Archive for the ‘TEL’ Category

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Four: How to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning?

September 18th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three latest posts I have presented reflections on “Digital Divide 4.0” (regarding the concept, see the first post). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my second post I discussed, how this concept reflects the initial difficulties of our project work in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC.

In this post I shift the emphasis to another part of the German vocational education and training (VET) system – to vocational schools. This is partly triggered by a recent working meeting with a vocational school teacher, who wondered, why their school was not included into our project.  Indeed, for us in ITB and in the training centre Bau-ABC it is a key issue, how to bridge gaps between formal and informal learning when developing workplace-based learning. In my short answer I referred to the funding priorities that emphasised strongly the promotion of informal learning (and SMEs as target groups). In order to understand this it is useful to look back at the development of earlier policies to promote e-Learning or Technology-Enhanced Learning (on the one hand) and initiatives to promote professional development of teachers and trainers in VET (on the other hand). Yet, we need to ask, why the conceptual gap between parallel earlier policies and initiatives has remained. Moreover, we should reflect, how our work in the LL project could help to bridge the gaps.

Background: Earlier e-Learning as ‘alternative’ for institutionalised education and training

Looking back at the educational initiatives in 1980s and 1990s there was a gradual movement in efforts to create new opportunities for open learning. This was reflected in the terminology – ‘remote learning’, ‘distance learning’, ‘open distance learning (ODL)’, ‘blended learning’ – all these referred to different steps and measures to open access to education and learning. Suddenly, at the end of 1990s and at the brink of the ‘New Millennium’ there was a great hype on ‘eLearning‘. In the newer initiatives there was a clear tendency to push the institutionalised education (and the adult education movement) aside. Some protagonists tried to bring forward private providers and new ‘career spaces’ via commercial eLearning programs as the innovation leaders. This was reflected in the separate European funding opportunities for e-Learning of that time. However, concerning the projects on the uses of e-Learning by work organisations, I remember that they concluded that the take on eLearning provisions was low. Instead, wider European surveys – like the the ones of the project “ICT and SMEs” – provided valuable information on the ways that SMEs actually used to support (organisational) learning.

Shift of emphasis: Teachers and trainers in VET as ‘key actors for lifelong learning’

Whilst the above mentioned developments emerged from fringe areas in education and training policies, the next wave – the follow-up of the EU Lisbon Summit 2000 – was part of an overarching development of EU policies. In the field of education and training this took shape firstly in the European Commission strategy document Education and Training 2010 and the aim was to promote a digital learning culture to support global competitiveness of European economy. In the first phase this follow-up was promoted by European working groups and supported by commissioned follow-up studies. In particular the follow-up study for the Maastricht meeting in 2004 drew attention that the engagement of teachers and trainers (notably in vocational education and training (VET) was lagging behind regarding the promotion of digital learning culture.

This gave rise for the European Commission to introduce new initiatives to stimulate trans-national cooperation and European exchanges with different formats: the Eurotrainer surveys, the TTplus framework project, the network ‘Trainers in Europe’, the policy-makers’ Peer Learning seminars and the Europe-wide series of ‘regional’ consultation seminars for different stakeholder groups. Altogether these measures increased the European knowledge basis on VET teacher education and training of trainers across Europe. However, these activities did not provide a basis for common qualification frameworks – instead they recommended the continuation of such participative dialogue forums with emphasis on learning lessons from recent innovations.

Another shift of emphasis: Focus on digital media and mobile technologies to support informal learning

In the meantime the development of web technologies and the spread of mobile devices had given new impulses for technology-enhanced learning. This became manifest in the wider use of online learning platforms, e-portfolios and open educational resources (OER). Now, there was less talk of sidelining the educational establishments but promoting specific initiatives (the networks of open universities) or by joint services (for consortia of member universities). Parallel to this there was a need to explore, how new forms of online learning could be promoted in working life, in particular in such occupations that were characterised by SMEs (and not catered for by university-industry alliances). Partly, the newer policy priorities were looking for genuinely work- and organisation-based modes of (informal) learning, partly for ways to reduce training costs by promoting flexible learning alongside work.

