Archive for the ‘TEL’ Category

Four years blogging on, with and for the Learning Layers project – looking back and looking forward

November 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the four last years I have been blogging intensively on our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now the time has come to close that chapter. I have three reasons to make that statement:

  1. The project itself is at its final stage and our field activities are being closed.
  2. My contract with the project has already come to an end. At the moment I have not been yet been engaged in the follow-up activities that are still in the process of getting shaped.
  3. Due to health issues I am no longer available for field activities in the same way as before.

So, with all the good time passed with the LL project and with all due optimism vis-à-vis the open questions, I am well advised to to take a look back at my blogs and see, what all comes up there.

1.  Blogs of the years 2012 and 2013 – Working ourselves in into the project

Now, looking back, the blogs of the first year reflect a period when we all (research partners, technical partners and application partners) were working ourselves in into the project and finding our ways to work together. I have reported intensively of the initial field visits, of the Application Partner Days and of the work around the Helsinki Design Conference 2013. Also, I have reported of several rounds of co-design workshops and of the first Multimedia Training workshops. At that point we still tried to work with a massive digitisation agenda with the Bau-ABC “White Folder” and sought to narrow it down for rapid prototyping. As our main achievements I highlighted the good collaborative spirit in the co-design workshops and the readiness for shared learning in the Multimedia training workshops. Later on I started to use the concept ‘research & development (R&D) dialogue’ to emphasise this as something very valuable that we had established together.

The logbook of my blogs of these years is available on ResearchGate, see:

PK-Logbook of Working & Learning blogs on Learning Layers 2013

2. Blogs of the year 2014 – Taking the course to develop the Learning Toolbox

The second year was started with a planning exercise – to sketch ‘development projects’ as mode of operation that gives us more flexibility across the work packages and initial design teams. For the construction pilot this was an important signal because it helped us to highlight the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as our new working perspective. In addition to this important shift of emphasis I have reported intensively of the preparation and implementation of the Theory Camp (March 2014) and our follow-up with our contributions to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2014, September 2014). However, the main thrust in that year was clearly in our user engagement with our colleagues in Bau-ABC. We had a major promotion campaign on the idea of LTB during the annual Brunnenbauertage conference. We had an intensive “Demo Camp” promotion session with Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices alongside our consortium meeting in Bau-ABC. We had other outreach activities (the NordBau trade fair and a workshop with companies). Finally, the highlight of the year was the package of videos that we edited with Bau-ABC trainers to support the development of the LTB.

The logbook of my blogs of this year is available on ResearchGate, see:

PK-Logbook of ” Working & Learning ” blogs on Learning Layers 2014

3. Blogs of the year 2015 – The rocky road to Theme Room training and piloting with LTB

The first half of the year 2015 was characterised by hard work with software development and with preparing funding bids for follow-up projects. Neither of these topics was heavily present on the blogs. Therefore, there was quite a lot of reporting on interim events, on the Espoo Design conference and on several hot issues from Finland (the AchSo pilot in Finnish construction sector, the Sustainability Commitments, knowledge sharing on Activity Theory, joint event with Finnish promoters of apprentice training). In April we experienced the opening of the Learning Exhibition “nachhaltig.bauen.erleben” of our application partners in Verden. In May we visited the annual Training Day of Bau-ABC trainers, still with a simulation version of LTB. The turning point was the consortium meeting in Tallinn where we had our first discussion on the Theme Room training concept and a release of LTB with which we could proceed to preliminary testing. So, after the summer break we were already engaging Bau-ABC trainers in testing and in the autumn months we implemented the Theme Room training campaign – both topics well covered with blogs.

The logbook of my blogs of this year is available on ResearchGate, see:

PK-Logbook of “Working & Learning” blogs on Learning Layers 2015

4. Blogs of the year 2016 – With seven-league boots in the final run

The clear highlight of the final project year has been the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) into apprentice training in Bau-ABC – and later in the year to construction site management in Verden. The progress in Bau-ABC has been covered with blogs on preparatory meetings in February, on the Kick-off event in March and on later working visits in April and May. The exemplary openings in the pioneering trades (well-builders; carpenters and bricklayers) and the transfer to neighbouring trades have been observed carefully. Also tests in other fields of application (Training in Health and Safety; Support for trans-national mobility) were introduced. And in-between we had fairly successful testing visit with AchSo and SOAR introduced by colleagues from Aalto. And after the summer break we were happy to find out during the evaluative field visits (together with Markus Manhart from UIBK and Jaanika Hirv from TLU) that the Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices had taken LTB as their own tools to use it with their accents as support for training and learning. This then paved the way for the high season of preparing the final deliverables (that I have discussed in my latest blogs).

