Archive for the ‘trainers’ Category

Learning Layers in Leeds – Part Two: Giving a picture on construction pilot and Learning Toolbox

September 28th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its last joint project consortium meeting (before the final review meeting) in Leeds, hosted by the local partners.  We focused on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating the final preparatory processes for the final reporting. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In this second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in the preparation sessions and in the Elevator pitch session.

Insights into the preparation sessions (focus on impact and cases, scenarios and research approaches)

In the preparation sessions we rotated between three topic tables (of five altogether) to prepare the marketing pitches for which we had been signed (or to listen to others’ contributions and to give feedback). My choice was to give pitches on the impact cases, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on research approaches. In the first topic table it was useful to share ideas between construction pilot (use of Learning Toolbox at construction site) and healthcare pilot (use of Learning Toolbox in a conference environment). As a spin-off I promised to communicate the idea of using LTB in the forthcoming European conferences on vocational education and training in 2017 (ECER 2017, ‘Crossing boundaries 2017’). I also picked the idea of using LTB in conferences as a manifestation of ‘work process knowledge’ of researchers. In the topic table of ‘learning scenarios’ we discussed the criteria, what is to be presented as ‘impact cases’ and what qualifies as ‘scenarios’ or ‘instances of change’ in terms of conceptual interpretation. In the topic table of ‘research approaches’ we also had a similar discussion regarding the presentation of research methodologies and research findings.

Presenting the construction pilot in the ‘Elevator pitch’ session (‘impact cases’, ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘accompanying research’)

The ‘Elevator pitch’ session followed the pattern of marketing events that are typical in educational technology and software development communities. Each presenter had a 20 seconds slot to announce the topic and attract the interest of audience. Then the presenter had a 3 minutes slot to present the case and to convey the message. After each presentation three persons gave feedback (including one of the two ‘critical friends’ that were invited by the organisers). Below I focus on my/our presentations on the construction pilot of the LL project.

a) The impact cases: Use of Learning Toolbox in training (the pitch of Melanie Campbell) and at a construction site (my pitch)

In her pitch Melanie Campbell presented the training centre Bau-ABC as an application partner of the project and gave insights into the impact of the project from their perspective. Her key message was that Bau-ABC had engaged itself as a ‘learning organisation’ in different phases of the project work and used the opportunity to enhance the digital literacy and multimedia competences of its staff. On the basis of successful deployment of the Learning Toolbox Bau-ABC is looking forward to a more prominent role in promoting this know-how in its initial training (for apprentices), continuing training (for construction professionals) and training partnerships (with suppliers and client companies). She emphasised the new strategic interpretation of ‘Internet as the fourth learning venue’ (“Internet als vierter Lernort”) – alongside the company employing the apprentice (Ausbildungsbetrieb), the intermediate training centre (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätte) and the vocational school (Berufsschule) – and the contribution of the Learning Layers project in conveying this message.

In my first pitch I presented (with the help of a short video demonstration) the impact case of using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the management of a construction site. I used the video on Thomas Isselhard’s recent presentation (see my recent blog) as an exemplary case to show, what kind of problems can be overcome with LTB, how the traditional way of managing the processes can be supported by LTB and how different parties can be engaged as users of LTB – to achieve real-time knowledge sharing and communication. Here I positioned myself as the interpreter and let the practitioner explain the benefits, see below:

b) The ‘learning scenario’: Learning Toolbox as means to make ‘work process knowledge’ transparent in lived practice

In my second pitch  – for ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) – I focused on the concept ‘work process knowledge’ and how the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) can make this concept more transparent. I looked back at the original European projects of the Work Process Knowledge network (funded by EU, 4th Framework programme of research) between 1998 and 2001. In the original studies the network analysed informal and cross-organisational learning processes as preconditions for innovation. They came up with the concept of ‘work process knowledge’ (as shared foundation of knowledge, experience and trust) based on which the organisations can successfully implement major changes. The network had collected several interesting cases in which interactive informal learning in organisations – and workers’ participation in shaping the technical and organisational changes. Yet, with their plans to develop follow-up projects they got narrowed down to more particular approaches on ‘organisational learning’ and to local and sectoral tools or instruments to promote such learning. With reference to the ‘impact cases’ on LTB I argued that the introduction of the integrative toolset has helped managers, skilled workers, trainers and apprentices to get a common overview on work processes and a shared understanding on matching activities and contributions.

