Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

Crossing boundaries at the Bremen International VET conference – Part One: Learning Layers and Employ-ID work together

September 13th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent blog was about a field visit to training centre Bau-ABC (2.9.2015) in the context of the fieldwork of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The very next day the ITB and Pontydysgu teams, together with Raymond Elferink (RayCom) presented Learning Toolbox at the Bremen International Conference on Vocational Education and Training (VET). This post will focus on this session, the next one on other sessions of the conference.

Insights into the Bremen Conference

Firstly, it is worthwhile to say some words of the Bremen International VET Conference. This conference has been initiated as part of an international project of ITB that has been launched by the University of Bremen (in the context of its Excellence University framework). The project studies transfer of the dual VET model by German companies working abroad (in China and in the USA). As a part of its work program the project has committed itself to organise international conferences. This one was the first of its kind and focused on crossing the boundaries and learning from each other. The conference was designed to keep it rather small (about 100 participants at the maximum) and to enable more discussion and more participative sessions (see below). I will give more information on the contents in my second blog post on this conference.

Presenting Learning Toolbox in the Bremen Conference

For the Bremen Conference we had prepared a Research Workshop session to avoid the typical impression of ‘talking heads’ in the front and passive listeners in the audience. Therefore, we kept the presentations rather short and then divided the audience into two working groups to discuss the presentations and to have some hands-on exercises. Here some snapshots on the contributions and activities:

Firstly, I gave a quick introduction to the Learning Layers project and to the script of the session. In this context I emphasised the continuity of themes between the participative design of Learning Toolbox (LTB), the functionality that is coming up in the LTB, the capacity building measures initiated in the training centre Bau-ABC and the lessons to be learned from the parallel European project Employ-ID (and its piloting with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Secondly, Werner Müller (ITB) gave a presentation on the co-design process that led to the development of the LTB. He referred to the starting points in the sectoral pilot contexts (construction work not having the reputation of high-tech occupations). Then he gave a picture of the co-design activities, different phases of work and a general characterisation of LTB as a framework for tools and apps linked to each other in mobile devices.

Thirdly, Raymond Elferink (RayCom) gave a live demonstration on the LTB Beta version that we had just presented and tested on our field visit to the training centre Bau-ABC the day before (see my previous blog post). Alongside the general presentation (of the tile structure of the framework and of the process of creating focused stacks) he drew attention to the newly created stacks of the Bau-ABC trainers for their respective trades.

Fourthly, I (as a replacement of Melanie Campbell from Bau-ABC) gave a presentation of their training programs for their staff. This presentation drew attention firstly to the project-initiated training that equipped the Bau-ABC trainers with general know-how on multimedia and web tools and enabled them to produce and edit video material for their training. In the second part the presentation outlined the new training model initiated by the Bau-ABC trainers themaselves. In this new model they tried to ensure a flexible training arrangement that enables all trainers to work their way through parallel “theme rooms” that make them fit to use the LTB in their own training activities.

 Fifthly, Graham Attwell informed of the parallel European project Employ-ID and its work to support professional development and mastery of changes in Public Employment Services (PES). In this context the research & development worked with development of labour market data for guidance and counselling purposes. At the same time the project developed new training models for staff members in PES with limited possibilities to participate in traditional training measures. For this purpose the project developed an adapted version of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with limited participation and limited openness but with similar technologies for online learning. Crucial for this pilot was the emphasis on interactivity and changing roles between trainers and learners. Here, the key point in this report on this recent pilot is to demonstrate the usability of these technologies for well-thought pedagogical pilots that emphasise the use of MOOC platforms as Social Learning Platforms.

After the presentations we split the audience into two working groups. In one group the participants had the opportunity for hands-on tests with the LTB (with Raymond Elferink and Dirk Stieglitz as tutors). In the other group we discussed possible success factors and criteria for acceptance in the above presented training models (of Bau-ABC and Employ-ID). Since we had half an hour for these sub-sessions, the participants could engage themselves in the testing and/or give freely their views on the training models. This was very much appreciated by all parties involved.

I guess this is enough of the main session of the Learning Layers project in this conference. In the next blog post I will give insights into other sessions in the Bremen International VET Conference.

More blogs to come …




Updates from LL fieldwork – bringing Learning Toolbox to users

September 13th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent posts on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project were ‘catching up’ reports just after I finished my holiday period. Now the rapid start has hit us and overwhelmed us with fieldwork events and  successive conferences. With this post I will concentrate on the field visit in Bau-ABC on the 2nd of September and our field tests with the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

Already before the holiday break the LTB developers had promised to provide a Beta version of the LTB by the beginning of September. We were pleased to observe that this promise was kept and that Raymond Elferink was available for presentations and field tests in Bau-ABC on the 2nd of September. With Ray a group of LL partners from ITB and Pontydysgu visited the training sites of several trades to trigger users’ own field tests and to get feedback. After these visits we gave a short presentation to the organisation development group of Bau-ABC.