The experience with Learning Layers: The role of trainers and facilitators as change agents

In my two previous posts I have discussed the issue ‘digital divide’ in its current forms (“Digital divide 4.0”) in general and in the light of our fieldwork in the Learning Layers project. Also, I have given insights, how we have made progress with our application partners in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC and in the network for ecological construction work (NNB). In both cases we have not relied on stand-alone tools or self-learning of practitioners (with the help of online tutorials). With the Learning Toolbox we have managed to develop – in a co-design process with the users – an integrative toolset that meets several basic needs and is easy to expand by the users themselves. Also, we have trained the pioneering users in joint learning sessions to work as peer tutors and mentors in their own communites and networks. However, the wider use has always been dependent on the interest of new users (and anticipation of practical benefits for them). Here, the success factor is to introduce Learning Toolbox as one instrument to promote knowledge sharing, coordination of tasks and real-time communication – and in this way work-related and organisational learning.

Follow-up: What role for teachers and trainers in promoting digital agenda in vocational education?

In the light of the above we (the partners working with the construction pilot of the LL project) have good reasons to consider, what role could teachers in vocational schools play in the follow-up phase. In the German dual system there is a constant challenge to improve cooperation between the fundamental learning venues: enterprise (workplace and the intermediate training centre) and school. In this respect the Learning Toolbox will offer new prospects. Also, the new importance of European mobility schemes (training of apprentices from Spain, Greece etc. in Germany) and the integration schemes for refugees provide new challenges for teachers and trainers in VET. Here, we believe that the introduction of Learning Toolbox could help different parties work together. I will get back to these issues soon.

More blogs to come …

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Two: Observations on the uses of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC

September 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest post I started a series of reflections on the concept “Digital Divide 4.0” (see my previous post ). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  In particular these thoughts have been triggered by our LTB workshops (covered in my earlier posts) and our working visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. With this blog I try to give insights into our observations on ‘digital divide 4.0’ in the beginning phase of the LL project and into the role of our project work in overcoming such divides. Here I would like to emphasist the role of participative design processes, capacity-building measures and the user-driven deployment of LTB in the training activities of Bau-ABC.

Findings on the use of digital tools and mobile apps in the early phase of the LL project

In the beginning phase of the LL project the ITB team carried out several interviews among Bau-ABC trainers and representatives of craft trade companies regarding their use of digital tools, web platforms and mobile apps. Likewise, we carried out (in collaboration with Bau-ABC) a user survey among the Bau-ABC apprentices.

Without going into details, both the interviews and the survey gave a picture of a scattered landscape of stand-alone tools, apps and platforms. The trainers and company representatives had looked at different sites but were not convinced of the quality – it was difficult to distinguish, what tools/apps were meant for professional use and what for hobbyists. The apprentices new very few of them and had hardly any experience with them.

In general, this picture corresponds with my characterisation of ‘digital divide 4.0’ (see my previous post). Both our interview partners and the apprentices responding to the survey were users of smartphones, had acquired a considerable web capability and were exploring, how to use the new tools and technologies. Yet, the trainers and company representatives experienced a kind of Tantalos-situation (see my previous post) – having a multitude of possibilities but not getting a hold of them. Likewise, the apprentices were frustrated because web tools, apps and mobile devices played no role in the training.

What was the role of co-design processes and multimedia training?

In the co-design workshops with Bau-ABC trainers we were looking for ways to support their pedagogic approaches (action-oriented learning, self-organised learning) in context-specific training projects. Likewise, in the workshops with apprentices we were looking at characteristic working tasks and specific situations in which digital tools would be useful. This all was fed to the development of the Learning Toolbox.

In the Multimedia Training we (the facilitators from Pontydysgu and ITB) helped the Bau-ABC trainers to find their own approach to using digital tools and web resources – and to editing their own contents. The most important achievements of this phase were the trainers’ own WordPress  blogs with which they have made their training materials publicly available. (See Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog.)

Interim assessments by Bau-ABC trainers during the project

In between the Bau-ABC trainers have contributed with their interim assessments that have given important impulses for the development of the Learning Toolbox and for reshaping of the multimedia training arrangements:

  • In August/September 2014 the Bau-ABC colleagues couldn’t participate in the LL consortium meeting in Tallin. Instead they prepared a video message that was later on edited into short videos. These outlined different contexts for using the Learning Toolbox in the training of Bau-ABC and in different work situations. In one of the videos four trainers discuss their pedagogic principles (action-oriented learning; self-organised learning) and how they see the possibilities to promote such learning via Learning Toolbox (see below).

