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 …
This post continues the reports on the recent highlight event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its construction sector pilot in North Germany – the Training Days of the training centre Bau-ABC (that took place on Monday and Tuesday this week). On Monday the LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu organised three workshop sessions to present the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to plan further pilot activities with LTB in Bau-ABC. In my previous post I gave an overview on the event as such and on our contributions. In this post I will focus on the issues that were raised and on the results of different sessions and working groups.
1. General issues to be taken into account
Already after the general presentations we were confronted by several issues that we need to consider when preparing the actual pilot activities with LTB to be used with mobile devices:
These introductory discussions brought us (once again) to the picture that the use of mobile devices, digital media and web resources has to be introduced in a work- and context-adjusted way.
2. The first workshop on initial training: picking exemplary themes for particular occupations
In the first workshop session we had groups that represented the following occupations/occupational fields: concrete builders (one group), carpenters and indoor builders (one group), road builders and pipeline builders (one group). Each of these groups had as their starting point a specific project for apprentices in the respective occupation. The trainers were looking for ways to introduce Learning Toolbox into the project work. In this session the groups had somewhat different concerns and interests:
a) The group of concrete builders (Betonbauer) was concerned of the lack of written instructions for older techniques to build frames for concrete constructs. Currently, most of the frames for concrete builders are standardised and often pre-fabricated. Thus, the transfer of craftsmen’s know-how on building special-shaped frames is not supported by up-to-date learning materials. This could be compensated by video recordings that are edited into digital learning materials.
b) The group of carpenters (Zimmerer) listed several points in which the use of digital media and access to web were found useful, starting form general health and safety instructions, access to drawings, QR codes referring to appropriate tools, Barcode scanner that refers to materials, tools for documentation of learning achievements.
c) The group of road builders and pipeline builders (Strassenbauer, Rohrleitungsbauer) discussed the possibilities to link drawings, photos and DIN norms to each other, creative ways to introduce technical terminology, creative ways to control learning gains and smart ways to use videos for presenting essential ‘tricks of the trade’.
As a common point of interest the groups of the first workshop session drew attention to differentiated communication channels (messages to all vs. bilateral communication between apprentice and trainer), collecting examples of good practice to be presented to all and on differentiated ways to document learning progress at different stages of apprentice training.
3. The second workshop on initial training: developing core themes for groups of occupations
In the second workshop session the parallel groups consisted of mutually linked occupations or occupational fields and the participants had selected integrative ‘core projects’ in which they explored the use of digital media and web resources:
d) The group of well-builders and tunnel-builders (Brunnenbauer, Spezialtiefbauer) had chosen a project task on disassembling, maintenance & testing and assembling of pumps used in their trades. Here the discussion focused on the uses of digital media to visualize the processes, to draw attention to key concepts and to safety precautions. Here, a critical issue was, how to guide the work with video recording so that the documents are appropriate for the project and for the apprentices’ learning processes.
e) The group representing occupations in metal and machine techniques (Metall- und Maschinentechnik, Baugerätetechnik) had also selected a project that drew attention to the core knowledge of all these occupations – producing a threaded plate according to technical drawing (Herstellen einer Gewindeplatte gemäß Zeichnung). The group discussed different phases of the project and then drew attention to points of intervention with digital media and web tools (e.g. digital access to references, producing user-generated learning contents with apprentices, using QR-codes to demonstrate health and safety risks and using digital tools and apps to simulate use of real tools plus to discuss quality criteria and tolerances).
f) The group of road-builders, bricklayers and plasterers (Strassenbauer, Maurer, Fliesenleger) had also selected an integrative project – building a parking place for vehicles transporting disabled people (Behindertenparkplatz). Here the discussion focused on the special challenges of such task (e.g. search for information on the requirements, making the scattered information accessible for the groups of construction workers, using special techniques for constructing adequate slopes and surfaces, documentation of the work and simulation of the final inspection and acceptance of the work by public authorities).
Here, the groups focused on integrating the use of digital media and web resources into the logic of the selected projects.
