Last week I got informed that Mr Stephan Albani, a German MP (Bundestagsabgeordnete) visited the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup during his field visit in the region. Here it is worthwhile to note that Mr Albani is a representative of that very region but also a member of the special commission of the German Parliament for Vocational Education and Training (VET) in the digital world of work (Enquete-Kommission “Berufliche Bildung in der digitalen Arbeitswelt“). Given this background, it was interesting to hear, what he thought of the use of digital tools to support apprentice training and further vocational learning in Bau-ABC. After all, a team of us from Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen had worked together with Bau-ABC in the EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012-2016) to co-design and pilot test digital tools to support work process -oriented learning. The main result was the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) that has then been implemented in Bau-ABC in their apprentice training.
Impressions from the visit of Mr Albani
As I read it from the Facebook-update of Mr Albani and from the attached pictures, he has informed himself very thoroughly on the training of apprentices in different trades and on the use of digital toolsets (notably the LTB). He gives great praise for tthe digital competences of trainers and apprentices and declares Bau-ABC as a parade example, how to implement digitization in the field of VET.
Insights into the demonstration of Learning Toolbox during the visit of Mr Albani
Thanks to the photos that Mr Albani has shared in his update we can take a closer look, how the use of digital toolsets (and notably of LTB) has been presented to him. As we see it from the photos, he got a hands-on training and his tutor was an apprentice who had become an advanced user. So, wee see them working with a mobile device and with the LTB-terminal that makes everything transparent for the apprentices in the workshop and to the supervising trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in their office. And this guided tour is managed by the apprentice.
Perspectives for new innovations regarding digitization in the field of VET
In addition to the above-quoted Facebook-update of Mr Albani I have heard that Bau-ABC Rostrup is involved in a major innovation project that runs until the year 2023. From this perspective it has been important that a prominent politician has informed himself of the state of the art and given positive feedback on the quality of training and learning.
In my latest post on this blog I reported on the new Support pages for users of Learning Toolbox (LTB) and Demonstration page with brief introduction and a video presentation. At the end of the post I mentioned that the developers of the LTB had also published three new videos that present innovative use of the LTB in the apprentice training of Bau-ABC Rostrup for different construction trades. These videos had been produced for promoting the use of LTB among other similar training centres in Germany. Therefore they are (for the moment) only available in German. All three videos are available on the following web page: https://support.ltb.io/fallvideos-learning-toolbox-im-bau-abc-rostrup/
Below I present some screenshots of these videos and then give a nutshell summary of the key messages that are conveyed by the respective videos.
Apprentice Jonas reporting on his carpenter’s project with the help of LTB
The two screenshots demonstrate, how apprentice Jonas documents an interim phase in his project in carpentry with the help of the LTB-app on his mobile phone. He takes a photo, gives it a title and then uploads it into the LTB-Stack of his trade as contribution to the current project. The trainer, who is supervising the project gets a notification and sees immediately from the LTB-Terminal in his office, what Jonas has reported and what he has to do in the next phase.
Apprentice Jannis using LTB in the context of masonry
Here the two screenshots demonstrate, how apprentice Jannis uploads the instructions for his new project in masonry by reading the QR-code from a mini-poster with his LTB-app. Firstly he synchronises the LTB on his tablet with a Leica-app on aseparate device. Then he takes a picture and edits it with a line and then takes measures with the laser of the Leica-app. At the end he shows the completely edited picture with all the necessary measurements with explanations in the picture. All this has been achieved with the help of the LTB-app on his tablet PC.
Using the shared LTB-terminal as support for trainers and apprentices in the trade of carpentry
The third video presents the LTB-terminal that has been developed for the training of carpenters – one terminal at the office of the supervising trainers and the other as a ‘kiosk’ to be used by the apprentices at the carpentry workshop. The following screenshots give insights into different potentials of the LTB-terminal.
The first two pictures show that the LTB-terminal (whether in the office or at the workshop) provides access to the training contents of the respective trade firstly as an overview on the whole training year and then at the level of particular projects. In this context it is worthwhile to note that the apprentices can compile their individual learning logs (consisting of completed projects) throughout their training and save them in their own project spaces of the respective LTB-stack. In this respect the LTB has provided a digital solution for the former paper-based White Folder of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup.
As further support for training and learning the LTB-terminal provides additional resources. Above the first picture demonstrates the ‘dictionary’ (Lexikon) space of carpenters. It provides overviews on training materials, health and safety and other apps that are being used in the training. All this information is based on reliable sourcesand has been validated by the responsible trainers. The second picture demonstrates the 3D-viewer for carpentry that gives multiple insights into wooden constructions.
