ have supported our development work and 2) how they help us to specify the potential and actual changes in the (informal) learning at working contexts. Here we are having a differentiated look at trainers in Bau-ABC (and their peer learning as change agents) and apprentices as users of new tools (and their insights into their role in vocational learning).
  4. Contributions to ‘Exploitation activities’: Here we can revisit the exploitation landscape (consisting of several spin-off or follow-up projects) that we presented last June in the Tallinn consortium meeting. As things stand now, most of these projects are going on and are looking for opportunities to introduce Learning Toolbox (and eventually other LL tools) in their contexts. This requires further talks on the partnership relations to be created with the tool developer teams and the new projects.

I guess this is enough for the moment. I have put down some of my thoughts and I need to work with them before the meeting and in the respective sessions. That is what will be there for – to achieve common results for the final phase of activities. I am looking forward to busy days in Bristol.

More blogs to come …

Preparing for Learning Layers Bristol meeting – Part One: What are we achieving with our fieldwork?

June 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Next week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project will have its consortium meeting in Bristol. In my recent blogs I have reported of several activities that have taken place in the Construction pilot of the LL project – in particular with the deployment of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Parallel to this I have edited a series of articles (based on the blogs) for the Construction section of the LL website. And finally, I have looked back at the LL consortium meeting in Tallin (June 2015) and summarised the progress we have made in the LL Construction pilot in one year. In this blog I want to change the perspective with the question: “What are we achieving with our fieldwork?”

This question implies that we are still in the middle of an ongoing process – making progress but becoming aware of issues yet to be solved before the project comes to an end. Here I would like to draw attention to the following points:

  1. Learning Toolbox (LTB) is being used in the field: The kick-off event in March and the later working visits have paved the way for actual use of LTB in the training projects of pioneering Bau-ABC trainers. The apprentices and other trainers have given positive feedback on the usability of the tool. Yet, there are infrastructural problems that reduce the use of LTB on a wider basis. We have to work with our local colleagues to overcome such hurdles.
  2. Capability of using LTB is spreading via peer tutoring: New users are joining in the piloting having had short peer tutoring sessions with their fellow colleagues or with LL R&D partners.  The main thing is that the new users are creating their own stacks (adapted to the projects they are managing) and finding their own ways to involve apprentices as users. (This is happening both in Bau-ABC and in the Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen (NNB), where the colleagues from Agentur are developing prototype stacks for their users.  Parallel to this they are developing specific stacks for the permanent exhibition ‘nachhaltig. bauen. erleben’.)
  3. Apprentices are coming into picture as LTB-users and co-designers: Bau-ABC trainers have always emphasised the need to engage apprentices as users and as co-designers (giving feedback and proposing new ideas). The latter aspect came most prominently into picture in the workshop with Spanish apprentices of the mobility scheme Mobipro-EU. It became clear that the LTB has a great potential in supporting apprentices that are having their apprentice training in a foreign country – struggling with language, learning, working and with their new local environment.
  4. Complementary tools have been brought into picture: The field visits for introducing AchSo and SoAR were succesful and the tools were well received. Yet, there are some technical issues about getting these tools smoothly used as add-on tools via LTB. The recent messages on working with these issues have been very promising.

I stop my list here. In general, we have been going through an introductory phase in which we have launched processes. Now we are clearly in a situation in which the use of the tools is spreading and the users are developing their own patterns of use. At the same time we need to see that we can provide appropriate support for broader circles of users. In this respect the publishing of the LTB Online Guide is a major achievement. We are looking forward to new workshops with new users in the construction sector.

More blogs to come …

 

Looking back – One year from the Learning Layers meeting in Tallinn

June 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

My latest posts on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project have focused on the recent progress with introducing the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) to new users in construction sector. Quite suddenly I happened to look at my blog archives and spotted the entries that I had written one year ago. It struck me that at that time we were just having our LL consortium meeting in Tallinn. It is interesting to look, what kind of issues we were discussing at that time as tasks for the near future. And it is even more interesting to see, what all we have been able to implement in practice. Below I will list some of the main points for the construction pilot of the LL project:

1.  Multimedia Training concept based on “Theme Rooms”

During preparatory meeting of the construction pilot team the Bau-ABC colleagues presented first time the idea of “Theme Rooms” (see my blog of the 25th of June 2015). In their internal discussions the Bau-ABC trainers had proposed a new format for organising Multimedia Training in consecutive workshops (with ‘virtual rooms’ as support areas). We all got enthusiastic about this idea. Yet, it took some time to put it into practice.