The logbook of my blogs of this year is available on ResearchGate, see:

PK-Logbook of “Working & Learning” blogs on Learning Layers 2016

– – –

I think this is enough of my journey with the LL project as it has been portrayed on my blogs. Of course, the blogs are episodic snapshots and do not necessarily grasp the bigger picture (although I have tried to cover this level of analysis as well). Some of the blogs have been combined and reworked into articles on the LL project website and latterly into the “Learning Toolbox Chronicle”. As the running number of the blog entries is right now 176 (if I have not counted wrong), it is perhaps easier to get an overview from those chronicles than by walking through the heavier logbooks. But both types of collections are there. With this statement I close this chapter and take the next step  to move on.

More blogs to come …

 

‘Methods’ or process innovations in Learning Layers research – Part Two: Reflections on training innovations

November 15th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog I started yet another series of posts on our contributions to the final deliverable of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. I might be repeating myself but it is worth reflecting, what kind of learning experience we have made with our partners in the Learning Layers Construction pilot. At the end of the journey  we are able to highlight what all has contributed to the innovation processes we have been working with. In my previous post I discussed this with focus on the role of accompanying research in a process of multi-channeled research & development (R&D) dialogue. In this post I focus on the role of training interventions in our project experience.

Here I have been working with a similar question (as in my previous blog), how to present our training interventions as a contribution to the innovation process (that we have gone through together with our application partners):

  • Can we claim that our training interventions have been based on a pre-designed ‘training method’ that guided the shared learning into good results? Can we present this ‘training method’ as the legacy of our project?
  • Or – shall we interpret our training and learning experiences as a more complex process innovation in which we played a part – an active part, but yet only a part of the common story? Shall we present the training interventions as a thread in the story of the R&D dialogue – and as part of the same legacy?

This time I present the answers that we can give by using extracts from our document “Training interventions as capacity-building for digital transformation – Construction pilot”. And here again, I hope that the extracts from the longer report text give a clear idea, what our answer is and why.

Starting point of our training interventions: Need for shared learning to bring co-design work forward

“This document provides insights into the role of training interventions as support for co-design processes and related research & development (R&D) dialogue in the construction pilot. The following developments are highlighted:

  • The training interventions were introduced as a process innovation alongside and within the co-design (not as a finalised ‘method’ to be implemented).
  • The early Multimedia training activities were introduced as a separate initiative, but gradually they became an important support for refocusing the co-design process.
  • The Theme Room training campaign became a ‘whole organisation initiative’ and paved the way to use the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the apprentice training projects of Bau-ABC in different trades.
  • The Theme Room concept was proposed for a longer training campaign with more features. The documentation of the concept and use of materials (in Moodle) makes it possible to customise the approach (including the use of the LTB as a specific theme for training and tool for learning).

In the light of the above the training interventions were introduced firstly as ad hoc measures to support the co-design process. Firstly, they were planned as awareness-raising events with practical tasks to consolidate learning gains. Then, after a short interim period the Bau-ABC trainers prepared a new initiative  that aimed to raise the user-competences of the entire training staff to a new level. Looking back, this process can be reconstructed as two phases of training interventions with an interim phase, during which the initiative shifted from the research and technology partners to the application partners.”

Reflections on training interventions: Process innovations alongside co-design and involving all parties

Looking back, it is apparent that the training interventions were not launched on the basis of ready-made method taken from a textbook. Instead, they were introduced as a process innovation that responded to certain challenges in the co-design work. The dynamics of the process innovation can be summarised in the following way:

Firstly, the Multimedia training activities were introduced as a separate initiative – rather loosely linked to the co-design process. Then, thanks to the learning progress of participants, the training results (the start of the blogs, the work with videos) became an important support for the refocused design work. With the Bau-ABC trainers’ own videos on opportunities and challenges for learning they could give impulses for the shaping of the Learning Toolbox.

Secondly, after the early Multimedia training the Bau-ABC trainers wanted to introduce a lightweight follow-up activity with their weekly sessions for informal exchanges. However, they came to the conclusion that such activities do not support their learning sufficiently. Therefore, they proposed the Theme Room training concept and its implementation as a ‘whole organisation initiative’ in Bau-ABC. In this way the trainers’ informal learning was to be strengthened in collaboration with the research partners. This provided a new opportunity to bring the ongoing phase of design activities closer to the trainers’ learning processes.

