Archive for the ‘Pedagogy’ Category

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 3: Sustainability commitments for apprentice training?

April 8th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I started with a topic that might seem remote to our EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). The first post focused on the Finnish sustainability commitments. In the second post I discussed the sustainability issue from the perspective of apprentice training making comparisons between Germany and in Finland (and setting the LL pilots in Germany and Finland into their contexts). In this third post I try to bring these two threads together by posing the question: What about making sustainability commitments for apprentice training?

Here again, I will make comparisons between the Finnish and German contexts – firstly at a more general level and then secondly from the perspective of scaling up the LL initiatives in the construction sector.

1. Sustainability commitments as a perspective for promoting apprentice training?

Firstly, it is appropriate to consider, whether the sustainability commitments – or to be precise: operative commitments to sustainability goals – can provide an appropriate framework for promoting future-oriented apprentice training.

In the case of Finland this perspective is clearly available. One of the central sustainability goals taken up by the operative commitments is “Sustainable work”. Concerning the role of apprentice training and construction work, this can be argued in a twofold sense:

1)  Apprentice training as it is currently promoted in the construction trades, serves the purpose of sustaining the sectoral craftsmanship and the traditional know-how of elder craftsmen in the context of demographic change.

2) Apprentice training can serve as a medium of promoting other sustainability goals (such as “A carbon-neutral society” or “An economy that is resource-wise”) in the context of construction work.

Moreover, the framework of these operative commitments provides clear instructions for setting the timeline, adjusting to the general criteria and on self-monitoring and reporting on progress.

In the case of Germany it is not easy to see, how a similar framework could emerge on a general policy level. In my previous blog I referred to the national agreements for promoting apprentice training (Ausbildungspakt), which do not provide a similar mechanism for operative commitments. However, the sectoral campaigns of the national association of construction industry (Bauindustrieverband) could possibly be developed into such direction (see the previous campaigns “Leitbild Bau” or “Deutschland baut”).

2. Sustainability commitments as means to promote LL initiatives?

In addition to the above presented thoughts it is necessary to consider, how such commitments could be linked to the promotion and scaling up of LL-related initiatives in the construction sector.

In the case of Finland the current pilots focus on the use of AchSo! as an instrument to document achievements in workplace learning – mainly for the vocational school that is in charge of assessing the apprentices and trainees. In this respect the use of LL tools is rather limited and does not (yet) cover the broader scope of using digital media and web resources to support working and learning process as well as real-time communication. From this point of view the introduction of the Learning Toolbox would open new possibilities to link LL tools to such operative commitments as have been referred to above.

In the case of Germany the current pilot phase focuses on multiple uses of Learning Toolbox in the working and learning environments of apprentices (firstly in the intermediate training centre and then subsequently in the companies). In this respect the situation is different from the Finnish pilots. Here, in the pilot context of the training centre Bau-ABC it is possible to develop sets of small-scale commitments and to introduce corresponding patterns of (self-)monitoring and (self-)evaluation. These initial steps can then provide a basis for wider roll-out phase.

I think this is as far as I can get with my thoughts, what we (the LL project) can learn from the Finnish approach to promote sustainable development via operative commitments. If my quickly written blogs have left gaps of information or if I should add more specific examples, I am happy to continue the discussion. Otherwise, we are heading to further tasks in our current pilots.

More blogs to come …

 

 

After the LL Design Conference – Part 3: Sharing experiences between LL pilots

March 21st, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have reported on the Year 3 Design Conference of the Learning Layers (LL) project that took place in Espoo and of the talks I had afterwards in Helsinki. Now it is time to shift emphasis to knowledge sharing – and in particular sharing experiences – between parallel pilot activities in the LL project. In this respect we got new impulses both regarding the construction sector pilots – sharing experiences on tools and workshops – as well as documentation of fieldwork with LL tools – in particular those to be used as collectors of experiences (“Erfahrungssammler“).

1, Sharing knowledge and experience with the Finnish pilots in construction sector

We were pleased to hear fresh reports of the pilots of the Finnish team from Aalto University with vocational schools and construction companies in using the AchSo! tool to document workplace learning. Here we were interested of the recent development of the tool since we want to integrate it into the piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Shortly after the Design Conference the Finnish team could deliver us a very positive report on their pilot in the trade union journal of the construction workers – with voices of apprentices/trainees, skilled workers and vocational teachers. It ios encouraging that the relatively limited piloting with a video annotation tool has proven to be successful in many respects. The tool seems to be working in practice, the construction workers and apprentices are getting used to shooting videos to document their work and the representatives of vocational schools are happy to work with such documentation. Moreover, this pilot appears to demonstrate good cooperation between school-based and apprenticeship-based vocational education and training (VET). As we have been informed, the Finnish pilot context provides the opportunity for flexible transition from school-based education to apprenticeship in the third year. For the LL project it is interesting to find out that the well-functioning documentation of workplace learning is considered as an important success factor in the pilot.