c) The research approach: Transformation of ‘accompanying research’ within participative design and tool deployment processes

In my third pitch – with  focus on research approaches – I invited the audience to a journey to revisit the development of the accompanying research approach of ITB during the construction pilot of the Learning Layers project. Firstly I mentioned two earlier models of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) of which ITB has rich experiences:

  • Accompaniment of a regional ‘Work and Technology’ programme and its projects in 1990-1997: Focus on the attainment of policy goals regarding social shaping of work, technology, organisations and regional cooperation.
  • Accompaniment of nation-wide educational innovation programme ‘New learning concepts in dual vocational education and training’ 1997-2003: Focus on the attainment of self-declared innovation goals regarding introduction of new pedagogic and curricular settings, new occupational profiles and new instructional designs.

Concerning Learning Layers, I emphasised the difference, since we were working with an open and participative co-design process (with several iterative phases and adjustments), with common search for an appropriate design concept and ways to deploy the integrative toolset. During the process the accompanying researchers worked as

  • explorers (mapping workshops and initial interviews),
  • facilitators of digital literacy (the early multimedia training),
  • co-designers (in the shaping of the concept of Learning Toolbox),
  • co-tutors (the training campaign for all Bau-ABC staff),
  • facilitators of tool deployment (introduction of Learning Toolbox),
  • co-evaluators (collecting feedback and reviewing the qualitative feedback).

Concerning the interaction of accompanying researchers with practitioners we tried to position ourselves as supporting partners – helping them to become owners of the innovation. This was clearly successful with the early multimedia training and  with the launch of trainers’ blogs (see the video of August 2014 below). In a similar way the deployment of Learning Toolbox was a user-driven exercise in which Bau-ABC trainers set their own accents on promoting problem-oriented learning (with rich resources) or interest-based and expansive learning (with gradually increasing variety of resources). In a similar way the apprentices were guided by trainers to become owners of their own learning processes by self-organised use of learning resources via Learning Toolbox.

Concluding remarks and lessons for the final run

Regarding the feedback on my pitches, I was praised for the use of video to pass a user’s own voice and accents in the first pitch, I was criticized for not using such visuals in the two latter ones (I dropped the idea because the video could not be displayed that well to all). I was also praised for presenting coherent stories but criticized for giving too much emphasis on the history and leaving the connection between history and present date too thin. Finally, I was praised by making the users visible and emphasising them as ‘pioneers’, our role in ’empowering users’ and making transparent different ways of using innovative toolsets. Altogether, this feedback helped us to pull ourselves out of project-internal reporting and to focus on new audiences who don’t have the shared background knowledge.

– – –

I think this is enough of this exercise. At the moment we are taking further steps in preparing the final documents, making further arrangements for the final review and working with follow-up activities.

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 …

Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part Three: Introducing Learning Toolbox to craft trade companies

September 1st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I have been writing a series of blog entries to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. After my sick leave I have been catching up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction sector pilot. In particular I have been interested in the news on the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) – both in work-based learning and at construction sites.  With my first post I summarised where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB before the summer break. With this second post I reported summarised recent feedback on the use of LTB by construction sector apprentices. In this third post I will give insights into the introduction of LTB to craft trade companies in construction sector.

Special challenges for Learning Toolbox in the work of electric engineering companies

At the end of June 2016 some members of the LL team of ITB visited the company Siever + Knüppel (one of our application partners) to discuss specific challenges that could be met with tools like LTB. So far our pioneering examples had been from the context apprentice training and project work on training sites. Dieter Siever (the director of the company specialised in electric engineering) gave us a manifold picture of unexpected incidences, changes of plans and potential mismatches between different trades involved in construction work and electric engineering in reparation and maintenance work. In the course of discussion we found several points in which the LTB could be adjusted to give support for necessary measures. A summary of these discussions is available in the following blog article:

Special challenges for using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in a craft trade company

Particular challenges for the use of Learning Toolbox in managing construction sites

Recently the Verden-based architect Thomas Isselhard (our application partner from the networks for ecological construction work) has got the responsibility to manage a special construction site in Verden. In addition to the complexity of ordinary construction sites there are special requirements from the perspective of maintaining cultural heritage (Denkmalschutz). In addition to this, the construction site is located next to a street that is used as open market area once a week (due to which there are restrictions to the work and transport).

