Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

Second thoughts after the Tallinn meeting of the Learning Layers project

September 30th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week we had the project consortium meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project in Tallinn. I have posted quite a number of blogs on our preparation for the meeting – on our fieldwork with our partners in the construction sector and on the video produced by the Bau-ABC team, Graham Attwell has posted a blog on the preparation of a specific workshop on Wales-Wide Web. Now it is time to look back – to see what we achieved – and to look forward – to see how we can build on the results of the Tallinn meeting. I do not try to give an all-embracing report, instead I try to highlight some key points.

1. The Business Model workshop

The highlight of the first day was the Business Model workshop – the one that Graham outlined in his blog. Already before the meeting there was a consensus between several partners, how to develop an ‘incubator model’ that links the work inside the project (Work Package 7) to the efforts to facilitate spin-out activities with wider involvement (Work Package 8). The Business Model workshop was planned to take up some key initiatives that would require the involvement of external stakeholders and to develop business model canvases for the initiatives.

From this perspective we worked in small groups with limited time and with interim reporting session (business idea pitches) until we got business model canvases for the following initiatives:

  • Development of the Learning Toolbox (development and maintenance),
  • Development of a Learning Toolbox users’ association (external users’ engagement and co-participation),
  • Development of the AchSo! application,
  • Development of the Healthcare applications’ integration to Intradoc,
  • Development of the Social Semantic Server.

The workshop was carried out with very limited time but it gave an idea, what is needed to take these initiatives from the protective project environment to the ‘real life’ environment after the lifetime of the project. In particular it was important that these business model canvases were drafted by mixed teams – not only insiders in the respective development projects. In this way we got a far better understanding on the whole project.

2. The message of application partner Bau-ABC was received with great interest

This time our colleagues from Bau-ABC could not attend but they prepared a lengthy video from which I showed selected episodes. I have outlined the contents in an earlier blog and then made commentaries on different issues in the videos with my five recent blog posts. Here I would like to emphasise that the video gave a much more lively picture on the progress of our work and on the expectations & wishes of the Bau-ABC trainers, how to work further. Here we got insights into what can be achieved in training projects and in real work on construction sites.

It is worthwhile to note that many colleagues were enthusiastic although they couldn’t follow completely the discussions in German language. But seeing the live people in real working and learning situations or in a very intensive group discussion the colleagues got hungry to learn more what they are saying about the LL project and on the Learning Toolbox. The special “bonus track” was the episode in which Markus Pape demonstrates his Zimmererblog – the worksheets, the drawings, the added resources and the statistics. By that time the blog had passed the mark of 3400 hits (from over 20 countries), at this moment the blog has already passed the mark of 4000 hits. This is a really respectable result for a blog that was launched last November.

3. Progress with sustainability scenarios and integrated learning stories

Already in our previous consortium meeting in Bau-ABC we tried to put the sustainability scenarios into the centre of our work. Also, some of our colleagues had prepared workshops to create integrated learning stories that can demonstrate the use of several LL tools. At that point these exercises did not quite meet each other. Now, in Tallinn, after the Business Model workshop and after fresh input from our application partners we took some steps forward. When we were presenting sustainability scenarios, we were more explicit about stepping outside the project and in engaging external stakeholders. We were also in the position to script new learning stories that are based on the recent progress in our fieldwork . And finally, we were in a good position to to see, how we can make use of the visualisations of our colleagues in Tallinn to illustrate these stories with real life flavour.

I guess this is enough of the highlights. We took a lot of homework for us and now it is time to have a closer look at the ToDo-lists that have been circulating after the meeting. I will get back to blog when we take further steps.

More blogs to come …

 

 

What has Learning Layers experienced in Bau-ABC – Part 4: Final impressions and points for follow-up

June 24th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have discussed the Learning Layers (LL) project consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup from different perspectives. Firstly, I have reported on the Demo Camp workshops with trainers and apprentices of Bau-ABC. Secondly, I have given insights into the Learning Café workshops that developed mid-term roadmaps for the project. Thirdly, I have described a special case of our outreach activities (in the light of an ad hoc meeting) and linked this experience to our discussions on technical development, mutual communication and scaling up processes. Now it is time to present some final impressions and to raise some points for follow-up.