Our first station was the training site of carpenters (Zimmerer). After a general presentation we discussed the development of tiles and stacks (sets of tiles and pages) for the training activities of Bau-trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) Friedrich Bruns and Markus Pape. Together we developed a test stack that made use of the comprehensive set of instruction materials (pdf-files) that Pape had made available via his Zimmererblog. With the help of LTB we created a test stack that makes thematic pages accessible in due time. The instruction materials are now accessed via Slideshare. In this way the materials can be used in smaller portions and filed in a more transparent way by the apprentices. Also, we discussed the options for managing the reporting of tasks and results of apprentices via LTB. Already at this point we saw some solutions, how to develop the desired interactivity in the first field tests.

Our second station was the training site of well-builders (Brunnenbauer). Here again, after a short general presentation we started to explore, how to make best use of the functionality of LTB without duplicating the work of trainers. The Bau-ABC trainers Lothar Schoka and Thorsten Busch indicated as indicated as a major problem the multitude of bulky instructions and manuals that are not easily accessible. Here, we prepared jointly test stack “Bedienungsanleitungen” in which we provided access to instructions via Slideshare and showed, how they could be grouped in a transparent way. In the same way showed, how the existing instruction videos (mainly uploaded in YouTube and accessible via Facebook updates) can be accessed via LTB tiles and grouped via LTB pages. In this way it became clear that the LTB is not causing duplication of work but opens new user-friendly channels to existing resources.

Our third station was the training site of road-builders and pipeline builders (Strassenbauer, Rohrleitungsbauer). Here we discussed with the Bau-ABC trainer Stefan Wiedenstried the general usability of LTB and in particular the role of instructional videos. Parallel to this some of us continued to make a short presentation for the organisation development group of Bau-ABC at the end of their meeting. Here we were welcomed by the trainer Lothar Schoka who could report of his fresh impressions after our visit. Then, after the meeting we also had good talk with the system administrator Ludwig Heyenga with whom we shared experiences with the technical development of the software solutions of the LL project.

Altogether we were pleased to see that the progress with LTB development was well received and the Bau-ABC trainers saw the value of the emerging product as support for their work. At the same time we saw that there is a lot of work to bring the LTB to a stage of maturity. Therefore, we need to return soon to Bau-ABC to pave the way for the next steps of testing in real life situations.

I think this is enough for the moment. We are looking forward to further updates of LTB and to our next field visits.

More blogs to come …

Catching up with the Learning Layers news – Part Two: Lessons from parallel work in healthcare sector

August 20th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series of “catching up” blogs to report on the newest developments in the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The first post reported on consortium-wide discussions that pave the way for Year Three review and guide R&D activities and fieldwork during the coming times. This second post looks over the fence (or Channel) and reports on some interesting developments in the LL project work in healthcare sector. Here again, I have to start with the exploitation journey poster that was already presented in the consortium meeting in Tallinn (but I missed because of leaving earlier). Yet, I think it is worthwhile to take a second look and consider how the work with exploitation journey and stocktaking on specific issues can support our work with the construction sector partners.

1. Updating the sectoral exploitation journeys (with posters based on common format)

The exploitation journey poster of the LL healthcare sector has been praised by other LL partners time and again. Indeed, the poster has been well structured and uses good visualisations. The thematic blocks are mostly based on an earlier exploitation workshop (the game exercise in the Y3 Design Conference in Espoo). Yet, as I see it now, the poster gives a good overview for further development of the exploitation activities. Here some comments on the thematic blocks:

a) User needs/ working issues: Here we need to address needs, obstacles and possibilities with a focus on construction sites, companies, intermediate training centres and supporting service providers.

b) Products/ Services: Here we also need to formulate value propositions that take into account infrastructural improvements (Layers Box), integrative toolsets (Learning Toolbox), complementary (LL) tools and capacity building (training concepts).

c) First customers/ Future customers: Here we need to take into account multiple layers of partnership and customer relations that are emerging during the project and after the project.

d) The team/ Key partners: Here we need to take into account the differentiation of developmental teams and partnership constellations with different exploitation initiatives.

e) Getting out of the Building (= initial pilot context): Here we also need to give a picture, how the initial pilot activities with construction partners have prepared the ground for successor activities.

f) External resources: Here we need to give an overview on the proposals for external funding that we have prepared and will prepare (and highlight in which way they continue the work of the LL project).

g) Timeline: Here we also need to give a visualised picture of stakeholder/customer engagement, maturing of products/services and milestones in exploitation activities.

(In general, we had similar elements in the exploitation journey posters for construction sector but not in a similar systematic overview. It is clearly helpful for the consortium and for the reviewers to have similar overviews on both pilot sectors.

2. “Mixing and Matching event” – towards integrative toolsets in the healthcare sector

So far the LL field activities in the healthcare sector have been separate pilots with one particular tool in each pilot venue. Now, the most recent exploitation meeting provided the application partners an overview of parallel tools and opened the prospects for integrative pilots (by mixing and matching the parallel tools). As I have understood it, this was well received by the application partners.

As a contrast, the construction sector pilot has been developing an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Yet, with this toolset we also can see our next field tests taking up different tools (other LL tools or third party tools and apps) to be integrated into LTB. Here we have think of ways to spread the use of such tools and share experiences.