Thomas had already made his experiences with testing the LTB. Therefore, he was keen to find out, how LTB would help him in supervising the craftsmen (from different trades and companies) involved in the work as well as managing the contacts with clients and other stakeholders (e.g. public authorities). Some members of the LL team of ITB have made a working visit to Verden to discuss this case with Thomas and are preparing demonstration materials with reference to this special case.

Workshop on the use of Learning Toolbox for craft trade companies in construction sector

The above mentioned working visits are closely related to the preparations (of the LL team of ITB and the LTB developers) for a workshop to introduce LTB for craft trade companies in Bremen region. This workshop will take place in ITB next week and we are looking forward to introduce the newest version of LTB there. Also, we want to collect similar exemplary cases from the companies to find out specific points of intervention. So, I assume that by the end of next week we have more to report from this front.

More blogs to come …

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

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

First finding: “Guiding replaces strict instructions”:

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

Second finding: “From consuming to contributing”:

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

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

Third finding: “Digital transformation”:

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come … 

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

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spreading the use of LTB into other trades/ learning contexts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publication of the online guide to Learning Toolbox (LTB)

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

June 23rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

Preparing for Learning Layers Bristol meeting – Part One: What are we achieving with our fieldwork?

June 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Next week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project will have its consortium meeting in Bristol. In my recent blogs I have reported of several activities that have taken place in the Construction pilot of the LL project – in particular with the deployment of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Parallel to this I have edited a series of articles (based on the blogs) for the Construction section of the LL website. And finally, I have looked back at the LL consortium meeting in Tallin (June 2015) and summarised the progress we have made in the LL Construction pilot in one year. In this blog I want to change the perspective with the question: “What are we achieving with our fieldwork?”

This question implies that we are still in the middle of an ongoing process – making progress but becoming aware of issues yet to be solved before the project comes to an end. Here I would like to draw attention to the following points:

  1. Learning Toolbox (LTB) is being used in the field: The kick-off event in March and the later working visits have paved the way for actual use of LTB in the training projects of pioneering Bau-ABC trainers. The apprentices and other trainers have given positive feedback on the usability of the tool. Yet, there are infrastructural problems that reduce the use of LTB on a wider basis. We have to work with our local colleagues to overcome such hurdles.
  2. Capability of using LTB is spreading via peer tutoring: New users are joining in the piloting having had short peer tutoring sessions with their fellow colleagues or with LL R&D partners.  The main thing is that the new users are creating their own stacks (adapted to the projects they are managing) and finding their own ways to involve apprentices as users. (This is happening both in Bau-ABC and in the Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen (NNB), where the colleagues from Agentur are developing prototype stacks for their users.  Parallel to this they are developing specific stacks for the permanent exhibition ‘nachhaltig. bauen. erleben’.)
  3. Apprentices are coming into picture as LTB-users and co-designers: Bau-ABC trainers have always emphasised the need to engage apprentices as users and as co-designers (giving feedback and proposing new ideas). The latter aspect came most prominently into picture in the workshop with Spanish apprentices of the mobility scheme Mobipro-EU. It became clear that the LTB has a great potential in supporting apprentices that are having their apprentice training in a foreign country – struggling with language, learning, working and with their new local environment.
  4. Complementary tools have been brought into picture: The field visits for introducing AchSo and SoAR were succesful and the tools were well received. Yet, there are some technical issues about getting these tools smoothly used as add-on tools via LTB. The recent messages on working with these issues have been very promising.