For us, working with the construction sector pilots in Germany (in which apprentice training is essentially present) this is in many respects inspiring. Firstly, we interested in integrating the use of AchSo! in our pilots. Secondly, we are interested in exploring the prospect for piloting with the Learning Toolbox in Finland (provided that the Finnish counterparts are interested). And thirdly, we are interested in sharing knowledge of pedagogy of VET.

 2. Using LL tools to share our project experiences

The more we have learned about the Finnish pilot, the more we ( = the ITB team) have understood the value our own fieldwork for parallel pilots and spin-off initiatives. This has inspired us to consider, how we could make our prior activities, learning experiences and interim conclusions transparent. In particular we have understood the value of our early workshops. In these events we brought the co-design processes closer to the working and training/learning contexts of apprentices and trainers and got them tuned in into participative design of LL tools. Now, looking back, the existing documentation in the form of flipcharts, workshop reports and blogs is not that easily accessible to others.

The positive experience with the videos produced by our Bau-ABC colleagues suggests that we could have a second look at the workshop results to harvest conclusions for our forthcoming field workshops – and to document them with videos  (eventually using AchSo!). However, it is not merely the experiences with individual workshops that we want to bring forward. In the exchanges with the parallel pilots we came to think of the potentials of the Bits & Pieces tool (with the timeliner) as an instrument for such project-internal exchanges. Here, indeed, we can put our own design teams into the position of application partners and to reflect, how to use LL tools to facilitate sharing of knowledge and experiences across complex pilot activities. This, surely will help us to find further pilot contexts for the respective tools.

I think this is enough about second thoughts after Espoo. In the meantime Gilbert Peffer has published a series of blogs on the Exploitation Launchpad Workshop in the Design Conference, worth having a closer look.

More blogs to come …

 

After the LL Design Conference – Part 2: Talks on Activity Theory and Change Laboratory processes

March 19th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I have reported on the Year 3 Design Conference of the Learning Layers (LL) project that took place in Espoo, Finland last week. Immediately after the Design conference I had a chance to discuss with researcher Marianne Teräs (University of Helsinki) on her work with Change Laboratory processes. For me this discussion is part of the follow-up of the Theory Camp of the LL project – Reviewing Activity Theory and the related methodologies of intervention research (of which the Change Laboratory has become most famous). I had approached Marianne because her work had focused on healthcare sector and vocational education of nurses (which are both relevant to the LL project as a field of piloting and as context for potential spin-off initiatives. Below I try to summarise the main issues of our discussion and my impressions and conclusions.

1. Change from practitioner to intervention researcher

Firstly we discussed the development of Marianne’s career from trained nurse (with occupational background) and the transitions to vocational teacher and teacher educator (working in a vocational college for healthcare). From this background she was one of the teachers/teacher educators who were involved in a pilot project to develop a pre-vocational education scheme for migrant youngsters who wanted to be trained for healthcare occupations. Since the project team in the college had encountered several problems they were looking for a structured process to work through the challenges and issues. From this point of view they volunteered as a  counterpart for the research group of Yrjö Engeström to work with a Change Laboratory process (at that time called Culture Laboratory). During this project (that started in 2001) Marianne was contracted as an intervention researcher whilst a colleague of hers worked as project manager on behalf of the college. When the project was over, she returned to her job as a vocational teacher educator. However, after some time another project was started to develop models of integrative vocational education of learners with migrant background within ordinary vocational education programs. In this phase Marianne took over the role of project manager on behalf of the intervention researchers (supported by other members of the research team and participating teachers). After this latter project she has continued her career as researcher in other projects.

2. Whose initiatives, whose innovations

As already indicated above, the initiative for the first Change Laboratory was taken by the vocational teachers/ teacher educators struggling with a new pilot scheme. At that time preparation of migrant youngsters (with very heterogeneous ethnic and educational backgrounds) was a new experience to most of them. Also, the pre-vocational education scheme was a new construct to be piloted with new target groups. From this point of view the first project was characterised by voluntary participation of teachers/ teacher educators committed to the pilot. The work of the Change Laboratory gave rise to several parallel working groups (with respective educational change agendas). Some of them faded away soon but some of them sustained and their work was continued years after (when the second project was started).

