Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

Once more the Finnish sustainability commitments – What makes them real?

April 16th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have discussed the Finnish Sustainability Commitments and their relevance for our EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). In the first blog I described the model, in the second one I shifted the emphasis to the sustainability of apprentice training and in the third one I discussed the transferability of the commitment model to the Learning Layers project.

In the meantime I have had some talks with my colleagues on this model and its applicability. Some of the comments have been inspired: There seems to be something attractive in the approach. Some of the comments have been characterised  by scepticism: Isn’t this yet another one of those campaigns that end up as lip service without major impact? Below I try to give some further insights into the model itself and into mechanisms that can make it work as a real thing.

1. What is so special about these Sustainability Commitments?

The inspiring aspect of these Sustainability Commitments is that they are part of a nation-wide strategy for Sustainable Development – targeted to the year 2050 – but they are operative commitments agreed in particular organisations. They refer to a four-page reference document that outlines seven sustainability goals. And then it is up to each organisation to agree which of these goals it will select for its own operative commitments. Once this discussion is through the organisation has to agree on the time frame of the commitment and on the indicators for assessing the success. When these decisions have been made the organisation can register its commitment on the special website http://sitoumus2050.fi (Commitment 2050). And when the commitment has been registered and published, the organisation has the responsibility to report on the progress.

Altogether, this model is that of a Societal Commitment Process - it transforms the implementation of the national strategy into a movement that consists of into sets of goal-oriented local and domain-specific commitment processes. When an insider-expert tells how this model came into being, it is easy to sense the inspiration and creative energy. Yet, it is worthwhile to ask, what mechanisms and  measures can prevent it from falling into ritualism and lip service.

2. What makes these commitments become real measures with impact?

It is worthwhile to consider, what kinds of background factors, mechanisms, efforts, initiatives etc. have been provided to make these commitment processes work towards the desired change. I will try to list some of these below:

a) High level policy support: The national commission for sustainable development has been chaired by the prime minister and the commitment processes have been taken up by ministries, central government bodies, employers’ confederations, trade unions, political parties, big enterprises etc. Key players in national politics want to be involved in such processes.

b) Facilitation and assistance by expert organisations: In the field of vocational education and training (VET) – as well as in general and adult education – a  special expert organisation (the OKKA foundation) has developed Sustainability certificates for educational establishments. In a similar way universities (among others the Aalto University) have made commitments to support their partner organisations in joining the commitment processes and in reaching their objectives.

c) Expanding the range of commitments after first pilots: Several regional consortia for VET (the inter-municipal ‘holding’ organisations of VET institutes) have started their commitment processes with one institute and educational domain candidating for a Sustainability certificate of the OKKA foundation. After a successful pilot they have continued with further commitments involving other institutes and educational domains.

d) Cooperative chains and business networks as promoters of commitments: The leading cooperative chain – the S-group with its shops, department stores, supermarkets and hotels – has committed itself nation-wide to link sustainable development into its processes of inducting new employees. In a similar way a nation-wide network of social responsibility managers has made its own commitments for its member enterprises.

e) NGOs as promoters of commitments: In the dissemination activities the Ministry of Environment and the participating organisations are supported by creative NGOs. In particular the NGO “Yllätetään yhteiskunta” (Let’s surprise the society) has specialised in organising dissemination events – such as sustainability jams – that give visibility to particular initiatives.

f) The role of social media: So far the Commitment process has been supported by a static website. Yet, the according to the newest plans (that were reported in the Finnish radio podcast, http://areena.yle.fi/radio/2630343) the website is being transformed into a social networking website and the commitment processes are being transformed into community processes. The launch of the new platform is scheduled for the 3rd of June 2015.

I think these points were already enough to give an impression, what all is making the commitment process work. And I will try to find out more in due time.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 3: Sustainability commitments for apprentice training?

April 8th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I started with a topic that might seem remote to our EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). The first post focused on the Finnish sustainability commitments. In the second post I discussed the sustainability issue from the perspective of apprentice training making comparisons between Germany and in Finland (and setting the LL pilots in Germany and Finland into their contexts). In this third post I try to bring these two threads together by posing the question: What about making sustainability commitments for apprentice training?

Here again, I will make comparisons between the Finnish and German contexts – firstly at a more general level and then secondly from the perspective of scaling up the LL initiatives in the construction sector.

1. Sustainability commitments as a perspective for promoting apprentice training?

Firstly, it is appropriate to consider, whether the sustainability commitments – or to be precise: operative commitments to sustainability goals – can provide an appropriate framework for promoting future-oriented apprentice training.

In the case of Finland this perspective is clearly available. One of the central sustainability goals taken up by the operative commitments is “Sustainable work”. Concerning the role of apprentice training and construction work, this can be argued in a twofold sense:

1)  Apprentice training as it is currently promoted in the construction trades, serves the purpose of sustaining the sectoral craftsmanship and the traditional know-how of elder craftsmen in the context of demographic change.

2) Apprentice training can serve as a medium of promoting other sustainability goals (such as “A carbon-neutral society” or “An economy that is resource-wise”) in the context of construction work.

Moreover, the framework of these operative commitments provides clear instructions for setting the timeline, adjusting to the general criteria and on self-monitoring and reporting on progress.

