Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

Learning Layers in Leeds – Part Two: Giving a picture on construction pilot and Learning Toolbox

September 28th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its last joint project consortium meeting (before the final review meeting) in Leeds, hosted by the local partners.  We focused on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating the final preparatory processes for the final reporting. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In this second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in the preparation sessions and in the Elevator pitch session.

Insights into the preparation sessions (focus on impact and cases, scenarios and research approaches)

In the preparation sessions we rotated between three topic tables (of five altogether) to prepare the marketing pitches for which we had been signed (or to listen to others’ contributions and to give feedback). My choice was to give pitches on the impact cases, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on research approaches. In the first topic table it was useful to share ideas between construction pilot (use of Learning Toolbox at construction site) and healthcare pilot (use of Learning Toolbox in a conference environment). As a spin-off I promised to communicate the idea of using LTB in the forthcoming European conferences on vocational education and training in 2017 (ECER 2017, ‘Crossing boundaries 2017’). I also picked the idea of using LTB in conferences as a manifestation of ‘work process knowledge’ of researchers. In the topic table of ‘learning scenarios’ we discussed the criteria, what is to be presented as ‘impact cases’ and what qualifies as ‘scenarios’ or ‘instances of change’ in terms of conceptual interpretation. In the topic table of ‘research approaches’ we also had a similar discussion regarding the presentation of research methodologies and research findings.

Presenting the construction pilot in the ‘Elevator pitch’ session (‘impact cases’, ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘accompanying research’)

The ‘Elevator pitch’ session followed the pattern of marketing events that are typical in educational technology and software development communities. Each presenter had a 20 seconds slot to announce the topic and attract the interest of audience. Then the presenter had a 3 minutes slot to present the case and to convey the message. After each presentation three persons gave feedback (including one of the two ‘critical friends’ that were invited by the organisers). Below I focus on my/our presentations on the construction pilot of the LL project.

a) The impact cases: Use of Learning Toolbox in training (the pitch of Melanie Campbell) and at a construction site (my pitch)

In her pitch Melanie Campbell presented the training centre Bau-ABC as an application partner of the project and gave insights into the impact of the project from their perspective. Her key message was that Bau-ABC had engaged itself as a ‘learning organisation’ in different phases of the project work and used the opportunity to enhance the digital literacy and multimedia competences of its staff. On the basis of successful deployment of the Learning Toolbox Bau-ABC is looking forward to a more prominent role in promoting this know-how in its initial training (for apprentices), continuing training (for construction professionals) and training partnerships (with suppliers and client companies). She emphasised the new strategic interpretation of ‘Internet as the fourth learning venue’ (“Internet als vierter Lernort”) – alongside the company employing the apprentice (Ausbildungsbetrieb), the intermediate training centre (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätte) and the vocational school (Berufsschule) – and the contribution of the Learning Layers project in conveying this message.

In my first pitch I presented (with the help of a short video demonstration) the impact case of using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the management of a construction site. I used the video on Thomas Isselhard’s recent presentation (see my recent blog) as an exemplary case to show, what kind of problems can be overcome with LTB, how the traditional way of managing the processes can be supported by LTB and how different parties can be engaged as users of LTB – to achieve real-time knowledge sharing and communication. Here I positioned myself as the interpreter and let the practitioner explain the benefits, see below:

b) The ‘learning scenario’: Learning Toolbox as means to make ‘work process knowledge’ transparent in lived practice

In my second pitch  – for ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) – I focused on the concept ‘work process knowledge’ and how the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) can make this concept more transparent. I looked back at the original European projects of the Work Process Knowledge network (funded by EU, 4th Framework programme of research) between 1998 and 2001. In the original studies the network analysed informal and cross-organisational learning processes as preconditions for innovation. They came up with the concept of ‘work process knowledge’ (as shared foundation of knowledge, experience and trust) based on which the organisations can successfully implement major changes. The network had collected several interesting cases in which interactive informal learning in organisations – and workers’ participation in shaping the technical and organisational changes. Yet, with their plans to develop follow-up projects they got narrowed down to more particular approaches on ‘organisational learning’ and to local and sectoral tools or instruments to promote such learning. With reference to the ‘impact cases’ on LTB I argued that the introduction of the integrative toolset has helped managers, skilled workers, trainers and apprentices to get a common overview on work processes and a shared understanding on matching activities and contributions.

c) The research approach: Transformation of ‘accompanying research’ within participative design and tool deployment processes

In my third pitch – with  focus on research approaches – I invited the audience to a journey to revisit the development of the accompanying research approach of ITB during the construction pilot of the Learning Layers project. Firstly I mentioned two earlier models of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) of which ITB has rich experiences:

  • Accompaniment of a regional ‘Work and Technology’ programme and its projects in 1990-1997: Focus on the attainment of policy goals regarding social shaping of work, technology, organisations and regional cooperation.
  • Accompaniment of nation-wide educational innovation programme ‘New learning concepts in dual vocational education and training’ 1997-2003: Focus on the attainment of self-declared innovation goals regarding introduction of new pedagogic and curricular settings, new occupational profiles and new instructional designs.

Concerning Learning Layers, I emphasised the difference, since we were working with an open and participative co-design process (with several iterative phases and adjustments), with common search for an appropriate design concept and ways to deploy the integrative toolset. During the process the accompanying researchers worked as

  • explorers (mapping workshops and initial interviews),
  • facilitators of digital literacy (the early multimedia training),
  • co-designers (in the shaping of the concept of Learning Toolbox),
  • co-tutors (the training campaign for all Bau-ABC staff),
  • facilitators of tool deployment (introduction of Learning Toolbox),
  • co-evaluators (collecting feedback and reviewing the qualitative feedback).