Also, in this “Mixing and Matching” event the LL healthcare colleagues made contact with health education network that is known as “Improvement Academy” and works with communities of practice, networks and project. As I have understood it, this encounter has led to further cooperation between the LL project and this network.

Here I see an interesting parallelity between the work of this Improvement Academy and  a recent capacity-building initiative of the training centre Bau-ABC in the construction sector. The Bau-ABC colleagues have developed an internal training model based on “Theme rooms” (virtual and real) to engage their whole training staff with digital media and LL tools. To me, this model looks like a prototype for developing “Improvement Academy” services in the construction sector.

3. UYOS – Use your own solutions (adapted for the Learning Layers project itself)!

Third point that I find interesting in the newest LL healthcare activities is the commitment to use our own LL tools. I her e-mail to other LL partners Tamsin Treasure-Jones indicates that she has several ideas how we can use  LL tools (that have been piloted in the field activities of healthcare sector)  also within the project work. Now she has started with an initiative to use the Confer tool to support the preparation of the Report 5 (on sectoral pilots) for the Year Three review meeting.

Here the role of the Confer tool is

1) to support the gathering of input from different people (= examples on using digital media and LL tools to support work and learning in healthcare sector) and

2) using the process steps of Confer tool as a joint tool in the team that drafts the sectoral draft report for the Year 3 Deliverable.

As I see it, this is a very interesting initiative and it will give new visibility for users’ views. We need to consider in the German construction sector pilot, whether we can develop a similar approach.

I guess this is enough for the moment – both regarding lessons from the healthcare and the ‘catching up’ posts on newest developments in our project altogether. Now it is time for us to take further steps.

More blogs to come …




Catching up with the Learning Layers news – Part One: Working with the Story of Year 3

August 20th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My latest post on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project was written just when I started my summer holidays. This year the holidays in North Germany (and in our application partner organisations) started relatively early. Therefore, when I/we were already on holidays, there was this and that happening at the consortium level and in other fields of work (in particular in the healthcare sector in UK). Therefore, it is appropriate to do some stock-taking to make sure that our fieldwork is fits in the plans of the consortium and takes into account the progress in the healthcare sector. With this post I try to summarise the recent discussions at the consortium level – mainly on the preparation for the Year Three review and the implications for our fieldwork. In the next post I will have a look at the recent progress of the LL work in the healthcare sector.

The first steps of the recent discussions were already taken in the Consortium meeting in Tallinn (in June 2015, see my earlier blogs). Already there we agreed that we should try to make our contributions for the Year Three review meeting more coherent. The plan was to put integrated stories of LL work in both pilot sectors (healthcare and construction sectors) into the centre. In a similar way we should make visible the progress in tool development and implementation with integrated demonstrations (linked to the stories). Parallel to this we should reduce the number of deliverables into five thematic reports (and indicate, how the work of eight work packages is represented in them).

During the summer meetings these plans have been developed further and they have some implications for the tool development and fieldwork in the construction sector:

1) Concerning integration of technologies we have the challenge to show how the infrastructural solution (“Layers box”) and the integrative tool set (“Learning toolbox” – LTB) can be implemented in application partner organisations (such as the training centre Bau-ABC and the Agentur).

2) Concerning the integration of tools we have the challenge show, how the integrative tools set (LTB) enables us to use different LL tools and apps (and third party apps) in working and learning contexts (such as the Bau-ABC training projects).

3) Concerning the context-specific use of tools we have the challenge to make progress with trainers and learners so that they are able to create their own LTB-stacks to guide and implement training projects.

4) Concerning capacity building we have the challenge to make progress in implementing the Bau-ABC training model (the “Theme rooms”) that caters for organisation-wide engagement of staff to become well-informed and active users of LL tools in their work.

5) Concerning evaluation activities we have the challenge to arrange the collection of real-time evaluation data and reflection on the processes during an intensive field test phase.

Obviously, we have all agreed on the general direction and there has been progress along these lines both at the level of tool development and in user engagement. Yet, we can see that there are technical issues, coordination issues and time constraints that we need to take into account when we start working with the field activities. But, knowing what has already been achieved, gives us a good starting position.

I guess this is enough on this topic. In my next post I will look at the progress in the healthcare sector.

More blogs to come …


Getting into hands-on testing with the Learning Toolbox (LTB)

July 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent posts I reported on the Tallinn meeting of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. My general impression was that we made good progress in many respects. Shortly after the meeting this was confirmed when our software developers invited us to hands-on testing with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). As usual, the software that is released for first testing is not quite mature and there are all kinds of minor details to be settled before it can be rolled out to wider use. Yet, the crucial step has been taken and we are now working as users of the software.

To me it was important to get access to the tile store and to the process of creating new test stacks that arise from our fieldwork. Together with my ITB-colleague Werner Müller I had a joint session in which we scanned through our earlier working documents to see, how we can use that material. We wrote several feature requests (as cards on Trello board) to push some ideas into the next development sprint. Parallel to this we selected a topic for a test stack could serve as an ‘appetizer’ for other testers. After a brief tutorial session guided by our colleague Edwin Veenendaal (from our LL partner RayCom) we made the step forward.