Thirdly, the Theme Room concept was proposed as flexible training model for open learning processes that were using given learning spaces (‘rooms’) for going through work-oriented learning processes that were shaped as themes. The pace was to be kept flexible and the ‘booking of rooms’ in force until the participants had completed their tasks. Then the rooms could be re-furnished. In this sense the model was designed for continuing and customised learning processes. In the first implementation it was neither possible to introduce the Learning Toolbox nor to make any use of it. However, after the successful pilot testing in Bau-ABC it is possible to make the use of Learning Toolbox a central element of such training and to make using its functionality in a wide range of learning tasks.

– – –

I think this is enough of the training interventions and their role in the whole process. We may not have drawn all the conclusions from this rich experience. And we may not have thought through, how to build upon this experience in the follow-up activities. However, we have made enough experiences to see, how the training interventions nurtured the co-design work and how the Theme Room concept can be enriched with the use of Learning Toolbox. This is clearly ‘social shaping’ (Gestaltung) in practice – both elements are co-shaping each other in a dynamic process. And we need to to take this experience further.

More blogs to come …

‘Methods’ or process innovations in Learning Layers research – Part One: Reflections on accompanying research

November 15th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks we have been preparing our contributions to the final deliverable of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. And obviously, my recent blogs have included a lot of ‘loud thinking’ on these contributions. Due to the fact that we have had a complex innovation process in the Construction pilot to report, I may have been repeating some issues when discussing in different posts our various deliverables (Impact Cards, Learning Scenarios and Research Methodology documents). Also, I have noticed that with several iterations in writing I have got the message clearer. Thus, I have been able to highlight the characteristics of the innovation processes and the way different parties worked together to make them happen.

In the final phase I have been working with the question, how to present our research work as a contribution to the innovation process (that we have gone through with our application partners):

  • Can we claim that we have applied a ‘method’ that triggered an innovation process into movement and guided it into good results? Can we present this ‘method’ as the legacy of our project?
  • Or – is our project experience to be interpreted as a more complex process innovation in which we played a part – as active contributors, moderators and conceptual interpreters, but yet as part of a common story? Shall we present such a story of research & development dialogue as our legacy?

Below I will present the answers that I have given to these questions in our document “Accompanying Research and Participative Design in the Construction Pilot in Germany“.  I hope that the extracts from the longer report text give a clear idea, what our answer is and why.

The starting point: relatively open user-initiated co-design process searching for solutions

“This document presents a picture of the collaboration of researchers, technical partners and application partners in the construction pilot of the Learning Layers as a multi-channeled research & development  (R&D) dialogue with an emphasis on the following points:

  • The co-design activities started as a relatively open search for solutions to match the user-initiated design idea (digitisation of learning contents and reporting processes).
  • Research partners were engaged as accompanying researchers with co-shaping roles to support application partners in a complex iterative process, during which the initial design idea was transformed into shaping of Learning Toolbox as an integrative toolset.
  • The R&D dialogue was maintained with several parallel activities – joint work process analyses, shared training events, co-design workshops and joint outreach activities. In this way the process could overcome periods of rupture and uncertainty.
  • The research interventions consisted of empirical studies and conceptual inputs that gave insights into vocational learning and learning in organisational contexts as contexts in which the Learning Toolbox promoted digital transformation.”

Reflections on the process: Multi-channeled R&D dialogue with many interventions and iterations

“In the light of the above it is apparent that the work of accompanying researchers was not a process that would have guided by one single ‘method’ or pre-defined methodology. Neither was it a case of classical action research. As has been indicated earlier, the ITB team built upon earlier experiences with accompanying research in innovation programmes but adapted its approach to a more open co-design process. Also, it is worthwhile to note that the co-design process was not primarily about social shaping of work and (production) technology or about pedagogic development of vocational education and training. The project was based on interventions to introduce digital media and web resources via mobile devices to (informal) learning at workplaces.

From this perspective it is important to understand that the co-design activities in the Construction pilot were not primarily a tool-centred and design-driven process. Instead, in the early phase the accompanying research partners and application partners were supported by technical partners with intermediate role (but not that of software developers). Under these circumstances it was important to generate a multi-channelled R&D dialogue that included work process analyses, co-design sessions and shared learning activities. In this context the partners could agree on a radical transformation of the design idea, which meant a shift from digitisation of learning content to shaping a flexible digital toolset for accessing and sharing learning resources.”