Whilst the first Change Laboratory project focused on a specific preparatory scheme dedicated for migrants, the second project focused on integration of migrants into ordinary vocational education programs. The background was given in the national educational policy and at the local level the director of the college wanted their college to become an innovation leader within this initiative. In this respect the director gave this project a high priority and the participation of teachers was made mandatory. Partly the implementation of the project could benefit of the prior project but to a great extent it had work with a stronger integration between occupational subjects, language learning and intercultural education.

3. Collecting background materials, documenting the laboratory sessions and drawing conclusions

In our discussion Marianne made me aware of the intensive participation of practitioners within the research work. Although the intervention research mainly focused on the process of the Change Laboratory sessions, it was essentially supported by the collection of background materials (or ‘mirror materials’). In this process both teachers and vocational learners played an important role by producing their own notes or audio or video clips to document facts, episodes or impressions with relevance to language learning, vocational learning and intercultural encounters. It is worthwhile to note that the learners were immediately involved in the first Change Laboratory project but not in ia a the second one which became more a teachers’ project. Yet, via a broad involvement of learners (alongside teachers) in the production of the background material the project could ensure the presence of their voices in the Change Laboratory.

These materials were used mainly as support materials to prepare the scripts for the Change Laboratory sessions in which the work with the curricular initiatives was promoted. These sessions were documented by videos, individual notes of the intervention researchers and by written analyses of the videos. By such thorough documentation the researchers could ensure that they covered the richness of the discussions, paying attention to main themes (laid down by the script) and corollary themes (that may have given rise to spin-off processes).

4. Encounters between theory and practice

Research articles often give a picture of the Change Laboratory projects as heavily theory-driven projects. Marianne admitted that the articles give priority on presenting the theoretical background (Activity Theory, Activity Systems) and its adaptation and utilisation in the Change Laboratory processes (identification of generative themes/contradictions, expansive learning cycles and boundary crossing practices). However, when looking at the everyday life practice of the projects, she drew attention to the need to find a balance between the conceptual tools of researchers and the practice-related tools and instruments of teachers. In this balancing process the intervention researchers had to negotiate, to what extent the conceptual tools could be used as common tools and to what extent they should be left to secondary analyses. The strategies to manage these encounters have often remained as ‘tacit knowing’ although some researchers have paid attention to the epistemological aspects of such dialogical research processes.

5. Lessons for the Learning Layers project and its spin-out initiatives?

I had initiated our talks as an initial step in preparing a forthcoming workshop on methodological lessons from Activity Theory, Change Laboratory processes and on their relevance for intervention research projects like the LL project. Here it is not possible to enter this discussion in detail. Yet, it is worthwhile to note the far more complex character of the interventions in the LL project vis-à-vis the ones we had discussed. Having said that we took note of several analogies between the participative processes, user-engagement and expectations on expansive learning. Given the fact that the LL project is expected to roll out and scale up innovations in using mobile technologies, digital media and web tools in workplace learning, we noted several points of common interest for further cooperation.

More blogs to come …

PS. Acknowledgements and References:

I got acquainted with Dr Marianne Teräs via Professor Johanna Lasonen who has worked a long time with Marianne in projects that deal with intercultural education and the role of vocational education in the integration of migrants. Also, it was thanks to Johanna that I started to have a closer look at Activity Theory, Developmental Work Research and the Change Laboratory methodology.

Here some references to the development of Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research (in general) and to work with sectoral projects in Healthcare and/or with Change Laboratory (in particular):

Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1) 133-156.

Engeström, Y., Engeström, R. & Vähäaho, T. (1999). When the center does not hold: The importance of knotworking. In S. Chaiklin & U. J. Jensen, Activity Theory and Social Practice, (pp. 345-374). Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.

Engeström, Y. & Sannino A. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: Foundations, findings and future challenges. Educational Research Review 5(1), 1-24.

Teräs, M. & Lasonen, J. (2013) The development of teachers’ intercultural competence using a Change Laboratory method. Vocations and Learning, 6(1)

Engeström, R. (2014). The Interplay of Developmental and Dialogical Epistemologies. In Outlines. Critical Social Studies, 15 (2), 119-138.

 

Inspiring talks on Learning Toolbox and Dual Studies in Ostfalia

February 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Thursday Ludger Deitmer and I visited the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in the context of the Learning Layers (LL) project. For us this was a follow-up of the talks we had had during the Brunnenbauertage conference last year and a planning meeting for the forthcoming pilot activities. The representatives of Ostfalia had already at that time expressed their interest to learn more of the Learning Toolbox. Now that we had promising progress reports from the Alpüha Beta Camp in Aachen, it was high time to take further steps.