The new test stack “Klarkommen im Bau-ABC” has three screens, each of them containing several tiles. The opening screen has three document screens – “Basic information”, “Daily Menu” and “The Map of Bau-ABC” (the two latter ones giving web links to the respective information on Bau-ABC website). In addition, there is an RSS tile (that picks the news from the platform) and a navigator tile (that guides the user further). The second screen presents videos from Bau-ABC – the general overview and two LL videos that present the use of LTB in apprentices’ projects and in work situations. In addition, there is a tile for picking separate apps and the navigator tile to move on. The third screen focuses  on the theme Health & Safety (Arbeits- und Gesundheitsschutz). The content tile holds the place for basic information. The LL video addresses the issue in the training of Bau-ABC. The tile “First aid” holds the place for important information to be accessed in emergency situations. And the navigator guides us back to start.

Altogether, the making of a test stack was not a very demanding exercise. And with this limited number of screens and tiles or linked documents, embeds and linked apps we did not conquer new contents. Yet, it is impressive to view the newly created stack from the mobile application (either using mobile phone or tablet). It is very rewarding to see that it works and that other users can also enter with their test stacks. Just before the summer break this gives a feeling that we can make good progress with LTB after the holidays.

I think this is enough for the moment. I have already started my holiday period, but I wanted to share this experience before switching off. I hope that some of you can join us as testers of the LTB.  I assume that my LL-colleagues Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) and Raymond Elferink (RayCom) are ready to give more information.

More blogs to come (after the holidays) …


Results & Conclusions of our Tallinn meeting – Part Three: The 2nd session on construction pilot

June 26th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest posts I started a series to report on the Tallinn meeting of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In that first post I gave a picture of the preparation day. In the second posts I gave an overview on the inputs for the 1st session on construction sector pilot. These inputs were contributing to a picture on ‘integrated learning arrangements’. In this post I will continue with a report on our discussions on ‘technical integration’.

Since we had already had the initially scheduled  online demonstration on the functioning of Learning Toolbox (LTB) we dedicated this session on the relations between LTB and ‘complementary’ LL tools that had been presented in the preparatory meeting or during the healthcare sessions. Below I try to give a nutshell of our discussions and conclusions on different tools or apps brought into discussion.

1. ‘AchSo!’ video annotation tool

We started by emphasising the importance of video material and video annotations in the context of the training projects of Bau-ABC. We reminded of the twofold approach – videos to support training (reference videos, produced in advance under the supervision of trainers) and videos documenting learning (produced by apprentices during theproject to document phases of work and learning results). We had a lot of discussion on producing AchSo! for different operating systems (Android, iOS) and on the the functioning of AchSo! on different devices. The colleagues in Aalto agreed to produce a stable version of AchSo! (Android) by the 1st of October and to develop an iOS-version based on it by the Y3 review meeting. The colleagues from Bau-ABC volunteered to purchase Android tablets for trainers who would start using AchSo! with their videos before the iOS version is available.

2. ‘Bits and Pieces’ and ‘KnowBrain’ as collectors of experiences

Concerning ‘Bits and Pieces’ we emphasised the need to develop tools that help workplace learners to collect their learning experiences alongside/based on workplace learning. Here, we noted the contradiction that ‘Bits and Pieces’ has been developed primarily for medical/nursing staff working at GP practices. Therefore, the software (for stationary PCs) needs a lot of space and the migration to mobile devices is not easy. Given this hurdle, the general conclusion was that LTB could take some components of Bits and Pieces and create respective tiles. Parallel to this, some functions of the KnowBrain application could be developed for Learning Logs. (Here we need more discussions before making commitments to particular milestones.)

3. ‘Confer’ tool for help seeking

With the ‘Confer’ tool (earlier called ‘Help seeking’) we took the point (that was already raised in the healthcare session) that it could help us to make transparent our complex development and piloting processes, like the recent initiatives with the LTB. (Here the point is to use our own tools to support our development processes – ‘to take our own medicine ourselves’.) RayCom agreed to take the development of this tool into the next sprint. We agreed on the same milestone as with AchSo! (the 1st of October) for a stable version.

4. ‘Locations’ app in making

Here we continued our discussion on the basis of the input of Adolfo and the TLU study group. RayCom confirmed that the LTB has already been equipped with several functions that can work with the sensors and use the app to be developed. Yet, there is a need to clarify the responsibilities and the resources needed. Graham Attwell emphasised that the issue of ‘locations’ raises higher level questions on interpreting ‘contexts’ – for this purpose we need to revisit the work of Sebastian Dennerlein for mapping different contexts in the construction pilot (for software development purposes).