Concerning the interaction of accompanying researchers with practitioners we tried to position ourselves as supporting partners – helping them to become owners of the innovation. This was clearly successful with the early multimedia training and  with the launch of trainers’ blogs (see the video of August 2014 below). In a similar way the deployment of Learning Toolbox was a user-driven exercise in which Bau-ABC trainers set their own accents on promoting problem-oriented learning (with rich resources) or interest-based and expansive learning (with gradually increasing variety of resources). In a similar way the apprentices were guided by trainers to become owners of their own learning processes by self-organised use of learning resources via Learning Toolbox.

Concluding remarks and lessons for the final run

Regarding the feedback on my pitches, I was praised for the use of video to pass a user’s own voice and accents in the first pitch, I was criticized for not using such visuals in the two latter ones (I dropped the idea because the video could not be displayed that well to all). I was also praised for presenting coherent stories but criticized for giving too much emphasis on the history and leaving the connection between history and present date too thin. Finally, I was praised by making the users visible and emphasising them as ‘pioneers’, our role in ’empowering users’ and making transparent different ways of using innovative toolsets. Altogether, this feedback helped us to pull ourselves out of project-internal reporting and to focus on new audiences who don’t have the shared background knowledge.

– – –

I think this is enough of this exercise. At the moment we are taking further steps in preparing the final documents, making further arrangements for the final review and working with follow-up activities.

More blogs to come …


Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Three: Discussions on the use of Learning Toolbox at construction sites

September 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two latest posts I have presented reflections on “Digital Divide 4.0” (regarding the concept, see the first post ). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my previous post I discussed, how this concept reflects the initial difficulties of our project work in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC – and how our collaboration helped the trainers to become innovation leaders with LTB. In this post I shift the emphasis to our other application partners – the network for ecological construction work (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen – NNB) and craft trade companies in building and construction.

Revisiting the Learning Toolbox Workshop with craft trade companies (8.9.2016)

One week ago  ITB organised a workshop on Learning Toolbox in which Thomas Isselhard from NNB presented, how he has started using the Toolbox and representatives of craft trade companies from Bremen region discussed, what benefits the Toolbox could bring to them. In my earlier blog post I have already reported of this event on the basis of my first impressions. Now I have had the chance to revisit this experience when editing the video material from the event. In particular I have been inspired by the way Thomas Isselhard has explained, how he has overcome his own doubts about ‘yet another tool’ and how he has been able to introduce the Toolbox as a joint instrument for coordinating the work and sharing information in real time.

Using the Toolbox to manage a construction site in Verden – challenges and possibilities

Looking again at the video material on Thomas Isselhard’s presentation it strikes me, how many points he makes on the transition phase: “Why should I start using the Toolbox and what could it bring to me/us in charge of construction sites?”. He starts with the simple things to be coordinated with the help of the Toolbox – lists of contractors and partners as well as the distribution of tasks between different parties. He gives insights into difficulties in coping with changing plans and versions of plans in the traditional way – with paper documents and communication via phone calls and e-mails. In this way we get an insight into the advantages of real-time communication, coordinated version management and notification of changes – all enabled via Learning Toolbox. (See below the edited short video on Thomas Isselhard’s presentation – in German but with subtitles in English):

Getting used to working with the Toolbox – starting with simple steps that make sense

In the other video Thomas Isselhard discusses with Werner Müller (ITB) and Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE), how to get other actors interested in using the Toolbox. Thomas emphasised how they started in their own organisation – by simple content tiles and by replicating the standard processes and the filing systems that they were used to (even using the same colours for same contents). In the network for ecological construction work he addressed the young professionals in the partner organisations to get them working as the pioneers for introducing the Toolbox. When starting a cooperation with a contractor on a construction site Thomas links the introduction of the Toolbox to the instruction to the task (uploading with a QR-code) In this context he explains, how the Toolbox can be used to follow the updates of the plans and to give feedback on the progress with the contractor’s work. Whilst the use of Toolbox has been introduced as a service provided by the planners (architects, construction site managers), the real benefit lies in the interactive use of all parties involved. (See below the edited short video on the discussion – in German but with subtitles in English):

Concluding remarks

I guess this is enough of this part of the workshop and on the videos on Thomas’ presentation and the immediate discussion. Whilst the previous post looked at a lengthy co-design, preparation and deployment process (in Bau-ABC), these samples give insights into a quick transition into active use. Also, it is interesting to see, how Thomas is able to demonstrate the smooth entry to using Toolbox and the benefits it can offer in the day-to-day cooperation in construction work. (This was taken up in the further discussion in the workshop but I need to have a fresh look at the video recordings before continuing my reporting on that part.) In the meantime I will discuss the role of vocational school teachers as potential users and promoters of the Learning Toolbox.

More blogs to come … 


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

September 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interim assessments by Bau-ABC trainers during the project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding remarks

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

More blogs to come …

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

September 13th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

The different meanings of  ‘digital divide’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come … 


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

September 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

Introducing the Learning Layers project and the Learning Toolbox

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion on other prospects or working issues to be considered

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …


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

September 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

Engaging ITB researchers as users of Learning Toolbox

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

Screenshot ITB Klausurtagung 1

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

Screenshot ITB Klausurtagung 2

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …


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

September 1st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

First finding: “Guiding replaces strict instructions”:

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

Second finding: “From consuming to contributing”:

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

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

Third finding: “Digital transformation”:

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come … 

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

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spreading the use of LTB into other trades/ learning contexts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publication of the online guide to Learning Toolbox (LTB)

In the middle of June 2016 we were happy to observe that the LTB developers had published a comprehensive online guide to Learning Toolbox (see 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 …

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