In the case of Germany it is not easy to see, how a similar framework could emerge on a general policy level. In my previous blog I referred to the national agreements for promoting apprentice training (Ausbildungspakt), which do not provide a similar mechanism for operative commitments. However, the sectoral campaigns of the national association of construction industry (Bauindustrieverband) could possibly be developed into such direction (see the previous campaigns “Leitbild Bau” or “Deutschland baut”).

2. Sustainability commitments as means to promote LL initiatives?

In addition to the above presented thoughts it is necessary to consider, how such commitments could be linked to the promotion and scaling up of LL-related initiatives in the construction sector.

In the case of Finland the current pilots focus on the use of AchSo! as an instrument to document achievements in workplace learning – mainly for the vocational school that is in charge of assessing the apprentices and trainees. In this respect the use of LL tools is rather limited and does not (yet) cover the broader scope of using digital media and web resources to support working and learning process as well as real-time communication. From this point of view the introduction of the Learning Toolbox would open new possibilities to link LL tools to such operative commitments as have been referred to above.

In the case of Germany the current pilot phase focuses on multiple uses of Learning Toolbox in the working and learning environments of apprentices (firstly in the intermediate training centre and then subsequently in the companies). In this respect the situation is different from the Finnish pilots. Here, in the pilot context of the training centre Bau-ABC it is possible to develop sets of small-scale commitments and to introduce corresponding patterns of (self-)monitoring and (self-)evaluation. These initial steps can then provide a basis for wider roll-out phase.

I think this is as far as I can get with my thoughts, what we (the LL project) can learn from the Finnish approach to promote sustainable development via operative commitments. If my quickly written blogs have left gaps of information or if I should add more specific examples, I am happy to continue the discussion. Otherwise, we are heading to further tasks in our current pilots.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 2: Sustainability of apprentice training in discussion

April 8th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I discussed with some length a topic that is seemingly remote to our EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL): The Finnish campaigns to promote sustainable development via sustainability commitments. I promised to get back to the relevance of such commitments to the LL project in a later blog. In this post I will discuss the sustainability issue from the perspective of apprentice training – using the different situations in Germany and in Finland as a starting point and then proceeding to campaigns to promote the sustainability of apprentice training Then I will discuss the importance of LL pilots in construction sector – both in Germany and in Finland – in this context.

1.  Sustainability issues in apprentice training – the cases of Germany and Finland

Apprentice training in Germany (the dual system of apprentice training) has traditionally been the flagship model of vocational education and training (VET). This tradition has been deeply rooted in economy, educational policy, labour market relations and working culture. In particular in the construction sector Germany has opted for high-skilled workforce, to be obtained via apprentice training. This, however has been challenged via academic drift (young people opting for studies rather than career as skilled worker) and by competition from semi-skilled or low-skilled workforce (external companies, migrant workforce etc.). Therefore, already for several years the educational policy debates have been concerned about the sustainability of apprentice training (and the reliance on skilled workforce). This has given rise to different initiatives and support measures to promote the sustainability of apprentice training (see below).

Apprentice training in Finland has had a relatively marginal position vis-à-vis the dual system of apprenticeship in Germany. Mainly this is due to the late and rapid industrialisation in Finland in the post-war reconstruction era (after the World War II). During that period a wide network of school-based vocational education institutes was built in different parts of Finland to attract expanding industries and services to all parts of the country. In this context industries tended not to engage themselves with initial vocational education but to cater for (formal or informal) continuing training. In the 1990s there was a shift in emphasis to enhance the role of workplace learning in initial VET and revitalise apprentice training (mainly as an option for working adults without formal qualifications to obtain them via on-the-job-training). Quite recently these hitherto separate policies have been combined in pilot projects that enable flexible transition from school-based VET to apprentice training (within the same curricular framework – see below). Also in this case there is an issue, whether the Finnish VET system can compete with the academic drift and ensure such quality of young workforce that can compete against low-cost companies  that tend to rely on lowly skilled workforce.

2. Campaigns for promoting the sustainability of apprentice training

Centralised campaigns for providing sufficient apprentice training opportunities in Germany: Since apprentice training is the main model of VET in Germany, there is a constant concern, whether there are sufficiently apprentice training opportunities and whether these opportunities have been utilised by young people. During the last decade the federal policy makers have introduced new kinds of campaigns in the form of central agreements on apprentice training opportunities (Ausbildungspakt) between government bodies and the Social Partners (= employers’ confederations and trade unions). These agreements (usually for a three-year period) cover a range of nation-wide measures to be taken by public authorities and by the Social Partners to provide better frameworks and possibilities to meet current bottlenecks in the training markets. Yet, there is quite a distance between these measures and the actual implementation in local, regional and sectoral contexts.

Targeted campaigns for raising awareness of apprenticeship as an option: Since the role of apprentice training in the national VET system is not so prominent as in Germany, the central government and the Social Partners have not engaged themselves in such measures. Instead, the campaigning has been a matter for the local/regional agencies for apprentice training (that function as brokers between young people, industries and vocational schools). Their campaigns have been efforts to raise awareness of apprenticeship as option for particular target groups and for interested employers (and to engage the vocational schools). Altogether, this has been more a matter of finding the niche areas and interested partners than contributing to the sustainability of the whole system of VET.

3. The contribution of the LL pilots to the sustainability issues in construction sector

In the light of the above it is interesting to compare, how the pilots of the LL project in construction sector fit to this picture of sustainability issues of apprentice training.

