Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

Bremen talks on young refugees’ access to training and labour market – Part One: The event and the Bremen study

February 13th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the recent times my blogs on this site have focused almost exclusively on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I will shift the emphasis to a major issue that we are discussing in the Bremen region: Measures to support the reception and integration of refugees. In particular Bremen is struggling with a large number of unaccompanied young people (under 18 years). On Thursday I attended with several other ITB colleagues a public event that brought into discussion a new study from Bremen, an ongoing model project in Bavaria and several views of stakeholders (from different organisations). In the first post I will give some background information and present insights int the Bremen study. In the second post I will give insights into the model project in Bavaria and highlight some key points of the discussion.

1. The background of the event

One of the specific institutions of the Hanseatic City of Bremen is the Chamber of salaried employees (Arbeitnehmerkammer). This is a public body and all salaried employees in Bremen are also members of the chamber. This is a similar arrangement as is the case with Chambers of Commerce or with Chambers of Craft and Trade (which comprise all the enterprises in their respective domains). Given this co-existence of public representative bodies, they have developed several forms of practical cooperation with different societal issues. Also, they have a tradition to contribute to each others’ events.

From the year 2015  on (when the amount of refugees coming to Bremen grew rapidly) the Arbeitnehmerkammer has taken several initiatives to get information on refugees’ situation, to facilitate cooperation between different support organisations and to promote public discusssion on necessary policy measures. In this context the Arbeitnehmerkammer had initiated with the research institute of the University of Bremen for Work and Economy (Institut für Arbeit und Wirtschaft) a special study on the prospects of young refugees to enter training and labour market in Bremen. This event was called to

  • make public the main results of the study,
  • make comparisons to an ongoing model project in Bavaria and to
  • promote public discussion between  different stakeholders who engage themselves with problems of young refugees.

2. Insights into the study on young refugees in Bremen

In the first part of the event the author of the Bremen study, René Böhme gave a comprehensive overview on the context, design and results of the study. Here I will not try to reflect its richness. Instead, I try to draw attention to some points that were of vital importance for the discussion:

 a) Concerning the amount of refugees arrived in Bremen: Whilst in 2014 the number of refugees was slightly over 2000, in 2015 it was over 10.000. In addition, the number of unaccompanied young refugees was in 2014 ca. 500, whilst in 2015 it was over 2500.

b) Concerning attitudes of employees: In general, employees are ready to receive refugees (given the shortage of skilled workforce) and to make extra efforts to support their training and integration into working life. Yet, they are aware of problems and risks (e.g. of high drop-out rates).

c) Concerning efforts to overcome formal hurdles: Preconditions for flexible and supported entry to training (e.g. via pre-vocational measures) have already been created. Yet, they alone do not guarantee successful completion of training.

d) Concerning parallel support measures and initiatives: At the moment the services and initiatives have been brought into picture in rapid tempo and separately by different actors. Therefore, they appear as uncoordinated patchwork of activities. However, as such they are not merely limited to educational and career guidance but cover also everyday life problems.

In the light of the above the study drew attention to the following needs:

  • to make the formal frameworks more flexible at Federal level,
  • to improve the pre-vocational learning opportunities in vocational school (with linked career guidance and counselling)
  • to improve the cooperation of public authorities, companies and service providers to create a coherent support system for refugee-trainees and -apprentices,
  • to strengthen complementary support  and mentoring networks to support overall integration into society and everyday life.

I think this is enough of the background of the event and of the Bremen study that was presented as a basis for joint situation assessment. In the next post it is appropriate to present the Bavarian model project and some insights into the discussion.

More blogs to come …

 

LL Consortium meeting in Innsbruck – Part Two: Working forward in the meeting

February 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its consortium meeting in Innsbruck.  In the previous post I discussed the ‘warm-up’ event that the hosts organised with representatives of Austrian clusters and networks. In this post I discuss the work in the meeting and the general results. In the final post I will discuss the  results of exploitation sessions (from the perspective of construction pilot).

In a similar way as I did when reporting on the preparation, I will try to capture the main thematic blocks and the essentials of the conversations and conclusions:

1) Overview of the current phase of the project – working perspective: In his opening presentation the scientific coordinator Tobias Ley (TLU) restated the approach to present the results of the final year in one single package – with the emphasis to support the exploitation activities. This approach was reconfirmed by the partners.

2) Further development of the DevOps-Use model: Ralf Klamma (RWTH) presented an updated picture on the DevOps-Use model and how it has been introduced into the LL project. As the newest development he reported on the Community Application Editor (CAE) as a further support for dialogue between users and developers. Here again, the plan to produce a conceptually based overview on design-based research and design patterns in the LL project was restated.