  • In May 2015 the Bau-ABC trainers made an interim assessment on the earlier Multimedia training (2013 -2014) and on their internal follow-up (2014 -2015). They came to the conclusion that Bau-ABC needs to organise a training scheme for the whole trainer staff to bring the media competences to a common level and to work out joint approaches for using the respective tools, apps and platforms. This provided the basis for the Theme Room training campaign that was implemented in November 2015 by tutors from Bau-ABC, ITB and Pontydysgu (with on-site support by Jaanika Hirv from TLU). This campaign was a major step forward to prepare the Bau-ABC trainers to take the role of active users of the Learning Toolbox.

Reflections on the deployment of Learning Toolbox and on the feedback from the users

In February and March 2016 we started the active phase of deployment of the Learning Toolbox with some Bau-ABC trainers in their training projects. Already at that stage we could see that the trainers quickly developed their own ways to use stacks, pages and tiles to shape their training projects:

  • In the trade of well-builders (Brunnenbauer) the emphasis was given on a specific project folder that is supported by content tiles (Reference materials) and collection tiles (photos and videos). When the pilot group of well-builder apprentices moved on to training periods in other trades (metalworking, borehole building), the trainers in these trades provided similar project folders.
  • The joint project of carpenters (Zimmerer) and bricklayers (Maurer) was based on a common mother-stack that was linked to daughter stacks that presented the respective subprojects to be carried out during training periods in the respective trades. In addition, the mother stack provided links to other daughter stacks that provided collections of tools and of further learning materials.

When collecting feedback on the use of Learning Tools the LL researchers involved (mainly Markus Manhart from UIBK) could conclude that the trainers were becoming owners of the innovation and that the apprentices had adopted the use of Learning Toolbox as ‘their way’ of managing the projects. In particular the following observations were of interest:

  • From the pedagogic point of view the trainers had set somewhat different accents. Some of them put an emphasis on equipping the apprentices with comprehensive sets of reference materials and challenging them to do selective and searches for their purposes. Here one could use the metaphor of ‘well’ for the stacks as stable learning resources. Other trainers put an emphasis on curiosity- and interest-based learning and with respective opening of new pages or tiles for apprentices. Here one could use the metaphor of ‘watering cans’ for the stacks as learning resources that are adjusted to the learners’ progress. Consequently, their apprentices have developed either explorative or level-by-level progressing learning approaches.
  • From the infrastructural and organisational points of view the trainers concluded that the deployment of Learning Toolbox had been carried out as a limited pilot. Now the time had come ripe to make commitments for the whole organisation (including the infrastructure and the availability of mobile devices for all training areas). The apprentices had experienced difficulties due to limited internet access – both in the training centre and even more when they were on construction sites. Yet, they emphasised the advantages of using Learning Toolbox vis-à-vis the time when they had not had such a toolset. Also, they put a major emphasis in having the necessary tools in an integrated and contextually adjusted set. However, very few had been able to convince their employers or supervisors of the benefits of the Toolbox. Here, it apparent that the company representatives have to find their own ways to use such a toolset and to become aware of the benefits from their perspective.

Concluding remarks

I believe this is enough of our learning journey in the context of the Learning Layers project and with focus on the project activities in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. To me this story serves as an example, how participative design process, capacity building and user-driven tool deployment can work well in the long run. As I see it, we started in a situation that could be characterised as ‘digital divide 4.0’ and worked through processes that helped us to overcome such divides (including us as researchers and our counterparts in the training centre). However, the story shows that we need extra efforts to help the construction companies to find their ways forward. I will get back to this in my next blog.

More blogs to come …

Bringing Learning Toolbox to users – Part Two: Workshop with craft trade companies in Bremen

September 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series of reports on the newest events in the fieldwork of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its key product Learning Toolbox (LTB) developed in the construction sector pilot. The LTB has been shaped together with our application partners in the North-German construction industries and trad to support workplace learning and/or learning in the context of work processes. With the two workshops that we organised on Wednesday (7.9.) and Thursday (8.9.) we wanted to present the Toolbox and to bring it close to users. The previous post covered the workshop with researchers from our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB). This second post focuses on the workshop that we had with representatives of craft trade companies and construction sector professionals from Bremen region.

Introducing the Learning Layers project and the Learning Toolbox

In this workshop the moderator Werner Müller (ITB) and the representative of the developers of the Toolbox Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) focused on the efferts of the project to support learning and knowledge sharing in the context of work and organisations. In particular Gilbert demonstrated the use of the Toolbox with different examples on practice-based learning and on getting access to relevant information and deeper know-how in work situations. See Gilbert’s slides here LTB-WS_Handwerksbetriebe.

