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 ...

Field visit in the region with a group from Namibia – Part Two: Getting ideas for future-oriented training

April 12th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I reported of a field visit to regional training provider organisations with a prominent delegation from Namibia. I joined the group partly because I needed to arrange meetings with vocational teachers and trainers from both organisations. With the help of these meetings I wanted to revisit the materials from the training activities of the EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016). My aim is to develop with a future-oriented training concept for promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers in vocational education and training (VET).  With the trainers in the training centre Bau-ABC I can refer to our shared experience in implementing training schemes during the Learning Layers project and to the introduction of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). With teachers of BBS Wildeshausen I was interested of other pedagogic solutions and of the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). These all should be taken on board when preparing the support materials for developing continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers in the field of VET.

When listening to the contributions of the teachers and trainers during the field visit I got more and more convinced that such materials should not be shaped as overarching ‘encyclopedia’ of digital tools, web resources and mobile apps. Also, I understood that the materials should not be written in the style of cookbooks with ready-made recipes. Instead, they should be well-selected and contextualised exemplary stories that inspire the readers to find their own solutions.  And these solutions should give a picture, how to use appropriate toolsets and web resources for the respective vocational learning environment. Also, these materials should open the perspective to using digital tools and web resources from the initial steps to first strategic choices and to wider use of tools, resources and complex teaching-learning arrangements.

From this perspective I started to outline an updated and extended training model based on the “Theme Room” metaphor that we used in the Learning Layers project. The ‘theme room’ can refer to a physical space or to a virtual space that has been made available for a selected theme and for a flexible time frame. Once the participants have completed the learning tasks and checked themselves out, the theme rooms can be furnished with other themes. That was the original idea.

Below, inspired by the impulses from the field visits I would like to outline a rough draft for an updated “Theme Room” structure:

Theme Room 1 – Entrance lobby: Getting used to work with some basic digital tools and apps – with the aim to make use of them in one’s own teaching or training activities.

Theme Room 2 – Starting points for working with integrative digital toolsets: Brief introductions to integrative toolsets that are appropriate in vocational learning contexts – such as the Learning Toolbox or the Kompetenzwerkstatt toolsets.

Theme Room 3 – Using enriching web apps and platforms: Working with apps, tools and platforms that help to make learning tasks more inspiring and challenging – such as the toolsets provided by Go Conqr and H5P platforms.

Theme Room 4 – Working with complex teaching-learning arrangements: Insights into learners’ projects that involve construction of new tools/devices or manufacturing of new products that can be used in learning contexts.

Theme room 5 – Using the digital toolset “Learning Toolbox” to support vocational learning processes: Insights into the use of Learning Toolboox as an instrument for delivering training and for promoting self-organised learning.

Theme room 6 – Using the digital toolset “Kompetenzwerkstatt” to support vocational education and training processes: Insights into different Kompetenzwerkstatt tools that raise learners’ awareness of their progress in vocational learning.

Theme room 7 – Using Open Educational Resources (OER) to support vocational learning processes: Insights into the work of OER-communities (and support agencies) and into their services.


Theme Room n – Workshops on the options for digital transformation in one’s own domain: Whilst enhancing one’s own digital competences in the context of vocational learning tasks or project, it is necessary to keep an eye on the big picture of transformations in entire production and services processes & networks.

I guess this is enough for a rough structure. As I said, this should not be seen as a basis for a ‘cookbook’ or for a ‘product catalogue’ but as an introduction to explorative learning in order to find one’s own solutions and in order keep oneself on track with new developments. This is the challenge – there is work to be done in the meetings with teachers and trainers.

More blogs to come …

Field visit in the region with a group from Namibia – Part One: Fresh impressions from the field

April 12th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) of the University of Bremen – has hosted a study visit of a prominent delegation from Namibia. This study visit is part of a cooperation process that has been started with smaller steps and now there is an ongoing discussion, how to deepen the cooperation. As I have not been involved in these discussions I leave it to my colleagues and to the Namibian authorities to find the bast ways forward.