The contribution of the German pilot with Learning Toolbox (LTB) to the sustainability issue in the German construction sector is related to the following questions:

  • Can the LTB help the apprentices and skilled construction workers to master their tasks, mobilise their knowledge resources and communicate effectively in problem-situations?
  • Can the use of LTB help them to become better aware of their know-how, learning progress and challenges yet to meet?
  • Can a wider use of such tools help to overcome some negative images of construction work and to highlight the aspects of knowledge work in the construction trades?

Altogether these questions are related to a general effort to enhance the learning, know-how and co-participation of skilled workers as a part of the sustainability of highly skilled  workforce in construction sector.

The contribution of the Finnish pilot with the video annotation tool AchSo! is a narrower pilot regarding the entire set of issues indicated above. Yet, it focuses on the documentation of learners’ progress in workplace learning – which has so far been the Achilles’ heel in all collaboration between school-based VET and workplace learning. And in the current situation the effective use of LL tools can increase the trust of all parties on the flexible transition from school-centred to apprenticeship-based vocational learning.

I think this is enough at the moment. In my next post I will discuss the relevance of the Sustainability Commitments for the development of apprentice training and for the scaling up of LL pilots.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 1: The sustainability commitments

March 31st, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few years my blogs on “Working and Learning” have been almost exclusively on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I will have a look at something else – and this ‘something else’ is happening in my home country Finland. Yet, when I have got to the end of my story, I think it has quite a lot of relevance for the LL project.

1. Looking at facebook, listening to the radio podcast

This all started when I looked at the facebook page of a friend of old, Mr Sauli Rouhinen from the Finnish Ministry of  the Environment. I had known Sauli from the time when he was a junior researcher at the University of Tampere and I was a student at the same university. Sauli was specialising in social ecology and was well positioned to start in the newly established Ministry of the Environment when it was taking its initial steps. What is more important, is the fact that he became the civil servant in charge of the government commissions for and civic participation in the national strategies for Sustainable Development.

During the weekend I discovered that Sauli had been interviewed by the Finnish public radio (YLE) for a special program on economic affairs “Mikä maksaa?” (Twist of words between the questions: ‘What does it cost?’ and ‘ What does it take to achieve …?’). And this time it was all about Sustainable development. So, I took my time and listened to the program and it was worthwhile. For those who understand Finnish (we are over 5 million people who speak this language), here is the link:

http://areena.yle.fi/radio/2630343

2. The Finnish approach to engage people, organisations and public bodies via commitments

In the program Sauli told firstly about the early stage of the work with the theme ‘Sustainable development’. This phase produced green papers, white papers and recommendations which were well-written but did not have a strong impact on decision-making and everyday life. In the next phase the overarching strategy papers were chopped down to smaller ones – but this led to a multitude of strategies on which nobody could have an overview.  Therefore, narrowing down the focus didn’t improve the chances to implement the strategies and to monitor the impact.

The fundamental change in the approach was taken when the campaigning for sustainable development was turned into participative process based on Sustainability commitments. As a first step, eight central goals for sustainability were formulated as concise documents that provided a basis for making one’s own commitments. Then, different kinds of organisations as well as publicly known opinion leaders were invited to make their specific commitments. In this way the leaders of the campaign (the civil servants and their supporters) could reach public bodies, civic organisations (like employers’ federations or trade unions but also other voluntary organisations) and individual companies or chains of companies. And the ones who had made such commitments were enabled to invite others to join in this process.

3. How are such commitments made and how are they put into practice?

Firstly, it is worthwhile to note that the sustainability goals require specific measures to change the status quo in order to ensure the attainment of these goals. Secondly, the organisations or individuals have to specify their actions and set clear objectives in a time frame that they have defined for themselves. Thirdly, they have to define indicators or clarify in an alternative way, how their progress can be monitored. When all these criteria have been met, the Ministry of the Environment will register the commitments. After the registration, the organisations are obliged to report on annual basis on their progress in reaching their objectives.

Initially this process with Sustainability commitments was launched by a small ‘task force’ in the ministry. However, when the process started to take off, it became hard for the civil servants to check the draft commitments and to give feedback on them. Therefore, in the current phase the process is being taken to a database. After this transition, it is possible to use web tools to check whether the commitments meet the criteria. Also, the database works as a social network platform for a community of practice. So, the community is expected to give feedback on the proposals and on the progress. Here , it is necessary to emphasise the role of some NGOs like the one - “Yllätetään yhteiskunta” (‘Let’s surprise the society’) – that play an active role in mobilising such civic participation and public interest.

4. What kinds of commitments have been made and and what kind of actions have emerged?

Currently all registered commitments can be viewed on the platform Sitoumus2050.fi - Kestävän kehityksen toimenpidesitoumukset (Commitment2050.fi – Commitments to measures for sustainable development). The opening page gives a general introduction and them lists the most recent registered commitments. At the bottom of the page there are link buttons to different domains of sustainability commitments such as “Työtä kestävästi” (‘To work in a sustainable way’) or “Hiilineutraali yhteiskunta” (Carbon-neutral society) or “Luontoa kunnioittava päätöksenteko” (Decision-making that respects nature).