The case for using Learning Toolbox at a construction site presented by Thomas Isselhard

After the introductions our application partner Thomas Isselhard from the network for ecological construction work (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen – NNB) presented the case with which he had trained himself to become an active user of the Learning Toolbox. Thomas is an architect with expertise on renovating old buildings and work with ecologically sound  construction materials. He is now in charge of a special construction site in Verden. The old building that is under preservation order (Denkmalschutz) needs to be renovated thoroughly. However, due to the preservation order there are further requirements how the work needs to be done. And therefore, there are frequent changes in plans and instructions – and repeated needs for real-time communication between and advice for the teams that are working on the site. In the following video clip Thomas and Werner discuss this issue when visiting the construction site:

Concerning the introduction of the Toolbox in their working Thomas refers to their standard procedures, files and use of colours in paper-based archiving. It has been convenient for his fellow colleagues and collaborators to use the similar structure in creating digital tiles in the Toolbox (for specific phases and documents) and to equip them with the colours that have been used in paper-based archiving. Therefore, he has a general prototype stack (of such tiles) that he can copy for new cases with which he will use the Toolbox. In the following video clip Thomas expresses this in his own words:

Thomas gave us several examples from everyday life situations, how much miscommunication and unnecessary delays (due to waiting times) can be avoided if different parties involved were equipped with such a Toolbox and had the updated information (without confusion on versions) at the same time available.

Discussion on other prospects or working issues to be considered

In the discussion several issues were raised from the perspective of the companies. In the beginning some participants were concerned, whether construction workers are ready to use digital tools and insert information in writing. Thomas stated immediately that the Toolbox is very easy to use and that users can adjust it to their needs without heavy training. Others emphasised that there are several ‘paperwork’ duties that can be immensely facilitated with such an interactive tool. Furthermore, the Toolbox makes it easier to manage different communication channels and versions of documents that are being used. Also, the Toolbox makes it easier to distinguish between archives and working documents – and to make this distinction transparent to all parties. Yet, for regular use, the participants needed clarification on storage of data (cloud – central server – local server), on different levels of privacy and sharing, on access to public resources (official maps held by public authorities) and on the policies and pricing for subscriptions. These, as we see it, will be clarified by the end of the LL project, when the support of the Toolbox is continued by a new service provider.

– – –

I think this is enough of this workshop. We got a clear impression that the Toolbox is reaching the stage of maturity and that the craft trade companies are ready for further talks on actual use of it in their work. However, given the relatively short time of piloting, we all understand that there is a need for further support by research & development activities. From this perspective we in ITB are pleased to note that we have several follow-up projects that can provide such support. Therefore, we will keep working with such follow-up activities.

More blogs to come …

 

Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part Two: Fresh feedback on the use of Learning Toolbox

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series of blog entries to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Because of my sick leave I felt the need to catch up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction pilot with the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) – both in work-based learning and at construction sites.  With my first post I summarised where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB in our field activities earlier this year. With this second post I provide insights into fresh feedback on the use of LTB by construction sector apprentices.

The field visit of Markus Manhart (University of Innsbruck) to Bau-ABC

In the meantime our colleague Markus Manhart from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) was on field visit at the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC in Rostrup to collect feedback on the use of LTB by apprentices and to interview their trainers. Markus has shared his results with us and I can only do justice to his good work by making his report available via this blog post.

Markus told that he organised two Focus Group sessions (focus on LTB) with six carpenter apprentices (project Holzbau) and had two interviews with their trainers (Bruns, Pape).  In addition he had three Focus Groups with altogether 14 apprentices from another trade (Baugeräteführer) on the use of video annotation tool AchSo. Since the use of mobile devices is restricted (or not allowed at all) during their working periods in construction companies, Markus asked them to reflect on their experiences with using the tools in Bau-ABC (from the initial introduction to present date). Below I give extracts from Markus’ reports (with next to original wording but to some extent edited by me – PK):

First finding: “Guiding replaces strict instructions”:

There is some evidence for a tool-supported change of the training patterns at Bau-ABC. In the past, apprentices and trainers had a rather hierarchical perception of training activities, characterised by limited  autonomy for learners (= apprentices). Trainers told what to do and apprentices expected to get detailed instructions. Using LTB (and also AchSo) is partly contributing to a change towards more autonomous learning. The trainers tend to give apprentices more room of manoeuvre how to prepare and implement their projects. Instead of strictly instructing them, trainers tend to take the role of ‘guides’ for the apprentices. However, the increase of autonomy seems to be dependent on many factors: characteristics of learners, type of learning materials and achieved knowledge. Finally, the interpretation of the trainers on their own role will influence greatly, how such change can occur.