As a part of their program the delegation visited on Tuesday two interesting organisations in the nearby region. With the training centre Bau-ABC I had had active cooperation for many years in the EU-funded Learning Layers project. But in the follow-up phase I had only had a chance to make some occasional visits. As a contrast, I had not visited the vocational school BBS Wildeshausen before. Instead, I had had several conversations with one of the teachers who is also working in several projects of our institute. By joining the study visit group on Tuesday I had a chance to catch up with newer developments in Bau-ABC and to get live impressions from BBS Wildeshausen (of which I knew only via our talks in Bremen). Below, I will give a brief account of the visits in both places. In my next post I will outline some conclusions for my work in the ongoing EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD.

Visiting the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup

At the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup the delegation was interested in finding out, how such an intermediate (industry-supported) training centre has been embedded into the dual system of vocational education and training (VET). Here, the representatives of host organisation were able to give a picture of the mutual agreement of the Social Partners (employers’ confederations and trade unions) that such an intermediate learning venue was necessary in the construction sector. Likewise, they could explain funding arrangements and the organisational setting via which the industry and the craft trade companies were supporting the training centre. In addition, the visitors got a picture of the role of the training centre at different phases of apprentice training. Finally, the visitors got insights into the continuing vocational training (CVT) that provide a vocational progression route to managerial qualifications in the construction sector.

During our round tour at the workshops and outdoor training areas we could see, how the pedagogic ideas were put into practice.  We got impressions of apprentice training via holistic occupational work processes, of learners’ rotation from major learning areas to supporting areas and of the patterns of self-organised learning. In particular we had a chance to see, how a digital toolset (the Learning Toolbox) was used in delivering instructions and collecting apprentices’ project reports. Here we could see that  results of the EU-funded Learning Layers project were actually used to support training.

Visiting the vocational school BBS Wildeshausen

The second part of the visit was somewhat different, because only some teachers of the BBS Wildeshausen were present (the school holiday period had already started). Yet, we had a good possibility visit the integrated vocational learning facilities of different occupations. In Wildeshausen the school architecture had abolished the separation of classrooms, workshops and laboratories and instead provided integrated spaces. This was already a great support for integrating theoretical and practical learning. Yet, the major innovations that were presented to us were in the pedagogic sphere.

When describing the learners’ projects the teachers drew attention to the role of real occupational tasks and to controlling the quality by the learners themselves. Moreover, some projects engaged the learners in constructing devices that were needed in their training or in manufacturing products that could be used in the training. In the agricultural and automotive workshops we saw vehicles that had been constructed by nearby industries to make the functioning of the machinery more transparent (and to give easier access for diagnostic measures and repair work.

I guess this is enough of the observations during the field visit. The visitors from Namibia were very impressed and inspired. Since they were in a process to start new cooperation activities, the visit gave a lot of food for thought. As for me, I had joined them to make appointments with Bau-ABC trainers and teachers in BBS-Wildeshausen to discuss the next phase of my work in the TACCLE4-CPD project. And in this respect this was a very productive and helpful field visit. I will discuss my ideas and interim conclusions in my next post.

More blogs to come …

And the Award goes to … Learning Layers!

November 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

The third European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW) took place this week in Vienna (Wien). The event has been launched by the European Commission to draw attention to the importance of vocational education and training (VET) for education, economy and society. Our European VETNET network has also played a role in drawing attention to the contribution of VET research to the development of VET. However, due to several intervening factors I have not been able to attend to these events. Yet, this time I was somewhat more engaged in the preparation and followed more keenly the news from Vienna.

The competition for European VET Excellence Awards 2018

As usual, during the EVSW, there was also this year the competition for European VET Excellence Awards for different kinds of contributions to the development of VET. In the category “European VET Research Excellence” the jury had nominated two European research projects for the final competition:

  • The Learning Layers (LL) project that carried out a complex Europe-wide R&D project for studying the use of digital tools, web resources and mobile technologies to support learning in the context of work. The project engaged application partners in healthcare sector (UK) and construction sector (Germany) in co-design, pilot testing and actual use of new tools. In the competition the project was represented by the scientific coordinator Tobias Ley from Tallinn University.
  • The Modelling Vocational Excellence (MoVE) project is a transnational project that has studied World Skills competitions at the national, European and wider international contexts. The aim of the project is to draw conclusions from competition processes for the development of everyday life practice in the field of VET. This project was represented by the scientific coordinator Petri Nokelainen from Tampere University.