Looking more closely at the domain “Työtä kestävästi” (‘To work in a sustainable way’) we see different actors making different kinds of commitments:

  • The Ministry of Education and Culture has committed itself to organise campaigns that raise awareness on sustainable developments in different educational sectors.
  • The OKKA foundation has committed itself to produce training materials on sustainable development for different educational establishments.
  • Some regional consortia of vocational schools and colleges have committed themselves to obtain sustainability certificates in their initial vocational education programs.
  • Some consortia that have already obtained such certificates for initial vocational education and training (iVET) have committed themselves to obtain such certificates for the continuing vocational education and training (cVET) provisions.
  • The national grouping of co-operative shops, markets and catering services (S-ryhmä) commits itself to introduce principles of sustainable development at work to its trainees and apprentices….

I think this is enough to give an idea of the Finnish approach to work with a participative process of Sustainability commitments. In my next post I will discuss, how this kind of approach could be taken up in the field of vocational education and training (VET) and in the Learning Layers (LL) project.

PS. After publishing this blog I was informed by Sauli that he has presented the Finnish approach at the events of the  European Sustainable Development Network  and that they have published his presentations as well as the Finnish Commitment template. I am happy to share this news.

More blogs to come …

Preparing for LL field workshops – Part 3: Inspiring news from the Finnish pilot

March 27th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I have worked with a series of blogs on the preparation of the forthcoming Field Workshops with the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  The first post I gave insights into changes in the use of technology and in the development of tools. The second one discussed implications for Data protection/Data Security (“Datenschutz”). In this third post I will give a news update on the parallel pilots of the Finnish LL partners (Aalto University) in the Finnish construction sector.

1. The Finnish pilot with the video annotation tool AchSo! in the construction sector

As we have been informed some time ago, our Finnish partners in the Aalto University have joined in an interesting pilot project in the Finnish construction sector. The Finnish Construction Trade Union, the company Skanska and the regional vocational colleges in Pirkanmaa have agreed on a joint pilot with focus on workplace learning. The main thrust of the pilot is to equip apprentices and trainees from vocational schools with tablet-PCs so that they can document their workplace learning with the help of videos. From the perspective of LL project it is interesting that the pilot project is using the AchSo! video annotation tool to edit the videos as documents on learning progress.

2. The recent article in the trade union journal “Rakentaja” as an interesting interim report

One week ago or colleagues from Aalto sent us a copy of an article on this pilot project in the trade union journal “Rakentaja” (= Builder). The article – written by an independent freelance journalist – gave firstly a comprehensive picture of the pilot project and its background. But – what was even more important – it gave a lively picture, how apprentices, skilled workers and vocational school teachers perceived the implementation of the pilot. We got positive statements from a trainee from vocational school (2nd year) and apprentice taken over to the company (3rd year) how they can use the tablets and make appropriate videos. An older skilled worker – who had served as cameraman when the youngsters were not available – confirmed that this tool is working. The vocational school representatives were positive about the pilot concept and of its impact on the reputation of the construction trades. And the regional trade union representative was happy about the impact of the pilot on strengthening the role of workplace learning in construction sector.

3. The educational policy context and the labour market context behind the current 2+1 model

The article also gave some insights into the changing educational policy context in the Finnish vocational education and training (VET). In the years 1999-2000 the duration of school-based vocational education was extended to three years. In this way the authorities wanted to accommodate a period of ca. 1 year workplace learning (as trainees) during the final year (the original 2+1 model). However, in this model the workplace learners had the status of external trainees (and were perceived as ‘visitors’ at the construction sites). The current 2+1 model is promoting a transition in which the workplace learning of the third year is based on apprentice training contracts. In such an arrangement apprentices have already entered employment contracts with the company. Yet, from the educational point of view the vocational colleges have the responsibility to supervise and monitor the progress of workplace learning (with the help of mentors appointed by the companies). In this context the use of the video annotation tool is considered as an important improvement to such supervision and monitoring.

The company Skanska and the trade union have emphasised the importance of such enhancement of workplace learning. This is closely related to the demographic change – the wave of retirement of older skilled workers and the necessity to pass the experience to a lower number of newcomers. From this point of view the lively descriptions of the cooperation of young apprentices and their older colleague when preparing the videos is inspiring.

4. The limits of the pilot and the potential benefits of other LL tools

As things stand now, the pilot is focusing on the use of AchSo! in the documentation of learning experiences. The journalist makes the point that the apprentices are not exactly using their tablet-PCs to support their occupational work. This picture could be changed with the help of the Learning Toolbox, once we get into the pilots in the field. And – taking this into account – it is inspiring to note that in other articles of that issue of “Rakentaja” there are several references to the use ICT, web resources and digital media – both in the context of construction work and design process as well as in the work of the trade union. The awareness is already there, let us see what the next phases of the LL project could offer.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Preparing for LL field workshops – Part 2: What about the “Datenschutz”?

March 27th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I started a series of blogs on the preparation of the forthcoming Field Workshops with the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  With the first post I gave an update on what all has been changing regarding the use of technology and development of tools. In this post I will discuss what implications this has on Data protection/Data Security (“Datenschutz”).

1. Stock-taking on documents for Data Protection/ Data Security

I have already reported in an earlier blog that Graham Attwell drew my attention to the documents of FutureLearn (consortium of British universities for organising MOOCs). Later on, as a response to my e-mails I have got access to some other reference documents:

  • Tamsin Treasure-Jones sent me the links to Ethical clearance documents (for the LL research activities in the healthcare sector) and to the related Agreement on Research Data Management Procedure between TLU and Leeds.
  • Joanna Burchert sent me the Datenschutzerklärung (declaration on Data Protection/ Data Privacy) of the expertAzubi project and a Learning Unit (Lerneinheit) document of the LernenPlus project with Deutsche Bahn.