The experiences of researchers and practitioners – working towards, with and for the innovation (‘Learning Toolbox in practice’)

“In this – essentially transformative – process of R&D dialogue, in which all partners involved have to face new challenges, the role of ITB researchers can be characterised as agile accompanying research. By learning together with application partners, how to work as change agents, ITB participated in the process, documented the process and supported the continuity of the process. In the final phase the peer tutoring by accompanying researchers was crucial for spreading the use of Learning Toolbox among application partners.

For the application partners – in particular for trainers in Bau-ABC – participation in such R&D dialogue has provided a chance for becoming in real terms co-owners of innovations. In the shaping of the Learning Toolbox this has not been merely a matter of receiving the end product that was the originally expected outcome. In this co-design process the trainers have firstly reshaped their own informal learning processes in the context of the training interventions of the project. After the successful piloting with the Learning Toolbox they have the chance to continue as innovation leaders in their own trades and as multipliers of innovation in their wider networks.”

– – –

I guess this is enough of the position and contribution of research in the process we have gone through. However, the picture would be incomplete if I wouldn’t discuss the role of training interventions as a part of this R&D dialogue experience. Only by looking at both key elements of our process history we can really understand the legacy of our project. I will deal with this in my next post.

More blogs to come …

Presenting Learning Layers training experience – the Theme Room moodle application

November 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent blog I reported on a fresh web publication – the Learning Toolbox Chronicle – that is available on the website of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The articles published one by one on the project website and its section for the Construction pilot have been rearranged as a collection that consists of three volumes.

In a similar way I have prepared a new web document on the two training programs that we have organised as a part of our project activities: the early Multimedia training (2013-2014) and  Theme Room training (2015) in the training centre Bau-ABC. I have prepared a comprehensive overview on the programs, their implementation and on the training materials used as the Moodle application “Theme Room Training 2015”. Below I present firstly an overview on this moodle application and then some reflections on the role of this training experience in the final phase of the project activities.

Insights into the “Theme Room Training 2015” Moodle

This Moodle application provides an overview of the “Theme Room” training concept and its implementation as a part of the Learning Layers (LL) project and its Construction pilot in Germany in 2015.

The first section of this Moodle application give an overview on the role of training activities in the Construction pilot and on the evolution of training concepts.

The second section gives a brief overview on the Multimedia training scheme that was implemented by the project in Bau-ABC in 2013-2014.

The third and fourth sections describe the development of the Theme Room training concept and its adaptation for the pilot implementation in 2015.

The fifth and sixth sections give insights into the work with the two main themes selected for this implementation cycle – ‘Use of Social Media in Training’ and ‘Preparation of Digital Learning Contents for Training’.

The seventh and eighth sections give insights into two further themes – “Intellectual property rights (IPR)” and “Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) as Support for Training”. For practical reasons the theme IPR was implemented only as transversal theme that was covered with short ‘guest inputs’ in the thematic workshops. The LTB was postponed for a later occasion.

The ninth section summarises the discussions in the self-evaluation workshop that took place in Bau-ABC in December 2015 after the implementation of the first cycle of Theme Room workshops.

The tenth section reflects the Theme Room training experience in the light of the later progress with the Learning Toolbox pilots and outlines some prospects for follow-up activities.

In addition to the documentation in the introductory boxes this Moodle application provides a comprehensive archive of concept documents, training materials, documents of learning achievements and commentaries on implementation.

Reflections on the role of the Theme Room training experience at the end of the project

Shortly after the pilot implementation of the Theme Room program we had to shift the emphasis to the introduction of Learning Toolbox (LTB) into apprentice training and to co-development of LTB-applications by Bau-ABC trainers. Following the example of Bau-ABC trainers, also other application partners of Learning Layers started with their small-scale pilots in the context of construction work.

Reports on these pilots have shown that the use of LTB has increased the opportunities to empower the learners and to strengthen the culture of project-oriented and self-organised learningin Bau-ABC. Equally, the functionality of the LTB has opened new prospects for supporting creative learning in the context of Health and Safety or trade-specific DIN norms. Yet, with such areas LTB alone is not enough. Therefore, the LTB development is looking at the potentials of LTB integrated with a learning platform (such as Moodle).

In the light of the above it appears that the use of the Learning Toolbox (as an integrative toolset) can play a stronger integrative role also in such multimedia training that was provided in the Theme Room training in Bau-ABC. Equally, when the use of LTB is spreading to new pilot fields, it is appropriate to make use of similar collaborative learning arrangements as in the Theme Room workshops. From this perspective it is appropriate to revisit the Theme Room experience and to consider, how such training can be developed and adapted for new contexts and challenges.