Our host organisation, the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences is a merged university colleges with four campuses in the Easten part of the federal state Lower Saxony (near the former border of the two German states). Our hosts from the faculty “Bau-Wasser-Boden”, professor Elfriede Ott (Geo-engineering) and Albrecht Meißner  (Informatics, dean of the faculty) are working in the campus of Suderburg, the most rural campus of the four. As we experienced it in our talks, this university college cannot profile itself with the attractions of urban city life – therefore, it has to profile itself with a strong emphasis on practice-based learning, collaboration with enterprises and creative pedagogy.

Our hosts firstly informed us of their study programs for construction engineers with different areas of specialisation (in particular building the grounds, water supply solutions and tunneling). Here, as well as in other areas of specialisation, Ostfalia was actively developing the model of Dual Stdudies (combination of Higher Education degree with apprentice training that delivered initial vocational qualification). And, due to the regulations of the training in construction sector, the workplace training included several presence periods in the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC. As we understood it, the cooperation between Ostfalia and Bau-ABC had already reached a relatively mature phase – they had learned to combine their strengths and developed a culture of mutual exchanges.

Concerning their pedagogic interests, our hosts told us of their experiences with stimulating collaborative group and self-organised learning. In this context they also noted the need to overcome some resistance and anxieties. Moreover, they informed us of their experiments with gamification – facilitating learning in geo-engineering by playing cards that make transparent the basic facts and the necessary measures – essentials on which you need to have an overview. Finally, they informed of their university-wide pedagogic support services and pilots with pedagogic counseling (Lerncoaching).

From the LL perspective the Ostfalia study programs – in particular the dual studies provide an interesting field for piloting with the Learning Toolbox. As we discussed it, the students are challenged to get awareness of the limits of desk engineering and to take into account the practical reality of construction work on the grounds. Our hosts could give us several examples of possible mismatches and how they are detected when the engineering students get insights into the work processes of skilled workers. From this perspective they were interested in becoming involved in the pilot testing of the Learning Toolbox. Furthermore, given the fact that their students gather experiences in multiple learning venues – college, training centre, enterprise – they were interested in getting the students reflect on their learning experiences and making the connections between theory and practice. This issue was also discussed in the context of a separate funding programme “Erfahrbares Lernen” that seeks to bring new innovation-oriented and experiential insights into studies in higher education.

Altogether, we covered a lot of topics and reached an agreement to continue our cooperation in the next phase when the recent results of the developers are prepared for field workshops. We are looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning Layers videos from Bau-ABC presented for a Norwegian audience

October 17th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

Day before yesterday I published on YouTube  a set of Learning Layers (LL) videos (with English subtitles) from Bau-ABC . Here the link to the YouTube channel via which they were published:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNsA37YN2C4HZEwN10HqPOw

Today these videos had their premiere in front of a qualified audience from Norway. A delegation from the Norwegian college Fagskolen Innlandet (Rector, Vice-rector and ca. 50 lecturers) had visited enterprises in Bremen during two days. On their final day they had a special session with ITB, with focus on Learning Layers. Given their tight schedule, I was alone presenting the project and its recent achievements (in Norwegian).

After having given a brief introduction to ITB (as an institute), to its international projects and to the Learning Layers (as a project) we focused primarily on the Learning Toolbox. Here, the most effective way to communicate was to show the short videos from Bau-ABC. We had a look at the apprentices’ projects (Video 3), work situations on construction sites (Video 4), clips that highlight Health and Safety issues (Video 5), special demands arising from storage of tools (Video 7) and the results of Multimedia training in Bau-ABC (Video 1). Altogether, this session with short videos gave the visitors a lively picture on, what is happening in the LL project and how our application partner Bau-ABC is working with us.

After this presentation we had an interesting discussion. The rector drew my attention to the fact that the Fagskole is a two-year long college that provides higher vocational qualifications for professional who have gone through initial vocational education and have gained work experience. Fagskolen Innlandet caters for a wide range of occupational fields, including construction, industrial maintenance, automation etc. – but as well business administration and healthcare. In addition, a large proportion of the students is participating as part-time students using e-learning provisions. (Partly their training is comparable with the professional upgrading programs of Bau-ABC, partly with that of some German Universities of Applied Sciences.)