After the nomination the finalists were presented on a special website for public voting that took place during the last weeks before the event and during the first two days. On the evening before the closing ceremony the finalists in different catergories had the opportunity to give short pitches to make their case. Then, in the closing ceremony the nominees of each category were invited and the winner was declared. Concerning the award for VET Research Excellence I was pleased to see a video recording and to hear the words: “The award goes to … Learning Layers”. As fair competitors Petri and Tobias congratulated each other. And then Commissioner Marianne Thyssen handed the award to Tobias Ley.

Learning Layers Awarded 2018-11-09Learning Layers Awarded 2018Tobias with the award

Celebrating the award winner Learning Layers

Firstly, let us do justice to both finalists – the two international projects and the teams involved – and for the fair competition. This was a good way to present European and international VET research at such an event.

Then, coming to our Learning Layers project: Why are we so happy that we got the award fror European research in the field of VET (vocational education and training)? Here I am speaking in particular for the partners of the Construction pilot – research partners, technical partners and application partners from the construction sector. I would like to raise the following arguments for us as award winners:

  1. A substantial part of Learning Layers pilot activities were carried out in the context of apprentice training for construction sector in North Germany. In this context the project was developing a digital toolset “Learning Toolbox” to support work process-oriented learning. Now, in the initial pilot context – the training centre Bau-ABC – the Learning Toolbox will be introduced to the training of all occupations.
  2. The co-design and tools deployment processes were carried out as participative Research & Development dialogue. In this dialogue practitioners, technical partners were developing tools that promote a culture of self-organised learning in different craft trades.
  3. The project organised training of trainers in such a way that they could act as promoters of innovation and adjust the use of tools to match their pedagogic priorities (self-organised search of knowledge within a wide set of resources vs. gradual extension of resources that are available for learner). The ‘theme room’ approach is being used in the further promotion of the tools by other trainers.
  4. After the end of the Learning Layers project there have been several follow-up initiatives to spread the use of Learning Toolbox to support practice-based learning in Vocational and Higher Education (e.g. in Estonia and Spain). These pilots have involved also other sectors (e.g. education/training in healthcare and media occupations).
  5. A major spin-off arising from the Learning Layers is the use of Learning Toolbox as support for ePosters in conferences. This was started in the conferences for medical and dental education (AMEE, ADEE) and in the conference for technology-enhanced learning (ECTEL). Most recently the ePosters were piloted in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the network for research in vocational education and training (VETNET).

The points above make it clear that the Learning Layers project was not merely a theory-driven or a tool-driven project. Instead, the project took a high risk in launching open-ended co-design processes and was very much dependent on the cooperation with practitioners in the pilot sectors. Moreover, the tools that were developed in the project – notably the Learning Toolbox – reached the stage of viable products. But in order to bring them further as tools for regular use, additional efforts were needed by the tool developers, practitioners and supporting researchers. These efforts have pointed out to be successful and it was fortunate that reports on recent success were communicated in the event. Thus, the award was a recognition of all the work that contributed to our success. Now we can celebrate, next week we have to take further steps in our work.

More blogs to come …

Bringing Learning Toolbox to wider use in training for construction sector

November 5th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week I returned from my long sick leave. And I had immediately the possibility to attend a working meeting at the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. With this training centre we had worked in the EU-funded Learning Layers project many years to develop digital tools to support work process -oriented learning. During the project we reached the stage that Learning Toolbox (LTB) was ready as a viable product to support training and learning processes. The pilot testing in the final phase of the project proved that trainers and apprentices can use the toolset in their training processes. Yet, there were several practical issues that slowed down a wider use of the LTB. Thus, the trainers that had been involved in the pilot testing kept on using the toolset but a wider use was delayed.

Now, in our meeting last week we were facing a new situation. In the meantime most of the hurdles had been overcome and there was full confidence among all parties involved that LTB can be introduced in the apprentice training of Bau-ABC for all trades, Now the pioneering trainers, the management/administration representatives and the LTB developers were discussing, how to support a full-scale implementation of the toolset. From this perspective there was a need to harmonise the use of LTB stacks across the trades and to ensure effective ICT support. Secondly, there was a need to create awareness of good practice in different trades and to share experiences across the trades. In this context the presence of us – researchers from the research institute ITB – was relevant, since we are working in TACCLE projects that support training of trainers and we can draw upon the work in Bau-ABC.