– – –

I think this is enough of this new document on our training experience. In the coming days I have to work (once more) with the final deliverables of the project. But we are reaching the point when we have presented the results and realise, what all we have learned in this project – and on what legacy we can build.

More blogs to come …

Presenting the Learning Layers experience – the Learning Toolbox Chronicle

November 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

One of the final efforts of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project has been the rearrangement of the dissemination articles that we had published on the LL website, section “Construction”. At the end of the project we felt that we should make it accessible as a more structured documentation of the process we went through with our construction sector partners. However, we knew that we cannot make intensive editing operations – the materials were already there and we could at best make them more attractive by providing easier access to them. Secondly, we needed to think beyond our project experience and to open perspectives for follow-up activities. This gave rise to present the history of Construction pilot as the story on the making of its main result – the Learning Toolbox. And so the articles of past years were give a new life as the “Learning Toolbox Chronicle” and as “Learning Toolbox Chronik (Deutsche Version)”.

Insights into the Learning Toolbox Chronicle (English version)

Under the new heading the articles appear as three volumes (annual chronicles):

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 1, 2014  covers the early phases from the Application Partner Days (APD) and from the early co-design activities (2013) to the outreach activities with the LTB concept in 2014 (Brunnenbauertage, Demo Camp, Nordbau and a smaller demonstration workshop with two active craft trade companies).

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 2, 2015  covers several interim events starting with the opening of the ‘Learning exhibition’ of our partners in ecological construction work in Verden and with the annual Training Day of the Bau-ABC staff. Later in the year we had workshops and conferences in Espoo, Bremen and Budapest and alongside the Bremen conference the publication of the LTB Beta version. This was celebrated with a field visit in Bau-ABC and with special sessions in the Bremen conference. (And let us not forget the visit of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency to Bremen to inform themselves of the Learning Layers project and of the emerging Learning Toolbox!)

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 3, 2016  covers major training interventions (the Theme Room training campaign) and a series of pilot activities and field events in Bau-ABC Rostrup (the major pilot site for the LTB). We also get insights into using the LTB for coordinating construction work processes at a special construction site in Verden.

Insights into Learning Toolbox Chronik (Deutsche Version)

In principle the German versions of the Chronicles cover the same developments. However, the number of articles is smaller (since we have only included articles of the years 2014 and 2015) that are closer to the application partners. But regarding the year 2016 we have covered all events and activities.

Bonus tracks and Online Guide

One of the highlights of the year 2014 was the joint effort of Bau-ABC colleagues to produce a series of videos on possible use of the LTB in their training and in construction work. These videos are also accessible via both language versions of the LTB Chronicles, see

Learning Toolbox videos from Bau-ABC (2014) – Overview 

One of the highlights of the year 2016 has been the publication of the Learning Toolbox Online Guide. It can also be accessed via the the Learning Toolbox chronicles.

– – –

I think this is enough of the new Chronicles. I hope that they serve their purpose and provide inspiring insights into the making of the Learning Toolbox. For us who were involved in this process they provide an opportunity to celebrate our joint achievements – researchers, practitioners and developers, all working together. And we already know that Learning Toolbox has a future beyond the current project.

More blogs to come …

 

Wrapping up the Learning Layers experience – Part Four: Interpreting the impact and drawing scenarios

November 1st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. As I have indicated, we are preparing contributions for the concluding deliverable of our project. In my previous post I discussed, how we are showing impact of our project with Impact Cards. Then I discussed, how this can lead to a particularisation of the picture. As a contrast, I tried to bring together the messages of different cards to show, how our interventions in the Construction pilot have had impact in terms of promoting digital transformation. However, my examples remained at the level of presenting local and context-specific success stories and progress reports. This gives rise to the question, what is the value of these achievements in terms of promoting the presented innovations. And this then leads to the question, on what grounds we can interpret this potential.

Below I will discuss these issues in the light of the two Learning Scenarios that we have prepared on the basis of the Construction pilot. In both examples we introduce firstly an exemplary case on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB). On the basis of such a case we then draw scenarios for further work with LTB and for dissemination of the innovation. And with both examples we can demonstrate the role of research and of our theoretical work in interpreting the impact.

