Archive for the ‘trainers’ Category

Looking back at three years of Learning Layers – Part One: Challenges and responses

October 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the moment the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing documents for the review of the Year 3 – an interim review to pave the way for the final year. In this context we have a chance to consider the development of the project and our activities in a new light. Now we have more perspective to reflect, how we have encountered the challenges and to what extent our responses have brought us further. In this first post I will focus on the challenges of of the early phase and on the role of participative design processes and capacity building initiatives.

1. Challenges met in the beginning of construction pilot (Year 1)

In the beginning phase of the Learning Layers project the application partner organisations (Bau-ABC Rostrup, Agency and Network for ecological construction work -Agentur/NNB and the construction companies) had difficulties to see, how to use digital media, web tools and mobile technologies as support for working and learning. Partly this was due to a scattered picture of single tools and apps, many of which had been designed for laymen users and only few for construction specialists. Partly this was due to general doubts that mobile devices at training and working sites provide distraction, safety risks and data privacy risks. Partly this was due to prior negative experiences with earlier generation of ‘new technologies’ (mobile offices based on laptops, faxes etc.) that did not bring the expected efficiency but added to the workload.

As a response, the research partners and the application partners started looking for solutions that would provide more transparency to training, learning and instructive activities as well as facilitate accessing, sharing and reusing digital contents. In a similar way the apprentices in Bau-ABC that participated in a User Survey  indicated that they were already using mobile devices to support learning (but had very limited awareness of relevant web tools and apps).

2. The importance of participative design activities and capacity building initiatives (Year 2 and Year 3)

After an initial search phase in the co-design activities the emphasis was shifted to the co-design and co-development of Learning Toolbox as a framework for using digital media, web tools and apps via mobile device. Here it is worthwhile to note the shift of emphasis from particular design idea (digitisation of learning materials and/or reporting documents) to a flexible framework with which users can shape their own digital working and learning environment. In this way the design idea transformed into a an integrative toolset that needs to be linked to complementary apps, tools and web resources. In order to achieve this, the project had to start capacity building measures that contributed to users’ awareness and skills.

As a response, the research partners ITB and Pontydysgu organised during Y2 a series of Multimedia Training workshops that helped Bau-ABC trainers to start working independently with their own blogs, edit video materials and use other digital tools. Based on this experience, Bau-ABC trainers produced a series of videos, in which they (together with apprentices) demonstrated potential uses of Learning Toolbox at training sites and in actual construction work situations.

In the next phase the Bau-ABC trainers continued the training as peer learning sessions and developed a new flexible training model – the “Theme rooms” – to spread the training across the whole organisation. At the same time the co-design sessions with Bau-ABC trainers have turned into co-development exercises in which they have created their own stacks to provide access to training materials and other resources (user instruction manuals, maintenance manuals etc.) that are relevant in their trades.

I think this is enough of this issue – the implementation of the Them Rooms in Bau-ABC and the reporting on parallel developments in the construction sector pilot is a matter for the reports. I wanted to highlight here the fact that our application partner (Bau-ABC) and the trainers are taking initiatives to give Internet a major role as the fourth learning venue (alongside workplace, school and intermediate training centre) and they are becoming owners of the innovations.

More blogs to come …

Interim reports on LL fieldwork in Bau-ABC – Part Three: Indications of achievements of the LL project

October 2nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two previous blogs I have reported on the results of a  field visit to the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) and our ITB-colleague Lars Heinemann interviewed Bau-ABC trainers to get feedback on the pilot testing of LL tools. In my first blog I  gave a brief news report, whilst in the second blog I discussed in closer detail the remarks of the trainers Markus Pape and Lothar Schoka.