However, in November 2015 we ( = Bau-ABC with support from ITB, Pontydysgu and TLU) managed to implement the first cycle of Theme Room workshops. It involved all Bau-ABC training staff (and the training staff of parallel training centre ABZ Mellendorf) during all Friday afternoons of the November month. As we experienced it, the training campaigned provided important support for the piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and other LL tools.

2. Making use of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC trainers’ projects

In the session on construction pilots we (ITB and Bau-ABC) presented firstly examples of Bau-ABC trainers’ projects that could be supported with LTB. Then, the technical developers presented the functions of the LTB to be expected in the forthcoming beta release. At that time these presentations were two different things. Here again, we needed some time to get ourselves worked in and to organise proper instruction for Bau-ABC trainers.

Looking at the current situation, we have noticed that since the preparation of the kick-off event of LTB pilot (preparation in February 2016, the event itself in March 2016) we have noticed rapid progress. The piloting trainers have soon learned their own ways of creating and linking stacks to organise parallel or consecutive learning activities. Furthermore, they have been able pass their know-how to each other and to learn from each others’ products.

3. Spreading Learning Toolbox to other contexts and new users

For the Tallinn meeting we (ITB, Bau-ABC and Agentur) had prepared posters with which we visualised the exploitation landscapes in which we will be working with spin-off projects for which we expected funding decisions in a short while. Now, looking at the present situation we can give the following update:

  • The project DigiProB (digital support for continuing vocational training – construction site managers) has started recently. The stakeholder interviews give points of orientation for introducing LTB and complementary tools in the next phase.
  • The regional implementation of the transnational mobility scheme Mobipro-EU is bringing to Germany the second cohort of apprentices from Spain (to be trained in construction companies during the next 3-3,5 years). Some apprentices of the first cohort have participated in an LTB-workshop and support the shaping of specific stacks to support the new group of apprentices (50 persons arriving in July 2016).
  • The projects NaBus and DieDa (with focus on ecological construction work) have started and are looking forward to introduce LTB in their training programmes (scheduled for Autumn 2016). Here they can use as points of reference the stacks prepared for the ‘Learning exhibition’ in Verden and the prototype stacks for presenting LTB to member companies of the Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen (NNB).
  • The project HAKS (promoting the theme energy-efficiency in vocational education and training) has started and is looking forward to introduce LTB in the next phase of its training activities (also in Autumn 2016).

4. Making use of AchSo and SoAR in the training of Bau-ABC

In Tallinn meeting the team of Aalto University presented two tools. With the video annotation tool AchSo they had already proceeded to field pilots in Finnish construction sector. With the Social Augmented Reality (SoAR) tool they were still in the initial steps. With AchSo they had only provided Android versions and there issues regarding the integration with LTB. Therefore, our impression was that some time will be needed before they can be introduced to the German pilot sites.

Now we have just experienced a three-day event during which the Aalto colleagues have introduced AchSo to two groups of apprentices (and their trainers) and SoAR to the latter group. All events proved to be successful and the apprentices and trainers are looking forward to next steps. For a wider deployment of AchSo the Aalto colleagues are working with the export function of AchSo to be able to use the tool with ordinary videos. (This step is most welcomed by the above mentioned spin-off projects.)

– – –

I think this is enough to show what kind of progress we have made with the LL construction pilot since the Tallinn consortium meeting one year ago. We know that we still have work to do, but can clearly build on our achievements.