I think this is enough of these videos. As I see it, the trainers and apprentices have made great progress as users of the LTB. Thus, the toolset (with these further user-initiated additions) has made its case as support for vocational and workplace learning in the construction sector. Moreover, it is worthwhile to follow the further developments in the field.
With my latest post I started a series of blogs that report on the discussions of former partners of the Learning Layers (LL) project on the impact of our work. This was triggered by reports that the key result of our work – the Learning Toolbox – is being used in the original pilot context (training for construction work) and is getting new users. In particular this discussion was inspired by the fact that such tools gain new importance in the period of corona crisis, when schools and training centres are closed and traditional conferences are being cancelled. In my previous blog I gave a brief overview on the discussions that we have had and on the joint paper that we have been preparing. In this blog I will summarise some key points that I and my co-author Gilbert Peffer have raised on the case that we have presented – the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. Below I will use our draft text (that was shaped as responses to given questions) as a slightly edited version.
The pioneering Case: Learning Toolbox in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup
The Learning Toolbox was developed in the Learning Layers project as a response to the needs of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup (a major application partner from the construction sector). The initial design idea referred to digitisation of training materials, instruction sheets, project reporting sheets and self-assessment procedures. However, in the course of iterative co-design cycles, the process took the course towards shaping an interactive toolset to support training and learning activities.
What particular problems were addressed in the co-design process?
In Bau-ABC Rostrup the apprentices spend relatively short periods (one or two weeks at a time) and are trained by full-time trainers who are Meisters (master craftsmen) in their trade. During each period they complete a project in the respective trade. Then, they move back to their companies or have another training period in a supporting trade. In general, the projects are based on genuine work tasks that are implemented in a workshop or at outdoor training areas.
Previously, the instructions for the apprentices’ projects had been provided orally with the help of instructive worksheets (for preparing the project plans). Likewise, the reporting on the projects was done manually. In principle, the project cycle was based on self-organised learning – independent search for knowledge resources, drafting the plan plan, reporting the implementation and then assessing the outcome. The functionality of Learning Toolbox – based on trade-specific stacks that consisted of different tiles – provided support for learning when completing the work tasks.
Stakeholders who have been involved in the co-design process and pilot activities
The co-design work was carried out as a collaborative process by researchers, technical partners and full-time trainers from Bau-ABC. During an earlier phase of the work the project team provided basic multimedia training for some voluntary trainers. At a later phase the project team and these trainers provided an intensive training campaign for all trainers of the training centre. In the pilot testing of the Learning Toolbox a core group of trainers introduced the toolset in their training and results were monitored by the project team. Also, at the final phase of the project, the use of the Learning Toolbox as support for construction work processes was demonstrated for several craft trade companies. As a result, follow-up processes (feasibility studies and project initiatives) were started with some companies.
How have the training practices been changed and what new practices have emerged?
The functionality of the Learning Toolbox was easy to be customised for different training purposes and according to the pedagogic priorities of the trainers. Thus, it made it easier for the trainers to emphasise independent searches among a wide range of web resources. (This was essential for borehole builders who were working alone on remote construction sites). Also, it made it possible to give learners a gradual access to a wider range of resources (and to solutions of their peers) once they had learned to develop their own solutions to the project tasks. (This was essential for the road-builders and pipeline-builders.) Moreover, apprentices were encouraged to document their projects with the Learning Toolbox. This enabled the instructors to see progress of their apprentices in real time and provide more timely feedback. The LTB has also strengthened the self-organisation of the instructors in terms of streamlining their content and sharing common resources between the different professions. While this approach to collaborative training was already there at Bau-ABC, the LTB offered a further channel to systematise this practice. Altogether, the co-design process has been characterised by a continuing research & development dialogue that has been underpinned by the accompanying research approach of the research institute ITB, University of Bremen.
What has been the impact so far and what can be expected in the near future?
After the project the use of the Learning Toolbox was spread across all trades in which Bau-ABC Rostrup provides apprentice training. Consequently, the apprentices have started to complete their projects with the help of the Learning Toolbox. Based on this pioneering case, other German training centres in the construction sector are in the process of adopting the Learning Toolbox both for initial VET and for continuing VET. There are also teacher groups at a number of medical faculties in Germany who have adopted the LTB for practice training. Due to the closure of the training centres because of the COVID19-epidemic the trainers of Bau-ABC Rostrup have prepared trade-specific stacks with the Learning Toolbox to support independent learning.
What have been key aspects for sustaining this initiative so long after the project
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.
Continuing Professional Development for ICT in Education and Training