Second finding: “From consuming to contributing”:

In the past, learning material was provided in a one-way communication from trainers to apprentices. Thus, apprentices were more consumers of learning materials and recipients of trainers’ knowledge. Now, the new tools (provided by the LL project) support a transition towards a peer-to-peer mode of treating learning materials and knowledge resources. However, in this context it is important to note that the asymmetry cannot be completely abolished. From the perspective of trainers it is clear that some learning materials and knowledge elements cannot be freely produced or acquired by apprentices. Also, the apprentices are aware of their limits in this respect.

What can be produced and shared in terms of peer-to-peer communication are problems with the apprentices’ projects or experiences with managing such projects (e.g. time management, planning work steps). What should not be produced and shared in such terms are instructions, how to perform project tasks (e.g. methods of how wooden beams should be prepared or constructed) and information on health and safety regulations (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz).

Third finding: “Digital transformation”:

In the light of the two aspects mentioned above, apprentices and trainers have described several episodes as exemplary cases, how the LL tools contribute to changes in training and learning practices. These can be treated as indications on digital transformation in the training and learning culture of Bau-ABC. (Below I give a nutshell summary, more information can be obtained from Markus Manhart.)

Interestingly enough, in the light of these examples digital transformation does not appear as a fundamental change of training and learning pushed by the tools. Instead, it is perceived rather as meaningful changes of specific practices. Regarding meaningfulness the apprentices gave the example on their obligation to document their daily project progress and achieved results.

When working with paper- and pencil-based documentation the apprentices had several possibilities to cheat the trainers with their reports. In general, they could write down what the trainers would expect to get from them (even when this wouldn’t quite correspond with the reality). Thus, if a task has taken a whole day, they could report having completed it in three hours. Or they could omit mentioning problems they had encountered with project tasks in their reports. In practice their trainers would not always be in the position to monitor their work very thoroughly. In such cases, the marks given on their performance would not reflect the actual performance of the apprentices. This deficit in controlling would favour the ones inclined to cheat at the expense of the more honest apprentices.

When documenting the work with project tasks with videos, the apprentices provide a true picture of situations, activities and results. This makes it possible for the trainers to assess, if the task was performed adequately. Thus, they are better informed on what grounds they can give the marks. In this way the changing pattern of reporting on apprentices’ projects serves as an example, how the use of digital tools in the interaction between trainers and learners enhances the apprentices’ commitment and motivation to appropriate task completion.

– – –

I hope I have done justice to Markus’ text and conveyed the message he intended. To me his findings are important clues for our conceptual interpretation on digital transformation in workplace learning – as demonstrated in the context of the training centre Bau-ABC. In my next post I will discuss our recent efforts to promote the use of LTB in craft trade companies in the construction sector.

More blogs to come … 

Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part One: Looking back at developments in 2016

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year my summer break was longer than I had planned due to health issues. Now I am back at work and trying to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In particular I have to catch up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction pilot with the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in work-based learning and at construction sites. Before going into the most recent developments (I will deal with them in the next posts) I will firstly summarise where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB in our field activities earlier this year.

Introduction of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training of the pioneering trades of Bau-ABC

In the middle of February 2016 we (the ITB team of Learning Layers) had a field visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC to prepare the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in some pioneering trades. These discussions are reported in the following blog entry:

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

In the middle of March 2016 we had the joint kick-off event to start the active use of LTB in the pioneering trades (well-builders and carpenters). In addition to the ITB team we had the LTB developers and the evaluators from the Universities of Innsbruck and Tallinn. The activities of the event are reported in the following blog entry:

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

In the beginning of April 2014 we (the ITB and Pontydysgu teams) had another working visit to Bau-ABC to collect feedback on the functioning and actual use of the LTB. Our findings have been documented in the following blog entry:

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part Two: Feedback during a working visit to Bau-ABC

Altogether we could observe that the use of LTB had become part of the ordinary training and learning practices of Bau-ABC trainers and construction sector apprentices.