With this third blog I try to relate these fresh interviews to our earlier encounters and on the changing circumstances and changing practices. Here, I want to draw attention to the new activities that have come into picture during the LL project and due to initiatives of the LL project. I try to link my comments to the points that I raised on the interviews in my previous blog:

Initial awareness of digital media, web tools and mobile devices

In the beginning phase of the project (January 2013) the ITB team made some early interviews with Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices. At that time both our awareness as well as the awareness of the trainers and apprentices was not advanced. None of us had a holistic view on the usability of digital media, web tools and mobile devices. In different trades the trainers could refer to some apps and tools. Yet, the trainers had mixed feelings about domain-specific apps for construction sector (some being apps for professionals, others for lay users and altogether with varying quality). Also, the use of web resources and Facebook groups was at an early stage. Furthermore, the use of mobile phones was banned during the training because it was perceived as mere distraction.

Workshops and User Survey: Awareness of web tools, readiness to use mobile devices

In the next phase (Spring 2013) the LL project started co-design workshops with apprentices and trainers (in different groups) to identify points of intervention and to specify the emerging design idea(s). In Autumn 2013 the ITB team organised a User Survey that covered most of the apprentices that attended their initial training periods in Bau-ABC.

The discussions in the workshops and the results of the questionnaire revealed that the apprentices were not at all informed of the existing construction sector apps and had made very little use of them. However, the apprentices indicated that they had made use of their smartphones to support their work and workplace learning (e.g. via web searches or by documenting their work  and learning results).

Co-design of LTB, Multimedia Training and follow-up activities

In Spring 2014 the co-design process brought into picture the framework of Learning Toolbox and parallel to it the LL project arranged Multimedia Training workshops to Bau-ABC trainers. Due to these processes the emphasis in the co-design processes shifted from expectations (on the design work of others) to initiatives (how to develop one’s own training practice with the help of new tools). In this phase the trainers started to work with their own trade-specific blogs and provide digital access to their training contents. Also, the trainers developed their own ideas, how the emerging LTB could be used in Bau-ABC (as was demonstrated by the videos for the Tallinn consortium meeting in the Autumn 2014).

Taking steps to customise and use LTB as integrative set of tools, apps and services

In the light of the above presented background, the interviews of the Bau-ABC trainers (see my previous blog) demonstrate remarkable progress in the LL project. The Bau-ABC trainers are becoming owners of LL-initiated innovations and in customising the LTB for their trades (to be used in training and working contexts). Also, the demonstrate clearly, how their overall competences in using digital media, web resources and mobile devices have grown during the project and due to the support from the project. And thirdly, due to peer tutoring and peer learning they have developed into multipliers who can bring their colleagues and apprentices to an active piloting phase.

I think this is enough for the moment. We will get back to Bau-ABC and our other application partners in a short while.

More blogs to come ...

Interim reports on LL fieldwork in Bau-ABC – Part Two: Feedback from the trainers

October 2nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous blog I reported on the field visit to the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Our colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) together with our ITB-colleague Lars Heinemann interviewed Bau-ABC trainers to get feedback on the pilot testing of LL tools. In particular they wanted to get feedback on the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB), which we are developing together with our partners in the construction sector. In my first blog I could only give a brief news report and to raise some issues/requests to be considered by the developers of the LTB.

Now that I have listened the recordings, I find that the colleagues have had a very interesting discussion and that we can learn a lot of the points made by the Bau-ABC trainers Markus Pape (carpenter) and Lothar Schoka (well-builder/borehole builder). With this second post I try to pick some of their interesting points and reconstruct a red thread across their conversations:

Motivation to use digital media, web tools and mobile devices

Both trainers emphasised that their apprentices are very inspired when they get a chance to use mobile devices to access digital contents and web resources during their training and in the context of work. Compared to mere written instructions or paper-based documentation, the apprentices feel more motivated (since they are all eager to use their devices at any rate).