5. Social Augmented Reality apps in making

For this part of the meeting Jana Pejoska (Aalto) arranged a short demonstration with Social Augmented Reality (SAR) using the vision sharing function with a colleague in Helsinki and making interactive use of marks on the screen. (Based on this demonstration, Melanie Campbell and trainer Marc Schütte provided later on a use case of the driver of excavator (or other construction vehicle) using augmented reality to get a better impression of the dimensions of the vehicle when driving it.) Here we noted that the current version is available on the web. There is a need of further development work for a mobile device. Yet, already at this stage it is essential to make arrangements for a working visit from Aalto to Bau-ABC to start testing with SAR during the September month.

Altogether, we could agree in a plenary session on several working perspectives and milestones regarding the enrichment of the Learning Toolbox.

At this point I had to leave the meeting due to private commitments. I am trying to catch up with the colleagues regarding the key points and conclusions of the remaining sessions. In particular I am interested to learn more on the work with the exploitation journeys and on the conclusions for joint exploitation plans. Let us see, if I can get my impressions on a further blog post – or if someone else does it for me on another blog.

More blogs to come …


Results & Conclusions of our Tallinn meeting – Part Two: The 1st session on construction pilot

June 26th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest post I started a series to report on the Tallinn meeting of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In that first post I gave a picture of our productive preparation day (Tuesday 16th of June). In the two further posts I will focus on  our consortium meeting with an emphasis on the construction sector pilot. For the sake of completion I need to mention that we had firstly some general sessions that tuned us into the key issues. Yet, the highlights of the meeting to me were the consecutive sessions on ‘integrated learning arrangements’ (healthcare, construction) and ‘technical integration’ (healthcare, construction). In this blog post I have chosen to cover the first session on the construction sector pilot.

Presentations on the construction sector pilot and on the Learning Toolbox

Our original plan was to give the main emphasis on the use of Learning Toolbox in the Bau-ABC training projects and to highlight different ways in which both trainers and apprentices can be involved. We assumed that the basic ideas of Learning Toolbox had become familiar to the partners during the previous meetings. We also assumed that it would be better to have an up-to-date demonstration on the functioning of the Learning Toolbox later in the second session that focuses on ‘technical integration’. As it often happens, we had to modify these plans during the sessions.

In the beginning we had firstly a guest input by Adolfo Ruiz and the student group of TLU who presented shortly the application on “Locations” that we had discussed during the preparation day (see my previous blog). The quick input and brief discussion showed us that we can easily work with applications that can be adjusted to the training workshops (or outdoor training areas) of Bau-ABC and raise questions that are relevant for working and learning projects.

This was followed by a quick update message by Edwin Veendendaal (RayCom) on the technical development of the Learning Toolbox. In his message he linked to the presentation of Petru Nicolaescu (RWTH) on the technical development of the Layers Box (installation package for users). Both these reports gave us an impression that the LL project is making good progress in overcoming the technical hurdles that had bothered us for some time.

Our (ITB and Bau-ABC) main contributions in this session were the power points with which we illustrated implementation of training projects in the apprentice training of Bau-ABC and how the use of LTB and digital media can be integrated into such projects. Our examplary cases brought different issues into discussion. The first case was the road-builders’ project on constructing a barrier-free (hindrance-free) parking place for vehicles transporting users of wheelchairs. With this example we drew attention to different phases of self-organised project work of the apprentices (and possible points of intervention). The second example – building old-timer staircases with unique (not standardised) scaffolding – demonstrated the possibility to use LTB and digital media as means to conserved older construction techniques that are no longer present in up-to-date handbooks and learning materials. In addition to these examples Melanie Campbell (Bau-ABC) presented her visualisation on the work process and on the use of LTB during a four-day project (with the peak points in the beginning and and completion phase and in the reflection phase after the project).

Once we had presented these inputs we noticed that some colleagues had many questions that required a better insight into the idea of Learning Toolbox and into its current phase. Therefore, Edwin Veendendaal and Raymond Elferink (RayCom) agreed to give their online presentation on the functioning  of Learning Toolbox already in this session. They guided us through the opening menu, to the structure of stacks and tiles and to the process of making new stacks (for bundling different kind of contents) and new tiles (for certain type of contents). In this way we completed the picture on the uses of LTB and how the current design tries to respond to users’ needs.

Altogether, we got an overview on the Learning Toolbox in the kind of shape in which we want to start the first field pilots. And at the same time we invited other partners to think what they could propose for us as complementary tools and applications. This discussion was scheduled for the ‘technical integration’ session that is covered in the next post.

More blogs to come …


Results & Conclusions of our Tallinn meeting – Part One: The preparation day

June 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In one of my previous posts (June 13th, 2015) I wrote about our preparation for the forthcoming Tallinn meeting of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now, with this series of blog posts, it is time to wrap up results and conclusions of our busy days in Tallinn. In this first post I will focus on our work during the preparation day (Tuesday 16th of June). In the next post I will focus on the sessions that focused on the construction sector pilot.