 2. Adapting the existing documents for the LL pilots in the construction sector

Below I give an overview on four kinds of documents and discuss, to what extent they might be applicable for the LL construction sector pilots and what adjustments would be needed.

2.1. “Agreement on Research Data Management Procedure” between TLU and Leeds

Original context: This agreement is linked to the Ethical clearance of the research activities in the healthcare sector (by the University of Leeds and by the NHS). The GP practices can be involved only in R&D activities in which the management of research data is covered by bilateral agreement between the two universities that are working with/ storing the data.

Adaptability: In the construction sector the situation is in multiple senses different, since no overarching ethical clearance is required and due to the Layers Box installation the data management is primarily under the control of the application partner. Yet, a similar agreement can be drafted to regulate the use of Layers Box and the mutual responsibilities with RWTH as the primary counterpart.

2.2. “Datenschutzerklärung ” (DP/DS declaration) of the expertAzubi project

Original context: This relatively short (two and half-page) document has been drafted as a single ‘Terms & Conditions/ Intellectual Property rights/ Data Protection’ document for the users (apprentices) of the expertAzubi platform that was provided as a regional platform for apprentices in Bremen region. Here the main thrust is to make the users aware that they are responsible of content and communication on the platform and to draw their attention to principles of good practice. The document was presented to the users to be signed as precondition for registration.

Adaptability: Regarding the current construction sector pilots (with LTB and complementary tools) such a single document seems more appropriate for a user organisation (like Bau-ABC) than for individual users. With such a document it is possible to address the issues mentioned above and the combined use of LTB, Baubildung.net platform and complementary tools. From this point of view this would serve as the agreement of the organisation to join in the pilot.

2.3. “Code of Conduct”/ “Data Protection”/ “Privacy policy” documents of FutureLearn

Original context: In the set of the more simple DP/DS documents of the FutureLearn consortium we see the following differentiation between the target groups/organisations and the purposes of documents:

  • Code of Conduct (Verhaltenskodex) is a short document for individual users as their individual commitment to the given regulations and principles of good practice. The users are expected to sign this as a precondition for registration as a user.
  • Data protection policy (Datensicherheit-Policy) is a relatively short document that clarifies the principles for gathering and using data in the context of the courses (or for us: pilot) and the mutual commitment of different parties to ensure data security.
  • Privacy policy (Datenschutz in a narrower sense) is a more overarching document for the regulating the privacy issues between the FutureLearn as a service provider and the partner universities and other partner organisations.

Adaptability: The original documents have been drafted for a context in which data are available due to registration, participation in courses, submitting tasks, comments and other contents. In this respect the construction pilots with LTB, Baubildung.net and other tools are somewhat different but yet analogical. The Code of Conduct is rather close to what we need. The Data protection policy is of the kind that our application partners would prefer to have. The Privacy policy comes into picture regarding the transfer of data between LTB, SSS and the Baubildung.net platform.

 2.4. Learning Unit “Datenschutz” of the LernenPlus project

Original context: The “LernenPlus” project has worked with apprentices and trainees (pre-vocational education) of the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) and promoted their capability to use digital media and web tools in their work-related learning. In this context the project has developed a learning unit for apprentices/trainees on different aspects of data protection and good practice. Here, the point is to provide a context-oriented and exemplary learning aid to these issues. The Learning Unit document includes information inputs and exemplary tasks (that refer to working and learning situations). Also, the document contains a section of recommendations regarding private use of social media.

Adaptability: The original document was not that directly linked to a focused pilot with tools (like the construction pilot with LTB, complementary tools and Baubildung.net). Yet, the approach with short information inputs, exemplary content-oriented tasks and questions for reflection (and recommendations regarding use of social media) are appropriate for the piloting with apprentices and young construction workers. In our pilots we should develop such a material for the trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and company representatives who will introduce these issues for their apprentices/ construction workers.

– – –

I guess this gives a picture of the kind of homework we are doing with the issues ‘Data protection’/’Data security’. To me this is just the beginning phase of the exercise – an effort to create a minimum set of documents for the pilot phase. When we are extending the pilot activities we are facing new issues. However, I want to emphasise an interesting shift of emphasis – with these draft documents and working issues we are making the “Datenschutz” issues a matter for participative design processes. We are not merely bringing ‘expertise’ on the rules and regulations. Instead, we are facilitating  joint learning processes and working together for the solutions.

More blogs to come …

Preparing for LL field workshops – Part 1: What is new with the tools and technology?

March 27th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

After the Design Conference of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project we have returned back to everyday life work. For the ITB team and our cooperation partners in the construction sector pilots this means that we are preparing for a new round of Field Workshops with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). We would have wanted to start these workshops earlier but we understand that we have to be patient about the development of tools and supporting technologies. With this post I try to give a picture what all is changing since our previous workshops. In my next post I will discuss what is changing regarding Data protection/Data Security (“Datenschutz”). Here some key points on the development of tools and technology and on the implications for the pilot activities:

1. Transition from meeting rooms to pilots in training areas and working environments

Our previous pilots have been co-design activities with a preparatory character. We have had conversational workshops, storyboard workshops (producing working/learning journey maps), stakeholder talks (giving impulses for the development of LTB) and ‘demo camp’ workshops (with mock-ups and giving more specific feedback for the development of LTB). Finally, our colleagues in Bau-ABC prepared videos where the showed exemplary contexts and processes, in which LTB could be used. Also, Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) were assembled to give their views how they would use the LTB and how they are developing their blogs to support such pilots.