Firstly, I try to give an overview of my impressions of the highlights of the three days (taking into account that I missed some of the parallel sessions):

1) For Day One that agenda had envisaged as the main activity three “Theoretical integration” sessions that focused on working with the research claims in our Development Projects and on collaborative interpretation of empirical data (collected from both target sectors and across the sectors). As a parallel activity we had planned a small German-speaking session to demonstrate some LL tools used in the construction sector (mainly to the trainers of Bau-ABC and to eventual interested apprentices). Here, quite contrary to our expectations the Demo Camp grew much bigger with its altogether ca. 100 participants (who came in several waves and swept across different stations).  The intensity of the discussions in the four demo stations was far higher than we expected and we got rich feedback. In this respect the sideline activity became the highlight event. It was a pity that a major part of the consortium missed this event but this could not have been helped – the room could not accommodate a larger audience and use of interpretation would have cut the discussions at the demo stations.

2) For Day Two the Learning Café sessions took shape only shortly before the consortium meeting. Yet, it was interesting to see, how quickly the participants adjusted to their roles as Topic table facilitators and as members of  the sustainability scenario teams. Also, it was interesting to see, how many tools we could bring forward to support these discussions and to shape the emerging conclusions. Furthermore, it was interesting to see, how all scenario groups could work their ways through the different topic tables and to give genuine and mutually complementing contributions.

3) For Day Three the agenda had envisaged a “Technical integration” session as the main activity and opportunities for parallel sessions alongside it. Luckily enough we agreed on some modifications. Firstly, the technical integration issues were started in a plenary session already on Day Two (which turned into a comprehensive situation assessment). The Day Three program was then structured as two parallel sessions – one with technical integration issues and another one with focus on Wrap-up of the Learning Cafés discussion on an Integrative evaluation concept (with reference to the developments in the fieldwork). To me, these were all important sessions but I could really see the value of these talks when we had had the ad hoc meeting with the trainer of Bau-ABC, who brought into picture a cooperation prospect with a supplier company in the construction sector. All our plans and scenarios started to get more content and scalability in the light of such initiatives.

Looking forward, there is a need to work further with the materials and the interim results:

a) We have ‘harvest’ the feedback from apprentices and trainers that we got during the Demo Camp (cards on the pinboards, drawings and audio recordings).

b) We have to harvest the results of the Learning cafés firstly to get a joint overview of the tools that were used in the Topic tables and secondly to get the interim results worked into coherent roadmaps.

c) We have to feed special cases from our outreach activities to our discussions on technical integration, participative design and stakeholder engagement to improve our understanding of our communication channels.

Altogether, a lot of homework for the follow-up. But, as I see it, we took some steps forward on all fronts and we can build upon it.

More posts to come (on the follow-up) …

 

 

 

What has Learning Layers experienced in Bau-ABC – Part 3: Outreach activities, technical development and scaling up

June 24th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts on the Learning Layers (LL) project consortium meeting in Bau-ABC I have followed the chronological order. I have first reported on the Demo Camp workshops with trainers and apprentices of Bau-ABC (Day One). Then I have reported on the Learning Café workshops of Sustainability Scenario groups rotating across topic tables (Day Two). In this post I will firstly jump to an ad hoc meeting that took place after the consortium meeting (Day Three, afternoon) and link it to our discussion on technical integration (Day Two and Day Three, morning).

The ad hoc meeting was initiated by one of the full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in Bau-ABC and he wanted to discuss an initiative for the follow-up of the Brunnenbauertage event (7.5.-9.5.). The trainer has developed a long-term cooperation with a supplier of machinery for construction work. For certain machines the users have to be certified for safety reasons. The company has developed an e-learning program to support the necessary training but has not enough resources to cater for the training. Therefore the company is looking for cooperation with training centres like Bau-ABC. In this context the trainer saw a possibility to link such cooperation to the work of the LL project, in particular to the development of the Learning Toolbox.

