A German top politician visits Bau-ABC Rostrup – Great praise for the training of apprentices

August 30th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Earlier this week Ministerpräsident Stephan Weil (prime minister of the Federal State of Lower Saxony) made a field visit to the North-German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. As the readers of this blog know, Bau-ABC played a vital role in our EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012-2016) as the main application partner of the Construction pilot of the said project. During the project researchers, technical partners and trainers of Bau-ABC worked together to develop an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support vocational and workplace-based learning. Now, some time after the end of the project, it was interesting to see, how the prime minister perceived the training and learning that was presented to him. Let us start with prime minister Weil’s comment on his Facebook page and then give more information on the visit.

Prime minister Weil on the training and learning at Bau-ABC Rostrup

On his Facebook page prime minister Weil published the following, highly inspired update (see below). And another picture shows that he was involved in hands-on training during the field visit (see below).

Weil Facebook 2019-08-28 Hands-on-training 2019-08-28

The comment that prime minister Weil made in his Facebook-update above was the following (translated into English by me):

“Today I have visited the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup and I can only say the following: They have a strong case – I have not seen anything similar before. They are training young people from all over Germany in two dozen training workshops and in very practical way to master 22 different construction trades, Digitization is solidly integrated in all curricula. And on top oft hat they have a broad-based provision of continuing training schemes. This is really impressive.”

And as we can see from the pictures, he took time to inform himself by trainers, apprentices and managers. And he also egaged himself in discussions and in hands-on training.

Reporting on the field visit in a journal article

The field visit was covered by the article of Christian Qapp “Ein Ministerpräsident als Azubi” published in NWZ Online. The article made the point that the prime minister took the role of apprentice (guided by an experienced apprentice) on the drilling grounds. And at different training sites the apprentices had a major role in presenting the training in their trades.

From the perspective of promoting digital competences in vocational education and training (VET) the article makes an interesting point (translated into English by me):

“The apprentices in carpentry, Vanessa Hermes, and in pipeline-building, Linus Köneking, explained the Learning Toolbox. The App for Smartphones and Tablet-PCs was developed in collaboration with Bau-ABC. Now it is being used there from the very first day of apprentice training on. On the one hand it contains practical information for apprentices on travel arrangements, Accommodation and on the daily menu of the canteen. But equally it presents learning tasks with three-dimensional models, digital measurements and with creating lists of necessary construction materials. With all this the apprentices can deal with by taking the gadget from their pocket. And, moreover, they themselves can  document their own work with the help of the app.”

Reflective commentary

For us, who had been involved in the project work that led to the development of the Learning Toolbox, it is very rewarding to hear such comments from a top politician and to read such news reports. They deliver to us the message that the use of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox has become lived practice. Moreover, it is clear that the apprentices are in the best position to tell, how thwy can benefit from using it. We are happy to follow the progress of Bau-ABC Rostrup and others who are working with the Learning Toolbox. It is very inspiring to learn more from the users.

More blogs to come …

Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part Three: Insights into special areas of learning

May 23rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series to report on interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. The project seeks to develop  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers – with focus on enhancing digital competences. As I have mentioned, my work concentrates on the field of vocational education and training (VET). In my two previous posts I have summarised some of the pedagogic points raised by the trainers and their general views on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for apprentice training. With this third post I want to draw attention to the role of LTB as support for two special areas of learning. Here I am reporting directly from an interview with an expert partner in health and safety and in supporting language learning on foreign apprentices. Here it is worthwhile to note that in both areas the use of LTB was started at the end of Learning Layers (LL) project and the trainers of Bau-ABC have been developing their own solutions.

Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support training in health and safety

Concerning the area of health and safety, trainers from different trades worked as an informal working group. This effort supported the creation of a coherent LTB stack and helped the trainers to prepare their domain-specific instructions in a coherent way. Now, that the trainers and apprentices in all trades are using LTB, it makes the health and safety material present in a new way – it is no longer info sheets in a folder. The LTB can be accessed by trainers and by apprentices at any time. This has helped to make the training in health and safety more creative and situation-adjusted – as lived practice.

Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support foreign apprentices’ language learning

The LTB-stack to support Spanish apprentices in learning occupational vocabulary has been created together with trainers and an external language teacher. It has been enriched with quiz tasks that have made the learning more exciting. Also, this stack has included health and safety terminology. The stack has been helpful in preparing the apprentices for their tests and it will be developed and updated regularly. The usability has been greatly enhanced by the fact that Spanish is provided by LTB as an optional language.

I think this is enough of these examples. Altogether these interviews have given me a good feeling that the main result of our joint LL project – the Learning Toolbox – has been used actively. Moreover, it has become clear that the LTB has not been whatever digital tool among others. Instead, in the context of vocational learning it has proven to be a strategic toolset to promote digital competences and to enhance vocational learning. But we need to work further with these themes.

More blogs to come …

Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part Two: General views on the use of Learning Toolbox

May 23rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series to report on interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. The project seeks to develop  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers – with focus on enhancing digital competences. As I have mentioned, my work concentrates on the field of vocational education and training (VET).  I  still have some interviews on my list. Yet, it has been helpful to write down some points raised by full-time trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC. In this second post I will draw attention to the use of the digital toolset that we have co-developed in the Learning Layers project. I will start with the transition from the common project work to using the main product after the project.

Getting clarity on terms of service and permissions to use the toolset

The Learning Layers (LL) project had been a wide trans-national research and development (R&D) project in which many research partners, technical partners and application partners had been involved. During the long funding period they had co-designed, co-developed and pilot tested digital tools to support learning in the context of work. The digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) was the main product that was developed in the Construction pilot of the LL project. After the project the LTB-developer team launched a start-up company (StackServices) to develop the LTB further and to support user organisations. This provided the basis for further use of the toolset after the project.

After the funding period the service provider has developed a differentiated set of contracts and permissions to regulate the use of the LTB software, the use of the LTB platform and the use of the services of the LTB-developers.

Shaping common structures for trade-specific LTB-stacks and overarching themes

In the LL project the LTB was shaped as a digital toolset that provides stacks (consisting of different kinds of tiles) for the users. During project the trainers who participated in the pilot testing developed their own stacks for their own apprentices and based on their own pedagogic priorities. After the project the trainers have developed a common structure for trade-specific stacks and for overarching themes. Also, they have coordinated the filing of digital worksheets and of photos. Thus, they have common patterns to work with the LTB.

Using LTB to enhance vocational (work process -oriented) learning

In the LL project the use of LTB was adjusted to the apprentices’ learning projects (that were shaped from the perspective of holistic look at planning, task preparation, task implementation and assessment). The learners were guided to self-organised (individual or team-based) learning. Whilst the LTB was at that time used mainly as trainers’ tool to provide guidance and instructions, it is now increasingly used as apprentices’ tool to report on their projects. Moreover, the use of specific Apps like GoConqr quiz apps has considerably enriched the learning process.

In particular LTB has served well as a central channel to essential web resources, such as the norms or regulations (as summaries) that need to be taken into account in construction work and to users’ guides for machinery and vehicles (also as summaries).

Using LTB from the perspective of apprentices

In all the interviews I got the picture that the apprentices have received well the use of LTB – once they have got the login sorted out and created their own account. The WLAN functions better and there are tablet PCs available at the training workshops. Via LTB the apprentices get advance information on the forthcoming training projects with which they will work during the next presence period in the training centre. When they are working with the projects the LTB serves as a documentary toolset for recording the interim results and final results. Moreover, the apprentices can check whether they are working correctly and eventually ask for advice (with reference to their photos etc.). And if something is not quite right, they can take the necessary measures and update their documentation. However, the final reporting with the apprentices’ portfolio reports has not yet been digitized – that is depending of training regulations (not  a matter for local decisions).