Due to favourable flight schedules the LL partners from North Germany (ITB and Bau-ABC) had decided to take flights to Tallinn already on Monday (15th of June) and to dedicate the whole Tuesday for a preparatory meeting. In the first partof the meeting we were working mainly with our ‘local issues’ with the ongoing construction sector pilot and on the exploitation issues (using German as common working language). Partly we were working together with our partners from Aalto University and Tallinn University. In these parts of the meeting  we explored the possibilities to enrich our pilot activities with complementary tools and apps (in particular AchSo! and Social Augmented Reality). Below, I try to give an overview on the two parts (and different ingredients) of our meeting and on the interim conclusions we reached at that stage.

 1. Discussions on our North German construction pilots

The most important input to this part of the meeting was Melanie Campbell’s report on their follow-up of the Training Day in Bau-ABC (see my earlier posts May 12th, 2015 and May 15th, 2015). After discussing our reports on the workshop sessions during the Training Day the Bau-ABC trainers firstly confirmed the results and conclusions. Thus, the picture we had got from the domain-specific training projects and on the use of digital media and Learning Toolbox seemed to them appropriate (see below the exemplary cases we prepared for the consortium meeting).

However, this discussion brought the Bau-ABC trainers to give some deeper thoughts on the needs for Multimedia Training that is needed, when the use of Learning Toolbox (with mobile technologies, digital media and web resources) will become everyday life practice in Bau-ABC. The trainers came to conclusion that they need to take more intensive measures to support Multimedia Training (and further capacity building) jointly. Here some of the main conclusions:

  • After the holiday break participation in Multimedia Training will be made mandatory for all Bau-ABC trainers and the trainers consider it as an essential part of their duties.
  • To enable flexible participation, the Multimedia Training will take place in (physical and virtual) ‘theme rooms/spaces’ (Themenräume). These rooms/spaces will be available for users for the time they require for individual familiarisation and mutual support. Once the users have ‘checked out’ from the rooms/spaces, they will populated by other themes (and the previous ones will be archived). In this way the Multimedia Training program is based on rotating between parallel/consecutive theme rooms/spaces.
  • The initial set of themes proposed by the Bau-ABC trainers are the following ones: Theme 1 – use of social media (facebook + word press/ buddy press platforms), Theme 2 – making use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) (stack-building, app-integration), Theme 3 – Creating learning material (video, pictures, drawings, quiz, comics …), Theme 4 – Data management (Data protection/ security, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Creative Commons. (This thematic block might require a constant room/ space throughout the Multimedia Training program.)

In addition to this initiative we discussed several practical issues on the implementation of such program with the support of internal facilitators and external support persons. We also discussed the requirements on infrastructure, software and supporting materials. (Here we took note of the existing material of TACCLE and TACCLE2 projects.)

In the light of this report we discussed, how to present some domain-specific training projects that can illustrate the use of  LTB by trainers and/or apprentices. Here we agreed on two exemplary cases: Building a parking place without barriers (for disabled people using wheelchairs) and Building a staircase (Brettschalung/Treppenbau). Here we noted, how the trainers differentiate between the preparation of multimedia contents for the training projects (in advance and as a specific task) and producing multimedia content as documentation of learning processes (during the implementation of the training projects). We also drew an illustrative picture of the estimated use of LTB by apprentices during an average training project (timeline with peak points in the beginning, by the end and after the completion of the project).

With these discussion we equipped ourselves for our contributions on the use of LTB in integrated learning arrangements (scheduled for Wednesday, 17th of June).

2. Discussions on enriching the Learning Toolbox (LTB) with complementary tools and apps

In the second part(s) of the meeting we discussed the contributions of different complementary tools and apps (hitherto developed separately) as enrichment of the LTB (in particular in the construction sector):

  • Adolfo Ruiz Tallinn University (TLU) presented firstly a design of ‘Locations’ by a group of Bachelor students of TLU. Their design was based on the placement of sensors (iBeacons) in different parts of a larger room. When people with smartphones moved around the room, the sensors recognised their devices and posed sets of questions to be answered. In this design the participants were expected to complete all sets of questions by moving around the room. In this way they participated in a competition. For the construction sector this relatively simple idea was attractive because it seemed to provide the techniques, how to support the preparation of working and learning assignments (or projects) in training workshops. Moreover, the fact that the sensors were communicating with a WordPress platform was even more interesting since Bau-ABC has started working with their domain-specific blogs using the platform (powered by WordPress).
  • The colleagues from Aalto University (Jukka Purma, Marjo Virnes and Samuli Vainio) gave us inputs on the video annotation tool AchSo! and on the current pilots. We had already had several initial demonstrations of AchSo! working in simulated contexts and in review meetings, so we were keen to hear more on pilot testing in construction work, engineering studies and in healthcare studies. The colleagues informed us about clear achievements in documenting the learning processes and making the workplace learning process transparent for reflection after the event. Also, the possibility to annotate pictures and moving pictures with limited amount of text (or symbols) was welcomed. For the construction sector we raised the importance of using longer videos as raw material. Here, Mati Möttus (TLU) reported of his parallel tests of AchSo in the context of traffic surveillance (and with few ‘disturbing’ or ‘alerting’ incidents to be annotated and searched via tags or symbols. Also in this context we started a discussion on the prospects for developing AchSo both for Android and iOS operating systems.
  • The colleagues from Aalto University (mainly Jana Pejoska and Jukka Purma) gave inputs on the current phase of work with Social Augmented Reality (SAR). Since we had to skip the technical demonstration, we had very few impressions but we got a rough idea of the extended illustrations beyond the reach of traditional tools. (Later on Melanie Campbell and trainer Marc Schütte provided us a perfect case of the driver of excavator (or other construction vehicle) using augmented reality to get a better impression of the dimensions of the vehicle when transporting it.) With this discussion we agreed to explore the possibilities to pilot with SAR in Bau-ABC alongside LTB (and preferably with AchSo).