WS-participants 1WS-participants 2WS-participants 3

Insights into the uses of LTB to support training in different trades

Here it is not possible to give a complete overview of all the examples that were presented by Bau-ABC trainers representing different trades. Below, I have selected exemplary cases that show, how the use of LTB had been incorporated into the the work process -oriented learning projects of Bau-ABC apprentices:

  1. Pipeline-builders (Rohrleitungebauer) were using LTB to draft joint plans, how prepare the grounds for the pipelines. Instead of just doing the spadework individually, they made their plans as teams – they divided the tasks and allocated responsibilities for controlling.
  2. Road-builders (Strassenbauer) had prepared a comprehensive overview of the machines provided by the company W&N with nutshell versions of users’ guides (based on the original materials).
  3. Tilers (Fliesenleger) had prepared a comprehensive overview of technical tools that were used in their trade with links to the instructions provided by the manufacturers.
  4. Construction plant operators (Baugeräteführer) had prepared electronic forms as checklists for the inspection of the vehicles before starting to use them. Only after completion of the form and reporting that the vehicles were in order the operators got clearance to start working.
  5. Carpenters (Zimmerer) had been working in a joint project “WorkCamp GreenHouse” with other training centres in Germany. In the project they had developed several modules for ecological construction work (focusing on their trade and the use of materials). In this project they had used LTB as a common toolset and developed a common project plan structure to guide the creation of mother stacks and daughter stacks.
  6. In the area “Health and Safety” (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) trainers from different trade had worked together to shape a common stack structure that presents the overarching regulations and the local instructions in the training centre. Within this structure different trades had the possibility to present trade-specific content (e.g. concerning their trade-specific personal safety outfits).
  7. In all trades the apprentices (Auszubildende) were using the LTB to upload photos as progress reports on their work and learning in the projects. The trainers used specific background colours for the tiles that documented apprentices’ work.

LWM-stacks 1LWM-stacks 2LWM-stacks 3

The relevance of the recent progress for apprentice training and vocational learning

If the points that I have listed above are taken only as separate inputs with dedicated tools, it would not appear very “revolutionary”. But the essence of the recent progress is that the trainers are working with an integrative digital toolset – the LTB. They have already used LTB for giving instructions and worksheets for apprentices’ projects. Now, with these newer features the range of using LTB in working and learning contexts is expanding. And – as already mentioned – the trainers are themselves leading the innovation and sharing experience with each other. Moreover, for the apprentices the use of LTB is not just a matter of receiving instructions and reporting of the completion of their tasks. As we have seen it from the examples, the use of LTB requires from them a holistic view on their projects and a professional attitude to completion of the tasks. This has been the spirit of working with the LTB in Bau-ABC.

Now, at this stage we were happy to see that Bau-ABC is organising the wider use of the LTB independently of externally funded projects and within its own organisational frameworks – in collaboration with the LTB developers. And, moreover, Bau-ABC is looking for ways to spread the use of LTB across its professional networks. As we see it, the work of the Learning Layers project bears fruit! We – as accompanying researchers – are happy to observe this also in the future.

More blogs to come …

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part Three: The VETNET network in dialogue with the host country

September 12th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started a series of blogs on the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER 2018) that took place last week in Bolzano/Bozen. In the first post I reported on the pilot with  ePosters powered by the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In the second post I gave an overview on my own contributions – on the research background of the LTB and on ‘transfer of innovation’ issues in recent and earlier innovation projects. I also reported on my own way to prepare ePoster-versions of my presentations. In this third post I will focus on the traditional Opening Session of our VETNET network (European Vocational Education and Training Research Network). Ever since 1999 we have had a tradition to bring forward research issues and/or policy issues from the host country of the conference. Below I will give a brief report on the Opening Session in Bolzano-Bozen and on the issues that came up. Then I will make some remarks on the presentations of our Italian colleagues.

