Tuesday, 21 May 2019

A quartette of PebblePad conceptual developments

I've known PebblePad since I started my learning technology career back in February 2010.  This is my first role where I have been able to learn and use PebblePad.  When I started my role at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), PebblePad was the first big project I was involved in.  I assisted in the implementation and lead on staff pedagogical support of PebblePad.  I deliver the following general and bespoke workshops to staff (the library provides support to students) at the university as well as conducting consultations with groups and schools.  This used to be shared with another colleague but due to team changes they now focus on another area.  I introduced and developed a new workshop ‘Designing Workbooks’ that focuses on and underpinned by learning design.

  • Introduction to PebblePad
  • Assessment with PebblePad using ATLAS
  • Designing workbooks in PebblePad for Learning, Teaching and Assessment

Following a well-received ad hoc presentation at the recent PebblePad Super User Academy, Sarah Chesney and other attendees encouraged me to share the following conceptual developments - which I have not blogged about yet.  Below is an overview of these with a short description of how they came about.

Scaffolding the use of PebblePad with the 5 Stage Model

This was my first conceptual PebblePad piece which I did within the first month of starting my new role.  I'm a big fan of Gilly's work as I find the language accessible and easy to understand, so do others when I show them her models.  I adapted Salmon's 5 Stage model as a way of academics introducing PebblePad to their students as well as using it to scaffold their own understanding and experience of using it.  As I have now been using PebblePad for quite some time, it is in need of updating.  However, when I finished this I had plans to develop this further at some point to include Salmon's Etivities work - I'll be revisiting this in due course.

Introducing two main approaches to PebblePad

I create this short basic animation in 2018 to help staff understand two main approaches when experiencing PebblePad.  This animation is used in all of our face-to-face workshops to illustrate how staff and students will most likely approach PebblePad.  There is more to the process and most may miss out other areas, but as an introductory visual explanation, it has been working to get the message across.

Workbook design workshop

Further from the mention at the beginning, in Summer 2018 I developed this new workshop as Workbooks were fast becoming the most popular feature by academics.  This aim of this workshop was to to help people make informed designs and decisions about their Workbooks - making purposeful and effective Workbooks that achieve their pedagogical aims.  Elements of this was showcased in mine and a colleague's duo chat style webinar 'PebblePad – pedagogy, positives and pitfalls: A DIY approach to creating Workbooks' for the ALT Online Winter Conference on 12 December 2018.

Pedagogical guidance

I think many think that the developing guidance part of a learning technology role is somewhat an unnecessary task 'it's just a doc that has hours thrown at it'.  But let's take that away - what would happen then?  No pedagogical guidance or purpose, little intention, inadequate or misuse of learning technology.  I created this document on the pure intention to help mainly academics make informed decisions if they needed to use PebblePad or not and to what effect.

This is still in development, I.e. it isn't completed but enough to show the approach I am taking with it.  Last month, this changed direction following a focus group I held about it.  The general outcome - academics appreciated the 'guide' but they preferred to have this re-presented as an interactive exemplar with case studies that is actually in PebblePad itself, basically modelling it.  The unfinished table form wasn't a wasted effort, it was a result of my earlier thinking and built on Sheffield Hallam University's 'Changing the Learning Landscape'.  As with most things, you have to go through the hard complex thinking to get to the simplistic stuff.  It's all incremental/iterative developments and I am excited to see how they both evolve in the future through the various conversations I plan to have.  Plus, I plan to consider the following as well as some further critique from my team colleagues:

  • Reflection in the cycle is a point of action.  However, it is an ongoing process not just at the beginning as reflection is typically realised after an experience
  • Reference to further learning aims and solutions on how PebblePad supports these
  • Underpin with further actions of the teacher role to help scaffold the process, for both themselves and students
  • Include FAQs self help for troubleshooting

PebblePad staff development strategy

I'm currently working on a PebblePad staff development strategy that articulates our offer and ways that it is supported.