In the discussion I had to answer to several well-targeted and well-formulated questions:

Firstly, some of the lecturers were interested on the pedagogic implications of introducing the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Here, I referred to the conceptual background of the Bau-ABC White Folder in the culture of action-oriented and self-organised learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). I told them of several workshop sessions and on the trainers’ discussion in the Video 2. In these discussions trainers have stressed the LTB as support for self-organised learning and professional problem-solving.

Secondly, some of the lecturers were interested on the organisational consequences of introducing the LTB. Here I could refer to the issues our Bau-ABC colleagues have raised on their access to Internet from working areas, to the availability of mobile devices and to the technical support for wider range of internet users. The Bau-ABC colleagues have addressed this in their concept to install a “Living Lab” unit, based on a mobile container with specific Internet access and support arrangements. At the level of craft trade companies there are also similar issues with which our partners are working.

Thirdly, some of the lecturers were interested in issues on industrial culture (steep or flat hierarchy) and on communication with contents that are manageable for craftsmen. Here again, I could refer to examples of our partner companies and to their initiatives to get the filtering and reduction right when making contents available online. Also, I could give encouraging examples of participative development and design work.

Altogether, the presentation was well received and the Norwegian colleagues were clearly interested in our work. So far they had not been strongly involved in European cooperation but there might be a chance to further cooperation with spin-off ideas arising from the work of the Learning Layers project.

PS. Just when I had returned to ITB, I had a chance to give another demonstration session to our visitor, Prof. Jürgen Radel who had been formerly working as an international HRD manager in a Bremen-based logistics company but is now working as professor in a University for Applied Sciences in Berlin. He was also interested to see, what we are achieving in our project and was very impressed of the LTB and on the trainers’ blogs (as outcome of the Multimedia Training). In return he gave a demonstration on his online learning materials (including videos) on Moodle. We agreed to exchange information our progress.

I guess this is enough to show that the work with the Learning Layers videos has been worthwhile. I am looking forward to next opportunities for such exchanges.

More blogs to come …

Further thoughts on the short videos from Bau-ABC for the Learning Layers project

October 16th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday I published on YouTube seven short videos (with English subtitles)  that were filmed in Bau-ABC to demonstrate the achievements of the Learning Layers (LL) project. Here the link to the YouTube channel via which they were published:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNsA37YN2C4HZEwN10HqPOw

During the final editing phase I had plenty of time to think about the importance of this material for the LL project. Therefore, I would like to share these thoughts with this blog post. I have already given an overview on the content of these videos in my previous post. Therefore, I prefer to go directly to the points that I want to highlight when looking at the whole set of these videos as testimonies of our partners in Bau-ABC on the achievements and prospects of the work of the LL project in their working environment:

1. The Multimedia Training has impact

Already the first video demonstrates that the Multimedia Training has had real impact. The most obvious example is the Carpernters’ blog – Zimmererblog. With this blog trainer Markus Pape has organised the whole range of initial training projects (from year 1 to year 3)  in his trade. He has also attracted international interest and the number of hits (now over 4700) is highly respectable. But it is equally important that similar initiatives (with blogs or with separate web pages) have been launched in other trades as well and that the feedback from apprentices – who have been able to use their smartphones to access the material – has been positive.

2. The Learning Toolbox (LTB) can be used to support both learning and occupational work

The third video explores the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in an apprentice’s project, whilst the sixth video documents instruction on a specific workplace (and discusses the use of LTB).  The fourth video demonstrates uses of LTB in different working situations. The fifth video highlights the role of LTB in creating awareness for Health and Safety issue – both in the training workshop and in real work situations.

Altogether, these videos demonstrate multiple uses of the LTB for different purposes. Thus, Learning Toolbox is not merely a toolbox to support the training in Bau-ABC (in a local context) but a toolbox to support working and learning in construction sector occupations.

3. The trainers and apprentices are engaged in developing and commenting the Learning Toolbox

In the second video four trainers make comments on the importance of the LTB. In particular they highlight the role of LTB in supporting self-organised learning. Also, they draw attention to the possibilities to make the obligatory documents more interesting to the apprentices (by allowing them to add photos, cartoons or videos). The trainers are clearly willing to enter the next phase – to introduce a functioning LTB in selected apprentices’ projects – as we can see from the “Bonus Track” part of the video.

The third video shows a dialogue between Melanie Campbell and apprentice Martin on the uses of LTB in training. We have several remarks from him. In his final remark (not included into the short video) he expresses the wish to have LTB to use during the preparation for final examinations.

In the seventh video we have a particular working context – the storage of chains for construction vehicles. Here the trainer shows a particular possibility to use the LTB for identifying different chains. Here, new technologies (scanning the RFID chips) linked to LTB could help to track their technical data, safety features and maintenance data. This, however would require further steps in the development.