Usability of mobile devices, LTB  and digital contents

Both trainers made several points on the usability issues that emphasise the relevance of LTB:

  • Access to documents, web resources and real-time communication is often a problem at construction sites (no space for looking at papers or folders, no chance to have stationary PCs or even laptops). With mobile devices, communication apps and the toolset of LTB many problems can be clarified in real time. Furthermore, LTB can essentially facilitate communication between different trades and working groups on same construction sites or quality control between the teams and their supervisors.
  • The structure of LTB – tiles, pages and stacks – makes it easy to use without making it overly complex. This is essential for users in craft trades who expect tools that work properly in real work.
  • Both trainers emphasised the benefits of LTB in supporting well-structured web searches (with appropriate terminology) and steering it to good quality sources. Moreover, Schoka emphasised the possibility to use QR tags to direct searches to appropriate sections of user manuals and instructions for maintenance.

Use of trainers’ and apprentices’ own web resources and digital contents

  • Both trainers have created their own domain-specific blogs (Zimmererblog, Brunnenbauer und Spezialtiefbauer) for uploading their instruction sheets for apprentices’ projects and for presenting other contents. By making their own LTB stacks they can provide access to the right documents when it is appropriate for the training schedules.
  • Schoka made a special point on the short videos that have been produced and uploaded by apprentices on the well-builders’ Facebook group. These short videos may serve several purposes. Now, thanks to LTB, they can be used in a more targeted way.

 Changes in training and learning practice

  • Both trainers are in the process of linking the pilot testing of LTB to specific training projects and content areas via their own stacks and with specific sets of tools, apps, instructions and tasks. In this way they are creating their own multimedia environments in which they are involving their apprentices as digital learners.
  • The two trainers have brought into picture different strengths in using digital media and web resources. Pape has been the pioneer in creating domain specific blogs. Schoka has been active in developing the well-builders’ Facebook group as a community resource. Partly these have activities have been started in the Multimedia Training of the LL project and partly they have been inspired by such support. Moreover, there has been a great deal of peer learning between the trainers, so that they early movers have shared their experiences with others.

I think this is enough of the points that I have picked from the interviews. I do not try to give an exhaustive report. The colleagues from UIBK will work further with the interview materials and put them into a wider context by linking the results from construction sector and healthcare sector to each other. My point was to pick these comments from Bau-ABC for an interim assessment.

With my third post I try to relate these points to earlier interviews and talks with Bau-ABC trainers (and apprentices)In that context I try to demonstrate, how their approach to using digital media, web tools and mobile technologies has changed during the project and due to their involvement in participative design process.

 More blogs to come …

Interim reports on LL fieldwork in Bau-ABC – Part One: Evaluation talks and plans for field testing

September 22nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the beginning of September we made an important field visit in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project to our application partner organisation – the training centre Bau-ABC (see my blog post of 13.9.2015). On Friday some LL colleagues had a chance to make a follow-up visit to Bau-ABC, while the others were having a meeting in ITB with the visiting delegation from Singapore Workforce Development Agency. Since I was involved in the meeting in ITB, I can only report on meeting on the basis of the information from my colleague Lars Heinemann.

Update 2.10.2015: I published this post some time ago as a single blog entry. Now that I got the chance to listen to the recordings of the interviews in Bau-ABC, I came to the conclusion that it is worthwhile to discuss some points of the Bau-ABC trainers in greater detail. Here again, I am also relying on the first-hand information from Lars Heinemann.

The aim of the visit

The visit was planned quite some time ago as a field visit to get feedback data on the ongoing pilot testing with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Since the LL teams of ITB and Bau-ABC could send only one participant to the LL consortium meeting in Toledo, our LL colleagues from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK), Stefan Thalmann and Markus Manhart, came to Bremen have planning meetings with us and to make field visits. However, given the very recent field visit (with the newly published Beta version of LTB), we felt that the evaluation talks were somewhat rushed. After all, the trainers had only made their first experiences  in making their own stacks, pages and tiles in the LTB (to be used by other users).