As I have reported in my blogs last year, we have harvested a number of ideas, how the the Learning Toolbox – as an integrated mobile framework for web resources, tools and apps – can support learning and working in the construction sector. So, after all these preparatory measures the natural step forward is to enter pilots in the field – in the training areas and in the context working and learning (with LTB as support tool).

2. What is new with the infrastructure?

A major hurdle for all such pilots has been the limited infrastructure that has not provided access to internet in the training areas of Bau-ABC. This has not only been a problem for demonstrations and piloting in Bau-ABC but also a more general problem for piloting with the LL tools in the construction sector.

In this respect the solution that has been developed by the LL partners in RWTH Aachen – the “Layers Box” – has been of vital importance. As I understand it, the Layers Box is a local ‘server ‘ that enables the user organisation to use LL tools in a predefined range and is linked to the RWTH server that hosts the LL infrastructure. As I understand it, with such a ‘technology package’ the user organisation has control of its own engagement in the pilot activities as regards the use of technology and tools. At the same time RWTH is in the position to give remote support for the functioning of the infrastructure and tools that have been installed.

As we have been informed, the Layers Box has been successfully installed in Bau-ABC and our colleagues are now taking care of the preparations to enable pilots in the training areas.

3. What is new with the piloting with tools?

Looking back at the earlier workshops and stakeholder talks, we only had rather early versions of the Learning Toolbox available (powerpoints, wireframes and temporary software solutions that enabled some demonstrations). The hard work with the software architecture and with the links to attached servers and platforms has progressed gradually. The Alpha Beta Camp in Aachen earlier this year was an important milestone in getting different contributions from different software developers work together. Now, as we see it, we are waiting for the crucial steps in this work to get LTB work on the basis of a local Layers Box installed in Bau-ABC.

As I see it, the new phase will change the pattern of cooperation from co-design sessions (the results of which were communicated to developers) to more collaborative Dev-Ops mode (in which the user/designers can make some adjustments themselves or suggest changes in a rapid prototyping process). In order to enter such phase the developers and we – the intermediate facilitators – need to get an updated picture what is possible and where we may be hitting the limits.

Altogether, the echoes that we are getting from the developers are promising and we are looking forward to bringing our pilots ahead after the easter break. In the meantime we have some other homework to do with the Data protection/ Data Security (“Datenschutz”) issues.

More blogs to come …

 

 

After the LL Design Conference – Part 4: Second thoughts on the Exploitation Launchpad workshops

March 22nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have reported on the Year 3 Design Conference of the Learning Layers (LL) project that took place in Espoo and of the talks I had afterwards in Helsinki. In the third one I discussed knowledge sharing between the parallel pilots in the LL project and aimed to end this series with these issues. However, reading Gilbert Peffer’s seven blogs on the Exploitation Launchpad Workshop triggered some further thoughts on the workshops.

1. On the preparation of the workshops

Gilbert and Raymond did a very good job in preparing the workshop and Gilbert has topped up this with his excellent documentation of the preparatory work in his three first blogs. As we know, this workshop concept was developed just before the conference and implemented as ‘rapid prototyping’. Now,  the preparatory steps have been documented and reasoning behind allocation of participants to teams has been made explicit. This provides a basis to consider, how we can build upon this experience and what could possibly be done otherwise. ( I have already referred to my own workshop experiences in my first post of this series so I will not repeat my comments here.)

2. On the team processes in the workshops

The workshop concept tried to challenge the teams to enter a creative space and outline ambitious visions instead of stick to the immediately following next steps in the project work. From this point of view the participants were invited to give themselves roles (with reference to a given palette of roles). Then the teams were required to give ratings on the roles that they mostly need – and then ratings for their own strengths. This triggered a discussion on the potentials that are represented in the teams and how to compensate the gaps. This all was covered with the catchword “teamality” (the team-level ‘personality characteristics‘ of the initiative group).

As I could observe it, this part of the exercise worked well in the group that was focusing on the tools that had been piloted in the healthcare sector. These issues could be tackled right away. However, looking beyond this group I could see major difficulties in some other groups. For the “Learning Toolbox” group I would have raised the question, what exploitation tasks of the sustainability scenario should have been covered – consolidation of LTB Development Group as a technical service provider, consolidation of the Living Lab’ model for developing training services, consolidation of a Users’ Association’ as framework for user participation and institutionalisation of External Cooperation Policies’. As long as these tasks (and respective working perspectives) were not made explicit, the participants had probably different interpretations on the vision of their team. In a similar way I would have had questions, whether the “Centre of Expertise” team is covering the whole scope of LL activities or whether it is looking for specific sectoral or IT-related innovation concepts. Probably the aim of the workshop was to stimulate discussion such issues at the same time as it drew attention to the need to provide a basis for appropriate team-building processes.

3. On the approach to ‘customers’, partners and stakeholders

In the next phases of the workshop process the teams were challenged to explain, how they can satisfy their first customer and then work with a ‘customer journey map’ to develop a timeline for different iterations and to set milestones. Here again, the group that worked with the healthcare pilots had no major difficulties. However, being reflective about changing roles, the group introduced the concept ‘proto-customer’ to express the transition from project partner role to (potentially) paying customer role.