3) Production of ‘training materials’ and dissemination materials: Pablo Franzolini (CIMNE) gave a brief presentation on this topic. He drew attention to the work that had already started with the healthcare pilot and the tools/combinations of tools that are used. Currently, this work has resulted in a relatively wide set of “Frequently Asked Questions” videos with short duration. Whilst this work was appreciated, we concluded that there is a need to coordinate the efforts to produce such materials and more content-related promotion videos. A working group was set up to prepare a proposal for producing “Layers OER” materials (and to address the orientation to OER in the follow-up phase).

4) Documentation of project achievements with “scorecards”: TLU had prepared a short workshop session to test the draft ‘scorecards’ by filling them with exemplary project activities. In the first phase we described the situation before the LL project, the intervention of the LL project and (inasmuch as it was possible) the situation after the intervention. In the second phase we used coloured cards to specify different aspects of the impact. This exercise helped us to get a common understanding on the kinds of activities to be reported and on the kind of impact to be stated. (TLU will follow this up.)

 5) Deployment of LTB and related evaluation measures: In a set of group sessions we had the chance to discuss the technical development of LTB and plan the deployment and evaluation measures.

5a) Technical development of LTB: The developers had presented a working document that highlighted the following points: a) addressing the stacks to groups of users, b) creating a  stack file system (SFS), c) content creation and sharing with the help of SFS, d) enabling bottom-up communication via chat channel. The users reported on improvements that are needed in the navigation and in the instructions. In this conversation we reached an agree of the necessary measures to be taken by the end of February.

5b) Deployment and evaluation measures: Based on these conclusions we could reach agreements on the introduction of LTB for training purposes and on a synchronised start of evaluation measures. We identified primary pilot groups from the trades of carpenters and well-builders and agreed on a timeline for kick-off workshop (with tool introduction and focus group), interim workshop and concluding workshop. We also agreed on the accompanying communication and feedback. (The detailed results were summarised by the powerpoints of the UIBK colleagues).

6) The exploitation measures: During the first afternoon we had a general introduction to the exploitation model (see my earlier blog on the preparation of this meeting). We also got an explanation, what role a jointly prepared and agreed ‘exploitation manifesto’ can play as a working agreement. We also were briefed of the IPR issues to be clarified. With this preparation the partners were invited to present their exploitation plans and/or intentions. During these presentations we were asked to list our wishes to have bilateral talks (persons, topics). On the second day a special time slot was reserved for these talks. (During this session there was a fire alarm and all people were evacuated outside. As we were well prepared, we could continue our bilateral talks there as well.)

I stop my reporting on the meeting here because I (and my colleagues from ITB and Bau-ABC) couldn’t attend on the last day. Thus, I have missed the wrap-up of the exploitation sessions and the discussion on the exploitation manifesto. We will have an opportunity to catch up very soon. Therefore, in the final post of this series I will focus on the exploitation plans/initiatives of the construction sector partners.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

LL Consortium meeting in Innsbruck – Part One: Event with Austrian clusters

February 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its consortium meeting in Innsbruck. Before the project meeting the hosts from UIBK had arranged a special event to present LL tools for guests from Austrian clusters and networks. In this first post I will focus on this ‘warm-up’ event. In the subsequent posts I will discuss the general results of the meeting and the specific results of exploitation sessions (from the perspective of construction pilot).

The event and the setup

As indicated above, the hosts from UIBK had prepared a stakeholder event to present the LL toolsets and services (work in progress). The participants represented Standortagentur Tirol (a Tyrolean cluster organisation, Ausbilderforum Tirol (a Tyrolean forum of trainers in vocational education and training (VET)) and vocational teacher education programs from Pädagogische Hochschule Tirol and University of Innsbruck (Wirtschaftspädagogik). The meeting room was arranged as four round tables and the event was organised as a ‘world café’. Firstly Ronald Maier gave a brief introduction into the LL project and into the tools/toolsets to be presented. In each table the participants got a 10-15 minutes presentation to one LL tool/toolset.  Then the groups switched clockwise and got another presentation. In this way the following tools/toolsets were presented: “Bits and Pieces” (by Sebastian Dennerlein), “Learning Toolbox” (by Gilbert Peffer), “Living Documents” (by Christina Sarigianni) and “AchSo!” (by Markus Manhart).

The Learning Toolbox table

For me and the colleagues from Bau-ABC (Melanie Campbell and Kerstin Engraf) it was a natural choice to join Gilbert in presenting the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In these presentations we could give an overview of the LTB as a mobile framework and as an integrative toolset. We were happy to present fresh insights into the mobile app, into the tilestore and into the contexts of deployment in Bau-ABC. From the participants we got questions regarding the use of LTB in training and in work processes as well as use of LTB in a personal learning environment.We were happy to discuss the development so far and the potentials that we see in the LTB (but made the point that phase of deployment is yet to come). Our counterparts were happy with this information and expressed their interest to learn more in the coming times. At the same time Ludger Deitmer completed the whole round of topic tables and got an update on all tools/toolsets as they stand now.

