Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

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

June 23rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

June 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

June 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …


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

June 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

1.  Multimedia Training concept based on “Theme Rooms”

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

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

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

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

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

3. Spreading Learning Toolbox to other contexts and new users

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …


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

June 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LTB workshop with the Spanish apprentices (10.6.2016)

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …


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

June 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

Stack to promote awareness on Health and Safety in construction sector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …


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

April 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

Technical issues

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

Requests for improvements

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

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

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

Ideas for further development

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

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

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

More blogs to come …


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

April 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

On Monday the 14th of March we experienced a great day for our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. We had the kick-off event of the piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in Bau-ABC (the training centre for construction sector in Rostrup). On the whole, this was a manifold event with different sessions and different activities (with focus on tool development, implementation in different trades and evaluation measures). And, moreover, the event was organised as parallel activities in two trades – the carpenters (Zimmerer) and the well-builders (Brunnenbauer). In this post I try to give some first-hand impressions on the sessions with the group of carpenters (and complement them with some remarks on the parallel group of well-builders). I know that the evaluators from the LL team of the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) will give more detailed accounts on these sessions and on their recordings on the talks with apprentices. From my perspective it is important to get a picture on the process that was kicked off with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to be used by the apprentices.

Introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the group of carpenters (Zimmerer)

In the group of carpenters we (the LL project partners) had firstly the chance to present the Learning Toolbox as an integrative toolset to be used in the forthcoming training projects of the apprentices. Gilbert Peffer presented the essentials and then the apprentices installed the LTB apps on their smartphones. Then the trainer of carpenters, Fidi Bruns explained the training project of the next few weeks for the group. After this session and a break, the other trainer of carpenters, Markus Pape, gave an overview of the parent stack and of the daughter stacks that he had prepared for the project. After these introductory sessions we had a group discussion with the carpenter apprentices  (recorded by the UIBK colleagues). In this discussion the apprentices felt very positive about the new toolset and on the prospect to use digital media and web resources in their projects. In a similar way they were keen to get the LTB to work on their devices. They were also pleased to participate in instant debugging talks in the cases in which the installation caused problems.

 Introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the group of well-builders (Brunnenbauer)

In the parallel group of well-builders the introduction of LTB had already taken place one week before and the project using LTB had already been started. Yet, there was some need for assistance in the installation as well as real-time debugging. Also, the approach in developing project-related stacks was somewhat different – instead of shaping a parent stack and daughter stacks the well-builders were equipped with a set of thematic stacks that will be networked with each other.

 The way forward

During the event we had teams of ITB (accompanying researchers), LTB developers (RayCom, CIMNE) and evaluators (UIBK). In  addition we had as a special support agent Jaanika Hirv (TLU) who stayed one week in Bau-ABC to collect feedback from apprentices and trainers on their first steps working with the LTB. She reported this feedback with daily e-mails that were collected into a Google Doc. Then, in the second round, Gilbert Peffer and Jaanika had exchanges on these messages (in the same Google Doc). Summaries of the conclusions were then reported back on a German-speaking ‘hotline’ mailing list “LTB Pilot”. In my next posts I will report on a follow-up visit to Bau-ABC and then have a look at the working issues that have come up in our talks and e-mail correspondence.

More posts to come …

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

February 22nd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week we had two working visits to the training centre Bau-ABC in the contexts of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The aim of these visits was firstly to clarify, in what kinds of projects Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) have planned to use Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the forthcoming pilot phase. Secondly we wanted to clarify what measures need to be taken to facilitate the Internet access in Bau-ABC. Thirdly we wanted to clarify, how to link third party apps or complementary tools to LTB to meet specific needs. The two latter points have been covered by internal notes. The first point merits public attention, therefore this blog gives a quick overview on the plans of Bau-ABC trainers.