PebblePad Super User Academy May 2019

Last week on I attended on 14th and 15 May 2019 at PebblePad HQ in Telford, courtesy of my institution Nottingham Trent University (NTU).  Because it's a popular event, myself and some colleagues have waited a while to get onto this event.  When I started my role at NTU, I was involved in PebblePad straight away and like most, learned a lot through experimenting and playing in the system.  So attending this was well overdue, I'm glad to have finally attended it for that official seal of approval training.

The event was brilliantly facilitated Paul Duvall and Sarah Chesney.  The environment was built for a safe, creative and collaborative space - it really helped me clarify and strengthen my understanding and practice of PebblePad.  The days and night were very relaxed, encouraging lots of quality conversations. I was also able to help others in their development which reinforced my own knowledge.  During the event I was introduced to a number of PebblePad staff, they told us about what they do and how it contributes to the overall organisation and end user experience - helped with faces to names too.

In this blog post I will share a mix of notes and thoughts I tool during the event, in it's rough form.  This is not representative of everything, as I had to be present too.  To start, here's a short summary that I Tweeted:

New stuff learned/to revisit:

Main things gained after attending - what didn't I know/couldn't do to what I can do as a result.

  • I found that I was on par with what was being delivered on PebblePad.  It gave me a boost in confidence that what I know about PebblePad is above the 'benchmark'
  • Use the challenge scenarios in workshops to stimulate discussion, debate and develop thinking - I really liked it for that reason as they get you questioning approaches
  • Could use a Workbook to conduct training workshops - work through it during workshops to expose features, increase confidence and understanding (modelling it).  Relies on stable Wi-Fi connection though.  Even run our 'Intro to PebblePad' and 'ATLAS' workshops, like the academy by working through scenarios, but some will be totally new to PebblePad - think about this.  Maybe do this for 'Designing Workbook' instead?  As a scenario based learning.
  • Can my workshops be made online for those that can't attend in person or have preference for distance?  Can be designed through a Workbook, but how will they gain access to it?  Can include assessment parts of it.  Not a replacement, but more choice around flexibility.
  • Some times we might not always use all of the tools in PebblePad, but good to have an oversight of what is available to us
  • "PebblePad gives you the options and for you to contextualise to your needs...It's not a quality assurance system but feeds into them."  "What is the point of your learning?" - Paul Duvall.
  • When explaining PebblePad, a lot of used different visuals to explain the concept, not starting in PebblePad itself.  We make it contextual and as expected, tailor it to different audiences
  • Check all Block properties - there will be some options that you may not know about that can be very helpful, like Digital Signature
  • A big sell to academics is to show how you can embed external tools into it
  • Adaptive release of content and not all revealed at once - Page Release
  • Privacy State - tutor can view content but not students
  • Assessor permissions on ATLAS can decide roles to assess work - Role Restriction
  • Capability feature - a way to frame related activities.  Brings together Assets with a common theme.  A Collection was set up to pull through specific tags students have used.  Based on criteria - when students have done certain skills, e.g. taken blood.  All students need to do is upload evidence and use the right tags.  This can run reports via ATLAS.  Asset by Asset you can build up competence.  Vocational courses need to show students have done something a number of times - tagging is the way and Workbook to pull it together 
    • Capability feature gives best granular reporting
  • Classrooms are now using Workbooks more for flipped and blended learning, or just ePortfolio approaches.  Again requires stable Wi-Fi.
    • Embedded lecture videos in Workbooks

Throughout the two days, we had the following challenges in the form of scenarios that exposed us to investigate and evaluate PebblePad features and functions to support the learning activities.