I guess this is enough of the general picture on using Learning Toolbox as support for training. In my next blog I will discuss the relevance of Learning Toolbox for two overarching learning areas – training and learning in ‘health and safety’ and support for learning German as foreign language (with focus on domain-specific vocabulary in construction sector).

More blogs to come …

 

 

Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part One: Trainers’ reflections on craftsmanship and pedagogy

May 20th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks I have been doing interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. In this project we focus on continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers in order to promote their digital competences. Here, the main point of interest is to find appropriate uses of digital tools and web resources in order to enhance the quality of learning. My contribution to the project is to provide analyses from the field of vocational education and training (VET) and to develop models and materials for CPD measures in the field of VET. I am still in the middle of the interviews but I find it appropriate summarise some first impressions from my discussions with trainers in the vocational training centre Bau-ABC with which we have worked together several years. In this first post I will take up some pedagogic points on the role of digital tools in craft trades and vocational learning.

Craftsmanship vs. use of digital tools

In many interviews the trainers pointed to the traditional idea of craftsmanship – to make something with your own hands. This refers to the sense of working with manual tools, to feel the materials with your own hands and to be able to assess the quality with your own senses. From this perspective older trainers and craftsmen have often reservations regarding the use of digital technologies as support for working and learning: “That’s how we have always done these things …”. Also, the introduction of stand-alone tools and apps has not always been successful. Moreover, may allegedly user-oriented apps or instruction videos are not of sufficient quality  to support learning. Furthermore, when introducing new technologies, there is often an anxiety that this brings more work to the trainers or craftsmen – instead of offloading them.

In the light of the above it is important to approach the trainers and craftsmen with solutions that work in practice and support working and learning in their trades.

Vocational learning vs. use of digital tools

Concerning the newer generations of apprentices, it is worthwhile to note that they have been less exposed to manual work, getting in touch with the materials and working with traditional tools. Moreover, their computing skills tend to concentrate on operating their smartphones. This provides a challenge for trainers and craftsmen – how to incorporate the use of digital tools into vocational learning without transforming the learning process into a virtual world

In the light of the above it is of vital importance that the use of digital tools shall serve the planning, preparation, implementation and assessment of work process -oriented learning. And the role of digital tools is to deepen the understanding of one’s learning – not as a short cut to answers provided by someone else. This is in particular the case when using digital tools with the cross-cutting theme ‘health and safety’ at work.

Thoughts on the future of craftsmanship

At the end of the interviews we shifted the emphasis from promoting digital competences in the current craft trades to a bigger picture of digital transformation through entire production, service and marketing networks. In the public debate we see often the dominance of negative scenarios that anticipate redundancy of craftsmanship and replacement of human workforce by robots, advanced automation and ‘internet of things’. From the perspective of their own trades the trainers made the following points that outline new possibilities for advanced craftsmanship:

  • Concerning carpenters, there will always be a need for advanced craftsmanship in the renovation of traditional buildings. Parallel to this, thanks to the new construction techniques, wooden constructs are being used as the structures of high buildings. Moreover, even when human workforce can be replaced by robots, this can be used as a basis for new complementarity in which craftsmen are engaged in creative tasks and robots in heavy tasks.
  • Concerning well-builders and tunnel-builders, there are new possibilities for using geo-data and advanced sensors and new techniques for drilling.  Yet the risk analyses, when starting drilling (horizontal or vertical) require communication between craftsmen on the site and authorized experts.
  •  Concerning welding, the use of welding robots is widespread in the industries. Yet, in outdoor construction work in which the results should sustain heavy strain and climate changes, it is essential to have a good understanding of materials, circumstances and differences in the quality of work. The sensors of welding robots may not be in the position to guarantee the required safety and sustainability.

I guess this is enough of these aspects. I still have some interviews listed for this week. If needed, I will update this post with further post. However, in my next post I would like to discuss, how the trainers commented the usability of the Learning Toolbox as a digital toolset to support work process -oriented learning.

More blogs to come ...

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