During the two visits the Bau-ABC trainers presented three exemplary cases for implementing LTB in their training.  The first case (developed together with Lothar Schoka) focuses on apprentices projects in  trade of well-builders (Brunnenbauer). The second case (developed together with Thomas Weertz) deals with training materials and facilitation of learning in the transversal area ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). During the second working visit a third case was brought to picture by Markus Pape and Kevin Kuck – a joint project of Carpenters (Zimmerer) and Bricklayers (Maurer).

a) The Brunnenbauer-pilot is adjusted to the start of a new group in Bau-ABC and the introduction of the LTB comes along with their induction to project-based learning. The use of LTB will not cover entirely the documentation of project work of apprentices (plans, reports, certificates) but will support it. The main thrust for the trainer is to provide support material (Zusatzmaterial, e.g. Extracts of relevant DIN-norms). Also, the work of apprentices can be supported with digital worksheets (lists of tools and materials) that can be produced with the help of apps made available via LTB. Here, the apprentices could present digital interim versions and get feedback before completing the projects. As a use-case for two-way communication, Schoka indicated that apprentices can produce and share photo sets of construction sites of their companies as eventual targets for on-site-visits of the whole group.

b) Concerning the theme “Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz”, the competent body in the construction sector (BG Bau) has produced a comprehensive set of modularised reference materials (Baukasten) and a special program for young craftsmen. In addition to these, Bau-ABC uses a special compendium for trainers (KomPass). These materials are available on the net. In addition, in each of their projects the apprentices are required to fill a risk analysis form regarding possible occupational hazards with the tasks (Gefährdungsbeurteilung). The advantage of using LTB with this theme is that it enables delivery of compressed information (checklists, extracts of information sheets, model solutions with feedback) as well use of Quiz tools (ordinary quiz or detecting errors).

c) The joint project of Zimmerer and Maurer was based on the traditional technique of building houses with wooden frames and brick walls (Fachwerkhaus). Bau-ABC projects with smaller constructions using that technique serve as cooperation exercises between these two trades. By using LTB and creating a joint stack it is possible to

  • give an overview on the common project (as a whole),
  • on related standards,
  • to distribute the tasks between the trades
  • to organise the boundary-crossing exercises of Zimmerer and Maurer in each others’ tasks and to
  • coordinate the collaboration between the two trades.

After these working visits we are heading towards the pilots in the coming weeks and arranging the necessary support. We will report more on the pilots when we take further steps with the implementation.

More blogs to come … 

Bremen talks on young refugees’ access to training and labour market – Part Two: The Bavarian model project and the discussion in the event

February 14th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

As already mentioned in my previous  blog, these two posts are not focusing on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Instead I have taken up a major issue that we are discussing in the Bremen region: Measures to support the reception and integration of refugees.  In my previous post I started reporting on a public event “Perspektive Beruf: Junge Geflüchtete erfolgreich zum Berufsabschluss führen“. This event brought into picture fresh information and assembled several stakeholders from different organisations to joint discussion. In the first post I gave some background information on the event and present insights into a study on young refugees’ perspectives in Bremen. In this second post I will give insights into a model project in Bavaria (that was presented in the event) and highlight some key points of the stakeholders’ discussion.

1. Insights into the model project in Bavaria

The first part of the event was based on a Bremen-focused study that provided information on young refugees and their chances to get access to training and labour market in the Bremen region. The study had raised some issues that need further attention from policy makers and stakeholders who are engaged with support measures. The second part of the event was based on a guest input from the Federal state of Bavaria (Bayern).

This input was given by Manfred Bäuml who represented a foundation that supports educational projects in Bavaria (Stiftung Bildungspakt Bayern). He firstly gave insights into the innovation concept ‘vocational integration classes’ (Berufsintegrationsklassen) and how they have been embedded into the regulative frameworks. This concept is based on a 2-year long full-time school-based vocational education scheme that includes intensive language learning, vocational orientation, vocational subject-learning (including language support), internships in companies and opportunity to obtain/ refresh general school certificates). A key feature of this model is the collaboration between language teacher, subject teacher and social pedagogic advisor. (The key point in this model is that it is meant to provide entry to the regular vocational education and training provisions, not to replace them with a short variant.)

