Category Archives: Learning Toolbox Chronicle

Article 2/2014 Co-design process from “Sharing Turbine” to “Learning Toolbox”

Pekka Kämäräinen

This article focuses on the development of the co-design process with the application partner organisation Bau-ABC during the years 2013 and early 2014. It gives a picture on the evolution of the design idea from the original “Sharing Turbine” agenda to the new framework “Learning Toolbox”.

Sharing Turbine: Digital support for learning processes based on the White Folder

In the Helsinki Design Conference in March 2013, the project consortium agreed to work with the design idea “Sharing Turbine”. The aim was to provide digital support for workplace learning processes that were organised and documented with the help of the so called White Folder. Initially the White Folder had been designed as a learners’ instrument consisting of worksheets with which they prepare, plan, report and assess their projects in the training centre. Since the documentation was paper-based, the White Folder became a bulky document that was difficult to use at workplace.


In the local design work – after a series of initial co-design workshops – it became clear that the digitisation had to be started with some selected trades that could serve as pilot areas for rapid prototyping. In this context the working and learning projects in trade – the pipeline builders (Rohrleitungsbau) were explored more closely. The design process made efforts link multimedia, Web 2.0 tools and mobile Apps to support these projects.

Co-design workshops: Conversations, storyboards, design meetings, multimedia training

After the Design conference, the ITB and Pontydysgu teams organised different kinds of co-design workshops in Bau-ABC. These workshops involved apprentices (in their sessions) as well as full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and project managers (in joint sessions.

  • The first workshops were Conversational workshops that had the aim to map design-relevant issues. They drew attention to general problems and mismatches in the training and hints to possible solutions.
  • In the next phase apprentices and trainers participated in separate sessions of Storyboard workshops. They prepared posters that visualised their characteristic working days (both in the training centre and in companies). These workshops helped to specify critical issues, gaps of communication, needs for knowledge sharing and points of intervention.
  • In the transition from the initial phase to more specific pilots areas the sessions with the trainers became more directly design meetings that discussed specific tasks and solutions.
  • Parallel to this transition we agreed to organise a series of Multimedia training workshops to Bau-ABC trainers. The aim was to raise awareness of general web tools, apps and of specific uses of multimedia in education and training.

Learning toolbox: Revision of the initial design idea towards a flexible toolbox

In a relatively short while, the digitising all the contents of the White Folder appeared to require too much effort. Also, we had to ask if it was useful to try to digitise everything. This led to a revision of the design idea and the working approach in January 2014.

The introduction of the new framework “Learning Toolbox” shifted the emphasis from digitised documents to a new front end framework that will coordinate access to web resources and digital contents when using mobile devices. The aim is to develop a digitally enhanced resource environment around the White Folder. One big advantage of this approach is that it is more flexible for incorporating digital materials for different tasks over a period of time, rather than being pressured to complete all the materials for any given task. Furthermore, this approach should offer more flexibility in terms of linking informal and formal learning and learning in the training centres, in the vocational schools and in the workplace. It gives people the chance to record, share and discuss picture, video, audio or, text from things they are doing in the workplace or in the training centre. Using a powerful search engine we can search a vast quantity of blogs, wiki’s and, social media websites such as to give contextual answers to their problems. The Learning Toolbox will have an responsive tiled design which is easy to use on a mobile with gloves so it is possible to use Learning toolbox as well on the computer as on the move. Each tile is in itself an independent application allowing flexible implementations for different situations and adapted to different user groups.



From toolbox for training to flexible toolboxes for different users in construction sector

Whilst the idea of the Learning toolbox emerged from the work with the apprentices’ White Folder projects, the possibilities for customisation were designed to enable other uses (e.g. in optimisation of work processes and work-related knowledge sharing). Thus, the toolbox is being developed as an integrative framework to be enriched with QR-tags and other means to access web resources. This phase brought into picture new challenges for the hitherto practiced workshops as well as new kinds of workshops for new target groups. This became apparent in the outreach activities that were started shortly after the wireframes of the Learning Toolbox had been presented in a design meeting with Bau-ABC trainers.

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 1, 2/2014

Article 1/2014 From Application Partner Days to creation of Design Ideas

Pekka Kämäräinen

The first article of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle focuses on the Application Partner Days (in January 2013) and on the creation of initial design ideas of the Learning Layers project.

Application Partner Days as an early step to co-design

The idea to organise Application Partner Days (joint visits to application partner organisations) was brought into discussion in the kick-off meeting and accepted unanimously. The work plan envisaged rapid work with initial interviews and a quick transition to shaping of design ideas. Therefore it was useful to arrange visits to the training centre Bau-ABC in Rostrup and to the premises of the Agency for ecological construction work (Agentur für Nachhaltiges Bauen) and its affiliated organisations in Verden.