Most of the LL partners had to catch their planes or trains so only three of us (with closer involvement in the Brunnenbauertage and the follow-up) could stay for this discussions. Nevertheless, we felt this initiative promising and well-timed for the following reasons:

  • The company in question is looking for opportunities to scale up training and (informal) learning with the support of the e-learning program. In this context the company is not looking for exclusive arrangements merely for its own benefit.
  • Bau-ABC has a tradition to develop such training schemes and learning opportunities as vendor-neutral events that provide parallel vendors to contribute with their inputs (when appropriate and mutually compatible).
  • For the LL project this cooperation prospect has been put into discussion at the moment when we can shape the Learning Toolbox in such a way that it will provide access to such programs.

I think this is as much as I can tell about the results of this meeting.  We encouraged the trainer to continue his talks with the company and to inform of the interest of the LL project to join these talks. We are looking forward to hearing more in a short while.

I have reported this episode as a special case case of the outreach activities of the LL project in construction sector. We couldn’t have anticipated it before the consortium meeting, whilst the opportunity grew up in talks between the trainer and the company. We couldn’t have scripted it – neither for the sake of decision-making nor for the sake of software development. We (the ones who were there) saw the chance and agreed that this is an appropriate step forward in the follow-up of the Brunnenbauertage. However, in this respect we could rely on the conclusions that we had jointly agreed in the 3rd Internal Exploitation Meeting of the Construction sector shortly after the Brunnenbauertage (involving a wider range of LL partners).

I have highlighted this case because it serves as a test case for contrasting views on outreach, technical development and scaling up in the LL project. Some colleagues may see these processes from the perspective of technology-push. The role of outreach activities would then be to extract user-requirements to be passed for technical developers and then bring the solutions to users. The development would then take place in a ‘black box’ remote from users. (I know that I am drawing a caricature and I do not wish to point directly to any of our technical partners with this picture. Yet, I want to put into question, what kind of communication with traget groups and user engagement we are looking for.) In our case we were ready to enter conversations and interaction that may give rise to several thready of co-design activities.

I do not wish to go into details of our internal discussions on technical development and technical integration. I believe that these discussions helped us to put into perspective the technical partners’ internal communication, the ‘translation’ processes between technical issues and user-concerns as well as the integration of front-end services by LL tools and linked web resources. However, this was not the whole story of the results of our meeting. Moreover, these were interim results and we need to work with them.

More posts to come …

 

 

What has Learning Layers experienced in Bau-ABC – Part 1: Workshops with trainers and apprentices

June 17th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

My previous series of blog posts was about the preparation of the Learning Layers (LL) project consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup. Normally, I would have waited until the end of such meeting before starting to write new blogs. However, the experiences that we have made already during the first day merit to be shared and put into discussion.

We had planned as part of the agenda to organise a “Demo Camp” to present some of the LL tools in a German-speaking workshop to some trainers (and eventually to interested apprentices) to get some feedback. We had expected ca. ten trainers to visit the Demo Camp very quickly and we had not assumed that most of them would bring their apprentices with them. Little did we know what was coming up.

We arranged the room in such a way that we had in the corners info  stalls for presenting the following tools/resources:

  • The Baubildung.net platform to support networking and learning initiatives in construction sector,
  • The Learning Toolbox app to manage learning resources, apps and contents,
  • The AchSo tool to produce and annotate short videos,
  • The Bits and pieces tool that had been developed as collector of learning experiences (mainly in the healthcare sector).

In all corners we equipped the stations with flipcharts and/all pinboards to gather feedback.

During the preparations we started to get the message that most of the trainers will bring their current groups of apprentices with them. We then scheduled the visits as a carrousel workshop in which the groups rotated through all four stations (if possible). While the presentations were going on at different stations, Kerstin Engraf orchestrated the allocation of the next groups who were waiting out side to the station that was coming to an end with its session. In this way we managed the visits of ca 85 apprentices and 10 trainers, supported by 5 other staff members of Bau-ABC, ABZ Mellendorf and Agentur.