In his presentation Bäuml also made transparent the rapidly growing numbers of young refugees and the quick response in setting up such vocational integration classes all over the Federal state of Bavaria. This gave rise for setting up a state-wide model project to support the quality development in such classes and to enhance their acceptance. For this purpose the Federal state of Bavaria and the Foundation have set up the state-wide model project that involves 21 model schools (public vocational schools in all sub-regions) and several support organisations. The project works with organisational development, staff development and curriculum redesign. As special challenges Bäuml mentioned the following ones:

  • Functioning language learning – linking everyday life language learning and domain-specific vocabulary to each other;
  • Integration – bringing learners of integration classes and ordinary vocational classes into cooperation with each other;
  • Transition from school to occupational work – intensifying career guidance and counselling to facilitate personal commitment to the occupation in concern.

As Bäuml told, the project had only started at the end of 2015 and it was only in the process of building up its network and support activities. Yet, the work was making progress all over Bavaria.

2. Key issues taken up in the stakeholders’ discussion 

The event was not planned just to present the study and the model project but to stimulate discussion on necessary policy measures and ways to support different support initiatives. Therefore, the organisers had set up two rounds of discussions – after each presentation. Here, for the sake of simplicity, I try to pick up some key messages from both rounds without going deeply into details:

  • The representatives of vocational schools and and continuing training provisions – Herbert Grönegreß and Sandra von Atens – emphasised the necessity, not to challenge the refugees overly, to adjust the education/training provisions to what they can achieve and to provide well-timed support and constant support networks. Also, they emphasised the need to adjust the ‘offerings’ to refugees to their possibilities and to be prepared for providing second chances.
  • The company representative Michael Heyer told of the initiative of their company to select a group of refugees to be taken on internship and to prepare them for the opportunity to start a regular apprentice training. This initiative was launched in close collaboration and with support from public authorities. Concerning language support, the company arranged for them extra courses. Concerning integration, the company was surprised to see, how supportive and cooperative their ordinary apprentices were vis-à-vis the newcomers.
  • The Educational senator (minister) of the City state Claudia Bodegan put as into the picture of the scales of the problems. Concerning the reception of unaccompanied young people, the German cities had agreed on balanced quotas of reception (der Königstein Schlüssel). However, in 2015, Bremen had received five times as much young unaccompanied refugees – and, given the flow of refugees, it would have been inappropriate to push them elsewhere. Also, since Bremen is struggling with budgetary deficits, it doesn’t have such resources in the regular budgets as the richer Federal states. Furthermore, Bremen has had to make a difficult choice, whether to prioritise perfect diagnostic (at the expense of longer waiting times) or effective integration (at the expense of providing less favourable education and training opportunities). Here, the choice has been on avoiding  long waiting times in idlewild.
  • The representative  of the Chamber of Commerce, Karlheinz Heidemeyer, drew attention to the prompt responses of the member companies to their call for initiatives. in this way, and due to good cooperation with the local/regional authorities, the company-specific initiatives could be brought into action without unnecessary delays. In the same way he praised the good cooperation between different stakeholders in overcoming the formal hurdles and addressing the needs for Federal level policy adjustment.
  • The representative of the voluntary organisation Fluchtraum, professor Marc Thielen (also from ITB), shifted the perspective from the quantitative situation assessment, training opportunities and language courses to the individual situations of refugees. The organisation Fluchtraum that he represents, provides legal advice, guardians and mentors for unaccompanied young refugees. With insights into their life histories, learning histories and refugee histories, he emphasised the needs to get solid and trustworthy support persons and support structures for the refugees. He also addressed the need to avoid giving the refugees challenges that they cannot meet (e.g. in terms of starting regular vocational training before being properly prepared).
  • The representative of the host organisation Arbeitnehmerkammer, Regine Geraedts, drew attention to the readiness of different stakeholders in Bremen to tackle the problems as promptly as they could. Also, they had shown readiness to create new forms of cooperation for unbureacratic treatment of the problems of young refugees. Furthermore, they had shown readiness to take own initiatives at the same time as they had addressed needs to revise federal regulations. And, given the seemingly uncoordinated actions of voluntary organisations, they had been able develop flexible forms of coordination and to develop common discussion on policy development.

I guess this is enough of this event. I know that there were lots of details that I couldn’t grasp with this report. Nevertheless, I got a picture of a dynamic regional langscape of developing policies, services and support activities for young refugees. In addition, I could see a role for possible European cooperation measures (of which I discussed with some participants) in the coming times.

More blogs to come …

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