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Learning Layers – What are we achieving with our fieldwork of Year 1 (Part 2: Co-design activities)

December 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I raised he question: What are we achieving with the fieldwork activities of Year 1 in the Learning Layers (LL) project? I outlined an argument that we are experiencing a process dynamic in which several activities are growing together and that the engagement of our sectoral partners is growing into new dimension. Now it is time to give some evidence.

I will start with the co-design activities in the construction sector and focus on the developments in the LL design team Sharing Turbine and on the fieldwork in Bau ABC. Here I would formulate the following thesis:

In the fieldwork for Sharing Turbine the role of Bau ABC staff has changed from ‘end-users’ (who give information and test prototypes) to active participants who contribute actively to the development of prototypes.

When I look back at the reports on the co-design workshops in April and May 2013, I recognise the phase of identifying problems and mapping possible points of intervention. The overarching agenda of Sharing Turbine (digitalisation of the training and learning processes based on the White Folder) seemed like a big package that overwhelmed us. We needed more insights from the ground – from apprentices and trainers, whose work we tried to support with digital media and web tools. Therefore, the workshops were characterised by “problem-fishing” – drawing storyboards of work processes in companies and in the training centre. We started to get a picture of gaps of information/communication and situations in which use of digital media could really help. However, the parallel work of the supporting partners (outside the pilot region) with ‘use cases’ and wireframes was not directly linked to these workshops.

When I look at the reports on the co-design workshops and to working meetings in June 2013, I recognise a turning point in the process and a regrouping of actors involved in it. At that point the problem-fishing was still continued with the apprentices but the work with the staff of Bau ABC (trainers and managers) started to take a new course. Whilst we still kept the overarching agenda of the Sharing Turbine, we agreed to select a focal area for ‘rapid prototyping’. We chose the area of laying pipes and sewage (Rohrleitungsbau) and started looking more closely on the project tasks in that area (in order to develop digital support and mobile apps). For this pilot work we agreed to use the name “Rapid Turbine”. In this phase the staff of Bau ABC was actively involved in making the decision on the pilot area and selecting project tasks for design work.

When I look at the reports of the co-design workshops and working meetings from August, to November 2013 , I see a clear change in the participation of Bau ABC staff. By this time the colleagues of Pontydysgu had developed several proposals, how to insert data into the Rapid Turbine application and tentative solutions for “Help” function. Now trainers and managers were actively debating, which solutions would contribute to sustainable learning gains (and which would likely to lead to copy-paste ‘learning’  without real learning gains). These discussions were about small details, but yet there was an air about keeping the overarching learning goals (the holistic craftmanship) in the picture. In a similar way the discussion of the “Help” functions gave a differentiated picture of tools for those who are about to fail (“Don’t panic”) and of tools of those who want to deepen their understanding (“Learn more”).

I think I have said enough of the developments in the co-design activities. Here I have shared my impressions of the deeper level of  participation that is coming into picture. In order to get an insight into activities that are growing together, it is necessary to give a similar account on training activities of the year 1 in construction sector.

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

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