The event did not last too long (approximately 90 minutes) and the time was effectively used in the groups. As was deeply engaged in talks in our table, I only have a vague idea on the discussions in parallel tables. Yet, my impression is that we altogether could give informative and interesting presentations. The participants were clearly interested and congratulated the project for a good event. We could happily recommend the organisers of the next consortium meeting to prepare a similar ‘warm-up’ event as well.

More blogs to come …

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 4: Working with the LL exploitation model

January 22nd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous blogs I wrote a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported on the meetings of the ‘local’ LL teams of ITB, Pont, and Bau-ABC (in Bremen and Rostrup). In the third post summarised a video conference that discussed a set of themes for our next consortium meeting in Innsbruck (2.2.-5.2.2016). In this fourth post I report on the video conference of the ITB team with our LL colleagues Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink on the Exploitation model for the LL project.

In my previous blog I had already given the following characterisation of the work of Gilbert and Raymond with this model:

“… Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink have organised bilateral or trilateral conversations with LL partners to create a comprehensive model of exploitation activities.  The aim is to compress the pictures given by different exploitation stories and to create more transparency between different initiatives. In this way different partners can find their roles and possibilities in a joint group picture. And with the help of this model the partners can trace the changes from current project partnership to future partnerships (in follow-up projects) or future business relations (in commercial exploitation activities).”

Below I have copied the current draft of the Exploitation model:

Exploitation Model.v2.2

In our discussion in the video conference and after it we started a process of sensemaking, how to fit our exploitation initiatives into this landscape and how to grasp the zones of possible activities that we had not yet thought of. Here I try to interpret different areas of the exploitation model from this perspective:

a) The (peripheral) support area

Two fields in the model can be characterised as a (peripheral) support area for emerging follow-up activities with different intensity of support measures:

a1) “The Learning Layers Association” can be seen as a light-weight form to continue the cooperation across project consortium as an interest group that promotes the tools and ideas of the LL project in new contexts. For this purpose the interest group cam organise joint search conferences or workshops with new potential application partners. (Here the contacts of the LL partners at OEB with the UNHCR might serve as a clue for looking partners for such search conferences.)

a2) “The Learning Layers Cooperative” can be seen as a more committed service alliance – grouping of LL partners that are ready to support new initiatives with technical advice and facilitation in project creation. (Such cooperation has already been practiced between different partners to give shape for spin-off projects.)

b) The Research & Development area

The importance of this area is obvious, since we need to continue with R&D projects to develop the products and services of the LL project to more mature stage. Here we need to have a more differentiated look at the R&D agendas to pursue. Without going into details of specific initiatives it is worth taking into consideration the following type of R&D activities:

b1) Comprehensive follow-up projects (Horizon 2020 etc) that focus on further development of integrative toolsets for/with specific application partners – engaging different kinds of expertise from the LL project but linking it to new contexts.

b2) Specific R&D projects (e.g. within cluster initiatives) that link the further development of LL tools and similar toolsets to technical innovation programs.

Here the model emphasises that the R&D area needs to involve the application partners and the commercial partners as well (in order to take the products and services further).

c) The commercial exploitation area

We have already become aware of the fact that software development in research context may have different working patterns/perspectives than software development as customer service. This is reflected in the ‘commercial exploitation area’ by differentiating between three kinds of organisational entities:

c1) New enterprises (social/commercial) that dedicate themselves on further development of LL tools, software and services as their core business.

c2) Existing partners (private/public organisations) that continue working on the basis of their business models or institutional frameworks.

Here the model suggests that if new entreprises emerge, preferential ‘giving back’ partnership relations  should be agreed in the founding processes. (Also, new enterprises need advisory boards.)

c3) Third party organisations (SMEs, training providers, service providers, cluster organisations) need to be involved with appropriate partnership agreements.

Altogether, the model was shaped with an idea of an “Entrepreneurial symbiosis’. I am looking forward to our next phase of working with this model in our project consortium meeting in Innsbruck.

More blogs to come …

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 3: Preparation of the consortium meeting in Innsbruck

January 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I started a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported on the meeting of the LL teams of ITB and Pont, and in the second post on our working meeting in Bau-ABC. In this third post I give an account on the video conference in which the Work Package Leaders of the LL project discussed the preparation of our next consortium meeting in Innsbruck (2.2.-5.2.2016).

Below I try follow the reconstruct the discussion based on the recording of the meeting (in which I could not participate). I try to put an emphasis on the thematic blocks (and on the specific accents) that were set for the preparation of future activities. I do not try to give a comprehensive report but rather limit myself to the points that we should take up in the construction pilot team.

1) The integrated deliverable of the LL project of the Year 4

The idea of a single integrated deliverable was already discussed at the end of the Y3 Review meeting and it was agreed with great enthusiasm in the consortium. For our further work it is of importance that this deliverable is interpreted as the “Layers package of exploitables” (a comprehensive package of useful objects/resources to support exploitation of results). Now this idea is taking shape in different thematic blocks (see below).