With these additional inputs we drew a picture of the current situation in developing LTB and our interpretation, how the complementary tools could be integrated (and who should be involved in the integration).

Altogether, we were happy that we had this opportunity for preparatory discussions with LL partners presenting complementary tools and finding common interests for further cooperation. With these interim results we were ready for discussing the bigger picture of integrated learning arrangements (in the construction pilots) and technical integration (of tools to be used in construction sector) in the actual consortium meeting. This will be discussed in the next post.

More blogs to come …


Getting ready for the Learning Layers project meeting in Tallinn

June 13th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Next week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project will have a project consortium meeting – once again in Tallinn. Last September we were already there and made plans for the autumn and spring months. Now we are coming back with the awareness that we have made slower progress than we had hoped. Yet, having had a period of technical difficulties (and delayed field pilots) in between, we are looking forward to the next steps. In this respect we (the North-German team working with Bau-ABC) are happy that we have started to prepare the forthcoming pilot activities. So, let us have a look, how we have made ourselves ready for the Tallinn talks.

 1. Working with training projects to produce video material and to use Learning Toolbox

During the Training Day (11th of May) workshops in Bau-ABC we collected examples of Bau-ABC training projects that could be used as pilot cases for testing the Learning Toolbox (LTB). We shared the reports on these workshops with Bau-ABC trainers and prepared power point presentations (in English) for further discussions. Now we want to get deeper to the ideas of using video material to promote training and learning processes. And furthermore, we want to find out, what difference the Learning Toolbox can make in this context.

 2. Preparing visualisations of our “Exploitation journeys” with recent funding bids

From the beginning of the year 2015 ITB and Bau-ABC have participated jointly in several funding bids to acquire funding for exploitation of the results of LL project. Most of these have been pre-proposals that have been submitted to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany (BMBF). And as we perceived it, the calls were published one after another and didn’t always give so much time for preparing the pre-proposals. Parallel to this we (ITB and Bau-ABC) have participated in a wider consortium that has prepared a pre-proposal for the German Ministry of Economy (BMWi). This funding would enable the successful consortia to submit multiple project proposals that support each other.  So far these opportunities have been seized in the national context (and most of the calls have mainly focused on German applicants), so there has been less chance to share knowledge and ideas. Now, in the Tallinn meeting we will have an Exploitation session for which we have prepared posters (and support documents) that make our Exploitation journeys transparent to other partners. We are looking forward to learning from each others’ efforts and to supporting each other with the next steps.

3. Learning from the development of other Learning Layers tools

One point of interest in our preparation for the consortium meeting is that we (ITB and Bau-ABC participants) have a joint meeting with our Finnish partners  from Aalto University (and eventually other participants joining us). In the first part of this meeting the ITB and Bau-ABC will work further with our LTB pilot plans and the Exploitation journeys. In the second part we will have the chance to share our plans with others and to learn from the Finnish partners’ work with the AchSo! tool and Social Augmented Reality (SAR). And our colleagues in Tallinn have volunteered to present some further ideas on tools that are being developed.

For all the above mentioned themes we have created a shared Google Drive folder that contains some advance materials: (I am happy to see that our Healthcare colleagues have also shared their poster via this folder.)

I think this is enough of our preparation. We are looking forward to doing some work with our LL colleagues in Tallinn.

More blogs to come …


Training Day in Bau-ABC – Part Two: How to work with the Learning Toolbox?

May 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

This post continues the reports on the recent highlight event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its construction sector pilot in North Germany – the Training Days of the training centre Bau-ABC (that took place on Monday and Tuesday this week). On Monday the LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu organised three workshop sessions to present the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to plan further pilot activities with LTB in Bau-ABC. In my previous post I gave an overview on the event as such and on our contributions. In this post I will focus on the issues that were raised and on the results of different sessions and working groups.

1. General issues to be taken into account

Already after the general presentations we were confronted by several issues that we need to consider when preparing the actual pilot activities with LTB to be used with mobile devices:

  • Officially the use of mobile phones is prohibited in the training centres – mainly because the use of them is perceived as distraction. When using their smartphones, the apprentices seem to have their attention elsewhere than in their working and learning tasks. Even if the trainers can see that these devices can be used to support work and learning, there is a need to get others convinced.
  • Use of mobile devices is often a safety risk in traffic and in working life – therefore, many companies have prohibited the use of mobile devices at construction sites (or allowed only the site manager/ supervisor to use one). These issues need to be reflected in the code of conduct for users.
  • Video recordings from working and training contexts need to pay attention to specific sensitivity issues – are these recordings documenting good or bad practice, is the behaviour of the people appropriate, are the videos showing something that is confidential … These issues need to be reflected in the code of conduct for users.
  • From the pedagogic point of view use of multimedia and web can support different types of learning behaviour: a) It can lead to ‘light learning’ that uses quick searches and quick documenting solutions that seem to give appropriate answers (without paving the way to adequate understanding of the problems and the solutions). b) Or it can lead to ‘smart learning’ in which digital media and web resources are used as illustrations that give insights into problems, solutions and understanding of appropriate practice.