4. The workshop on continuing training: identifying uses for LTB and other tools/apps promoted by LL project
The final workshop focused on the usability of the Learning Toolbox and other LL tools in the continuing training schemes. Here, the basic problem was that we could not rely on similar projects as in the initial training. Secondly, we were still demonstrating tools that were not yet finalised. And thirdly, most of the participants were only getting familiarised with the LL project on the whole. Finally, we were discussing issues that can partly be implemented as spin-offs and by-effects of the LL project work in the initial training, but partly require major spin-out activities. Yet, given these limitations the participants could make several points for further discussion alongside the pilot activities in apprentice training.
5. Next steps to be taken
I think this is as much as I can say about the workshops and on the way the prepared us for working with the Learning Toolbox. We saw (once again) that the trainers are willing to start working with it. We also noticed, that we (the accompanying LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu) need to join them when the domain-specific piloting with LTB applications will start. There are several technical, practical and pedagogic issues coming up in that phase. So, we are looking forward to a new collaborative phase in the fieldwork with Bau-ABC trainers.
More blogs to come …
In my previous post on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I started a series of blogs on the preparation of the forthcoming Field Workshops with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). With the first post I gave an update on what all has been changing regarding the use of technology and development of tools. In this post I will discuss what implications this has on Data protection/Data Security (“Datenschutz”).
1. Stock-taking on documents for Data Protection/ Data Security
I have already reported in an earlier blog that Graham Attwell drew my attention to the documents of FutureLearn (consortium of British universities for organising MOOCs). Later on, as a response to my e-mails I have got access to some other reference documents:
2. Adapting the existing documents for the LL pilots in the construction sector
Below I give an overview on four kinds of documents and discuss, to what extent they might be applicable for the LL construction sector pilots and what adjustments would be needed.
2.1. “Agreement on Research Data Management Procedure” between TLU and Leeds
Original context: This agreement is linked to the Ethical clearance of the research activities in the healthcare sector (by the University of Leeds and by the NHS). The GP practices can be involved only in R&D activities in which the management of research data is covered by bilateral agreement between the two universities that are working with/ storing the data.
Adaptability: In the construction sector the situation is in multiple senses different, since no overarching ethical clearance is required and due to the Layers Box installation the data management is primarily under the control of the application partner. Yet, a similar agreement can be drafted to regulate the use of Layers Box and the mutual responsibilities with RWTH as the primary counterpart.
2.2. “Datenschutzerklärung ” (DP/DS declaration) of the expertAzubi project
Original context: This relatively short (two and half-page) document has been drafted as a single ‘Terms & Conditions/ Intellectual Property rights/ Data Protection’ document for the users (apprentices) of the expertAzubi platform that was provided as a regional platform for apprentices in Bremen region. Here the main thrust is to make the users aware that they are responsible of content and communication on the platform and to draw their attention to principles of good practice. The document was presented to the users to be signed as precondition for registration.
Adaptability: Regarding the current construction sector pilots (with LTB and complementary tools) such a single document seems more appropriate for a user organisation (like Bau-ABC) than for individual users. With such a document it is possible to address the issues mentioned above and the combined use of LTB, Baubildung.net platform and complementary tools. From this point of view this would serve as the agreement of the organisation to join in the pilot.
Original context: In the set of the more simple DP/DS documents of the FutureLearn consortium we see the following differentiation between the target groups/organisations and the purposes of documents:
2.4. Learning Unit “Datenschutz” of the LernenPlus project
Original context: The “LernenPlus” project has worked with apprentices and trainees (pre-vocational education) of the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) and promoted their capability to use digital media and web tools in their work-related learning. In this context the project has developed a learning unit for apprentices/trainees on different aspects of data protection and good practice. Here, the point is to provide a context-oriented and exemplary learning aid to these issues. The Learning Unit document includes information inputs and exemplary tasks (that refer to working and learning situations). Also, the document contains a section of recommendations regarding private use of social media.