At this point it is too early to give an overview what all happened. My first impressions from the station of Learning Toolbox are highly positive. We got from all groups rather differentiated and domain-specific comments, what tools/working contexts we can grasp with the Learning Toolbox, what learning materials or units we can develop towards interactive learning resources and how particular elements of the White Folder (if not the entire folder) could/should be digitised. We had participants from different trades (carpenters, roadbuilders, pipeline-builders, well-builders, concrete-builders etc.). In particular the carpetners and well-builders got into lively discussion about the usefulness of the Learning Toolbox in their trade. (I heard similar experiences from the station that presented the platform Baubildung.net.) Also, the apprentices made a strong point that the availability of such tools and resources will strongly contribute to the acceptance of smartphones as tools and resources that support working and learning in the construction sector.

I guess this is enough for the moment. We need to take some time to sort and analyse the feeedback we got in all stations.

More posts to come …

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 4: How are we trying to develop our work further?

June 15th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have firstly discussed the forthcoming consortium meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project in Bau-ABC Rostrup. Secondly, I have recapitulated the experiences we have made with project activities in Bau-ABC. Thirdly, I have given a picture of our joint efforts to develop successful outreach activities in the German construction sector and in the surrounding regional contexts.

Altogether, these have been preparatory steps that have helped me to raise the question: How can we use the meeting in Bau-ABC to help us to develop our work in the LL project  further?

For a complex European interdisciplinary project with ambitions in Research, Technology and Development and with emphasis on implementing and scaling up innovations in SME clusters (and with focus on two sectors) this is not a trivial question. And especially, when we think of the work of the whole consortium, it is even more complex. Let us firstly look back, what kind of journey we have made together as a whole consortium, what we have achieved and what we might still be missing in our work:

  • Firstly, in the initial work plan we expected the first year to be chacarcterised by creative diversity whilst the second should be shaped as an integrative phase. We have gone through the process of setting up  four overarching design agendas and the emergence of a more differentiated set of development projects. We then had the Integration Meeting in Aachen with an intensive technical integration agenda and Theory Camp which helped us to get a better overview on, what all is going on.
  • Secondly, we have to admit that the transition to Development Projects has not created a general clarity on the processes and resources. (This has become even more problematic when one major technical partner left the project and the process of engaging the replacement has not been completed.) Therefore, we have to pay more attention to overcoming gaps of knowledge and communication to get our resources mobilised into joint efforts.
  • Thirdly, we have not discussed strongly enough the importance of user-friendly and user-relevant solutions when moving on to the implementation and scaling up phases. Here we seem to have differences in perception between partners who have engaged themselves heavily in fieldwork (co-design workshops, multimedia training, stakeholder talks and pilot implementation) and others who have had less encounters with users. It is worthwhile to note that progress with user engagement (e.g. during the Brunnenbauertage and in the follow-up) tends to bring new challenges and time pressures for the development work.

In the light of the above we have tried to organise our work somewhat differently to avoid a tendency of particularisation. This is especially the case with the Day Two workshops. In these workshops we will have a closer look at the Sustainability scenarios and how to develop our activities sustainability with the help of mid-term roadmaps. The Scenario groups will rotate through different Round Tables (topic tables) and discuss different aspects of the roadmap. With this exercise we want to get a clearer picture on the following issues:

  • Key initiatives that are instrumental for achieving sustainability within each scenario (Construction, Healthcare, Organised clusters, OSS communities);
  • Technical support that is needed to bring the initiatives into maturity (taking into account the users’ interests and ICT- & Web-related capabilities);
  • Partners’ commitments to ensure that we are mobilising all available resources to support joint initiatives.