4. This all is based on previous work with the “Sharing Turbine” and brings the design idea further

Altogether, it is important to note that the initial design idea “Sharing Turbine” has not got lost. Instead, the progress with the trainers’ blogs shows that the info sheets and worksheets for apprentices’ project can be delivered via web. Also the examples on using LTB in different situations show that the apprentices can integrate digital media, web tools and mobile technologies to their work. Furthermore, the work with instruction videos (“Tricks of the trade”) arises from the phase of “Rapid Turbine” and has been carried on to work with Learning Toolbox.

5. This all is work for wider range of users to join in during the next phase of piloting

What has been delighting, is the fact that the colleagues in Bau-ABC have not kept the project and the benefits to themselves but are looking for wider outreach and wider engagement of their partners. This has been apparent during the trade fairs (Brunnenbauertage, NordBau – see my earlier blogs). We have also made progress with our contacts with craft trade companies and our counterparts have also shown interest to engage their partners into discussion on Learning Toolbox (e.g. the company K) or drawn our attention to the potential of LTB to support mobility of apprentices and trainees from other European countries (e.g. the company W). And finally, our work with managed clusters brings into picture a wider circle of users (as the recent messages from Gilbert Peffer demonstrate).

I think this is enough of my further thoughts. We have got something important moving and together we can keep things moving.

More blogs to come …

Reviewing the video(s) from Bau-ABC – Part 4: Learning Toolbox as support for learning alongside working

September 28th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous posts I have started a series of blogs that review the video produced by the Bau-ABC team for the recent consortium meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project. As I have indicated, the video focused on the usability of the emerging Learning Toolbox (LTB) – a framework for accessing web resources and managing web apps – in the construction sector. In the two previous posts I discussed, how the LTB can be used in the the context of the training activities of the Bau-ABC  and in the companies or construction sites. In this post I will focus on the Bau-ABC trainers’ views, how LTB will support learning alongside working. Here I share the link to the video:

http://youtu.be/Z2JoZSn4PyY

In the latter part of the video (between 18,04 and 29:00) Melanie Campbell has a discussion with four full-time trainers, who have been involved in most of the LL activities and engaged their apprentices as well – Lothar Schoka, Kevin Kuck, Stefan Wiedenstried and Markus Pape. Below I will highlight some points of their discussion and the messages they are passing to us (as their LL partners) and to wider audiences.

 New prospects for using digital media and smartphones alongside working and learning

The LL project has brought into picture new ways of using digital media, web tools and smartphones in the context of work and workplace learning. The trainers themselves have launched their blogs and brought their apprentices to demo sessions on the LTB. The apprentices have greeted this with enthusiasm. They and their companies have now new prospects for using these tools for working and learning – not as distraction and waste of time. From this perspective the trainers are keen to take further steps forward in piloting.

The LTB as support for learning and professional growth

The trainers saw in the LTB a great potential for supporting holistic, action-oriented and self-organised learning (in German with one concept: Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). Whilst they are currently delivering their info-sheets and worksheets each time for the respective project, the LTB provides a realm for information and challenges the apprentices to do their own searches and consolidate their own findings. In the same way, as the documentation of work processes and learning results is currently a routine with paper documents, the LTB opens room for creativity. The apprentices can enrich their documents with photos, videos and multimedia (with annotations, cartoons and other possibilities). In this way they can demonstrate also their learning progress and achievements to their peers and friends but also to their companies and to their supervisors. So far, the feedback from apprentices points to this direction if the apprentices can be wider engaged in the piloting.

Expectations on next 12 months with the LTB

The trainers are eager to see a beta-version of a functioning LTB on smartphone and tablet to be used in real life. On their behalf they are prepared to start the piloting with selected projects. They do not expect a fully completed end product but rather a pilot version that can be further developed on the basis of feedback. And for them it is important that the apprentices are engaged as pilot users who can also contribute to the development. This was the key message.

Reflective commentary

Here I prefer to let the trainers’ message speak for itself. However, it is interesting to see that they have confidence in their apprentices as smart users of smartphones when there is a framework like the LTB to draw their attention to working and learning contexts. Also, they are confident that the apprentices will use the LTB to enhance their learning rather than to minimize their learning effort. And finally, they see their apprentices as valuable stakeholders in giving feedback on the pilot use of LTB and in promoting the tool to their companies as well.