Issues on Vocational Education and Training (VET) in the host country and host region

Already in the preparation phase our Italian colleagues had advised that we should focus on the host region (South Tyrol/ Trentino Alto Adige) as a bilingual region in which two lingual communities live in the same neighbourhood. Following this advice the VETNET network was pleased to welcome representatives of Vocational Education Institutions/Authorities from German-speaking community and the Italian-speaking community. In addition we were pleased to welcome a representative of the German-speaking Trade associations and an Italian researcher as a discussant.

Without going into details of the presentations it is worthwhile to not that the representatives of vocational education from both lingual communities emphasised the efforts of vocational schools to incorporate workplace-based learning into their provisions. Partly this was pursued via local partnerships, partly with the help of regional ESF-projects. Yet, both speakers expressed their concerns of high drop-out rates (although the regional drop-out rates were lower than the average in Italy). In this context the representative of the trade association (entrepreneur himself) expressed his critical views on the bridging arrangements initiated by vocational schools. His association was strongly in favour of the German-like dual system of apprenticeship in which the enterprise is the major partner and the school has a supporting function. He then presented a lively picture of achievements reached (and hurdles met) in making the apprentice training function in the regional context. With these introductory presentations we got a richer picture of the host region in which the lingual communities follow different cultural traditions in shaping the VET provisions and are on somewhat different developmental paths. Due to many questions and comments the session chair had to reschedule the discussant’s contribution (prepared by Marco Perini) to the next session (see below).

Italian research papers in further VETNET sessions

We already go interested in the VETNET Opening session and luckily enough we had informative contributions from our Italian colleagues who could give us deeper insights. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend their sessions but luckily enough we find their papers in the ECER VETNET Proceedings 2018 (that have been published immediately after the conference. In this respect I just try to give a brief background information on the contributions that I recommend for further reading.

Marco Perini et al.: Research on Italian VET-laboratory instructional practices

Cover page of the presentation of Marco Perini and Monica Pentassuglia

Cover page of the presentation of Marco Perini and Monica Pentassuglia

In the VETNET Opening Session we had already heard several speakers referring to “VET-laboratories” as joint learning arrangements developed by vocational schools and regional enterprises. In their presentation “One Step Forward: …” Marco Perini and Monica Pentassuglia provided firstly background information on the Italian VET system and on the introduction of this new format for collaborative learning.  Based on the background information they outlined a research framework for studying the implementation of this approach and getting feedback from different parties involved. Since the paper gives insights into work in progress, we are keen on following the further steps of the study.

Paolo Nardi et al:: Case study on the Oliver Twist school as example for new approach in VET

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 16.11.26

The paper of Paolo Nardi and his co-authors can be characterised as ‘college research’ and as ‘action research’ in a vocational education and training setting. Cometa – the training institution – is carrying out a quality development campaign with which it wants to evaluate the vocational programs and certify them with Cometa branding. In this context the ‘reality-based learning’ approach is given a major attention. Whilst the teachers are engaged with developmental process, Cometa Research team is supporting the process with documentation and analyses. The paper presents both the approach, developmental measures (concerning internship/apprenticeship) and achieved results. The interesting point here is that the Cometa Research activities are being developed as a continuing support layer – both for the school development and teachers’ professional development and for cooperation with partner universities.

I think this is enough of the VETNET opening and on the dialogue that was opened with the host region and the host country representatives. I am looking forward to the next steps and next encounters. But I also need to give an account on other themes discussed in the conference.

More blogs to come … 

Bye bye “Pontydysgu Studio” – good luck Pontydysgu Ltd & Pontydysgu SL!

April 20th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Pontydysgu headquarters in Pontypridd, Wales and ‘Pontydysgu Studio’ as its filial in Bremen – that is how we have experienced it quite a long time. The name “Pontydysgu Studio” was used by Graham Attwell and Dirk Stieglitz when they worked with projects that had a radio program as its major contribution. Altogether, the years when that ‘studio’ was used, they were to a great extent characterised by multimedia, radio and video productions, e-learning … all this as a support for learning in the context of work. But then came the time for changes. Pontydysgu Ltd will continue as usual, but next to it there is the Valencia-based Pontydysgu SL. And alongside these changes the “Pontydysgu Studio” was closed. This week Graham and several friends have emptied it and closed that chapter of Pontydysgu history. Bye bye Pontydysgu Studio, good luck with Pontydysgu Ltd and Pontydysgu SL! I give the word to Paul McCartney to spell out his greetings:

Memories of the “Pontydysgu Studio” and of our joint activities of that era

My earliest memories on working in and with this Pontydysgu Studio go to the years 2004-2005 just before I started working in ITB and the University of Bremen (but had already got the status of Visiting Fellow). Graham had already become a renown blogger with his “Wales-Wide-Web” and he was promoting Open Source software in Education. We remember the pioneering project SIGOSSEE that brought several key actors together. And in the next phase the successor project Bazaar started to look at possibilities to spread out Open Educational Resources by different stalls under the common umbrella of the Bazaar. However, the greatest success story of this project was the radio program “Sounds of the Bazaar” that was continued in several successor projects. And it was then followed by other similar radio initiatives like the conference radio programs for Online Educa Berlin (OEB) or European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). During these years several radio interviews were also made with international guests visiting the Pontydysgu Studio – I still remember the interviews with Ji Li and Tien Je from Beijing, Nikitas from Athens, Lewis and Libby from Melbourne and several others.

But our cooperation was not only about multimedia, there were many research & development projects and initiatives in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Here it is worthwhile to mention that Graham had been recognised as a life-time Visiting Fellow (Gastwissenschaftler) of ITB. So, research in VET had a high priority. However, thanks to Graham and Dirk, the web and multimedia components started to play a greater role in these projects – one after another. And when these components started to become increasingly important, the projects became ‘learning laboratories’ for the research partners as well. Here I try to give a more or less comprehensive overview of projects or initiatives in which we (me and my ITB colleagues) have worked together with Pontydysgu during those years. After the acronym of the project and a nutshell description I have added in brackets the work with multimedia and web resources:

  • WLP – Workplace Learning Partnerships (Project website that was enriched with project blog, project wiki and a gallery of video interviews and external video clips);
  • TTplus – Framework for training of trainers (Conceptual and field-oriented project, summarised in a project wiki);
  • iKoopNet – Initiative for a networked project to introduce e-portfolios and digital tools to vocational learning (was given up because the leading industrial partner was hit severely by the economic crisis);
  • “Trainers in Europe” (EuroTrainer 2) – A network activity based on a Europe-wide consortium to promote networking among workplace trainers and trainers of training centres (Creation of a network platform with many communication and sharing functions);
  • “Consultation seminars” – Europe-wide series of ‘regional’ consultation seminars (for different stakeholders) to discuss the role of common frameworks for promoting professional development of trainers (Web platform to bring together the results of different regional workshops; enriched with video material from the latest workshops);
  • Euronet-PBL – promoting practice-based learning as a work-related learning component in higher education with focus on three domains – engineering, business management, vocational teacher education (Web platform enriched with project blog and a number of video interviews with partners and students);
  • Politics – promoting learning about politics by means of storytelling, media commentaries and informal learning (Creation of a single platform with sections using multiple languages and with different kinds of ‘educational resources’, ‘competitions’ and storytelling components);
  • Coop-PBL in VET – transnational project for sharing knowledge on problem- and project-based learning in VET with support of specific learning software and ‘virtual community’ section (Pontydysgu was not a partner but supported me in producing a large section of video interviews into the ‘virtual community’);
  • Learning Layers – Major European research, technology and development (RTD) project funded from EU FP7 with a several technical, research-oriented and intermediate partners as well as application partners from two pilot sectors (construction and healthcare); the aim was to support learning and knowledge processes in SMEs with the help of widely usable digital tools (that networked web resources and were available as mobile apps). (Pontydsygu was leading the work package in which the digital toolset “Learning Toolbox (LTB” was initiated, developed and piloted in a highly participative and interactive process).

I guess this is enough of the memories and of the project history. A lot of working and learning was involved in those activities that in many respects were linked to this famous “Pontydysgu Studio” (and to its extension, the “Pontydysgu Meeting Room” further down at Horner Strasse). Those were the days, but times – they are a-cha-anging as the old song tells us. So, we say goodbye to the Pontydysgu Studio with good memories in our minds and wish all the best to Pontydysgu Ltd and Pontydysgu SL in the new situation.

More blogs to come …

 

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