2) Documentation of the impact of project with “Layers scorecards”

Tobias Ley had already in December presented a practical solution for documenting impact with the help of ‘scorecards’ that can be used in different field activities. The basic card has three main fields for describing a) the situation before the LL project, b) the contribution of the LL project and c) the situation after the project. In addition, the card has smaller fields for specifying different aspects of the impact. During the final year the project can collect booklets of scorecards within different activities and highlight ‘evidence of the month’. (See https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7vXuqBBjr9PX1RxUkpmZUt5Zkk/view .) This tool will be developed further in the Innsbruck meeting.

3) Collection of ‘training materials’ to support the roll-out of LL tools

Pablo Franzolini and Kai Pata presented the idea, how to include the component of ‘training materials’ into the deliverables. Already during the Y3 Pablo has supported the healthcare pilot team in preparing video material for webinars (with special emphasis on filming from different angles and making the presentations more lively). Whilst the use of webinars and videos have so far been rather tool-centered, the idea is now to shift the emphasis from single tools to combined use of tools in order to meet context-specific needs. (In this respect the demonstrations in the Y3 Review meeting were rehearsals for such materials.) As was mentioned in the discussion, we need to consider, when and how we can produce such material for different pilot sectors and spin-off initiatives.

4) Bringing together different evaluation agendas

The discussion on the evaluation activities – led by Ronald Maier and Stefan Thalmann – was inspired by the key question: “How to document changes  in the patterns of learning in the context of work in the pilot sectors (including the role of web tools/apps and mobile technologies?” It became evident that the more conceptual and context-oriented inquiries need to be supported by technical data collection (whenever it is possible) and these aspects need to linked to each other. In a similar way positive and negative findings regarding changes vs. obstacles to changes need to be discussed from the perspective of promoting innovations and marketing products and services.

5) Further discussion on the Dev-Ops model, Design patterns and Design-based research

One of the recommendations of the Y3 Review meeting was to enrich the Dev-Ops model with more elements of user engagement (that were presented in the sectoral reports). As a partial response to this, the meeting discussed the plan to prepare a comprehensive presentation on the Dev-Ops model, on Design patterns and on the LL approach(es) to Design-based research. It was agreed that the Confer Tool should be used to support this work. This work will be led by Ralf Klamma and John Cook.

6) Integrative group picture of parallel (mutually coordinated) exploitation initiatives

Already from the beginning of the year Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink have organised bilateral or trilateral conversations with LL partners to create a comprehensive model of exploitation activities.  The aim is to compress the pictures given by different exploitation stories and to create more transparency between different initiatives. In this way different partners can find their roles and possibilities in a joint group picture. And with the help of this model the partners can trace the changes from current project partnership to future partnerships (in follow-up projects) or future business relations (in commercial exploitation activities). Alongside this work the clarification of IPR issues will be continued as a sub-theme of defining these partnership or business relations.

I think this as much as I can report on this meeting. At the moment we (the ITB-team) are preparing ourselves for the bilateral/trilateral exploitation talks with Gilbert (and Raymond). We are looking forward to this useful milestone in the set of the ‘start-of-the-year meetings’.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers Year 3 Review – Part Two: Systems architecture, exploitation and feedback from reviewers

December 11th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

On the 30th of November and on the 1st of December our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its third annual review meeting at the European Commission premises in Luxembourg. In the previous post I reported on the presentations of the first day: the coordinator’s overview and the two major presentations on the sectoral pilots in healthcare and in construction. This post discusses firstly the presentations of the second day – on the development of the LL systems architecture and on exploitation activities. Secondly this post discusses the comments of the reviewers on our work.

On the LL systems architecture and DevOpsUse -process

In the first presentation session Ralf Klamma and Istvan Koren (RWTH) gave insights into the development of the LL systems architecture. The main emphasis was given on the development of ‘Layers Box’ as a ready-to-deploy, custom packaged infrastructure for SMEs (small-scale package), networks (medium-scale package) or hosted service. The second major point was the shaping of the DevOpsUse Lifecycle as a model for developers’ and users’ interaction when using Layers’ Box. This was followed by an online demonstration, how the LL systems architecture had been developed during the year three.

On the exploitation initiatives

In the second session Raymond Elferink and Gilbert Peffer introduced the LL approach to exploitation activities based on the ‘incubation model’ introduced last year and on the Exploitation Launchpad workshop that was organised in the Year 3 Design Conference  in Espoo. Then the two pilot sectors presented their exploitation initiatives. Afterwards we had presentations on the exploitation initiatives related to the AchSo! and Social Augmented Reality tools and on the work with managed clusters. Finally we had an input on exploitation with Open Source communities.

In this context the Construction pilot team emphasised the exploitation activities with different variations of the framework for mobile apps and tools – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). This approach is to be implemented via further development of the training initiatives (Theme Rooms and other training services) of which we reported in the sectoral presentation on the first day. As an extension of these activities we indicated several new projects to be started with construction sector application partners in the beginning of the year 2016. For further stakeholder engagement we referred to our exchanges with representatives of Activity Theory and on their experience on Change Laboratory methodology. Finally, we outlined a timeline for the construction partners to match their plans for sustaining technical support services and training services in order to bring new users and external service providers into picture.