More blogs to come …

 

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

June 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I reported on a rapid process of developing stacks in the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (starting on Wednesday, announced on Friday, to be used on Monday). When writing of this effort of a full-time trainer in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC, I referred to two parallel processes of preparing stacks – firstly for the theme ‘Health and Safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) and secondly for the transnational mobility scheme Mobipro – EU (and its regional implementation by Bau-ABC). In this blog I will focus on the latter one.

On the transnational mobility scheme Mobipro-EU and how it works

The mobility programme Mobipro-EU is an initiative of the German Ministry of Labour and it is managed by the German Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). Its aim is to support the mobility of interested young people from other EU Member States to Germany to get apprentice training in the dual system of apprenticeship. The scheme provides support for the applicants firstly  in their home countries (advice, application & selection procedure and three months’ language training). Secondly, it provides a project organisation that takes care of the training arrangements and accommodation. Altogether, the programme provides the necessary support for foreign apprentices to complete the regular German apprentice training. The programme was started in 2013 and Bau-ABC has become a regional coordination centre for apprentice training in construction sector in 2015.

Here,it is worthwhile to note that this programme differs from the EU-funded mobility schemes that cater for shorter placement periods of individual applicants who complete their education/training programs in their own county. The Mobipro EU supports the placement of groups of apprentices who will stay in Germany during the whole duration of their apprentice training. Thus, the challenges for adjusting oneself to the use of foreign language and getting along in the German society (and its culture of work, education and learning) are much more profound than in the EU-funded exchange measures.

Bau-ABC as a regional coordinator of the implementation of Mobipro-EU

Bau-ABC received its first group of Spanish apprentices (initially 15)  in 2015. Some of the apprentices were placed in companies in Bremen and its immediate neighbourhood, others into North-German municipalities near Bau-ABC. In practical terms this meant that the group was divided into two subgroups. The Bremen group had the school part of apprentice training in a vocational school in Bremen, whilst the other group in a vocational school in Rostrup. Bau-ABC provided for both groups the intermediate training (überbteriebliche Ausbildung). Concerning the language learning, the programme envisages that the participants have completed intensive language course and language test (B1) already in their home country. However, upon request of the companies providing the apprenticeships, Bau-ABC has made local arrangements for additional language teaching for both groups, in Bremen and in Rostrup.

Looking back, of the original fifteen ones seven have interrupted their training, whilst the eight are continuing (although two of them are changing from the original occupation to another). Yet, the companies and the Bau-ABC trainers have got a good impression of the motivation and commitment of the remaining apprentices and want to continue the training with larger numbers. Thus, in a short while Bau-ABC and its partner companies are receiving 50 new apprentices from Spain to be trained in construction companies in Bremen and in North-West Germany. Taking into account the progress with Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the intermediate training in Bau-ABC, Melanie Campbell started to develop a stack for the Mobipro-EU scheme to support the training of the present and new Spanish apprentices.

LTB workshop with the Spanish apprentices (10.6.2016)

In the light of the above we seized the opportunity to organise a short LTB-workshop in Bremen on Friday 10th of June. We had originally made the agreement with three apprentices of the Bremen group (Pablo, Sergio and Yadel) but we were happy to get also four others from the regional group (Carlos, Dario, Juan and Joshua). I moderated the workshop together with Melanie.

In the beginning we gave a picture of the Learning Layers (LL)  project and on the role of Learning Toolbox (LTB). Then we got the apprentices registered to LTB and looked at some of the stacks that had been prepared to provide information and materials for trade-specific training in Bau-ABC. Then we looked at the prototype stack for Mobipro-EU prepared by Melanie. The participants were invited to reflect on their experiences and think of blocks of themes and related resources to be covered by collection tiles or navigation tiles of the stack.