These introductory discussions brought us (once again) to the picture that the use of mobile devices, digital media and web resources has to be introduced in a work- and context-adjusted way.

2. The first workshop on initial training: picking exemplary themes for particular occupations

In the first workshop session we had groups that represented the following occupations/occupational fields: concrete builders (one group), carpenters and indoor builders (one group), road builders and pipeline builders (one group). Each of these groups had as their starting point a specific project for apprentices in the respective occupation. The trainers were looking for ways to introduce Learning Toolbox into the project work. In this session the groups had somewhat different concerns and interests:

a) The group of concrete builders (Betonbauer) was concerned of the lack of written instructions for older techniques to build frames for concrete constructs. Currently, most of the frames for concrete builders are standardised and often pre-fabricated. Thus, the transfer of craftsmen’s know-how on building special-shaped frames is not supported by up-to-date learning materials. This could be compensated by video recordings that are edited into digital learning materials.

b) The group of carpenters (Zimmerer) listed several points in which the use of digital media and access to web were found useful, starting form general health and safety instructions, access to drawings, QR codes referring to appropriate tools, Barcode scanner that refers to materials, tools for documentation of learning achievements.

c) The group of road builders and pipeline builders (Strassenbauer, Rohrleitungsbauer) discussed the possibilities to link drawings, photos and DIN norms to each other, creative ways to introduce technical terminology, creative ways to control learning gains and smart ways to use videos for presenting essential ‘tricks of the trade’.

As a common point of interest the groups of the first workshop session drew attention to differentiated communication channels (messages to all vs. bilateral communication between apprentice and trainer), collecting examples of good practice to be presented to all and on differentiated ways to document learning progress at different stages of apprentice training.

3. The second workshop on initial training: developing core themes for groups of occupations

In the second workshop session the parallel groups consisted of mutually linked occupations or occupational fields and the participants had selected integrative ‘core projects’ in which they explored the use of digital media and web resources:

d) The group of well-builders and tunnel-builders (Brunnenbauer, Spezialtiefbauer) had chosen a project task on disassembling, maintenance & testing and assembling of pumps used in their trades. Here the discussion focused on the uses of digital media to visualize the processes, to draw attention to key concepts and to safety precautions. Here, a critical issue was, how to guide the work with video recording so that the documents are appropriate for the project and for the apprentices’ learning processes.

e) The group representing occupations in metal and machine techniques (Metall- und Maschinentechnik, Baugerätetechnik) had also selected a project that drew attention to the core knowledge of all these occupations – producing a threaded plate according to technical drawing (Herstellen einer Gewindeplatte gemäß Zeichnung). The group discussed different phases of the project and then drew attention to points of intervention with digital media and web tools (e.g. digital access to references, producing user-generated learning contents with apprentices, using QR-codes to demonstrate health and safety risks and using digital tools and apps to simulate use of real tools plus to discuss quality criteria and tolerances).

f) The group of road-builders, bricklayers and plasterers (Strassenbauer, Maurer, Fliesenleger) had also selected an integrative project – building a parking place for vehicles transporting disabled people (Behindertenparkplatz). Here the discussion focused on the special challenges of such task (e.g. search for information on the requirements, making the scattered information accessible for the groups of construction workers, using special techniques for constructing adequate slopes and surfaces, documentation of the work and simulation of the final inspection and acceptance of the work by public authorities).

Here, the groups focused on integrating the use of digital media and web resources into the logic of the selected projects.

4. The workshop on continuing training: identifying uses for LTB and other tools/apps promoted by LL project

The final workshop focused on the usability of the Learning Toolbox and other LL tools in the continuing training schemes. Here, the basic problem was that we could not rely on similar projects as in the initial training. Secondly, we were still demonstrating tools that were not yet finalised. And thirdly, most of the participants were only getting familiarised with the LL project on the whole. Finally, we were discussing issues that can partly be implemented as spin-offs and by-effects of the LL project work in the initial training, but partly require major spin-out activities.  Yet, given these limitations the participants could make several points for further discussion alongside the pilot activities in apprentice training.

5. Next steps to be taken

I think this is as much as I can say about the workshops and on the way the prepared us for working with the Learning Toolbox. We saw (once again) that the trainers are willing to start working with it. We also noticed, that we (the accompanying LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu) need to join them when the domain-specific piloting with LTB applications will start. There are several technical, practical and pedagogic issues coming up in that phase. So, we are looking forward to a new collaborative phase in the fieldwork with Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

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