LTB on construction site – the scenario on the work with multiplier networks

In the first “Learning Scenario” on cross-organisational learning with used as a starting point Thomas Isselhard’s presentation on the use of LTB as support for coordination of the work at a construction site and for real-time communication on plans, orders and reports. In the two videos recorded on his presentation Thomas gives a picture, how the use of LTB can help to avoid communication gaps between different parties involved (video 1) and how to get new users accustomed to work with LTB (video 2). The background text in the ‘Learning Scenario’ draws attention to the way in which the the functionality of LTB help to overcome the gaps. In a similar way the text draws attention to the benefits of LTB as an integrative toolset – customised for the users and by the users with their own sets of context-specific stacks and content tiles. Furthermore, the videos and the text give insights into the ways in which new users are introduced to using LTB while getting their instructions for the construction work.

This exemplary case shows the potential of making interactive use of LTB as a common integrative toolset for sharing knowledge and information between different parties at a construction site. In the ‘Scenario’ part of the document we step out from the site and shift the emphasis to different organisations and networks involved in construction sector. Thomas Isselhard is a member in several networks on ecological construction work and these networks have a wide range of specialised cooperation partners. In this respect the ‘Scenario’ outlines a spectrum of activities via which these networks can promote the use of LTB in sharing knowledge and promoting cooperation in ecological construction work and in different campaigns for awareness-raising.

LTB as support for apprentice training – the scenario on supporting learning in special learning areas

In another “Learning Scenario” document we draw attention to the way in which full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup have used LTB to support their training. In the background sections the document gives insights into the transition from working with paper-based materials to creating web-based resources that are available via trade-specific stacks and content tiles.

In further sections we present results from field visits in which researchers have had interview sessions with the trainers and focus groups with apprentices. Here we found an interesting difference between otherwise similar approaches:

  • Trainers who follow a problem-oriented training strategy tend to equip  learners with comprehensive resources. The apprentices need to search as self-organised learners  to find the problem-relevant information. In a nutshell, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘well’.
  • Trainers who follow an interest-oriented training strategy tend to provide in the beginning fewer resources and only gradually open access to new resources. The learners are nurtured step-by-step with new impulses and challenges once they have started to find their own solutions and ways of working. In this case, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘watering can’.

In the ‘Scenario’ part we stepped out of the trade-specific contexts of apprentice training and shifted the emphasis to specific challenges in the training of Bau-ABC. One issue that the Bau-ABC trainers had raised already at an early stage of the project was, how to make training in Health and Safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) more inspiring. Another issue was, how to provide easy and filtered access to DIN norms that are relevant for skilled workers. For both cases it is possible to provide interim solutions by providing an overview on the sets of resources via Moodle (or similar platform). Then linking LTB to the respective Moodle application (or similar application) the users could find the resources easier (‘LTB as a well’). However, in the training with these resources it would be possible to introduce some kind of ‘gamification’ to guide the learners from tasks that require general knowledge to more demanding cases that require special expertise (‘LTB as a watering can’).

Reflections

We have also used these documents to highlight the role of our theoretical work in interpreting the impact demonstrated in these exemplary cases (as a basis for the scenarios):

  • We have interpreted the first case – the use of LTB at the construction site in Verden – as a micro-case that demonstrates organisational and cross-organisational learning in a local context. Here we underline that ‘organisational learning’ is not merely a result of good management skills or good consultancy. Instead, the key point is in finding the way to promote interactivity and responsiveness between site manager, craftsmen and stakeholders involved. This point has also been highlighted in the concept ‘work process knowledge’ that we have discussed in the project on several occasions.
  • We have interpreted the second case – the Bau-ABC trainers’ transition to use LTB – as an example of gradual digital transformation and as enhancement of their pedagogy. Here, it is worthwhile to emphasise that the trainers have challenged apprentices to become self-organised learners and to take ownership on their learning. With the use of LTB they have seen more possibilities – and the learners have felt themselves more empowered. In this way the use of LTB has strengthened the training and learning culture based on action-oriented learning in Bau-ABC.
  • We worked out these interpretations in the latter case by combining the empirical findings of a visiting evaluation researcher, the process-related knowledge of a ‘local’ accompanying researcher and the insights into instructional designs provided by an educational technology researcher. In this way way came to interpret the changes in Bau-ABC as indications of a digital transformation based on step-by-step transitions – not as an abrupt digital revolution with great leaps to unknown. Moreover, we could conclude these changes as contributions to the Bau-ABC approach that celebrates action-oriented learning – not as a radical paradigm shift in pedagogy.