Talks in Bau-ABC

The visitors (Lars, Stefan and Markus) were pleased to see that their talks with the Bau-ABC trainers Markus Pape (Zimmerer = carpenter) and Lothar Schoka (Brunnenbauer = borehole builder) were well-timed and informative. Both trainers had made further efforts to familiarise themselves with the LTB Beta version. They had also made concrete plans for engaging their apprentices later in the autumn as users of LTB in their training projects. According to their information, the amount of apprentices to be involved in such pilots would be ca. 100 in both trades. As advance measure they had collected a list of volunteered users to start testing with LTB before that actual pilot.

In this respect they both could give informative reports on what is going on and what is to be expected in the near future. (We expect the UIBK colleagues to share recordings of theses talks with ITB soon.)

In addition to their own experiences and plans for piloting they had some urgent requests for the LTB developers. Some of these points have already been discussed with the developers, but now we got the points of the trainers from the pilot site:

1) For the trainers it is important that they can send messages to groups and individuals.

2) For trainers and apprentices it is important to have a notification function that alerts the apprentices when new learning materials have been made accessible and informs the trainers when apprentices have accessed the information. Moreover, both parties should be notified of replies or questions on further information.

3) For trainers and apprentices it is important to have a commentary function that makes it possible to add questions or comments to texts that are used for instruction and/or documentation of learning processes.

4) At the moment the LTB has been designed for Android phones and tablets – which are mostly used by the apprentices. Yet, about one third is using iOS-phones, so it is essential to proceed to iOS-versions or find alternative solutions to involve them in the pilot testing.

Update 2.10.2015: I have let my initial blog post stand as it was written before listening the recordings – with one amendment. Now that I have got access to the recordings, it is interesting to have a a glimpse at some of the points made by the trainers and to relate them to our earlier interviews and discussions with them. As I see it, via such examination we learn a lot, how the fieldwork of the LL project has made progress during the years of co-design and pilot activities.

More blogs to come …

Crossing boundaries at the Bremen International VET conference – Part One: Learning Layers and Employ-ID work together

September 13th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent blog was about a field visit to training centre Bau-ABC (2.9.2015) in the context of the fieldwork of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The very next day the ITB and Pontydysgu teams, together with Raymond Elferink (RayCom) presented Learning Toolbox at the Bremen International Conference on Vocational Education and Training (VET). This post will focus on this session, the next one on other sessions of the conference.

Insights into the Bremen Conference

Firstly, it is worthwhile to say some words of the Bremen International VET Conference. This conference has been initiated as part of an international project of ITB that has been launched by the University of Bremen (in the context of its Excellence University framework). The project studies transfer of the dual VET model by German companies working abroad (in China and in the USA). As a part of its work program the project has committed itself to organise international conferences. This one was the first of its kind and focused on crossing the boundaries and learning from each other. The conference was designed to keep it rather small (about 100 participants at the maximum) and to enable more discussion and more participative sessions (see below). I will give more information on the contents in my second blog post on this conference.

Presenting Learning Toolbox in the Bremen Conference

For the Bremen Conference we had prepared a Research Workshop session to avoid the typical impression of ‘talking heads’ in the front and passive listeners in the audience. Therefore, we kept the presentations rather short and then divided the audience into two working groups to discuss the presentations and to have some hands-on exercises. Here some snapshots on the contributions and activities:

Firstly, I gave a quick introduction to the Learning Layers project and to the script of the session. In this context I emphasised the continuity of themes between the participative design of Learning Toolbox (LTB), the functionality that is coming up in the LTB, the capacity building measures initiated in the training centre Bau-ABC and the lessons to be learned from the parallel European project Employ-ID (and its piloting with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Secondly, Werner Müller (ITB) gave a presentation on the co-design process that led to the development of the LTB. He referred to the starting points in the sectoral pilot contexts (construction work not having the reputation of high-tech occupations). Then he gave a picture of the co-design activities, different phases of work and a general characterisation of LTB as a framework for tools and apps linked to each other in mobile devices.