Whilst the main emphasis is given on the work of the Sustainability scenario groups that are developing the roadmaps, the Round Tables (topic tables) serve as interim stations to address the following issues (as indicated in the agenda on the LL Wiki):

  • Round table 1 – Capacity building, training, and stakeholder engagement (Which tools are ready for demonstrating to stakeholders? What materials / processes do we need to engage stakeholders with our tools? what is the roadmap of other planned capacity building, training and engagement activities and how can we ensure that the tools are ready by that time and usable?)
  • Round table 2 – Learning stories – Coming up with a Learning Story that connects tools and practices to a integrated story (that development teams can work with, where we identify missing links and we develop further for the review)
  • Round table 3 – New collaboration initiatives and spin-out projects with stakeholders
  • Round table 4 – Developing Layers offerings

     

I think this is enough of a “sneak preview” on the forthcoming LL Consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup. I hope that this series of blogs has helped us to warm up for the exercise. At the same time I hope that the postings have given those who will not be there a better chance to catch up when we are reporting of results. But that we can only do after the hard work of the coming days.

More posts to come (after the event) …

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 3: What have we done for a successful outreach?

June 14th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have discussed firstly the forthcoming consortium meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project in Bau-ABC Rostrup and secondly the cooperation with Bau-ABC staff to bring the project forward. In this context I have mentioned that the capacity building measures have not been taken just for strengthening Bau-ABC as a single training centre. From this point of view it is appropriate to recapitulate, in what ways Bau-ABC has contributed to the outreach activities of the LL project.

Already in the initial phase Bau-ABC was actively involved in the the joint LL team activities at Online Educa Berlin 2012 and made contacts to construction sector stakeholders with interest in e-learning and Web 2.0.

Parallel to the co-design workshops we had several working meetings during which we listed spin-off ideas to be taken up by spin-out projects or by parallel activities with affiliate partners. Some of these ideas were communicated to the regional branch of the umbrella association of the German construction industry (Bauindustrieverband Bremen-Niedersachesen) in a joint meeting in August 2013.

During the development of the Multimedia Training Workshops Bau-ABC has emphasised that such training should be open for wider participation. Yet, it has been our common conclusion (for practical reasons) to carry out the pilot together with Bau-ABC and the linked training centre ABZ Mellendorf. However, in order to develop the concept further, Bau-ABC volunteered to lead a joint proposal with ITB and Pontydysgu to create a Strategic Partnership project under the Erasmus+ programme.

Consequently, when Bau-ABC had the responsibility of organising the annual conference and triannual exhibition for well-builders and borehole builders – Brunnenbauertage - they provided several opportunities for the LL project to make it present: the info stall, the foyer presentation for the whole exhibition audience, a special workshop session and an opportunity for targeted stakeholder talks during the exhibition. As a result we managed to make preliminary agreements with interested companies on follow-up talks. In addition, we made preliminary agreements with universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) who are interested in working together to develop workplace learning with the LL tools.

Finally, Bau-ABC has actively supported the efforts of the WP7 team to create wider stakeholder talks on organised clusters in the Bremen and Oldenburg regions and in positioning construction sector, new ICT-competences and exchange with ICT-clusters in this context. In a similar way the Bau-ABC representatives have been active in promoting nation-wide development of ICT-capabilities in new qualification models and in new curricula.

Altogether, as we see it, Bau-ABC has all the time worked very consequently as a multiplier-organisation that has invested in capacity building in its own organisation to support wider engagement of other organisations via domain-specific networks and organised clusters.

Again, this recapitulation of common efforts towards a successful outreach have not been written down just for the sake of writing a diary. Instead, the aim is to give a picture, on what grounds the measures to scale up innovation have to be built. In this respect we hope to bring the whole consortium to common discussion, how these efforts can be made more effective. This is a further aspect  of the question, what we are looking for. And it merits a separate blog article.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers – What are we achieving with our fieldwork of Year 1 (Part 3: Training activities)

December 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my first post to this series of blogs I raised he question: What are we achieving with the fieldwork activities of Year 1 in the Learning Layers (LL) project?  In my previous posts I gave an account on the developments in the co-design activities of the LL design team Sharing Turbine (mainly taking place in Bau ABC).

In this post I will complement the picture with a similar account on training activities in the construction sector during the year 1 of LL project. Here again, I will focus mainly on training activities that have started to take shape in Bau ABC (but not exclusively on the host organisation). Concerning the development of training activities  I would formulate the following thesis:

In the training activities of the year 1 we have shifted the emphasis from ad hoc training measures towards a more comprehensive (but transparent) approach. This gives the participants a broad overview of web tools and enables quick trials. This helps them to select their own priorities and make their own plans for further learning and utilisation in their own area.