Feedback from the reviewers

Throughout the meeting the reviewers gave positive comments to us on the progress with the tool development and in the pilot deployment.  They saw a great potential in the linked tools and integrated toolsets combined to capacity-building and strengthening the multiplier-organisations (e.g. Bau-ABC and Agentur) as service-providers. We got a clear signal to emphasise exploitation activities and to provide evidence (indicators) on the use of our tools in working and learning contexts in the pilot sectors. Here, we should present examples, how changes of work practices are instilled by the introduction or our tools. We were also encouraged to seize  to deploy the tools with other users and occupational areas that were not anticipated in the Description of Work.

Looking at more detailed comments, we were recommended take rapid steps in making clear agreements on the Intellectual Property Rights issues related to the emerging tools. (Partly this has been included into the plans that we outlined in the meeting.) Furthermore, our technical partners were advised strongly to integrate the work with capacity-building and communication flows from fieldwork to their process model of DevOpsUse. The partners working with sectoral pilots and exploitation initiatives were recommended to look more closely at possibilities to use Change Laboratory methodology in the follow-up activities.

Altogether, the project was characterised as a promising one – not merely in the light of what it has achieved in terms of promising prototypes. The expectation is that the products and related working patterns can be sustained after the project and will have further impact in practice.

I think this was the essential message that we got from the review meeting. It is now our task to take these comments and recommendations on board in the final year of the project work. In Luxembourg we already started our preparation for our next consortium meeting after the holiday break. There is more work to be done in the new year 2016 but now it is time to take breath.

More blogs to come (in the year 2016) …

 

 

Learning Layers Year 3 Review – Part One: The project team presents its work

December 10th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

On the 30th of November and on the 1st of December our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its third annual review meeting at the European Commission premises in Luxembourg. As usual, the consortium had gathered in advance to finalise the presentations and to ensure that we pass a coherent message. The presentations on our work in the pilot sectors took place on the first day of the meeting. On the second day we had shorter presentations on the development on the technical infrastructure and on the exploitation initiatives. Then the reviewers finalised their feedback and presented their main points to us in the final session. This first post gives insights into the presentations of the first day. The second post discusses the presentations of the second day and the comments of the reviewers.

The coordinator’s overview

In the beginning Tobias Ley (TLU), the scientific coordinator, recapitulated some key facts of the development of the project during the three years of activities. He then underlined the three main objectives for our R&D work that were highlighted in our Critical Path Analysis we had carried in January 2015:

  • Large-scale implementation,
  • Long-term sustainability,
  • Theoretical advance on scaling.

Tobias made it clear that the work with software development (and with interoperability of LL tools/ toolsets, services and infrastructures) had not proceeded quite up to expectations. Yet, we had made progress on all accounts. In this context he highlighted the following aspects:

  • Development of new workplace learning technology and pedagogy,
  • Providing technology platform for flexible deployment,
  • Continuation of co-creation with stakeholders.

This overview was followed by presentations from the two pilot sectors – healthcare and construction – including the presentations/demonstrations of tools that were used in these pilots.

The presentation of the Healthcare pilot

The presentation of the Healthcare pilot (coordinated by Tamsin Treasure-Jones, Leeds) provided firstly an overview on the organisations involved and on the working contexts of GP practices in the pilot region (Yorkshire). Secondly, an overview was given on the three LL tools that had been hitherto developed and tested in three different organisations (“Bits and Pieces”, “Confer” and “Living Documents”). Then, the presentation was continued with two exemplary learning stories that illustrated the practitioners’ (doctors’ and nurses’) work with the tools:

1) The first storyIndividual reflection on experience (with patients and its enhancement) into shared learning – focused on the use of Bits and Pieces as tool for archiving, sensemaking and reflecting on work experience. Here the story focused on the needs for antibiotics and issues on sensitivity, allergies and resistencies. In this context the iterative process of tool development was made transparent. In the final phase the material that had been structured was communicated via Living Documents into a trusted communication platform to be shared with other healthcare professionals.

2) The second storyThe working group to develop the trainee doctors’ programme – focused on the use of Confer as a tool for progressive inquiry, search for advice and/or collaborative group work. Here the story raised the issue, how to make best use of the very short time for practical training (1,5 hours) and the GP practices. The demonstration showed, how the Confer tool gave structure for the conversations and helped the working group to proceed through predefined steps and reach the phase of recommendations. Here again, the use of Living Documents was introduced to present the results for a wider audience and to enable further conversations based on the recommendations.

Here, both stories highlighted the interoperability of the LL tools. The presentation then gave insights into the role of Social Semantic Server (SSS) and of the Intradoc environment as technical support. Finally, this presentation was concluded by results from interim evaluation and on plans for final evaluation during the final year of the LL project.