I stop my list here. In general, we have been going through an introductory phase in which we have launched processes. Now we are clearly in a situation in which the use of the tools is spreading and the users are developing their own patterns of use. At the same time we need to see that we can provide appropriate support for broader circles of users. In this respect the publishing of the LTB Online Guide is a major achievement. We are looking forward to new workshops with new users in the construction sector.

More blogs to come …


Zimmererblog is going on strong – Learning Layers’ multimedia training bears fruit

June 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blogs I have given progress reports on the construction pilot of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project, mostly focusing on the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In addition I have provided a review on the progress we have achieved since the project consortium meeting in Tallinn one year ago. In this blog I will have a look at the main results of the earlier Multimedia Training Workshops (that the LL project organised for the full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) of the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC in 2013-2014) – the trainers’ blogs. Here I will firstly focus on the most outstanding example, the Zimmererblog (Carpenters’ blog) of Bau-ABC trainer Markus Pape.

Zimmererblog – origins, development and impact

In the first Multimedia Training Workshops of the LL project in the years 2013-2014 the LL partners from Pontydysgu and ITB providedtraining for a group of voluntary Bau-ABC trainers. At that time we started by getting an overview of the general web tools and by making use of them. In this context the participating trainers created their own WordPress blogs. In the course of the training they developed their own pattern of working with blogs. Instead of keeping a diary or writing columns on different topics the trainers have transformed their blogs into their own ‘open educational resources’. In this process the trainer Markus Pape has been the pioneer and his Zimmererblog has become the most comprehensive one.

Looking at the structure – after the startpage – the main areas of the blog are the collections of project descriptions (worksheets) for each year of apprentice training. Then, the blog provides links to literature and other websites as well as an additional area for special techniques. Yet, the special trademark of this blog is that the pictures in the worksheets, in the special area and in the slideshow have been edited to make the site more attractive.

Looking at the impact, it is worthwhile to note that the Zimmererblog has from the very beginning on gained a wide popularity beyond the primary users – trainers and apprentices in Bau-ABC. The statistics reveal that it has been viewed from all over the world – although it is only available in German. Recently it has reached the milestone of 45.000 hits (the exact number being currently 45.103) and the interest is not dropping at all. In this respect the expression ‘open educational resource’ is justified.

Trainers’ blogs in the neighboring trades have also taken their place

Parallel to the Zimmererblog the trainers in some other trades (who had also attended the Multimedia Training Workshops) started to create similar blogs for their trades (or groups of trades). As a result there are three other blogs with similar structure in Bau-ABC:

  • The ‘Maurerblog’ (“Mauerwerksbau im Bau-ABC Rostrup. Backsteine und Mehr”) provides a similar set of learning resources for bricklayer apprentices and additional resources for skilled workers. Currently this site has reached 6.604 hits.
  • The ‘Tiefbaublog’ (“Tiefbau Bau-ABC Rostrup. Mach Dich schlau im Tiefbau”) provides a similar set of resources for three neighbouring trades – road-builders (Strassenbauer), pipeline-builders (Rohrleitungsbauer) and sewage-builders (Kanalbauer). In a similar way it provides additional info sheets and links to external resorces. Currently this site has reached 2.893 hits.
  • The ‘Brunnenbaublog’ (Brunnenbauer und Spezialtiefbauer) provides similar sets of resources for the neighbouring trades of well-builders (Brunnebauer) and for the tunnel-builders (Spezialtiefbauer). In addition, the blog provides further links to progression routes to higher education/qualifications (Duales Studium, Weiterbildung). In addition, the blog provides further sections for special themes, tables and instructions for health and safety. For this site we have not got the current statistics.

Here it is worthwhile to note that these blogs have been developed mainly for internal use in Bau-ABC. From that perspective they have been used rather well although their external impact has remained rather limited compared with the Zimmererblog and its impressive outreach.

– – –

Altogether the trainers’ blogs have already taken their place before the Learning Toolbox has been introduced. Now it is interesting to see, how these tools and instruments can best complement each other. Already in the ‘Theme Room” training workshops the trainers started developing thoughts in this respect. I am looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …


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

June 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

1.  Multimedia Training concept based on “Theme Rooms”

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

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

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

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

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

3. Spreading Learning Toolbox to other contexts and new users

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …


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