Looking back at April and May 2013, when we started the early pilots training activities, I have to admit that we were rather cautious . We had good reasons for this, since the co-design activities were only in the beginning phase and we indeed tried to avoid over-ambitious openings. Yet, we understood that we need to develop some kind of project-specific training initiatives to improve our user-skills in web and multimedia (jointly).

So, the ITB team prepared a Webinar for NNB/Agentur to support firstly the staff and later on the network members in ecological construction work. Also, some demonstration sessions with basic applications (e.g. Bosch app, Evernote) were organised with interested craft trade companies. Moreover, some agreements were reached with training providers for craft trade companies to support their training events. However, these initiatives did not raise a wide interest. We were still at the advent of linking training activities to co-design initiatives and to active utilisation of new tools.

The next step in developing training initiatives was taken in an ad hoc meeting in June 2013 (organised alongside the consortium meeting in Graz). One of the ideas put into discussion by this meeting was to organise Do-it-yourself workshops in Bau ABC to create users’ own apps. During the summer months this idea was reworked towards a Multimedia Training approach. The First Multimedia Workshop (moderated by Jenny Hughes from Pontydysgu) provided an orientation to different ways to create apps or to use services and tools in a customised and user-adapted way. This workshop had already a strong hands-on emphasis but it mainly served the purpose to outline the learning pathways forward.

The Second Multimedia Workshop in November (also moderated by Jenny Hughes) was already planned as the second in a series to be continued. This workshop consisted of several short sessions during which the participants trained with similar tasks but using somewhat different software in different groups. The programme started with easier exercises (setting up individual twitter accounts, making word clouds with wordle etc.). Then the participants prepared glogsters ands padlets to present text and multimedia content on the same page. Then cartoons, animations and videos were used to present task implementation in construction work (measurement). In the next phase several other applications were demonstrated with the help of the website of TACCLE2 project (that promotes multimedia competences of teachers and gives advice to develop their own web contents). In the final phase the participants trained with WordPress and developed their own blogs to bring together results of the previous sessions.

In the concluding session the participants (including the director of Bau ABC) committed themselves to continue with a series of such workshops. Pontydysgu volunteered to install a dedicated WordPress site for the training and provide links to relevant contents on the TACCLE2 website. In addition Pontydysgu volunteered to shape the training programme as small modules with tutorials and tasks that support self-organised learning. The participants agreed to continue independently with the proposed tools and to prepare for the next workshop their individual plans for further learning and for domain-specific use of tools.

In a flashmeeting for planning the Y2 activities this development of the training approach was given a new dimension when the participants of the meeting saw the continuation as a joint opportunity to develop wider participation. Also, the development of the WordPress site and modules was seen as a strategy for outreach to craft trade companies and for shaping customised training packages.

I think this is as far as I can follow the development of the training concept for construction sector. As I see it, this process has moved from smaller opening steps towards a collaborative and participative shaping of a training programme that can be scaled up in the coming years. Also, my impression is that the first steps have been paved by such ‘user engagement’ that leads to empowerment of learners and capacity building in the organisations involved.

However, this is not the whole story of the process dynamics (of “growing together”, of “hatching out” and of reaching out beyond the initial pilot contexts. Although I may have limited possibilities to report on other supporting activities, it is appropriate to bring them also into the picture by a concluding blog post.

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

 

Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 4: Implications for accompanying research)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the previous postings to this series of blogs I have characterised the transition phase that we (ITB, Pontydysgu and Bau ABC) are going through with our fieldwork for the Learning Layers (LL) project.  I have firstly given a general overview (part 1), then looked at the particpative workshops (part 2) and then at the ongoing design work and planning of training concepts (part 3). In this final article I put into discussion some thoughts on the role of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) in such a transition phase.