Adaptability: The original document was not that directly linked to a focused pilot with tools (like the construction pilot with LTB, complementary tools and Baubildung.net). Yet, the approach with short information inputs, exemplary content-oriented tasks and questions for reflection (and recommendations regarding use of social media) are appropriate for the piloting with apprentices and young construction workers. In our pilots we should develop such a material for the trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and company representatives who will introduce these issues for their apprentices/ construction workers.
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I guess this gives a picture of the kind of homework we are doing with the issues ‘Data protection’/’Data security’. To me this is just the beginning phase of the exercise – an effort to create a minimum set of documents for the pilot phase. When we are extending the pilot activities we are facing new issues. However, I want to emphasise an interesting shift of emphasis – with these draft documents and working issues we are making the “Datenschutz” issues a matter for participative design processes. We are not merely bringing ‘expertise’ on the rules and regulations. Instead, we are facilitating joint learning processes and working together for the solutions.
More blogs to come …
So, after a lengthy holiday break I am back at work. As usual, when being one of the last ones to return from the holidays, you get overwhelmed by things that are on the move and you have to jump into running trains. With the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project we are doing the homework that we got from the Year 2 review meeting – preparing a Critical path Analysis. Partly within this process and partly alongside it we are finalising our plans for the year 2015.
The Critical Path Analysis was recommended by the reviewers to clarify our priorities (what is taken on board in the critical paths) and to specify our approach to less critical activities (sandboxing them as reserve activities). In many respects this has pointed out to be useful since this is not merely a routine updating of the work plan. Instead, the analysis has pushed us to become more aware of the key activities for the whole project and to find synergies between them. Due to this task we are getting clearer about the synergies at the level of software development, technology packages, linked services and framework tools etc.
While we are working with this task we are preparing proposals for conferences and plans for field activities. Furthermore, it is one of the key features of the LL project that we are looking for opportunities for transfer projects and opportunities to exploit the results alongside the project work. So, this all keeps us busy at the moment.
More blogs to come …
With the series of two postings I wish to give a picture on the progress of the Learning Layers (LL) project with its fieldwork in the construction sector during the Year 2. With the previous blog I discussed our progress from the perspective of the (participative) R&D activities. In this blog I will shift the emphasis on our progress with stakeholder engagement and in shaping sustainability scenarios for the time after the project.
Reaching out to stakeholders in Germany and in Europe
The major steps forward in engaging key stakeholders and in outreach activities have been the following:
From project work to sustainability scenarios
The progress in the development of sustainability scenarios can be characterised in the following way:
In the year one, the sustainability scenarios in the construction sector could at best be shaped as measures to promote sustainability of the main project activities in target organisations (but with limited awareness how to sustain them after the project).
Based on the year two activities, it has been possible shape an integrative scenario that links to each otherthe following elements:
These are (in a nutshell) the messages we are presenting in our deliverables. But now that we have submitted them we are already continuing to the next steps of our fieldwork.
More blogs to come …
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.
Tomorrow I am speaking at the 4th Annual Future Learning Lab conference in Kristiansand in Norway. The conference aims to target the interplay of learning, pedagogy issues, digital media and globalizing forces representing both opportunities, threats and new conditions. The conference web site says new ways and means of learning are paving their way into both formal education, work-life and leisure. Education technologies continue to evolve. Digital communication technology changed the music industry, the film industry and the news media as well as book publishing industry: Do we really think education and the learning field is any different? The media ecology that enables disruption, is global. The new networks being employed, are global. But the consequences and challenges are, for all practical purposes, local. And learning is still an aspect of social interaction as well as personal endeavor.
My presentation (see slide deck above) is based on the work we are doing in the EU funded Learning Layers project, developing the Learning toolbox, a mobile application designed for apprentices in the construction industry. In particular, we are trying to deal with the issue of context. The Learning Toolbox is based on tiles, each a separate application, which can be differently configured for use in different contexts.