Secondly, it is worthwhile to note that the trainers are not only focusing on the training that is provided on the premises of Bau-ABC under their supervision. Instead, they are looking forward to see the LTB being used in wider contexts support professional growth and to strengthen professional communities. This became very clear when they discussed the impact of the Multimedia training and of sharing the experiences. But this merits a post of its own.

More blogs to come …

Developing a Work Based, Mobile Personal Learning Environment

July 6th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

As regular readers will know, for a long time I have been fascinated by the potential of mobile technologies for developing work based learning and work based Personal Learning environments. Mobile technologies can allow learning to take place directly in the workplace. Learning can be recorded and for that matter reflection on learning take place as a direct part of the work process. In such a way the workplace becomes part of the Personal Learning Environment and conversely the PLE becomes part of the work process. At the same time, such an approach can bring together both formal and informal learning. Through sharing learning processes and outcomes, learners themselves can contribute to a growing ‘store; of learning materials.

It hasn’t happened yet and it is worth thinking about why. One reason maybe that only recently has seen the spread of sufficiently powerful mobile devices and applications. Another is the suspicion of employers about the uses of such devices in the workplace. Most importantly may be the failure to develop pedagogic approaches for mobile learning. Most developments to date have essentially been about consumption of learning materials, albeit sometimes in innovative ways. And much of the publicity or mobile learning has emphasised consumption of short episodes of learning away from the workplace – or for that matter the classroom (for some reason we will all be learning on the bus or the train on our way home from work in the future or so the vendors say).

That is not to say there have not been attempts to develop more radical thinking. Members of the London Mobile Learning Group have, like others developed new ideas for work based mobile learning pedagogy. Yet still, as far as I can see, there have been few attempts to implement such ideas at any scale.

It is for these reasons that I am so interested in the development of the Learning Toolbox, initially targeted at apprentices in the construction industry, as part of the EU funded Learning layers project. Perhaps the biggest thing I have leaned from this work (apart from how difficult it is) is the need for co-development processes with end users and stakeholders in the industry. The new paper we have written for the PLE2014 conference documents the research we have undertaken and the co-development process, as well as our understanding of the issues around context and how to address such issues.

You can download the paper here. As always any and all feedback is very welcome.

Radioactive goodness

June 24th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

http://radioactive101.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/RadioactiveLogo.jpg“RadioActive101 is an innovative pan-European educational intervention, using internet radio and also social media to promote inclusion, informal learning, employability and active citizenship in an original and exciting way.”

That is the official project blurb for Radioactive which is funded by The European Commission. But it doesn’t really tell the full story. Radioactive is working with different groups of people, from youth clubs, organisations of unemployed adults etc. to develop and produce internet radio programmes.  Hopefully along the way they are having lots of fun. And we know they are learning many different skills – including designi9ng content, interviewing, presenting, directing, production as well as technical skills and skills in post production. Radioactive has developed a set of badges, using the Mozilla badges schema.

For me the attraction is that learning is taking place in an informal setting. Learning  by doing and learning through using social media. Anyway you can judge for yourself. This week there are three programmes being broadcast.

We have a show going out from Germany later this evening:
http://de.radioactive101.eu/news/

Tomorrow from Portugal Wednesday, 25, at 4pm (CEST) with their newest partner, EntrEscolhas Geração D’Ouro E5G.
Listen on RadioActive101, on the 25th, at 4 pm,
http://pt.radioactive101.eu/2014/06/23/primeira-emissao-do-entrescolhas-geracao-douro-e5g/

And on Friday sees the second airing of a really interesting show from the UK on ‘Body Image, Media and Music’ http://uk2.radioactive101.eu/event/details/on-air-20th-june-body-image-and-the-media/

Personal Learning Environments, Self Directed Learning and Context

June 15th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Ten days ago I had an email from Alexander Mikroyannidis from the UK Open University. “Together with some colleagues from the EU project ROLE (http://www.role-project.eu)” he said, “I’m preparing a book to be published by Springer. It will be entitled “Personal Learning Environments in Practice” and it will present the results of applying PLEs in different test-beds in the project.

For each chapter, we have invited an external expert to provide a 2-page commentary that will also be published in the book. Would you be available to write such a commentary for the chapter that describes the vision of the project?”

How could I refuse? And here is my contribution:

Research and development in learning technologies is a fast moving field.  Ideas and trends emerge, peak and die away as attention moves to the latest new thing. At the time of writing MOOCs dominate the discourse. Yet the developments around Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) have not gone away.  It could be argued that the development and adoption of PLEs is not so much driven the educational technology community but by the way people (and not just students) are using technology for learning in their everyday lives.