The presentation of the Construction pilot

The presentation of the Construction pilot (coordinated by me) differed from the previous one since it was more centrally focusing on the role of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as the integrative toolset. Firstly, the presentation outlined the evolution of the co-design process from the earlier design ideas to the framework of Learning Toolbox. Then it drew attention to the parallel development of co-design, user engagement and capacity-building (before the concept of LTB and during the actual development of LTB). Then the presentation outlined the background of three different pilot contexts:

  • the training centre Bau-ABC as an industry-driven training provider for initial vocational training, continuing vocational training and other training services;
  • the Agentur (Agency for ecological construction work and its affiliated network NNB) as multiplier organisation with exhibition spaces and regular network activities;
  • the Finnish pilot activities initiated by the company Skanska, the construction trade union and vocational schools (with interest on documentation of workplace learning).

This was followed by an online demonstration in which Raymond Elferink (RayCom) presented how Learning Toolbox can be used by a Bau-ABC trainer to prepare stacks of digital contents, to send a related task to apprentices working at distance and to monitor the reception of the message. Marjo Virnes (Aalto) took the role of an apprentice and recorded a  video with the AchSo! tool that presented a safety hazard risk at workplace. She then annotated the video and shared it with a group (using all the time AchSo! via LTB). Raymond then took the role of another apprentice and received the shared video via his smartphone (using AchSo! tools that was integrated into LTB).

After these demonstrations Melanie Campbell (Bau-ABC) informed of the Multimedia training program based on the Theme Rooms (see my previous blogs) and on the role of this training in enabling the Bau-ABC to become a stronger multiplier-organisation for the LL tools. Michael Burchert (Agentur) gave insights into the possibilities to link the use of Learning Toolbox to the recently opened permanent exhibition on ecological construction work and to related training events. Marjo Virnes presented insights into the Finnish pilots with AchSo! as a stand-alone tool and on the results of their field studies.

In the final phase the presentation was complemented by inputs on the role of Social Semantic Server, then on the role of our theoretical work in the project (as support for design activities and training) and on the evaluation activities (interim results and plans for year 4).

Here again, we presented an integrated story that brought together different pilot contexts and the work with integrative toolsets.

At this point we reached the end of the first day. I will report on the further presentations and on the feedback from reviewers in my next post.

More blogs to come …

First cycle of Multimedia Training in Theme Rooms – Part 4: Interim reflections of participants

December 6th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous posts on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I have written a series of reports on the Multimedia Training of the training centre Bau-ABC with the concept “Theme Rooms”. The concept was initiated by the training staff of Bau-ABC.  In my first blog I reported on the preparations by the LL teams of Bau-ABC, ITB and Pontydysgu) . The second post focused on the work with the theme ‘Social media’. The third post focused on the theme ‘Preparing  Digital Learning Materials’. The final fourth part gives a report on the joint interim assessment event of the participants in Bau-ABC Rostrup (with video connection with the group in ABZ Mellendorf).

Here it is worthwhile to mention that this interim assessment was clearly an event of the Bau-ABC trainers to assess whether the November workshops had provided the kind of learning experience that they had outlined with the initial ‘Theme Room’ concept.  In this respect there was a clear difference to the earlier Multimedia Training initiated by the LL project partners – to support the advanced trainers as testers and multipliers of LL tools. Now the groups involved all training staff and the aim was to get all participants into a learning process that enables them to use digital media, web resources and mobile technologies as means to support vocational training and workplace learning. Here some main points on the discussion:

a) The learning experiences in the groups

On behalf of the organisers Melanie Campbell opened the event, gave an overview of the concept of Theme Rooms and on the adaptation for November workshops and on the goal-settings. Then she invited participants from different groups to give feedback. The participating Bau-ABC started with comments on their special learning experiences and with positive feedback on the learning climate in the groups.  Here, it was worthwhile to note that several positive comments came from participants who clearly indicated themselves as less advanced learners. Director Emke Emken (in the role of a participant and learner) emphasised the importance that everyone had a chance to participate as a peer learner and to learn more in one’s own pace (Lernruhe). In this respect there was no pressure to pretend to know more and to show more than one was able. Also, in the group process we could encounter technical difficulties and other hurdles without getting frustrated.

b) Feedback on practical arrangements

Concerning the practicalities, we had several comments. Firstly,the timing of the sessions on Friday afternoon was not considered quite ideal  for such learning new things.  Yet, we could agree that the groups had always overcome the fatigue and got inspired during the sessions. We got a clear signal that it was worthwhile to have two workshops for the same theme and a to maintain continuity across the themes. In a similar way the trainers appreciated the continuation with the same tutors from one theme to another and in the same groups. Concerning the use of Google Drive folder we got a clear message that the participants could not use it for preparation (lack of time) but found it very useful as archive of the materials and documents on learning results. A great praise was given for the Estonian intern student Jaanika Hirv (TLU) who had worked two months in Bau-ABC during the preparation and implementation of the Theme Room program. She kept the trainers well informed of the schedules and visited the trainers at their training areas to collect feedback and to provide  assistance to those who had not been present in all workshop sessions.

