Article 7/2016 Recent reports on the use of Learning Toolbox in practice – in Bau-ABC training and at a construction site in Verden

Pekka Kämäräinen

In the earlier articles I have reported on the introduction of the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) into apprentice training in our partner organisation Bau-ABC Rostrup (later on referred to as Bau-ABC). In the beginning of September 2016 I made a field visit with Markus Manhart (UIBK) and Jaanika Hirv (TLU) to collect feedback on the way trainers and apprentices have used the LTB. Below I report firstly some of our findings from focus group sessions and interviews. I also make some points on further uses of LTB to overcome some challenges in Bau-ABC training that we have discussed during the project work.

Shortly before that visit our research team organised a workshop for representatives of construction companies on the uses of LTB at construction work. In this workshop, architect Thomas Isselhard from our other partner organisation NNB (Netzwerk für Nachhaltiges Bauen) in Verden gave a presentation on using LTB at a construction site. He describes very lively, how their organisation started with the basics and got their contractors and other counterparts interested in the benefits of such toolset. The presentation was recorded on video and the links to the video are shared below.

In the final reflections I discuss, how we as a research team have interpreted the value of  these findings and reports as basis for future-oriented scenarios in construction work.

Case 1: Learning Toolbox as support for apprentice training

In earlier articles on this page we have reported, how Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in have used LTB to support their training. In the beginning of the piloting (with new groups of apprentices in Bau-ABC) they prepared specific stacks and content tiles to support the apprentices’ project with which they were starting (on stacks and tiles, see the Learning Toolbox online guide). In order to spread the use of LTB and to consolidate the learning of apprentices, to patterns of cooperation and peer tutoring emerged:

  • The pilot group of well-builders (Brunnenbauer) rotated in a short time across several neighbouring trades (metalworking, road-building, pipeline-building) to get basic training in their areas. To support their learning, the trainers had built further stacks that matched closely with that of the well-builders for the other trades.

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Screenshots 1 and 2: Stacks from two neighbouring trades – well-builders and pipeline builders

  • The pilot group of carpenters (Zimmerer) was involved in a joint project with bricklayers (Maurer) which required learning in both trades (Projekt Holzrahmenbau). Here the trainers of the two trades had built a set of stacks bringing together information on the joint task and background knowledge from both trades.

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Screenshots 3 and 4: Linked stacks built for the joint project of carpenters and bricklayers

In the interviews with trainers and focus group meetings we found interesting differences in the training approaches:

  • Trainers who follow a problem-oriented training strategy tend to equip  learners with comprehensive resources. The apprentices need to search as self-organised learners  to find the problem-relevant information. The apprentices accepted this as training for their work situations on remote working sites when they have to be prepared for In a nutshell surprises. For them, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘well of information’.
  • Trainers who follow an interest-oriented training strategy tend to provide in the beginning fewer resources and only gradually open access to new resources. The learners are nurtured step-by-step with new impulses and challenges once they have started to find their own solutions and ways of working. In this case, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘watering can’.

When preparing scenarios for further use of LTB I shifted the emphasis to other challenges we had discussed with Bau-ABC trainers during the project – how to make training in Health and Safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) more inspiring.  Another similar issue was, how to provide easy and filtered access to DIN norms that are relevant for skilled workers working on the site.

In both cases it is possible to support learning by providing filtered access to information via overview on the respective resources on Moodle (or similar platform). Then linking LTB to the respective Moodle application (or similar application) the users could find the resources easier (LTB as a well’). Then, in the training with such resources the training can introduce some kind of ‘gamification’ to guide the learners from tasks that require general knowledge to more demanding cases that call for special expertise (‘LTB as a watering can’).

Case 2: Using LTB at construction site – making it happen

Our second case is based on Thomas Isselhard’s presentation on the use of LTB as support for coordination of the work at a construction site. Two videos recorded on his presentation show, how the use of LTB helps to avoid communication gaps between different parties involved (video 1) and how to get new users accustomed to work with LTB (video 2).

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Screenshots 3 and 4: Retrieving updated construction plans with the help of LTB mobile app

The situations that Thomas presents as examples show, how the functionality of LTB help to overcome the gaps. Likewise, he demonstrates, how LTB as an integrative toolset can be customised for the users and by the users. Furthermore, he give insights into the ways in which new users get introduced to using LTB on the same occasion when getting their instructions for the construction work. With further examples he shows, how the contractors (or their construction workers) benefit from using the LTB for real-time knowledge sharing – instead of using outdated plans or wasting time for unnecessary searches. Also, they could send photos as progress reports to the LTB stack of that construction site immediately.

When preparing scenarios for promoting further use of LTB, it was possible to draw upon the mutually linked Verden-based organisations and networks for ecological construction work and outline their respective functions and target groups. In this way the ‘scenario’ became a set of working agendas addressing the uses of LTB by architects, craft trade companies, trade-specific networks, the permanent exhibition in Verden and the newly established regional competition of the Federal State of Lower Saxony to award energy-efficient building and renovation projects (“Die Grüne Hausnummer”).

Reflections

As researchers we have used these cases to interpret the above presented findings in the light of our background theories and concepts:

  • For us the first case – the Bau-ABC trainers’ transition to use LTB – is an example of gradual digital transformation and as enhancement of their pedagogy. Here, it is worthwhile to emphasise that the trainers have challenged apprentices to become self-organised learners and to take ownership on their learning. With the use of LTB they have seen more possibilities – and the learners have felt themselves more empowered. In this way the use of LTB has strengthened the training and learning culture based on action-oriented learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen) in Bau-ABC.
  • For us the second case – the use of LTB at the construction site in Verden – is a micro-case that demonstrates organisational and cross-organisational learning in a local context. Here we underline that ‘organisational learning’ is not merely a result of good management skills or good consultancy. Instead, the key point is in finding the way to promote interactivity and real-time knowledge sharing between the construction site manager, craftsmen and other stakeholders involved.

From the perspective of application partner organisations we see that the LTB has been developed to the degree of maturity to support the application partners. Also, both trainers in Bau-ABC and the networks of Verden have found their ways to customise the functionality for different use cases in apprentice training and construction work. In addition, new areas of training, networking and cross-organisational learning have been identified for follow-up initiatives have been identified.

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 3, 7/2016

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