Day 1

Challenge 1 - Scaffolding Learning with Workbooks

  • Taking time to analyse needs and pedagogical issues and problems that need addressing appropriately
    • Who, what, why, when, where how...
  • Important to include instruction and guidance and consider use of language for people using a PebblePad Resource
  • What do students/end users need to do at the beginning before using a Resource?  What Asset features and settings do they need to enable to avoid knotty areas later on?  I.e. Cascading tags 
    • Why would you want to use certain features and functions over others?
  • Workbook design - who needs to control the Workbook?  Student, tutor or both (Placeholder)?
    • 'Creative control' for students might be best as a longer term plan as it needs more structure and guidance of what students are expected to do.  If you need this out as ASAP (still requires time to think through) a Workbook may be best - but as always depends on time investment and complexity of the programme/activity needed for
    • To see the progression of students work, Auto-submit is needed and is only through a Workbook.  But requires you to tell students why you need to see their work progress instantly.  Otherwise students will use other digital means to develop their work and then just submit for deadline, bypassing Auto-submit

Challenge 2 - Workflows in ATLAS

  • A Workbook can be specific to an activity or generic
  • Cascading tags are useful if there's lower likely hood of students doing it right themselves (can create a Template and have a tag attached to it, saves students selecting a tag on their own version)
  • Approval feedback settings - check secondary marking
  • Scorecard gives you a break down of each individual student, once set up - one per Workspace
    • Scorecard report option
  • Feedback is much important early on in learning to develop it
  • Ideal for students to respond to feedback before they are graded
  • PebblePad Reporting Workbook Overview
  • Anonymous submissions in ATLAS - settings to change in the Workspace, as well telling you which people assessed
  • Future development - Templates will be determined by your organisational Region
  • Anatomy of ATLAS - Regions > Workspaces in each Region > Assignments


  • To me, operates as an app version of an Asset upload
  • Once logged into app - access to associated Templates of your organisation
  • Check app settings to set notifications - good to have recently sent Assets ticked to track they have been sent/proof it got sent
  • Only one set of forms can be viewed at a time
  • Can have image/icon on the Templates for institution - contact PebblePad about it
  • Create Templates for PebblePocket via Custom Templates in Pebble+.
    • Share to PebblePad support team and they add it to your organisation install
    • Not all content types are available in PebblePocket.  Drop down boxes recommended to avoid long scrolling
  • You can make a setting on the Digital Signature where it cannot be removed - as it is an Asset students could edit it
  • If you need to update a live Template, it will go through to PebblePad support team and ensure that the most up to date Template is being used
    • Turnaround is usually 1 day
  • There is a test site that you can use to test out the Template before going live

Day 2

Meeting Shane

  • An important shift in knowing stuff to knowing how to apply it
  • Knowledge changes so quickly, and tutors and assessors are active in giving feedback to students development throughout, not just at the end.  Therefore, PebblePas is not just an ePortfolio system
  • Amplification of dissemination of knowledge
  • Griffith university - lab experiment Workbook examples
  • Sheffield Hallam university - leading examples of PebblePad practice
  • When using PebblePad well, learners can learn about their institution and their peers
  • PebblePad - defined as Learning Journey Platform - see also https://resources.pebblepad.co.uk/the-learning-journey-platform
  • Their big goal, over next 4-5 years is to make it a joy to use
  • ATLAS update roll out not out yet due to a feedback panel they keep reworking - getting it right
    • Aim is to take away some of the need to know stuff from the ATLAS update - currently requires you to know everything, the levers and switches
  • It's a general requirement for a digital learning space to enable places to do things, not just store.  A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) ends access after course (PebblePad doesn't).  PebblePad can do what a VLE does, but does not fully act as one.  All about structuring learning experiences and a journey
    • A VLE will continue to act as a hub long time before they are not wanted/needed
    • Some VLE companies are mainly a consumer not a tool, but some are making changes to both
    • PebblePad is not wanting to be everything
    • It's good to conduct a comparison of what a VLE is currently used for (usually document storage - with use of MCQs and other bits, but not true eLearning).  PebblePad encourages you to go there to do stuff, which is what a VLE should be.  Whilst PebblePad does have VLE capabilities, it doesn't have wider VLE management, but can embed external tools like H5P, lecture capture Office 365...  So this may be a better cost and time saver
    • Interoperability - marriage of convenience in talking better to systems, not having a system or tool for everything, but a VLE is still needed to manage learning and achievement etc
  • Why was it called PebblePad?  Long story short - clouds shape resembles pebbles and Personal Achievement Diary (PAD) he used when studying at university (I think I heard this right?)