c) Organisational implications

Several comments discussed organisational consequences for Bau-ABC. Director Emken referred to the need for Bau-ABC to position itself as users of digital media, web tools and mobile technologies in training. In this respect Emken emphasised that Bau-ABC is in the position of learner and has to make progress but it is clearly moving on step by step. Here, Emken reminded that Bau-ABC needs to keep its industrial counterparts with it on the journey. From this perspective it was clear to him and to the participants that there is a commitment to continue with the Theme Room program and to make the best of it. In this context Emken encouraged the participants to consider the new tools and media as their own personal ‘White Folder’ or ‘Toolbox’ and what they could best start using in the coming times. This, to us served as a preparatory phase for the phase to introduce the Learning Toolbox in the training.

In more specific comments the participants raised issues for internal discussions of Bau-ABC (e.g. how to make the best use of blogs and how to position regarding their openness vs. password protection). We (the co-tutors from ITB) raised some points of consideration regarding the equipment and software (to ensure the learning results and access to appropriate tools). Also, we had discussion on measures to keep the learning process continued (with some sessions of tutoing in one room in Bau-ABC and one room in Mellendorf on topics chosen by interested participants). We took note that January and February are the high seasons of Continuing Vocational Training (CVT) schemes. Yet, it appeared that there seemed to be a readiness to start a new cycle of workshops at the end of February and in March.

With all these positive comments and expressions of commitment to work further we were pleased to conclude the event looking forward to good continuation after the holiday break. We took also several points for further consideration concerning the next cycle of workshops. Altogether, the Theme Room program had made its case and provides a good basis for the next steps. We were already able to convey this message to the Year 3 Review meeting of the LL project one week before and now we could confirm it.

More blogs to come …

First cycle of Multimedia Training in Theme Rooms – Part 2: Working with Social Media

December 5th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I started a series of reports on the Multimedia Training of our application partner Bau-ABC with the concept “Theme Rooms”. This concept had been initiated by the training staff of Bau-ABC and in my first blog I reported, how we (the LL teams of Bau-ABC, ITB and Pontydysgu) adjusted the concept for the training activities to be implemented in November 2015. This post focuses on the work with the theme ‘Social media’. (Obviously I have more insights into the group in which I was engaged as a co-tutor with a Bau-ABC trainer. Yet, I try to give a comprehensive picture on the work in parallel groups.)

The uses of Facebook – and the importance of getting hands on Facebook

A major topic for all groups working with the theme “Social Media” was the relevance of Facebook and the challenge to get everyone working with Facebook. In most groups the tutors from Bau-ABC were hosting facebook-groups for their trade and the apprentices were actively involved as contributors and readers. However, the groups served more as means for image-creation, enhancing the occupational/ professional  identity of apprentices and demonstrating their learning achievements. Indeed, some of the groups were using a lot of photos and videos, but these were not primarily used to support learning. Yet, altogether, these groups played a role in the occupational/professional socialisation of apprentices and in enhancing their occupational/ professional identity. From this perspective Bau-ABC promoted the use of Facebook via its own Facebook site and via these trade-specific Bau-ABC Facebook groups.

Having said that, it is worthwhile to note that not all training staff was in favour of using Facebook in such a way or getting Facebook accounts for themselves.  Here, we can see several reasons that are linked to data privacy, data management and commercial use of data submitted by individual users. However, it was acknowledged by the participants that the exisiting Facebook groups of Bau-ABC have played a positive role. Moreover, it was recognised that Facebook is the most popular social network used by apprentices and young people in general. Therefore, it makes sense to get familiarised with social media by working with Facebook. Most of the participants had their own (private) accounts or were owners of the FB-group accounts. For those who didn’t have accounts we had a group account for learning purposes. Thus, they could also participate in hands-on exercises.

These exercises were slightly different in the five groups. Yet, they served the purpose to get all participants use a Facebook-account to post, comment and communicate and to share information on events of interest. Some groups put more attention on settings and privacy issues, some more on sharing between individual users and groups. Altogether, these exercised helped to overcome the gap between users and non-users. Some of the hitherto non-users became active users due to positive learning experience in the workshop session.

Getting a broader overview of social media, platforms and networks

However, the aim of the training was not to give all attention to Facebook but to get an insight into a wider range of social media and their potential uses in the context of apprentice training. For this purpose the workshops gave a quite some time for brainstorming and mapping trainers’ experiences on different media. Accordingly, we had some demonstrations on the use of Twitter (less used by trainers and apprentices) and on the use of hashtags (#) to mark search categories and tags. In a similar way we explored YouTube channels and use of YouTube videos in training and in multimedia training.

Finally, after exploring different social media, the participants were invited to fill a table in which they indicated their priorities among social media and for what purposes and for with which target groups they use these. In this way the participants were working towards their personal ‘portfolios’ of social media.

