Tag Archives: trainers

Online learning during the corona crisis – The contribution of the Learning Toolbox

In my latest blog I made the point that nowadays – due to the corona-crisis – the education and training providers have to start delivering their teaching and training online. This is no longer something as add-on to the ‘ordinary’ teaching and training. And as I mentioned, this challenge is being taken in rapid tempo – and it seems to push the developers to new innovations. Since I have been recently travelling, I have not been able to follow all relevant developments. Therefore, I need to catch up with my colleagues who are better informed. However, already at this point I can refer to inspiring news on the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for vocational learning – also during the period of lockdown.

Learning Toolbox (LTB) as shared digital toolset for trainers and apprentices

As regular readers of my blogs surely know, the Learning Toolbox (LTB) was developed in the context of our EU-funded project Learning Layers (2013 – 2017). After a lengthy co-design process the project partners managed to develop and pilot test a digital toolset to support vocational and workplace-based learning. In our major pilot context, the North-German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup, the full-time trainers have continued to use the toolset and spread it across all construction trades (for which they give training). As we have seen it during the project and afterwards, the LTB has proven to be user-friendly – both from the perspective of trainers and apprentices. Moreover, it has served the purpose to support self-organised learning and professional growth in the respective trades.

Use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) during the period of lockdown

So far our observations on the use of LTB have been based on working visits to Bau-ABC during the normal training periods when the full-time trainers have supervised the apprentices’ projects. Now, during the crisis, the training centre has been closed and the training periods have been postponed. However, the trainers have not capitulated. Instead, they have prepared special LTB-stacks for the closure period and announced them via Facebook. Below, some screenshots will give an impression, how vocational learning contents have been shared with apprentices.

Screenshots 1a and 1b: The general announcement on the LTB-stacks for different trades

Screenshots 2a and 2b: Trade-specific LTB-stacks with attached introductory messages

At this point I will not go into details, in what ways the trainers expect that these stacks will be used – after all, no one knows, when and how the return to some kind of new normality can take place. Nevertheless, the Bau-ABC trainers have shown that the LTB has proven to be a valuable toolset in supporting the training and learning processes during the crisis. I will try to catch up with the LTB-developers, the Bau-ABC trainers and other experts to learn more during the coming weeks.

Ideas for the forthcoming Multiplier Event of the TACCLE4 CPD project – bringing Learning Toolbox and OER into practice

In my previous post (on the Pontydysgu site) I told that I will be travelling quite a while and get back to office at the end of May. But I also mentioned that we (me together with my colleagues Ludger Deitmer and Jan Naumann) are planning a Multiplier Event on using digital tools to enrich vocational learning culture. And we will be working together to develop our ideas further. Here I have put on paper our first ideas:

1. What kind of event are we planning?

We are planning a Bremen-based and German-speaking Multiplier Event of the TACCLE4 CPD project to be hosted by ITB on Friday 12th June 2020.

2. What is the title of the event? What is our key message?

“Digitale Wege in der beruflichen Bildung – Alibi-Ansätze oder Innovationen”

With this provocative title we want to stimulate critical discussion on halfway-thought reforms around digitization in the field of VET. As a contrast we want to give insights into practitioner-led innovations in vocational learning.

3. What kind of an event do we want to have and with whom?

We want to have an event for and with VET practitioners. We want to invite them to think of their own possibilities to shape new learning arrangements with digital toolsets (e.g. with Learning Toolbox) and open educational resources (e.g. with such learning designs that Jan has presented in the OER-report for TACCLE4 CPD).

As participants we want to invite teachers (from vocational schools) and trainers (from training centres) of whom we know that they

  1. have an interest in enhancing their digital competences and
  2. want to develop vocational learning with digital toolsets and OER.

In this respect we want to give them inspiring impulses and opportunities for hands-on training in terms of peer-to-peer support.

4. What contents for discussion and training have we considered?

From the perspective of TACCLE4 CPD project we discussed two main perspectives:

  • Use of Learning Toolbox as means to enhance vocational and workplace-based learning culture – in particular from the point of self-organised learning.
  • Use of Open Educational Resources (OER) as support for shaping-oriented learning and for combining different learning paths.

From the perspective of TACCLE AI and VET project we discussed some further perspectives that could be taken up:

  • The shaping of “Smart factory” competence centres in vocational schools and their contribution to the development of vocational learning culture.
  • The use of humanoid robots as “assistants” to teachers in large classes with  heterogeneous learners and diverse support needs.