Spreading the use of LTB into other trades/ learning contexts

Another series of field visits in Bau-ABC took place at the end of May and in the beginning of June.

At the end of May 2016 we had a three days’ working visit in Bau-ABC with colleagues from Aalto University, University of Innsbruck and Pontydysgu. The colleagues from Aalto were introducing the video annotation tool AchSo and the Social Augmented Reality tool SOAR. Alongside these session we had also evaluation workshops moderated by colleagues from Innsbruck. The feedback on the use of LTB has been documented in the following blog entry:

Piloting with AchSo and getting feedback on Learning Toolbox – Part Two: Apprentices’ views on using the Learning Toolbox

In the beginning of June 2016 we made some progress with introducing LTB to further trades and learning contexts.

Firstly I had a short session with two colleagues to prepare the introduction of LTB in the joint learning area ‘health and safety’ and in a trans-national mobility scheme that brings apprentices from Spain to German companies.

Secondly I worked with a Bau-ABC trainer to introduce the use of LTB in a new trade (pipeline builders) involving a group of well-builders getting trained in this trade (and already familiar with LTB). This session is reported in the following blog entry:

Learning Toolbox in Action – New project for Brunnenbauer apprentices in Rohrleitungsbau

Thirdly I had a special working session with a group of Spanish apprentices and project coordinator Melanie Campbell from Bau-ABC to explore the uses of LTB in supporting the newcomers from Spain during their apprentice training in Germany. This session is reported in the following blog entry:

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

Publication of the online guide to Learning Toolbox (LTB)

In the middle of June 2016 we were happy to observe that the LTB developers had published a comprehensive online guide to Learning Toolbox (see http://ltb.io/). I provided a brief introduction to the guide in the following blog entry:

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Online Guide published!
– – –

I guess this is enough of the activities in the spring and early summer months of 2016. In my next blogs I will report on the most recent activities (based on the information I have got from my LL colleagues).

More blogs to come …

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

June 23rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

June 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

1.  Multimedia Training concept based on “Theme Rooms”

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

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

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

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

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

3. Spreading Learning Toolbox to other contexts and new users

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

 

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

June 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LTB workshop with the Spanish apprentices (10.6.2016)

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

 

Learning Toolbox in Action – New project for Brunnenbauer apprentices in Rohrleitungsbau

June 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent blog on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I described, how two colleagues from the training centre started building stacks in the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to make use of the toolset in their special areas. Thomas Weerts prepared a prototype stack “Arbeitssicherheit im Bauwirtschaft” (Health and Safety in Construction). Melanie Campbell prepared a prototype stack “Mobi Pro EU” for a transnational mobility scheme that in bringing groups of Spanish apprentices to get apprentice training in construction companies in Germany. (We will get back to both themes in a short while. This blog reports on a similar stack-building session with another Bau-ABC colleague, but with more rapid steps to implementation in practice.

Linking the trade Rohrleitungsbau into piloting with Learning Toolbox (LTB)

The aim of my working session with the Bau-ABC trainer Stefan Wiedenstried was to look, how to link the trades for which he is responsible (Strassenbau – road-building and Rohrleitungsbau – pipeline building) with the LTB.

However, we immediately noticed that the group that was practicing with road-building (Strassenbau) was the initial pilot group of the well-builders (Brunnenbauer) with whom trainer Lothar Schoka had started the LTB pilot in his area. Also, the same group had been the test group to whom Sanna Reponen from Aalto University had presented the LL tool AchSo when they were having training in metalworking (see my blog 24th of May 2016). Also, the same group had been interviewed by our colleagues from Innsbruck University (UIBK) on their use of LTB (See my blog 25th of May 2016). It just happened to be the case that this same group was scheduled for next week to be trained by Stefan in the trade of pipeline building (Rohrleitungsbau).

This gave Stefan a clue, how to start. He looked at the stack that was prepared for the kick-off project in which the apprentices first time used LTB in their own trade (Projektordner Schoka). Then he looked, how the mini-projects of metalworking were presented in another stack (Projektordner Wiechmann). And based on these examples he started to develop his own stack (Projektorder Wiedenstried) in a similar format as the previous ones.