As I understood it, the focusing on ‘first customer’ and the interpretation of the roles of partners, customers and stakeholders were less problematic in other groups. I do not want to elaborate on this because these difficulties are closely linked to the problem that I raised above. However, in the long run the debates in the working groups – even if not completely resolved – may be helpful for clarifying the next steps in the follow-up process. As we remember, Gilbert and Raymond had planned the workshop as a process with follow-up. Here we probably need to have a closer look at the mutually linked process dynamics of our project (as such) and the exploitation actions (hatching out of the project). In the follow-up we need to pay attention to both sides of the show. I am looking forward to these next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

After the LL Design Conference – Part 3: Sharing experiences between LL pilots

March 21st, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have reported on the Year 3 Design Conference of the Learning Layers (LL) project that took place in Espoo and of the talks I had afterwards in Helsinki. Now it is time to shift emphasis to knowledge sharing – and in particular sharing experiences – between parallel pilot activities in the LL project. In this respect we got new impulses both regarding the construction sector pilots – sharing experiences on tools and workshops – as well as documentation of fieldwork with LL tools – in particular those to be used as collectors of experiences (“Erfahrungssammler“).

1, Sharing knowledge and experience with the Finnish pilots in construction sector

We were pleased to hear fresh reports of the pilots of the Finnish team from Aalto University with vocational schools and construction companies in using the AchSo! tool to document workplace learning. Here we were interested of the recent development of the tool since we want to integrate it into the piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Shortly after the Design Conference the Finnish team could deliver us a very positive report on their pilot in the trade union journal of the construction workers – with voices of apprentices/trainees, skilled workers and vocational teachers. It ios encouraging that the relatively limited piloting with a video annotation tool has proven to be successful in many respects. The tool seems to be working in practice, the construction workers and apprentices are getting used to shooting videos to document their work and the representatives of vocational schools are happy to work with such documentation. Moreover, this pilot appears to demonstrate good cooperation between school-based and apprenticeship-based vocational education and training (VET). As we have been informed, the Finnish pilot context provides the opportunity for flexible transition from school-based education to apprenticeship in the third year. For the LL project it is interesting to find out that the well-functioning documentation of workplace learning is considered as an important success factor in the pilot.

For us, working with the construction sector pilots in Germany (in which apprentice training is essentially present) this is in many respects inspiring. Firstly, we interested in integrating the use of AchSo! in our pilots. Secondly, we are interested in exploring the prospect for piloting with the Learning Toolbox in Finland (provided that the Finnish counterparts are interested). And thirdly, we are interested in sharing knowledge of pedagogy of VET.

 2. Using LL tools to share our project experiences

The more we have learned about the Finnish pilot, the more we ( = the ITB team) have understood the value our own fieldwork for parallel pilots and spin-off initiatives. This has inspired us to consider, how we could make our prior activities, learning experiences and interim conclusions transparent. In particular we have understood the value of our early workshops. In these events we brought the co-design processes closer to the working and training/learning contexts of apprentices and trainers and got them tuned in into participative design of LL tools. Now, looking back, the existing documentation in the form of flipcharts, workshop reports and blogs is not that easily accessible to others.

The positive experience with the videos produced by our Bau-ABC colleagues suggests that we could have a second look at the workshop results to harvest conclusions for our forthcoming field workshops – and to document them with videos  (eventually using AchSo!). However, it is not merely the experiences with individual workshops that we want to bring forward. In the exchanges with the parallel pilots we came to think of the potentials of the Bits & Pieces tool (with the timeliner) as an instrument for such project-internal exchanges. Here, indeed, we can put our own design teams into the position of application partners and to reflect, how to use LL tools to facilitate sharing of knowledge and experiences across complex pilot activities. This, surely will help us to find further pilot contexts for the respective tools.

I think this is enough about second thoughts after Espoo. In the meantime Gilbert Peffer has published a series of blogs on the Exploitation Launchpad Workshop in the Design Conference, worth having a closer look.

More blogs to come …

 

After the LL Design Conference – Part 2: Talks on Activity Theory and Change Laboratory processes

March 19th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I have reported on the Year 3 Design Conference of the Learning Layers (LL) project that took place in Espoo, Finland last week. Immediately after the Design conference I had a chance to discuss with researcher Marianne Teräs (University of Helsinki) on her work with Change Laboratory processes. For me this discussion is part of the follow-up of the Theory Camp of the LL project – Reviewing Activity Theory and the related methodologies of intervention research (of which the Change Laboratory has become most famous). I had approached Marianne because her work had focused on healthcare sector and vocational education of nurses (which are both relevant to the LL project as a field of piloting and as context for potential spin-off initiatives. Below I try to summarise the main issues of our discussion and my impressions and conclusions.