Paul Duvall - Managing Change

Question 1 via Mentimeter: What is important when attempting to manage change?

My responses:

  • A common sense of agreement
  • Needs, benefits, how it fits into the organisation strategy
  • Involving the right people and the right times (stakeholders)
  • Keeping everyone informed of changes/outcomes in the process
  • Allowing people to have a voice in this

Group responses:

  • "Explaining why the change is necessary/beneficial/important.
  • Being as transparent as possible and keeping people informed at every stage.
  • involve stakeholders
  • Honesty
  • Identification of a requirement to change
  • definitive goals/reasons
  • Checking understanding and then checking barriers and trying to understand why there are barriers
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Clear, concise and well thought out Communications Strategy.
  • Recognition of strategic need by senior stakeholders
  • having awareness of other changes that maybe occuring at the same time
  • Time, eg. adequate time for planning.
  • Removal of bureacracy
  • Ensuring that its clear what the benefits or objectives are of the change so we are not doing it for the sake of it
  • proper planning realistic timescales
  • thought out communication plan
  • Make sure you remember the human factors
  • Bottom up and top down
  • Stakeholder and Senior Management buy in and Engagement.
  • Valuing people roles and expertise
  • thick skin
  • Being clear why the change is necessary, what is driving it, what the risks and benefits of change are, what the risks of not changing are, who is affected by the change, how we will know if the change has been successful 
  • senior management reluctance to thoroughly endorse the change
  • explaining why, more than how, we're changing something
  • Celebrate success
  • Having full support from the decision makers (budget holders)
  • Having an awareness of other changes happening at the same time
  • Flexibility in timing - on hold, postpone for a later time"

Question 2 via Mentimeter:  Identify obstacles which impede innovation and change?

My responses:

  • Lack of clarity
  • Time invested to experiment and reflect
  • Resources to support

Group responses:

  • "Innovation fatigue!
  • inertia
  • Users who have a bad experience spreading the negativity around tool
  • people who just dont like change
  • Senior Management Teams hesitancy or lack of steer.
  • User fatigue - "Why can't it just be like how it was"
  • resistance to change
  • It's just the next HE fad - ignore it and it will soon go away.
  • ill considered direction of travel
  • Being Told what to do rather than open dialogue about why
  • perception of change for the sake of change
  • "If it ain't broke why fix it?"
  • The inability to clearly articulate the reasons for the change.
  • Being Told what to do rather than open dialogue about why
  • Current practice which overlaps proposed change
  • Cynicism
  • Lack of communications and resources to support training
  • poor communication of why?
  • lack of funding to complete project
  • Better reporting methods and accountability
  • Just a resistance to change - users feeling content and that nothing new or different is required
  • Not having visibility or exposure to a processes/methods or systems that can make a positive change. You need colleagues to be actively networking with others and colleagues keeping an eye out on new innovation methods and eLearning systems to try
  • Cost implications, emotional investment towards old processes
  • Anxiety of constant change - nothing will ever settle/be solved
  • Assumptions everyone knows what the change is and how people will react to it, whether that be a visual change"

Observations and recommendations:


  • Student engagement and completion
  • Continuous formative assessment dialogue
  • Minimum competency and excellence model
  • Popularity vs. efficacy
  • Influence and authority
  • Pedagogy and pragmatism - my views on purpose and practical side
  • Flexibility in learning design and content structure
  • Timing can be crucial
  • Acceptance from new cohorts
  • Importance of supervision/mentorship


  • Recognise and accept tensions
  • Connect change to existing priorities
  • Stay on course
  • Give it time
  • Collaboration in moderation (not always casting net out - procrastination/paralysing)
  • Build on existing process and practice if possible
  • Structure mapped to curriculum
  • Develop a communication strategy (marketing campaigns)
  • Support and training are key considerations
  • Reach a balance between aspiration and realism
  • Secure timetabled ours - for staff and students
  • Mobile learning BYOD model (plus loan option)
  • Regular formative, summative overall
  • Rationalise offline content
  • Ongoing review of purpose
  • Data capture to justify impact
  • Ongoing evaluation leading to iterative development
  • Promote any success

Charles Darwin quote - "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." - sounds like me when I talk about nature and technology.