The project  “Waagerechter-Verbau” takes shape as an LTB stack

The title of the scheduled project is “1-03-04 Waagerechter-Verbau nach Din4124, Einbau e”. The task is to prepare the grounds for laying pipelines for drinking water in exactly horizontal position according to the DIN norm DIN4124.

After the welcoming message Stefan created a collection tile that contains the project description and a set of photos that illustrate the task. He then tested the functioning of the chat function with Lothar Schoka, who also linked this stack to the ‘parent stack’ of this group of well-builders.

After all these preparatory measures Stefan announced the stack on the Facebook-page of his trade “Tiefbau im Bau-ABC Rostrup”, see below:

Screenshot 2016-06-10 11.15.07

So, now we are looking forward to the group of Brunnenbauer apprentices bringing Learning Toolbox in action in yet another neighbouring trade – in Rohrleitungsbau (pipeline-building). We hope all the best and are keen on hearing more of their work.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Piloting with AchSo and getting feedback on Learning Toolbox – Part Three: Introducing Augmented Reality to construction vehicle drivers

May 26th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest blogs on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I started a series of reports on a field visits in the construction sector – and in particular in the training centre Bau-ABC. Our visitors from Aalto University (Finland) have introduced their tools and our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) gathered feedback on our pilot with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my first post I reported on the introduction of video annotation tool AchSo. In my second post I  reported on the feedback that apprentices have given after using the LTB. In this third post I will report on the introduction of Social Augmented Reality (SoAR) – also a tool developed by the colleagues in Aalto University.

The idea of Social Augmented Reality (SoAR)

For lay people (like myself) the most likely encounters with Augmented Reality have been the commercial applications that have provided some kind of pop-up information windows or visuals that enrich web-based information. In such applications there is a basic layer of information that is complemented with an additional one – to the benefit of the consumer-viewer. As a contrast, the idea of the Social Augmented Reality (SoAR) is to provided enriched communication with all channels of mobile devices: speech, video and tagging (drawing). When using SoAR in mobile phone calls, the counterparts can see each other and talk to each other (like using Skype), they can switch the screens that they are viewing and they can tag live videos by drawings. Whilst this idea had been presented in some consortium meetings of the LL project, we had first put the emphasis on introducing the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (in March) and then the video annotation tool AchSo (on the two first days of this field visit). On the third day of the field visit we had the chance to introduce SoAR to a group of apprentices specialising as construction vehicle drivers (Baugeräteführer).

The introduction of SoAR in Bau-ABC

Since the visitors from Aalto and UIBK had spent the second day of visit introducing the AchSo video annotation tool for a group of construction vehicle drivers (Baugeräteführer), the step to introducing AchSo (see my first blog of this series) was a smooth transition from one tool to another. Sanna Reponen presented the functionality of the tool at the outdoor training areas and the testing started immediately. Normally, the driving and operating of construction site vehicles (caterpillars with different additional features) is organised in groups – one is the driver, two others are supporting the lifting and adjusting operations while others are waiting for their turns. The supervising trainer is not all the time present – since the training is based on the culture of self-organised learning (apprentices are expected to grow into independent task preparation, planning and implementation).

Now, in the beginning, the trainer got a mobile phone in which SoAR was uploaded and one of the apprentices got another one. In this way the trainer was able to rotate between different training areas and his office without losing contact with this group of trainees. During one of the first test calls there was a real problem case, when the cylinders of the caterpillar started making unusual noises – just when the trainer was out of sight. Thanks to the use of SoAR the apprentices could show him the case and from the noise he could conclude, where the problem might be. And he could give in real time advice, what measures to take to solve the problem (or at least to avoid any damage). After this ‘real’ case, several other apprentices made similar test calls and the trainer responded from different locations. Altogether, the communication worked well but the background noise from the engines of the vehicles was a major disturbance. (However, the trainers have already tested earmuffs that can filter the background noise and these can be used with SoAR as well.)

At the end of the day we had a feedback session with the apprentices. They gave very positive feedback on the test situation and were looking forward to further development of the tool. In a similar way the trainer had made a very positive experience with his testing. Altogether, we concluded that SoAR is a very positive add-on to the Learning Layers tools.

– – –

I think that this is enough of this field visit. We made immediate arrangements to push forward the work with Learning Toolbox in some further trades and in the area of health and safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). We also made preliminary arrangements for a similar field visit (for introduction of AchSo and SoAR combined with further evaluative measures). So, there is more work to be done before and after the summer break.

More blogs to come …

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