Even when Learning Management Systems were in their prime, there was evidence of serious issues in their use. Teachers tended to use such environments as an extended file storage system; forums and discussion spaces were frequently under populated. In other words such systems were used for managing learning, rather than for learning itself.  Learners expropriated and adapted consumer and productivity applications for their learning. Such trends became more pronounced with the emergence of Web 2.0 and social software. Social networking applications in particular, allowed the development of personal learning networks. Rather than go to the institutionally sanctioned LMS or VLE, learners communicated through Facebook or Whats App. PLNs were not longer limited to class or course cohorts but encompassed wider social and learning networks. Wikipedia has emerged as a major open resource for learning.

As mobile technologies have become increasingly powerful and, at least in some countries, internet access has become increasingly ubiquitous, learners use their own devices for learning and are not confined to institutional facilities. Regardless of trends in educational technology theory and research, learners are developing and using their own Personal Learning Environments.

At the same time, the ongoing rapid developments in technologies are changing forms of knowledge development and leading to pressures for lifelong learning. Universities and educational institutions can no longer preserve a monopoly on knowledge. Notwithstanding their continuing hold on accreditation, institutions are no longer the only providers of learning, a move seen in the heart-searching by universities as to their mission and role.

Such changes are reflected in the growing movement towards open learning, be it in the form of MOOCs or in the increasing availability of Open Educational Resources. The popularity of MOOCs has revealed a vast pent up demand for learning and at least in the form of the c-MOOCs has speeded the adoption of PLEs. MOOCs are in their infancy and we can expect the rapid emergence of other forms of open learning or open education in the next few years.

Learning is becoming multi-episodic, with people moving in and out of courses and programmes. More importantly the forms and sources of learning are increasingly varied with people combining participation in face-to-face courses, online and blended learning programmes and self directed and peer supported learning using different internet technologies.

These changes are reflected in discussion over pedagogy and digital literacies. It is no longer enough to be computer literate. Learners need to be able to direct and manage their own learning, formal and informal, regardless of form and source. In conjunction with More Knowledge Others (Vygotsky, 1978) they need to scaffold their own learning and to develop a personal knowledge base. At the same time as the dominance of official accreditation wanes, they need to be able to record and present their learning achievement. Personal Learning Environments are merely tools to allow this to happen.

All this leads to the issue of the role of educational technology researchers and developers. In research terms we need to understand more not just about how people use technology or learning but how they construct a personal knowledge base, how they access different resources for learning, including people and how knowledge is exchanged and developed.

At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community. It can be argued that whilst most educational technology development has focused on supporting learners already engaged in educational programmes and institutions, the major potential of technology and particularly of Personal Learning Environments is for the majority of people not enrolled on formal educational programmes. Not all workplaces or for that matter communities offer a rich environment or learning. Yet there is vast untapped potential in such environments, particularly for the development and sharing of the tacit knowledge and work process knowledge required in many tasks and occupations. PLE tools can help people learning in formal and informal contexts, scaffold their learning and develop a personal learning knowledge base or portfolio.

At both pedagogic and technical levels, context provides a major challenge. Whilst mobile technologies recognise the context of place (through GPS), other and perhaps more important aspects of context are less well supported. This includes time – how is what I learned at one time linked to something I learned later? It includes purpose – why am I trying to learn something? It includes the physical environment around me, including people. And of course it includes the social and semantic links between places, environments, people and objects.

The challenge is to develop flexible applications and tools to enhance peoples’ PLEs and which can recognise context, can support people in scaffolding their learning and develop their own Personal Learning Networks and enhance their ability to direct their own learning and the learning of their peers.

Two major European funded projects, ROLE and Learning Layers are attempting to develop such applications. They both have the potential to make major inroads into the challenges outlined in this short paper.

Reference

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

 

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    Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE from the Online EDUCA Berlin 2014

    We will broadcast from Berlin on the 4th and the 5th of December. Both times it will start at 11.15 CET and will go on for about 30 minutes.

    Go here to listen to the radio stream: SoB Online EDUCA 2014 LIVE Radio.

    News Bites

    Online Educa Berlin

    Are you going to Online Educa Berlin 2014. As usual we will be there, with Sounds of the Bazaar, our internet radio station, broadcasting live from the Marlene bar on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 December. And as always, we are looking for people who would like to come on the programme. Tell us about your research or your project. tell us about cool new ideas and apps for learning. Or just come and blow off steam about something you feel strongly about. If you would like to pre-book a slot on the radio email graham10 [at] mac [dot] com telling us what you would like to talk about.


    Consultation

    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.


    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100’s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


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