Thirdly, Raymond Elferink (RayCom) gave a live demonstration on the LTB Beta version that we had just presented and tested on our field visit to the training centre Bau-ABC the day before (see my previous blog post). Alongside the general presentation (of the tile structure of the framework and of the process of creating focused stacks) he drew attention to the newly created stacks of the Bau-ABC trainers for their respective trades.

Fourthly, I (as a replacement of Melanie Campbell from Bau-ABC) gave a presentation of their training programs for their staff. This presentation drew attention firstly to the project-initiated training that equipped the Bau-ABC trainers with general know-how on multimedia and web tools and enabled them to produce and edit video material for their training. In the second part the presentation outlined the new training model initiated by the Bau-ABC trainers themaselves. In this new model they tried to ensure a flexible training arrangement that enables all trainers to work their way through parallel “theme rooms” that make them fit to use the LTB in their own training activities.

 Fifthly, Graham Attwell informed of the parallel European project Employ-ID and its work to support professional development and mastery of changes in Public Employment Services (PES). In this context the research & development worked with development of labour market data for guidance and counselling purposes. At the same time the project developed new training models for staff members in PES with limited possibilities to participate in traditional training measures. For this purpose the project developed an adapted version of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with limited participation and limited openness but with similar technologies for online learning. Crucial for this pilot was the emphasis on interactivity and changing roles between trainers and learners. Here, the key point in this report on this recent pilot is to demonstrate the usability of these technologies for well-thought pedagogical pilots that emphasise the use of MOOC platforms as Social Learning Platforms.

After the presentations we split the audience into two working groups. In one group the participants had the opportunity for hands-on tests with the LTB (with Raymond Elferink and Dirk Stieglitz as tutors). In the other group we discussed possible success factors and criteria for acceptance in the above presented training models (of Bau-ABC and Employ-ID). Since we had half an hour for these sub-sessions, the participants could engage themselves in the testing and/or give freely their views on the training models. This was very much appreciated by all parties involved.

I guess this is enough of the main session of the Learning Layers project in this conference. In the next blog post I will give insights into other sessions in the Bremen International VET Conference.

More blogs to come …




Updates from LL fieldwork – bringing Learning Toolbox to users

September 13th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent posts on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project were ‘catching up’ reports just after I finished my holiday period. Now the rapid start has hit us and overwhelmed us with fieldwork events and  successive conferences. With this post I will concentrate on the field visit in Bau-ABC on the 2nd of September and our field tests with the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

Already before the holiday break the LTB developers had promised to provide a Beta version of the LTB by the beginning of September. We were pleased to observe that this promise was kept and that Raymond Elferink was available for presentations and field tests in Bau-ABC on the 2nd of September. With Ray a group of LL partners from ITB and Pontydysgu visited the training sites of several trades to trigger users’ own field tests and to get feedback. After these visits we gave a short presentation to the organisation development group of Bau-ABC.

Our first station was the training site of carpenters (Zimmerer). After a general presentation we discussed the development of tiles and stacks (sets of tiles and pages) for the training activities of Bau-trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) Friedrich Bruns and Markus Pape. Together we developed a test stack that made use of the comprehensive set of instruction materials (pdf-files) that Pape had made available via his Zimmererblog. With the help of LTB we created a test stack that makes thematic pages accessible in due time. The instruction materials are now accessed via Slideshare. In this way the materials can be used in smaller portions and filed in a more transparent way by the apprentices. Also, we discussed the options for managing the reporting of tasks and results of apprentices via LTB. Already at this point we saw some solutions, how to develop the desired interactivity in the first field tests.