We had a very lively discussion and I am not in the position to cover it completely. (Melanie made comprehensive notes on flipchart and tried to outline a structure of tiles to be created.) Here I try to give some impressions of topics that came up and tensions to be considered:

  • Making the move to Germany: The apprentices were pleased with the thick handbook (full of relevant information) provided by the Spanish consulate. Yet, they appreciated the prospect of having a digital version and shorter information sheets that refer to certain contents of the handbook.
  • Making progress with the language skills: The apprentices had completed an intensive course and (most of them) passed the required language test. When coming to Germany they were surprised that their language skills were not always trusted and they were not encouraged to speak German. Also, in their leisure time they had the temptation to seek for Spanish-speaking company. Therefore, they emphasised the need to motivate themselves to to keep speaking German and to try to learn more.
  • Getting used to working for construction companies in Germany: Most of the apprentices had attended some kind of school-based vocational education with eventual workplace placement. Yet, the transition to a German apprentice contract (which is essentially an employment contract) provided a major cultural change. Furthermore, the working conditions at construction sites or in project-based work that requires mobility from one site to another, have been new experiences. From the motivational point it would be helpful to prepare the newcomers with advance information.
  • Peer learning: Many of the problems and challenges encountered by the apprentices are such that no one has prior information – the members of the pioneering group have had to find their own solutions (or ways to cope). In this respect the blog of Carlos has served a more general purpose – as a forum, on which he has discussed questions of others. In this respect the LTB has a chance to provide a “Questions and Answers” section and a forum for new issues. Also, there are needs to develop peer communication between the Spanish apprentices and their German peers – this should also be explored when developing the stack.
  • Recognition of prior learning: One of the shortcomings in the implementation of the Mobipro-EU programme has been the fact that far too little attention has been paid on the recognition of prior competences. Partly this is a matter of insufficient documents or lack of appropriate procedures. Thus, it appears that apprentices may be guided to new occupations (that are alien to them) although they have received a school-based education in another. In some cases it is discovered only in Germany that the apprentices have got vocational education in a (closely) matching occupation and could apply for partial recognition of their prior learning. Here, it is necessary to look at the procedures and to give accurate information on modes of recognition.

– – –

I stop my list here. We discussed these (and other) issues from many perspectives. We came to the conclusion that Learning Toolbox can play a significant role in supporting the newcomer group(s) with their start and with their adjustment to the new circumstances. We were pleased to see that the pioneering apprentices are willing to contribute to the development of LTB stacks and tiles and to share their valuable experiences. I am looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

New stacks for new users of the Learning Toolbox – Two cases in Bau-ABC

June 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blogs I have reported on the pilot activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the intermediate training centre for construction sector Bau-ABC. Therefore, I have focused on the intermediate part of apprentice training (between learning in the companies and in vocational schools) carried out in the training halls and outdoor training areas of Bau-ABC. In this post I focus on efforts to open up the use of the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) for other users. This was the aim of our teamwork in Bau-ABC this morning. Below I report on the creation of new stacks for LTB that take explicitly into account wider range of users than the current groups of apprentices.

Stack to promote awareness on Health and Safety in construction sector

Already in February  we had our first talks with the Health and Safety specialist (Sicherheitsfachkraft) of Bau-ABC, Thomas Weerts, on the prospect of using LTB for thus special area (see my blog of the 22nd of February). Already at that time we gathered several ideas, how to make essential reference materials and practical tools accessible for users with the help of the functionality of LTB. Now we had found time to put these ideas into practice.

Firstly, we considered it important that this stack should not be exclusively for trainers and apprentices in Bau-ABC. Therefore, we named it as ‘Health and Safety in construction sector’ (Arbeitssicherheit in construction sector).  Thus, it should also be relevant for  in-company trainers (betriebliche Ausbilder) and shop stewards for health and safety (Sicherheitsbeauftragten).

Secondly, the first collection of materials provides links to web-based reference materials of Berufsgenossenschaften (public trade-specific bodies for hazard prevention and social insurance in industry and crafts & trades). In addition, this collection provides links to their mobile apps and to compendia that are available as CD-ROMs in companies and training centres.

Thirdly, another collection provides links to tools with which individual users assess health and safety risks in the context of work tasks (Gefährdungsbeurteilung). In apprentice training this is a mandatory task and it is supported by special worksheets provided by the respective Berufsgenossenschaften. (In the near future these will probably be transformed into mobile apps – which could then pave wider use for such tools beyond the initial training.)