5. What further ideas we want to emphasise in the event?

Promoting the readiness of participants to work with new tools:

  • Tools with which they can co-shape their own teaching/learning arrangements;
  • Tools that they can develop themselves and use in their teaching and learning.

Create an understanding for the unity of culture, structures and technology in order to achieve sustainable innovations in VET:

  • Culture – to bring into picture and spread the innovative spirit to develop learning and to engage colleagues and learners;
  • Structures – to ensure the acceptance of the new ideas and the readiness of the whole organisation to support new initiatives;
  • Technology – to use appropriate technology for working and learning tasks.

(Points from the perspective of unsuccessful practice:

  • You may have inspired teachers but if the structures do not provide any flexibility, the innovations remain isolated.
  • You may have up-to-date technologies, but if they are not linked to the learning culture, their potentials are not in full use.
  • You may have supportive structures and adequate technologies, but if teachers are not able/willing to take initiatives, the innovations do not take off.)

Provide insights into new learning concepts (enriched with digital tools and digital media) and how to work with them:

  • Micro-learning (adjusted to vocational and workplace learning with major time constraints)
  • Nuggets with max. 5 minutes digital media content to capture the concentration of learners and to stimulate further learning.

I guess this is enough for the moment. I will get back to this topic in due time.

Highlights in the TACCLE 4 CPD project – Working with the theme “Open Educational Resources (OER)”

In my previous posts I have presented results that have been achieved in the EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD. I have drawn attention to the reports that have focused on promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). With this post I want to shift the emphasis from the final products to the process of work that has led to results. Here I want to highlight the collaborative process that has made it possible to achieve genuine results with the theme “Using Open Educational Resources (OER) in the field of VET”.

Before I go any further I need to make the point that I couldn’t have brought such results on my own – as a research in VET with researcher’s view on practice. To me it has been a highlight in this project to work together with my colleague Jan Naumann. Jan has a background in apprentice training for two technical occupations and then a long experience as trainer and as vocational teacher. Having completed his studies in pedagogics of VET he has joined us as a researcher in ITB. With his manifold experience in ‘training teachers and trainers’ projects we could focus on real use cases and teaching/learning arrangements. But we could also bring the documentation and promotion of OER further with our join efforts.

Preparing the report on uses of OER in the field of VET

When we started working with the report for the TACCLE 4 CPD project we made a decision that we will not try to give an encyclopedic overview on different kinds of OER. Instead, we tried to outline an innovation path (or learning journey) in using OER to shape and enrich vocational taeching/learning arrangements. From this perspective we presented exemplary cases – starting from simple ones and heading to more complex ones.

In the first exemplary case the use of digital tools was not highlighted. Instead – with the process in which apprentices were making their own tools – the pedagogic point was that the learners were producing tools for themselves. Thus, they were invited to think of the use of the tools and of the quality requirements. In the second example a learning path in robotics was enriched with the use of Open Resources (OR) into an integrative project that brought together different areas of vocational knowledge. In the third example the use of OR in a nodal point of hitherto separate learning path helped to link them into an integrated set of learning paths. In the fourth example the use of OER and OR helped to bring parallel learners’ teams (technical, administrative and catering) into a joint learning project – planning and organising go-kart races with self-planned project administration, self-made vehicles and self-organised catering services.

Preparing the supporting power point presentation on two exemplary cases

Whilst the report could provide rather lively summaries of cases that have been implemented in practice, it was necessary to give closer insights into the educational designs. Therefore, we prepared a power point presentation as an annex to the said report. In this presentation we could visualise the development, enrichment and integration of the learning designs in the second and third exemplary case. To us, this provided a basis for discussions, how to build upon such cases.

path1 path2

Preparing the ePoster  to share knowledge on the report and the exemplary cases

However, we didn’t stop working when we had finalised the report and the annexed power point presentation. We wanted to take a further step in using digital tools to promote knowledge sharing on such innovations. Therefore, we prepared an ePoster by using Learning Toolbox (LTB) – the digital toolset that had been developed in the earlier EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). For this purpose we created an LTB-stack that consisted of three screens (as they appear on the mobile app of LTB). The first screen presents an opening message and then provides access to the report, power point presentation and to a relevant web page for accessing OR. The second screen presents the exemplary case of the single integrative project with additional information and detailed presentation. In a similar way the third screen presents the integrated set of learning paths. Finally we prepared the stack poster that can be used as a mini-poster in conferences.