Our second station was the training site of well-builders (Brunnenbauer). Here again, after a short general presentation we started to explore, how to make best use of the functionality of LTB without duplicating the work of trainers. The Bau-ABC trainers Lothar Schoka and Thorsten Busch indicated as indicated as a major problem the multitude of bulky instructions and manuals that are not easily accessible. Here, we prepared jointly test stack “Bedienungsanleitungen” in which we provided access to instructions via Slideshare and showed, how they could be grouped in a transparent way. In the same way showed, how the existing instruction videos (mainly uploaded in YouTube and accessible via Facebook updates) can be accessed via LTB tiles and grouped via LTB pages. In this way it became clear that the LTB is not causing duplication of work but opens new user-friendly channels to existing resources.

Our third station was the training site of road-builders and pipeline builders (Strassenbauer, Rohrleitungsbauer). Here we discussed with the Bau-ABC trainer Stefan Wiedenstried the general usability of LTB and in particular the role of instructional videos. Parallel to this some of us continued to make a short presentation for the organisation development group of Bau-ABC at the end of their meeting. Here we were welcomed by the trainer Lothar Schoka who could report of his fresh impressions after our visit. Then, after the meeting we also had good talk with the system administrator Ludwig Heyenga with whom we shared experiences with the technical development of the software solutions of the LL project.

Altogether we were pleased to see that the progress with LTB development was well received and the Bau-ABC trainers saw the value of the emerging product as support for their work. At the same time we saw that there is a lot of work to bring the LTB to a stage of maturity. Therefore, we need to return soon to Bau-ABC to pave the way for the next steps of testing in real life situations.

I think this is enough for the moment. We are looking forward to further updates of LTB and to our next field visits.

More blogs to come …

Layers and cluster visitors: What did we learn in Bau-ABC today (Part 2)

December 5th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest post I firstly told, why the fieldwork of the Learning Layers (LL) project has had less visibility in the recent weeks. Our reporting duties and some backstage work with the tools have filled the agendas. Therefore, a new round of pilot workshops had to postponed to the beginning of next year. In this respect we were happy to make a field visit to Bau-ABC with our visitors from the Norwegian cluster organisation Tretorget. In my first post on our visit I gave a brief report on our cluster talks with the visitors. In this post I will report on our talks with apprentices and trainers in Bau-ABC.

 Talks with apprentices

Since our Norwegian visitors represented a cluster in wood industry, our primary target was the workshop and the training area of carpenters. When approaching the area, I recognised some of the apprentices as ones who had participated in June in the Demo Camp event in Bau-ABC. They also recognised us and greeted us as old acquaintances – and wanted to know, how the project is going on. Therefore, I started talking with apprentice Ahmed (born in Germany but with family roots in Libanon and Syria). In particular I was interested to find out, how he and his fellow apprentices perceived the blog of their trainer Markus Pape, the Zimmererblog. (See also my previous posts on the trainers’ blogs and on the video presenting the blogs.)

Ahmed made the following remarks:

1) The very fact that their trainer has made all instruction materials for apprentices’ projects available via his blog is very much appreciated. The apprentices feel that they get access to relevant contents via their own media (smartphones, tablets or laptops).

2) The way that the blog has structured the materials of different years of training gives a better overview and the apprentices can relate different contents to phases of training.

3) The fact that they have such a learning resource from the training centre makes it easier to tackle with the learning contents provided by the vocational school. (In general apprentices have been less motivated in school-based learning.)

4) The problem with this web-based learning resource is that it can only be used when you have access to Internet. This is already a problem in several training areas of Bau-ABC and even more at the workplaces.

In the light of the above Ahmed and his fellow apprentices were looking forward to further progress with developing web-based learning resources. In particular they are eager to start piloting with the Learning Toolbox in their projects.

 Talks with trainers

During our visit at the carpenters’ workshop our talks with the trainer, Mr Bruns, focused on their domain. In our next station, at the well-builders, we had a quick talk with the trainer Lothar Schoka. He told us of the recent progress with the Facebook group of the well-builders (using photos and short videos). Inspired by the success of this group they are also developing their own blog (which has not yet become public but is in the pipeline).