1. Change from practitioner to intervention researcher

Firstly we discussed the development of Marianne’s career from trained nurse (with occupational background) and the transitions to vocational teacher and teacher educator (working in a vocational college for healthcare). From this background she was one of the teachers/teacher educators who were involved in a pilot project to develop a pre-vocational education scheme for migrant youngsters who wanted to be trained for healthcare occupations. Since the project team in the college had encountered several problems they were looking for a structured process to work through the challenges and issues. From this point of view they volunteered as a  counterpart for the research group of Yrjö Engeström to work with a Change Laboratory process (at that time called Culture Laboratory). During this project (that started in 2001) Marianne was contracted as an intervention researcher whilst a colleague of hers worked as project manager on behalf of the college. When the project was over, she returned to her job as a vocational teacher educator. However, after some time another project was started to develop models of integrative vocational education of learners with migrant background within ordinary vocational education programs. In this phase Marianne took over the role of project manager on behalf of the intervention researchers (supported by other members of the research team and participating teachers). After this latter project she has continued her career as researcher in other projects.

2. Whose initiatives, whose innovations

As already indicated above, the initiative for the first Change Laboratory was taken by the vocational teachers/ teacher educators struggling with a new pilot scheme. At that time preparation of migrant youngsters (with very heterogeneous ethnic and educational backgrounds) was a new experience to most of them. Also, the pre-vocational education scheme was a new construct to be piloted with new target groups. From this point of view the first project was characterised by voluntary participation of teachers/ teacher educators committed to the pilot. The work of the Change Laboratory gave rise to several parallel working groups (with respective educational change agendas). Some of them faded away soon but some of them sustained and their work was continued years after (when the second project was started).

Whilst the first Change Laboratory project focused on a specific preparatory scheme dedicated for migrants, the second project focused on integration of migrants into ordinary vocational education programs. The background was given in the national educational policy and at the local level the director of the college wanted their college to become an innovation leader within this initiative. In this respect the director gave this project a high priority and the participation of teachers was made mandatory. Partly the implementation of the project could benefit of the prior project but to a great extent it had work with a stronger integration between occupational subjects, language learning and intercultural education.

3. Collecting background materials, documenting the laboratory sessions and drawing conclusions

In our discussion Marianne made me aware of the intensive participation of practitioners within the research work. Although the intervention research mainly focused on the process of the Change Laboratory sessions, it was essentially supported by the collection of background materials (or ‘mirror materials’). In this process both teachers and vocational learners played an important role by producing their own notes or audio or video clips to document facts, episodes or impressions with relevance to language learning, vocational learning and intercultural encounters. It is worthwhile to note that the learners were immediately involved in the first Change Laboratory project but not in ia a the second one which became more a teachers’ project. Yet, via a broad involvement of learners (alongside teachers) in the production of the background material the project could ensure the presence of their voices in the Change Laboratory.

These materials were used mainly as support materials to prepare the scripts for the Change Laboratory sessions in which the work with the curricular initiatives was promoted. These sessions were documented by videos, individual notes of the intervention researchers and by written analyses of the videos. By such thorough documentation the researchers could ensure that they covered the richness of the discussions, paying attention to main themes (laid down by the script) and corollary themes (that may have given rise to spin-off processes).

4. Encounters between theory and practice

Research articles often give a picture of the Change Laboratory projects as heavily theory-driven projects. Marianne admitted that the articles give priority on presenting the theoretical background (Activity Theory, Activity Systems) and its adaptation and utilisation in the Change Laboratory processes (identification of generative themes/contradictions, expansive learning cycles and boundary crossing practices). However, when looking at the everyday life practice of the projects, she drew attention to the need to find a balance between the conceptual tools of researchers and the practice-related tools and instruments of teachers. In this balancing process the intervention researchers had to negotiate, to what extent the conceptual tools could be used as common tools and to what extent they should be left to secondary analyses. The strategies to manage these encounters have often remained as ‘tacit knowing’ although some researchers have paid attention to the epistemological aspects of such dialogical research processes.

5. Lessons for the Learning Layers project and its spin-out initiatives?

I had initiated our talks as an initial step in preparing a forthcoming workshop on methodological lessons from Activity Theory, Change Laboratory processes and on their relevance for intervention research projects like the LL project. Here it is not possible to enter this discussion in detail. Yet, it is worthwhile to note the far more complex character of the interventions in the LL project vis-à-vis the ones we had discussed. Having said that we took note of several analogies between the participative processes, user-engagement and expectations on expansive learning. Given the fact that the LL project is expected to roll out and scale up innovations in using mobile technologies, digital media and web tools in workplace learning, we noted several points of common interest for further cooperation.

More blogs to come …

PS. Acknowledgements and References:

I got acquainted with Dr Marianne Teräs via Professor Johanna Lasonen who has worked a long time with Marianne in projects that deal with intercultural education and the role of vocational education in the integration of migrants. Also, it was thanks to Johanna that I started to have a closer look at Activity Theory, Developmental Work Research and the Change Laboratory methodology.

Here some references to the development of Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research (in general) and to work with sectoral projects in Healthcare and/or with Change Laboratory (in particular):

Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1) 133-156.

Engeström, Y., Engeström, R. & Vähäaho, T. (1999). When the center does not hold: The importance of knotworking. In S. Chaiklin & U. J. Jensen, Activity Theory and Social Practice, (pp. 345-374). Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.

Engeström, Y. & Sannino A. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: Foundations, findings and future challenges. Educational Research Review 5(1), 1-24.

Teräs, M. & Lasonen, J. (2013) The development of teachers’ intercultural competence using a Change Laboratory method. Vocations and Learning, 6(1)

Engeström, R. (2014). The Interplay of Developmental and Dialogical Epistemologies. In Outlines. Critical Social Studies, 15 (2), 119-138.

 

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