– – –

I think this is enough of our work with the ‘Learning Scenarios’ and altogether on the theme ‘digital transformation’. In the coming days our deliverables will take shape and will be made available in due time. There is some more work to be done, but most of the Learning Layers experience is getting wrapped up. Then we have to prepare ourselves for the follow-up.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the Learning Layers experience – Part Two: Celebrating research & development dialogue with practitioners

October 29th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest blog I started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. As I mentioned,we are in the phase of  concluding our project. For us this is not just a matter of presenting our results with individual reports or demonstrating the achievements with individual tools. An essential part of this phase is to reflect on our experiences on the whole – what have we learned and achieved together. I started my reflections with the theme ‘digital transformation’ and how we have experienced it as lived practice and as research challenge. In this second post I try to describe, how this has characterised our work as researcher partners in research & development dialogue with our application partners in the Construction pilot of the LL project.

The process dynamics: Research & Development dialogue with multiple activities and many iterations

Shortly before the start of the project I recorded  with our colleague Graham Attwell a video interview in which he presented some key ideas for the forthcoming project. Graham made a realistic point that

in the beginning the users don’t know, what the technical developers can offer them and the developers don’t know why and how the users would use their products’.

Graham saw the great chance of the LL project in turning such ‘don’t know – don’t know’ constellation into a ‘getting to know – getting to know’ type of dialogue. This was his anticipation in Spring 2012.

The real life in the construction pilot turned to be far more colourful. In Graham’s reflection the technical partners and research partners were treated as one group. And finding a common design idea and ways to put it into practice didn’t appear as complicated as it turned out to be.

Altogether, the process dynamic that led to the development of Learning Toolbox (LTB) was characterised by  a long  search for an appropriate design idea that makes sense for the trainers and apprentices in construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. This process did not lead to a quick listing of requirements for external software developers to do their job. Instead, the lack of developer resources was compensated by co-design workshops and further iterations involving research partners, intermediate technicians and application partners – who were preparing the grounds for software developers to enter a process of research & development (R&D) dialogue. Thus, the key characteristics and expected functions of  LTB were  in a ‘getting to know – getting to know’ type of dialogue – but the developers and their know-how had to be integrated into this process.

The multiple roles of accompanying research during the process

Concerning the role of our ITB team (Institut Technik & Bildung) in this process, the best term is ‘accompanying research‘. This concept arises from German innovation programs in working life and in vocational education and training (VET). Originally two German concepts have been used, which may have somewhat different connotations – Wissenschaftliche Begleitung (scientific accompaniment) and Begleitforschung (accompanying research). The former might be seen as a more open approach, whilst the latter may emphasise a more focused research design. In the innovation programs in working life such research was used to monitor, whether the innovations improved the quality of working life. In VET-related pilot projects (Modellversuche) the role of research was to monitor and evaluate the implementation of pedagogic innovations. In both cases the accompanying researchers tended to have co-participative and co-shaping roles. However, the responsibility on the success of pilots was on the application partner organisations.

Concerning the LL project and the co-design process of Learning Toolbox (LTB), the role of the accompanying research team of ITB was even more co-participative and co-shaping than that of the predecessors. Moreover, the research challenges was also more open – the researchers had to grasp the challenges in the course of the interactive and dialogue-oriented process. When the process moved on to the active deployment of the LTB, the researchers were needed as facilitators of the dialogue and as co-tutors in the training activities. In the final phase the accompanying researchers were needed as counterparts of evaluation researchers – to interpret together the findings. All this can at best be characterised with the term ‘agile accompanying research‘.

The role of training interventions as capacity-building in the field

In the light of the above it is essential to emphasise that the co-design activities and the research interventions were not enough to give the process its strength. A crucial part was played by the training interventions at different phases of the process. In the earlier phase of co-design process the ITB and Pontydysgu teams arranged a series of Multimedia training workshops for voluntary trainers of Bau-ABC Rostrup. At a later phase the ITB and Pontydysgu teams together with advanced Bau-ABC colleagues organised the Theme Room training campaign (see my blogs of November and December 2015). These training interventions were not merely general orientation or user-training for certain tools. On the whole these training interventions were capacity-building for Bau-ABC as a whole organisation and for the trades involved.

Here it is essential to emphasise that the training interventions were essential dialogical elements in the process. All parties were engaged as learners – trying to find out, in what ways digital media and web tools can be introduced into construction work and into workplace-based training. And all this supported the development and deployment of the LTB as an integrative toolset to work with.

– – –

I think this is enough of our experiences with research & development dialogue in the LL project and in the Construction pilot – in particular with the application partner Bau-ABC. In the next posts I will look more closely to the challenges to show impact and to draw scenarios on the basis of such experience.