At the end of the visit I managed to meet trainer Markus Pape and talk with him of the next phase of developing the blogs. We had reached an agreement to migrate the first pilot blogs to the platform to promote synergy and mutual support. Also, via this move we want to enable feeding metadata from the blogs to Social Semantic Server and back to Learning Toolbox. This perspective is inspiring and we are looking forward to it.

Finally, I need to mention the transition that has taken place in multimedia training. Whilst we have so far been running these events as LL project workshops organised by Pontydysgu and ITB, the Bau-ABC colleagues have now continued this with their own peer tutoring and peer training activities. In this context they are now discussing the use of different web resources, the importance of Creative Commons and of Open Educational Resources. To us, the R&D partners, this is a step from the project activities towards sustaining the learning gains and new practices. And for our cooperation this gives a challenge to proceed further with the piloting and outreach activities.

More blogs to come …

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

October 17th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

October 16th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

1. The Multimedia Training has impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 3: Design process and training activities)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the first  post of this series of blogs I indicated that we (the ITB team together with our Pontydysgu colleagues and the application partner Bau ABC)  are going through a transitional phase in our fieldwork for the Learning Layers  (LL) project. In the second post I looked back at the shifts of emphasis that had characterised our field visits and workshops in Bau ABC since the first ones in winter to the latest ones before and after the summer holiday break. In both postings I made the point that we had moved from preparatory measures to work in the context of a participative design process. In this posting it is time to consider the implications of such process for the design activities themselves and for the necessary training activities to be planned and carried out.

In principle, there has been an implicit agreement among the LL partner that our project is not a “technology push” project. Neither have we seen our application partners as clients in the supermarket – making choices between ready-made solutions that are on the shelf. Instead, the emphasis has been put on participative co-design processes. Yet, it has been quite a challenge to get such processes take off in the domains and in the locations where we want to carry out pilot activities.

In the case of the Rapid Turbine initiative Graham Attwell has given some insights into the first steps of the design work, into the plans to produce videos (the helmet camera) and into conceptual challenges (“closing the gap”). Much of this design work is still on the way and the demonstrators are yet to come. However, we already know that much of the messages of trainers and apprentices have been taken on board. The important thing is that the Pontydysgu colleagues try to provide real support for completing working and learning tasks without dropping the idea of self-organised learning. Thus, the web tools and the software solutions are there to enhance the learners’ awareness of their own learning. At the end of the exercise, the apprentices should have a picture what they can do, what the cannot do yet and what challenges they can meet in the next phase. This is being discussed between developers, trainers and us, the accompanying researchers.

This has also implications for getting the forthcoming Rapid Turbine designs work together with existing applications and software solutions (such as the Reflect application for the LL project and the software for the assessment procedures in Bau ABC). In this way the support for project-based learning of apprentices would be linked to a tool that enables audio recording of learners’ reports and trainers’ feedback – and to the assessment processes. This, as we understand, will take some time and requires further efforts in the design process.

Parallel to this we have made progress in our discussions, how to give shape for training activities that would support the Rapid Turbine initiative and enhance the general media literacy of trainers and apprentices. Whilst the design work and the discussion on appropriate workshops were firstly taking off as two different things, they seem to be getting closer to each other. It is obvious that the design of the Rapid Turbine gives rise to specific training activities. These can be seen as one part of a wider range of training options to be considered together with the application partners. Here, we are pleased to be able to share experiences with the EU-funded TACCLE projects that have a long experiences with such workshops for teachers to help them produce user-generated web content.

Here I need to stress that both the design work for Rapid Turbine and the development of the training concepts are at an early stage. Yet, we are carrying out this work via joint working meetings in which different parties are actively engaged. This, to me, is already aq good sign and I am looking for the next steps that are taken very soon.

To be continued …

PS. I have written this blog posting just before a series of working meetings with several LL partners and stakeholders that will bring these issues (and wider issues) further. As I will not be present in all these activities and since I will be travelling some time afterwards, it may take some time before we get updates. PK

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209),


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