Visit at Bau-ABC Rostrup

Our first visit was hosted by our partner organisation Bau-ABC, one of the major intermediate training centres in Germany in the construction sector. The main task of Bau-ABC is to arrange workshop- and pilot site -based training for apprentices in initial vocational training (Erstausbildung). Altogether, the initial training covers ca. 20 occupational areas. In addition, Bau-ABC provides a wide range of continuing training schemes (Weiterbildung), including training of Master Craftsmen (Meisterschulung) as well as training for other professional positions as construction specialists (e.g. Geprüfter Polier).


The afternoon program of the visit consisted of two parallel sessions. One session was organised as a Focus Group involving some of the research partners, a number of trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and participants in advanced training programs from Bau ABC. Parallel to this session there was a small ‘carousel’ workshop in which some of the technical partners hosted small tables and participants from construction sector rotated between the tables. Via these discussions the visitors informed themselves of problems or challenges in construction work and in workplace learning. This paved the way for looking for possible solutions in the forthcoming co-design processes.

Visit at the Agency for ecological construction work in Verden

The second visit was hosted by Agentur für Nachhaltiges Bauen and its network organisations in Verden. The Agentur is part of an organisational grouping that is based in Verden and has formed a joint network to promote ecological (sustainable) construction work. The network provides training courses for craftsmen and other participants who are interested in using straw and clay as building materials. The network also is active in monitoring the legal regulations for building with sustainable materials. The idea of “Learning exhibition” has been initiated by the network to inform wider audiences about new possibilities for ecological construction work. To make this exhibition more sustainable, digital tools shall be used in addition to traditional ways of presentation.


After a tour round the premises, the hosts brought us to a seminar room and organised a ‘carousel’ workshop. The topic tables were based on the following issues:

  • Meister Manfred K. (Entrepreneur in carpentry and woodwork) hosted a topic table in which he informed of the development of an iPad app for his company to inform their cost calculation program of the time needed for specific jobs at the construction site.
  • Architect Enno P. (Director of the Agentur and co-founder of the network) hosted a table in which he informed of everyday life experiences about lack of knowledge sharing between contractors (entrepreneurs) and their staff (craftsmen who do the job).
  • Architect Ute G. (Member of the network) hosted a table in which she informed of the plans for the opening exhibition during the inauguration of the new building. The idea is to provide a “learning exhibition” that makes good use of live experience on site, of effective web demonstrations and active contact with different target groups (to serve them better on site and via web). She underlined that valid knowledge should be presented in the exhibition.
  • Project managers Melanie C. (Bau-ABC) and Tobias F. (Agentur) hosted a table in which they facilitated discussion on knowledge sharing, collaboration and networking in craft trades. This triggered a discussion on factors that restrict or increase willingness to cooperation (“business as usual” or “competitive advantage with holistic solutions”).

From Application Partner Days to design ideas and co-design processes

Looking back, it was important that the Learning Layers project organised these Application Partner Days in the two pilot regions (around Bremen for construction sector and in Leeds/Bradford area for healthcare). For the whole consortium it was easier to focus on proposals for design ideas that were raised by application partners themselves and to organise co-design processes. Further discussion took place in the Helsinki Design conference in March 2013.

Based on the discussions during the Application Partner Days, two design ideas were agreed for the construction sector:

  1. Bau-ABC proposed to develop a digital learning environment on the basis of the paper-based White Folder. This became the task of the design team “Sharing Turbine”.
  2. Agentur proposed to work with a digital agenda to support the Learning Exhibition. This became the task of the design team “Captus”.

These tasks were taken up in the co-design workshops and field visits that were started immediately after the Design Conference in spring 2013.

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 1, 1/2014

Learning Toolbox videos from Bau-ABC (2014) – Overview

In August 2014 the Bau-ABC team recorded a  series of videos to present ideas on possible uses of the Learning Toolbox in their training and in construction work. In this context the trainers also report on their progress with their own blogs, which they have used as repositories for training materials.

LTB Video 1/2014 The Multimedia Training of Learning Layers has had impact

The first video informs of the results of the Multimedia Training and of the trainers’ achievements in creating their blogs.

LTB Video 2/2014 Bau-ABC trainers’ views on the use of Learning Toolbox in training

The second video presents the trainers views and expectations on the benefits of using Learning Toolbox in training.

LTB Video 3/2014 Use of Learning Toolbox in an apprentice’s project in Bau-ABC

The third video gives a picture, how the apprentices projects are carried out currently and how they can be supported with Learning Toolbox.

LTB Video 4/2014 Learning Toolbox in different contexts of construction work

The fourth video presents possible uses of Learning Toolbox in different work situations.

LTB Video 5/2014 Learning Toolbox as means to highlight Health and Safety issues

The fifth video draws attention to Health and Safety issues in a training workshop and on outdoor training site.