OER in VET 1 OER in VET 2OER in VET 3

With this process of work we have tried to demonstrate, what we mean with the concept ‘innovation path’ in the context of promoting uses of OER in vocational teaching/learning contexts. And with using LTB as means to share knowledge we have tried to work with our own tools to deliver our message.

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part One: The opening session of the VETNET network

Once again, the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA) – has taken place. This time the venue was the University of Hamburg.
With this series of blog posts I try to cover different sessions in the program of the VETNET network – the research network for the field of vocational education and training (VET) and give some insights into developments in the network. In this first post start with the opening session of the VETNET program. Firstly I need to give some insights into the role of the networks of EERA in organising the conference and of the specific traditions of VETNET.

EERA and ECER as the common umbrella – VETNET as a community with its own identity

When the EERA was founded and started organising the ECER conferences on regular basis, the common umbrella was created in two ways. The EERA was shaped as the umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. For the shaping of the conferences EERA invited the member associations to propose thematic networks that would then be in charge of organising their section in the conference programs. The network for research in vocational education and training (VET) – from the beginning on known as VETNET – was accepted as the Network 2 of EERA. The number of networks grew rapidly and they developed their own patterns to run peer reviews, to organise social events and to disseminate the research in their area of specialisation.

As a contrast to this general picture, the VETNET network has been from the very beginning more than just one of the EERA networks and a small club for organising part of the ECER program. Already in the founding phase there was a sense of building a community of VET researchers under the EERA umbrella. Yet, we were aware that we had somewhat different discipline-based backgrounds and in some countries the institutional commitment to VET was a basis of special disciplinary structures. Therefore, we have also paid attention to openness and mutual learning across the network.

In this spirit the VETNET network has developed a tradition of common Opening sessions – starting from ECER 1999 in Lahti, Finland (initiated by the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen). These opening sessions have mostly been keynote speeches by prominent researchers from the host country – with comments by invited discussants. Sometimes they have been panel discussions on critical research issues or on future research agendas. In ECER 2007 the Opening session celebrated the 10 years’ milestone of VETNET as an active network (as organiser of its own program). In ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen the opening session got insights into VET development in the host region from different stakeholder perspectives (and from representatives of different lingual communities).

The VETNET Opening session at ECER 2019 – insights into apprentice training at Airbus sites in Germany

At the VETNET Opening session 2019 the invited speaker was Matthias Havekost, head of vocational training of Airbus commercial in Germany. He had been an active practitioner counterpart of several VET research projects of our institute (ITB, University of Bremen) and familiar with our research approach. From this perspective it was appropriate to invite him to discuss directly with the participants on the role of apprentice training and other training activities at Airbus sites in Germany.

We got a lot of information on the development of apprentice training in the course of years – regarding the demographic factors (aging workforce), technological changes (balancing between manual work and robotics) and educational changes (developing vocational pathways to higher qualifications). In between we had glimpses to the actual contexts of working and learning on site – provided by videos that were prepared by apprentices and students in so-called dual studies (that are based on a combination of apprentice training and higher education).

An interesting part of the presentation of Havekost was the example of a particular workplace learning arrangement at an early phase of apprentice training. Instead of explaining the task and launching the group work with the task that trainer took considerable time for a ‘teaming up’ phase. At this phase all apprentices were invited to discuss their views on their occupation, their understanding on their tasks and on the requirements. These views were shared in the group and contrastive views were discussed to the point that mutual understanding was reached. In the beginning some of the participants were annoyed by such delay instead of going straight to the task. Yet, it appeared that the group had developed a culture of collaboration and it finished the tasks in shorter time and with better quality than earlier groups. Also, teachers of vocational schools and representatives of production units noticed the change in the performance.

Another interesting aspect alongside the above-mentioned cultural change was the career development of trainers. For Havekost it was important that the in-company trainers are experienced in the production and keep up to date. Therefore, the trainers should be trainers only a certain number of years and not for too long time. This kind of rotation has been successfully implemented and those trainers who went back to other business in the company entered real interesting and adequate jobs (e.g. production, quality, manufacturing engineering).

In the light of the above we had a rich and lively discussion that gave food for thought for different sessions in the VETNET program. Also, we had some discussion on the training culture on other Airbus sites and on the role of VET systems in the respective countries. These issues were also taken up later.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET Opening session. In the following posts I will first report on the sessions that were closely related to my ongoing project and then cover some other themes.

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

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.

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

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).

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

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.