More blogs to come …

 

Wrapping up the Learning Layers experience – Part One: Digital transformation as lived practice

October 29th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last four years I and my colleagues have been working in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now we are in the phase of drawing final conclusions and editing the final deliverables. Whilst such a phase easily requires more focused work on particular products – in our cases tool descriptions, impact cards, scenarios, methodology descriptions etc. – it is essential to keep the big picture in our minds. Our project was about introducing new technologies – tools for mobile devices to support access to web resources and to online communication – but not only of that. Most of all it was about changing practices in workplace learning or learning in the context of work. And it is in this context that the project has gone through a long journey and made important experiences. With this post and the next ones I try to revisit our learning journey in the LL pilot in construction sector draw some conclusions and key messages arising from it. In this post I will focus on the overarching themedigital transformation’.

Digital transformation as lived practice

I am aware of the fact that there is plenty of literature on the theme ‘digital transformation’ and that I should do my homework with if I want to use this concept properly. However, given the intensity of our project work, I have come across this theme from the perspective of our fieldwork and in our own processes of work. In this context we have experienced many transitions from earlier modes of work to new ways of using online resources and web-based communication and interaction. A great deal of our research and development work is carried out on web platforms and by using shared resources. And if we use traditional e-mails, then mainly when sending out group mails for wider target groups. Furthermore, when developing new online tools, such as the much discussed Learning Toolbox (LTB), we are more and more inclined to find ways to use for such tools in our own work – not only in the pilot fields. Altogether, my perspective on the topic ‘digital transformation’ is primarily that of manifold step-by-step changes in everyday life as lived practice.

Digital transformation as precondition for/aim of a R&D project

Shifting the emphasis from our everyday life as project partners into our field of piloting – the construction sector – we need to take a broader perspective. Indeed, there have been many speculations on automation and new technologies making skilled workers redundant – or cautious statements on the limits to digitisation in construction work. To be sure, the true picture is probably characterised by an ongoing change between the extreme poles. But how to grasp the real picture of changes in construction sector?

Looking back at the earliest interviews in the project, we learned a lot of the infant diseases of several ‘new technologies’ that didn’t work properly or didn’t reduce the workload of construction professionals. Likewise, we heard of several stand-alone apps that were advertised for construction sector, but were not good enough for professional use (or didn’t promote learning at work). So, in the further work we needed to keep an eye on real innovations that made a difference to our application partners and improved the quality of working life. Here we found ourselves in a similar position as the researchers studying the early automation processes in the 1970s and 1980s. As the German researcher Rolf Nemitz formulated it: ‘So far, the studies on automation have focused on, how automation can replace or reduce human contribution. However, the real innovation lies in combining automation and human potential.’ Or, as the founders of our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – took this further: the contribution of research is to equip practitioners with capability for social shaping (Gestaltung) of work, organisations and technology. However, the researchers of that time were talking about production technologies, not about present-date technologies and new media to promote learning at work. Now we have been facing new challenges.

Digital transformation as a research theme and as transformative practice

In the light of the above, for us the topic ‘digital transformation’ has not been merely a research them to be dealt with via academic contemplation, empirical observations and testing designs for learning technologies. For us, the understanding of digital transformation can only arise from processes of working with the application partners and for changes that enhance them as pioneers for innovations in construction work. In this context I hear the echo of the words of young Karl Marx in his Theses on Feuerbach: “The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.” (Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume One, Progress Publishers Moscow, 1969). Or in original version:  “Das Zusammenfallen des Ändern[s] der Umstände und der menschlichen Tätigkeit oder Selbstveränderung kann nur als revolutionäre Praxis gefaßt und rationell verstanden werden.” Marx-Engels Werke, Band 3, Seite 5ff. Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1969).

Here, in our context, we could interpret this classical phrase as referring to digital transformation as a coincidence of changing circumstances and changing self-understanding of actors as an interactive and transformative process. Thus, it is not enough to document the changes as observable facts or to record the self-understanding of practitioners as their testimony. Instead, a real understanding of such processes arises from experiencing the changes as efforts of change agents and sensing changes in their views on, what to pursue and how to make it work. In this way in-depth research has to be involved in the transformative practice, but has to maintain its ability to reflect on the practice.

– – –

I guess this is enough for introductory thoughts. In my next posts I will take a closer look at the role of research and training activities in the project. Then, later on, I will discuss issues on ‘showing impact’ and ‘drawing scenarios’.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

 

 

 

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 …

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