LTB Video 6/2014 Learning Toolbox as means to capture instructions at the workplace

The sixth video shows how the Learning Toolbox can be used to capture instruction to ‘tricks of the trade’ in specific work situations.

LTB Video 7/2014 Learning Toolbox as means to support storage of special tools

The seventh video shows, how the storage of specific construction sector tools can be supported with the help of the Learning Toolbox.





LTB Video 1/2014 The Multimedia Training of Learning Layers has had impact

The first LTB-video of the Bau-ABC team presents results of the Multimedia Training provided by the Learning Layers project.

Firstly Bau-ABC trainer Markus Pape presents the Carpenters’ blog – Zimmererblog. With this blog has organised all the apprentices projects during the initial training (from year 1 to year 3). The blog has already attracted international interest and the number of hits is already over 5700. But it is equally important that similar initiatives (with blogs or with separate web pages) have been launched by Bau-ABC trainers in other trades. Their apprentices, who have been able to use their smartphones to access the material, have valued these initiatives very much.

LTB Video 2/2014 Bau-ABC trainers’ views on the use of Learning Toolbox in training

In the second LTB-video four Bau-ABC trainers make comments on possible uses of the Learning Toolbox.

The trainers start their discussion by highlighting the role of Learning Toolbox as support for self-organised learning. Secondly, they draw attention to the possibility to make the obligatory documents more interesting to the apprentices (by allowing them to add photos, cartoons or videos). The trainers are clearly willing to enter the next phase – to introduce a functioning Learning Toolbox in apprentices’ projects. This is also demonstrated by the “Bonus Track” at the end of the video.

LTB Video 3/2014 Use of Learning Toolbox in an apprentice’s project in Bau-ABC

In the third LTB-video project manager Melanie Campbell and apprentice Martin discuss the use of Learning Toolbox in projects that apprentices carry out during their initial training.

Martin firstly shows (with the help of worksheets from the White Folder of Bau-ABC) how the projects are carried out currently. He presents the introductory sheets and worksheets that are used for preparation, planning, task implementation and quality control. Then Melanie and Martin discuss several points, where a digital tool like the Learning Toolbox can be used to access appropriate web resources. Finally, when Martin presents the end product, we realise that it can also be documented with a video film.

LTB Video 4/2014 Learning Toolbox in different contexts of construction work

The fourth LTB-video demonstrates uses of LTB in different contexts of construction work.

Firstly we meet apprentice Arnold who manages the heavy excavator with the usual clicks and with some further instructions. These instructions he gets via a QR-tag which he reads with his smartphone. Then we meet apprentice Martin who gets instructions, how to use the QR-scanner of the Learning Toolbox. Finally trainer Markus shows how the manufacturers of scaffolds inform their clients of the instructions currently. His proposal is to add QR-tags that can be accessed with the QR-scanner of the Learning Toolbox.

LTB Video 5/2014 Learning Toolbox as means to highlight Health and Safety issues

The fifth LTB-video highlights the role of Learning Toolbox in creating awareness for Health and Safety issues – both in the training workshop and in real work situations.

We meet firstly apprentice Martin and Melanie Campbell who discuss how Health and Safety (Arbeits- und Gesundheitsschutz) issues are introduced currently (with worksheets from the White Folder). They then give examples, how the Learning Toolbox can give real time aid in critical situations.  Secondly we meet the team of apprentices building the scaffolding with trainer Markus. Here the apprentices set an example by their appropriate use of safety gear. Trainer Markus gives some examples what kind of special resources should be accessed via the Learning Toolbox.

LTB Video 6/2014 Learning Toolbox as means to capture instructions at the workplace

The sixth LTB-video documents a situation in which Bau-ABC trainer Stefan Wiedenstried gives instruction on ‘tricks of the trade’ for a specific working task in road-building.

Trainer Stefan goes the process through with apprentice Timo. Then he discusses with project manager Melanie Campbell the use of Learning Toolbox as means to capture such processes with video. They also discuss, how to make such resources accessible. As a “Bonus Track” we see a clip of an older instruction video on using the “Sandhobel” in road-building and in pipeline-building.

LTB Video 7/2014 Learning Toolbox as means to support storage of special tools

The seventh LTB-video presents a special challenge for using the Learning Toolbox: the storage of chains for construction vehicles.

Bau-ABC trainer Rainer Schütte shows a particular possibility to use the LTB for managing the storage different chains – each of which is a unique exemplar. Here, new technologies (the RFID chips) have been used to identify them. With the help of a specific scanner in the Learning Toolbox the users (e.g. the apprentices of Bau-ABC) could easily track the technical data, safety features and maintenance data of the respective chains. In the latter part of the video we get an impression, how such functionality could be build in into the current tile structures and search processes of the Learning Toolbox.