As I see it, the tasks taken up in the Rapid Turbine initiative give rise to a complex research agenda, in which pedagogic challenges and socio-technical design processes become interlinked with each other. In this context research work and development work are interacting with each other as mutually complementing contributions to a participative development co-process with the users – firstly with trainers and  apprentices. Later on the process will also involve  also skilled workers and  company representatives from construction sector as well as vocational school teachers.

Instead of seeing the R&D processes as linear and expert-driven processes in which the users are seen as informants (in the beginning) and as testers of prototypes and pre-final solutions (at the end), the Rapid Turbine is being shaped on a participative and iterative process. In such a process the design workshops and learning events serve that purpose of raising the users’ awareness on possible solutions and their own capacity to contribute. At the same time the researchers have the opportunity to analyse, how the growing awareness of emerging solutions makes it possible for the users to change their own working and learning culture. Parallel to this the designers get new insights into key issues concerning the acceptability and possible benefits of the proposed solutions.

Below some key questions are formulated for such R&D dialogue, in which researchers, developers and users are challenged to find the turning points that help to overcome obstacles and to make the proposed solutions work in practice:

  1. How can potential users’ attitudes to mobile technologies, web tools and apps/services be changed in the course of pilot activities. Is it possible to overcome general rejection or mere leisure-time oriented consumerism and stimulate creative use to support working and learning?
  2. How can the use of such technologies, tools and apps/services help to bring the real working life closer to the learning situations in training centre? How can impulses and innovations be shared in such a way that they enrich working and learning culture?
  3. How can wider access to information and learning resources be linked to better understanding on the uses and quality of information? How can use of internet and new media help the users to assess their own learning and professional growth (what they can do and what they can’)?
  4. How can improved access to information and communication resources and media from different locations be utilised to make communication and knowledge sharing across the organisation more effective (as support for working and learning)?
  5. How can improved possibilities to record and analyse learning experiences at work to support professional development of individuals and knowledge sharing in organisations?

As has been indicated above, such questions cannot be answered a priori on the basis of purely observational research. Instead, the answers have to be found in the context of the participative process – with reference to trials and errors in different phases. Therefore, the research work has to be carried out as accompanying research that takes into account the open options, intervening factors and the actors’ choices in the pilot activities.

So, the researchers have to work  in the participative process and have an insight into changing circumstances, different interests, optional choices and new technical possibilities that come into picture during the work. This is what accompanying research has to conceptualise and analyse in such processes while working together with the developers and users.

And the story goes on …

PS. This posting (as the other three of the same series) has focused mainly on the cooperation of ITB, Pontydygu and Bau ABC with focus on the Rapid Turbine initiative. At the same time other members of ITB team have been working with other technical partners and the application partner NNB/Agentur with focus on the design idea Captus for the ecological construction work. As I have not been involved in the recent events, I have not been able to cover these developments.

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 2: Participative workshops)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my introductory statement to this series of blog postings I indicated that we – the ITB team together with our colleagues in Pontydysgu and our are application partner Bau ABC) are  going through a transition phase in our fieldwork. Roughly, this transition can be characterised as a  shift from preparatory measures to active collaboration in participative co-design work. This might seem a bit bold statement but I think this is exactly what we are experiencing at the moment.

Looking back at our workshop reports and my early blog postings on the Learning Layers (LL) project, I see that we were  mapping the grounds for forthcoming pilot activities. During the winter months (before the Design Conference) and the Easter break we had collected quite a lot of interview materials and made several field visits. In this phase we were getting insights into the work of individual company representatives and full-time trainers of Bau ABC. This material was used for the initial User Stories for the Application Partner Days and for the Design Conference of the . In Bremen we tried to group this material into contextual maps – to identify emerging  design ideas. (Later on some of the ITB colleagues have produced summaries of the interviews and coded it with MAXQDA.)