Much of the work we do in Pontydysgu is project based. And a lot of that work is funded by the European Union, inv0olving multi national consortia of partners working together over a period of two to four years. The two year projects are a bit tight for time, especially if this includes technology development. But the big problem is what happens after the project funding ends. In the best cases, the ideas and products get taken up, further developed and embedded in practice. For instance work we undertook through the MOSEP project has led to the introduction of e-portfolios in German schools. And work piloted in the Mature IP project has led to the development of an open portal and database for labour market information to improve career choices and decision making in the UK.
But all too sadly, many projects just fade away at the end of the funding. Of course sometimes this is because the work turned out to be less impressive than we had initially hoped. But there are also two big problems more relater to the structuring and fincaci9ng of European projects. The major one is the scaling up of projects and innovations. If products and processes are to be used after a project ceases funding, whatever the outcome, substantial numbers of users are needed. This is true for software, for processes or for more traditional products such as handbooks. Of course it is difficult to scale up to substantial numbers of users with two years. But regardless of the length of a project it requires a strategy. And most projects do not have such a goal, let alone a strategic approach.
The EU funded Learning layers project has as a major objective, scaling the use of technology to substantial numbers of small and medium enterprises in the construction and health sectors. To do this we are looking at developing engagement with clusters of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Between 2002 and 2010, nearly 85% of new jobs in Europe were created by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are currently employing 67% of the total workforce (De Krok et al., 2011). Notably, it is the smallest and youngest SMEs that drive this trend, while more established and larger firms are shedding jobs on a net basis. Many of the new jobs created by these SMEs are knowledge intensive and demand specialised skills. According to a European Commission study, the number of low skilled jobs is expected to fall from 21% of total jobs in 2012 to 18% by 2020, while jobs that require higher skills levels are expected to rise by 20%. (European Commission, 2012).
Highly specialised and high-skill growth SMEs increasingly organise in regional clusters as competitive pressures and the difficulties in some sectors of finding skilled workers make collaboration even among competitors an attractive value proposition. At the same time, clusters have a unique negotiation advantage in the region compared to smaller actors, and have the power to influence educational institutions and policy makers. In theory, by joining clusters together with other firms and regional players, SMEs have a means to influence educational and business development policy in their region and the bargaining power to lean on local colleges and universities to produce the skills and talents needed for economic advancement. Cluster organisations can drive innovation in learning at the workplace by helping SMEs and other cluster members in developing joint technology-enabled training and skills services, which in turn provide an additional funding source for the cluster organisation.
A recent study conducted by the Cluster Excellence Initiative (Meier zu Köcker et al., 2012) of over 300 European cluster organisations shows that the depth and breadth of services offered to their members is the most important contributor to generating impact on the business of SMEs. In terms of the type of service offered by the cluster organisation, our research indicates that currently, services focusing on training and skills development have the greatest potential in terms of generating revenues. This supports the Learning Layers project strategy of targeting cluster organisations as scaling partners and the focus on training and skills development services for SMEs in and across regional clusters. Inter-cluster collaborations in developing learning services makes economic sense since clusters in a given region share common actors, including regional policy makers in education and business development, universities, VET and general upper secondary schools, research institutions, and financial institutions and investors. (more to follow).
Teachers and overtime
According to the TES teachers in the UK “are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week, according to research.
A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.
Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.
Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.”
The future of English Further Education
The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.
It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.
The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.
Skills in Europe
Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).
Skills Panorama, they say, turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.
The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/launch/.
Talking about ‘European’ MOOCs
The European EMMA project is launching a webinar series. The first is on Tuesday 17 November 2015 from 14:00 – 15:00 CET.
They say: “In this first webinar we will explore new trends in European MOOCs. Rosanna de Rosa, from UNINA, will present the philosophy and challenges behind the EMMA EU project and MOOC platform developed with the idea of accommodating diversity through multilingualism. Darco Jansen, from EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities), will talk about Europe’s response to MOOC opportunities. His presentation will highlight the main difference with the U.S. and discuss the consequences for didactical and pedagogical approaches regarding the different contexts.