The points above can be summarised quickly. Yet, it requires a special effort to decide, what kind or resources can be made available with different tiles and how to support the work of users with such resources. At the moment we stopped after having produced the welcome message and two collection tiles with the above mentioned resources. Thomas had made a good start and was prepared to continue with the next steps that would bring more interactivity into picture. Here, the prior work with trade-specific stacks (e.g. for carpenters, bricklayers and well-builders) could give some clues, how to integrate special tools and apps to this theme.

Stack to support learning and social integration of apprentices from foreign countries

Parallel to the work with the above mentioned stack Melanie Campbell was preparing a stack for a European mobility scheme. Bau-ABC is coordinating for the North-German construction industries and craft trades the Mobi Pro EU project that promotes mobility of trainees and apprentices from South-European countries – mainly from Spain – to get trained in German companies within the dual system. The first cohort of apprentices has already spent over a year and a new one is coming in a short while. As the experience has shown, the newcomers face many open questions and challenges – not only in their working and learning processes but even more regarding their socio-cultural integration and well-being. Here, the functionality of LTB could provide an easier access to information – but also communication channels between the apprentices and their peers of earlier cohorts.

With these thoughts coming up in our discussion Melanie started to give shape to the stack of the Mobi Pro EU project. After the welcoming message she started to prepare placeholder tiles for different kinds of information resources (general, domain-specific and local) to be accessed and for communication channels to be provided (different groups and chat channels). At the moment the format is still in the process of making, but it provides a possibility for involving different parties in further steps of the design process.

– – –

I end my report here – at the point when we ended our joint session. Both Melanie and Thomas will work further with these stacks and involve other colleagues as well. I am looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part Three: Technical issues, requests and ideas for further development

April 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have blogged about pilot activities with Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported of the Kick-off event in the training centre Bau-ABC (on 14.3.2016). In the second post I reported on our recent follow-up visit (5.4.2016) with emphasis on progress reports in the pioneering groups and on plans to get new groups and learning areas integrated into the piloting. With this final post I focus on technical issues, requests for improvements and on ideas for further development of the tool.

Technical issues

At the moment the WLAN provides rather limited opportunities for using LTB in Bau-ABC. Partly this is due to the weak infrastructure provided by Deutsche Telekom to the area of Rostrup. This issue has been taken up by Bau-ABC to get the services improved – given the nation-wide importance of their training. Given these limitations, the capacity of the WLAN is not ideal. Yet, the colleagues are trying to adjust their settings in such a way that the pilot groups could work with LTB without interruptions. This is subject to internal discussions in Bau-ABC.

Requests for improvements

As we see it, there will be some new trades that could join in the pilot and there is a chance to work with the transversal learning area ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). This will increase the number of stacks and make the search processes more complicated. In general, the searches could be facilitated by using project titles, group numbers and domain-specific tags as keywords for search. However, if the apprentices are expected to type themselves correctly spelled terms, this will be a hurdle. For apprentices it would be practical to navigate from a menu of the main occupations to the ‘parent stacks’ (in that occupation) and then to recommended tags (this requires efforts from the LTB developers and from the trainers).

At the moment LTB doesn’t provide an online tutorial. This would be appreciated very much. (The ITB and Pont team took this issue as homework.)

The trainers had observed that the apprentices do not notice that they have got new messages if there is no alarm tone alerting them to the fact. This would be a major improvement.

Ideas for further development

The trainers in Bau-ABC are constantly observing the emergence of new apps in their trades. One of the newest newcomers is the BaustellenApp (www.baustellenapp.com) for the road-builders (Strassenbauer) and for the construction site managers in this trade. It is worth checking if this can be linked to LTB.

Also, there is an interesting development in the protection of hearing. The newest earmuffs are equipped with technologies that can pick wireless signals and convert them into audio messages. Thomas Weerts can give more information.

These were some of the issues  were taken up in our latest discussions. As I see it, they give a picture of the constraints, practicalities and possibilities with the current pilots using the Learning Toolbox (LTB). We will continue the monitoring of the pilots and take further steps to engage more users in a short while.

More blogs to come …

 

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