After the Design Conference in March our key question was, how to get the initial design ideas well grounded in the working and learning contexts of our application partners. We felt the need to get a better and wider understanding on the working and learning contexts of apprentices (both at their companies and at the training centre Bau ABC). We also wanted to get a better picture how they were using mobile devices and web technologies – in particular as support for working and learning. For this purpose we firstly organised a conversational workshop and then some storyboard workshops. With the help of these workshops we got more holistic pictures of the working days of apprentices in companies and in Bau ABC. Furthermore, we got a glimpse of some trade-specific problem situations or challenges and ideas, what role mobile technologies, web tools and software solutions may play. Also, some ideas were raised for context-specific apps.

With the trainers of Bau ABC we also had a storyboard exercise to illustrate their working day alongside apprentices’ projects. Then, during later working visits  we have continued to review the results of apprentices’ workshops but on top of that we have had further discussion on the points of intervention for the first year pilot activities. With these discussions we have got more comprehensive picture of needs to facilitate training and learning processes (with the help of digital media and web) and of the limits of current software solutions and web applications. Moreover, in these sessions the colleagues from Bau ABC have increasingly worked as a local LL team with regular cooperation with researchers from ITB and developers from Pontydysgu. (In this context we have also identified some spin-off initiatives for which we need to find additional resources.)

In this way we are reaching thew phase in which the workshops need to include demonstrations of emerging tools, applications and web designs. Then, the workshops could give focused feedback of the usability or shortcomings of the tentative solutions and/or the possibilities to use complementary apps and solutions. This has further implications for the development process, for supporting training activities and for our research agenda.

To be continued …

PS. With this series of blog postings I am focusing more closely on our cooperation with Bau ABC in the context of the Rapid Turbine initiative. This doesn’t imply that our work with our other application partners would have gone quiet. On the contrary – quite a lot of steps forward have been taken by in the fieldwork and design processes of the Captus team that focuses on the ecological construction work (represented by NNB/Agentur in Verden). However, since I have not been present in these events, I am not in the position to give detailed reports. PK

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

 

Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 1: Transitions on many fronts)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

Quite some time has passed since my latest blog postings on the Learning Layers (LL)  project. This doesn’t mean that the project would have gone quiet or that there would not have been anything interesting going on in the fieldwork. On the contrary – there were a lot of activities going on before the holiday break and the same has been the case after the holiday break. Thus, we (from the ITB team) have had to put a lot of effort to get the events and the activities and events documented with internal notes and reports. At the same time our Pontydysgu colleagues have been busy with development work and with documenting their work processes. (See the recent blog postings on Rapid Turbine and Reflect by Graham Attwell and his colleagues on the Wales-Wide-Web.)

Looking back at the my earlier postings from May and June I see a gradual transition in the way that we have worked. In our workshops and joint meetings with apprentices, company representatives and trainers we were looking for possibilities to launch participative design processes. We were working with storyboards and user journeys, getting insights into critical situations or everyday life innovations in which use of digital media and web can play a role. In the interviews, working meetings and reflection sessions we got feedback on the uses of web tools and applications by professionals in construction sector.  This all has been very valuable for getting a better understanding, how to get participative co-design processes working. (And we are not necessarily saturated with such material yet.)

However, from a certain point on our work started to have other characteristics. The collaboration of ITB, Pontydysgu and Bau ABC started to focus more closely on using digital media and web resources in selected working and learning projects. This was the step forward from the overarching design idea “Sharing Turbine”  – digitalisation of the White Folder (see the earlier blog of Graham) and the related training/learning processes. Whilst this overarching perspective needs to be kept on the agenda, it was necessary to start more focused pilot activities on the ground. For this purpose a particular area of construction work was chosen, – building pipelines for water supply and sewage (Rohrleitungsbau). This initiative was named “Rapid Turbine” to emphasise that it is a quicker pioneering exercise within the larger agenda.

With the following blog postings I try to give some insights into our recent fieldwork activities during the period that we have been working with the Rapid Turbine initiative and with complementary activities. My own impression is that we have been going through a transition from preparatory measures towards a real participative co-design process. Indications of such transition can be seen in our workshops with apprentices and trainers, in the design work itself and in related preparation of training models and in the rethinking of our research agendas in the LL project.

I think this is enough for an opening statement. There are a lot of issues to take up in the forthcoming postings.

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

 

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