Challenge 3 - Creating Inspirational Training

  • Can tutors build a Workbook through a Workbook Placeholder I can create?
  • How can I reorganise the flow of the workshops?
    • My earlier idea of using a Workbook to lead in training
  • Sometimes in training it can be about process awareness rather than the design or approaches to learning with PebblePad - however that's what I introduced the designing Workbooks workshop.  Do I need to improve this with more activity around purpose/DEBATE acronym/workshop?
  • Out puts from group discussions:

Challenge 4 - Making the Case

  • Learning and Teaching Managers (LTMs) - shape my strategy towards their school needs - see the Challenge 4 activity questions
  • Need to come from pedagogy angle - their benefit, not increase user adoption
  • Persuade for both PebblePad and not, as some staff want to use it and not for specific reasons
  • As is situation - where are you now since starting with PebblePad?
  • Evidence of distance travelled with PebblePad - could have done it verbally but needed to evidence it.  If no evidence, that might be a lesson itself
  • How PebblePad has helped - efficiency and economically
  • Who do we have to persuade immediately?  Staff (academics, seniors - stakeholders), students
  • Consistency design leads to consistency reporting
  • A learning technologist may not want to engage in new digital technology if it's not as good as what is otherwise available
  • What's aim?  Reducing costs, time, ending paper-based system - digital first, GDPR, align to institutional goals
  • Procurement people/groups have the power - need to show demonstrate to them the value (NSS results, graduate prospects, where they sit/will sit in league tables), assessment and feedback processes - all different and often nebulous
  • Useful document introduced - 'Evaluation Toolkit - A toolkit for teams measuring the success of their PebblePad implementation'
  • Recorded output from whole group feedback:

Final thoughts

Now I am left with the task of digesting this and doing something with it all!

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Guest talk - Learning approaches to inform Learning and Development opportunities

On 13th May at my institution, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) I delivered a 45 minute+ talk to a small group of 8 students studying towards their Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management.  The topic I talked about was 'Learning approaches to inform Learning and Development opportunities'.  I really enjoyed doing this, I really did, everything just went well - calm environment, students were lively, interested, inquisitive and asking me lots of questions.  I talked a lot from my experience which I appeared to reel off seamlessly.  Quite a reveal as I did fret quite a bit when planning this.  Well, during planning I did say "When does an #edtech guest talk become a lecture? I feel this is turning into a lecture. I'm introducing and discussing the application of two #TEL related frameworks... 🤔"  Well, maybe not a lecture but did slightly feel like one.  Here's a run down of what happened to give my presentation below some life:

  • Opened up by asking students to describe what their best learning experience was and why - set my message for the talk (pedagogy before technology)
  • Provided an overview of a range of current digital technologies that are available to them, along with how to keep up date with new and emerging learning technology developments
    • Asked students what they used/experienced and how out of the options
    • Discussed eLearning and authoring tools, including H5P
    • Introduced my Display, Engage, Participation model to reinforce the idea of moving from passive to interactive/active learning
  • Described Laurillard's learning types as a framework to determine approaches of underpinning digital technology with pedagogy and an improved representation of learning preferences
    • Included TEL examples of each learning type
  • Explained Salmon's 5 Stage Model and how it could be adapted to underpin their learning interventions, considering all stages to scaffold their digital learning approaches for their employees and even their own
  • Evaluated (briefly as a group) a current eLearning object available to them at NTU
    • Discussed what makes good and poor eLearning
    • Sheep dip approaches
  • Revisited my message set at the beginning as a book end to the talk
  • After my talk, I stopped for Sunlight's (a learning resource management company) talk and demonstration of their system to support staff learning
    • My talk provided students with a critical lens to evaluate the service towards their own organisation's digital learning needs

I received good feedback from students and have since been invited back to do this again sometime. 👍