I think this is enough of this theme, for which we dedicated two workshop sessions. Two other workshop sessions focused on the theme ‘Preparing Digital Learning Materials’.

More blogs to come …

Looking back at three years of Learning Layers – Part Two: Role of research in construction pilot

October 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I drew attention to the fact that the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing  for the review of the Year 3.  This has given rise to consider the development of the project and our activities as an evolution of the context and development of the actors and activities working in the context. In the first post I discussed the challenges of the early phase and the responses of the project. In the second post I will discuss the role of accompanying research in the construction pilot. I will also make some remarks on the role of research dialogue within the project and across the boundaries of the current LL project.

1. Interaction between theoretical work and co-design activities in construction pilot (Year 2 and Year 3)

In the beginning of the Year 2 the Learning Layers project agreed to organise a “Theory Camp” activity with lengthy preparatory phase, and intensive symposium during the Y2 Integration Meeting in Aachen and a follow-up phase. This activity brought into picture the specific interactive relations between theoretical work and co-design activities in the construction pilot.

A considerable part of the contributions to the Theory Camp articles represented different aspects of learning, knowledge development etc. or different accents on design processes. These were to be applied to the fields of application via design processes that focus on specific problems and respective tools. As a contrast, the research partners in construction sector build upon the experience of participative innovation programs that have emphasised the social shaping of work, technology and work organisations from the perspective of whole work processes and holistic occupational qualifications, see Landesprogramm Arbeit und Technik, Bremen (Deitmer 2004); BLK-Programm Neue Lernkonzepte in der Dualen Berufsausbildung (Deitmer et. al. 2004). In this respect the research partners in construction pilot drew attention to themes ‘acquisition of work process knowledge’ (see also Fischer et al. 2004) and ‘vocational learning’ in their contributions.

In the follow-up phase the research partners worked with the themes ‘reviewing accompanying research’ (ECER 2014) and ‘reviewing activity theory’ (Bremen conference 2015). With this theoretical and methodological work the research partners reviewed the theoretical insights and discussed experiences with developmental research approaches, such as the ‘change laboratory processes’ and ‘expansive learning cycles’ (based on the work of Yrjö Engeström and affiliated project teams).

As a consequence, the research partners were in the position to work in the complex and manifold process of designing and developing Learning Toolbox with sufficient openness. This was needed to give time for capacity building and growing readiness for co-development (on all sides of the process). This was also crucial for making the toolsets appropriate to support (holistic) vocational learning and enhancing (holistic) work process knowledge. This has required manifold feedback loops and intensive reporting from field workshops. In this way the research partners in construction pilot have supported process dynamics that have enabled the application partners to become themselves the drivers of the piloting with Learning Toolbox in their own trades (Bau-ABC trainers) or in their specific contexts and activities to promote ecological construction work (Agentur and the affiliated network NNB).

2. The role of research dialogue – internal and external

In the light of the above it is worthwhile to emphasise that the construction pilot has not been developed in isolation. Instead, research dialogue activities – both internal (with  LL partners) and external (with other counterparts) have played an important role in the development of the project. The internal research dialogue activities have been shaped by working groups that focused on transversal themes – such as ‘contextual knowledge’, ‘trust’ – that were equally relevant to both pilot sectors. This work has been covered by other colleagues with their contributions to the reports. In this context I wish to draw attention to two threads of external research dialogue:

a) Exhanges on Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research

As I have mentioned above, this thread was taken up by the ITB team as a follow-up of the Theory Camp and pursued further in a workshop of the Bremen International VET conference (see the report in my recent post). Here it is worthwhile to note that we gathered experiences on the use of Change Laboratory methodology in intervention projects and of theory of Expansive Learning as an interpretative framework in comparative projects. Also, we engaged ourselves in critical re-examination of some concepts used in Activity Theory (such as Vygotsky’s concept of ‘mediation’ and concepts like ‘contradiction’ and ‘transformative practice’). These discussions will be continued as the LL project proceeds deeper to the exploitation of results.

b) Exchanges of parallel approaches to intervention research

Already in ECER 2014 (in Porto) the ITB team had started a cooperation with researchers from HAN University of Applied Sciences with focus on intervention research (see the report in my earlier blog). This was followed up in the Bremen conference and in ECER 2015 (in Budapest). In the Budapest session the colleagues from HAN presented a new project that focuses on practice-based learning in HE programs with strong vocational elements. In this context they worked further with process models and with ‘stealthy intervention’ strategies. In a similar way a Danish project from the National Centre for Vocational Education presented a ‘Vocational Education Lab’ approach for promoting innovations and networking across vocational schools. (See the report in my recent post.) Also these exchanges will be continued when the LL project proceeds with the exploitation activities.

– – –

I think this is enough for the moment. We are now looking forward to next steps with our fieldwork and our exploitation activities.

More blogs to come …

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