The session started with a refresher of what PebblePad is and its development over the years. PebblePad is the market leader in the ePortfolio world and we have been using it at UoC since 2005. All staff and students have accounts at UoC which can be accessed from the Staff and Student hubs and even from within Blackboard itself. The system is complemented by a wonderful app, PebblePocket, which is free from Google Play and iTunes. If anyone leaves the university, they can register for an alumni account, which is free forever.
We outlined a few of the many ways PebblePad can be used: creating a wide variety of assets such as portfolios, blogs, activity logs, or by creating assets from the in-built templates provided by the system. These assets can then be shared with other PebblePad users or those without PebblePad account. Items can also be created and provided with a weblink which the intended audience can click on without the need for a username and password, so it’s also an excellent web publishing tool.
We then continued to talk about how PebblePad can be used for assessment and the various ways of getting the best out of students. Custom templates can be designed (workbooks) – usually by academic staff – which can provide the student with structured scaffolding on which to build their work. We also looked at the many ways of giving feedback – both formative and summative.
The session ended with a quick demonstration of how to easily add items to PebblePad and we had a glimpse of some good examples of templates currently in use at the University of Cumbria.
Once users login, PebblePad provide lots of in-built support via their homepage (called the Learning Centre) and we in AQD have supplemented this information with various articles and helpsheets via our TEL Knowledgebase which can be found here.
Anyone interested in using PebblePad with their students is encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to start off interesting conversations!
Click the image below to view the recording (university login required)
The system updates highlighted in February are now in place. Early August has been a time for refreshing some of our core learning technology systems.
- PebblePad has moved to Version 5
- Blackboard has been updated
- The Turnitin Document Viewer has changed to Feedback Studio
- Medial has been updated to Version 5.
The PebblePad update replaces legacy Flash technology with HTML5, which, along with a redesigned interface, makes the system more intuitive and accessible. Find out more ….
As well as security enhancements, and ensuring that we maintain full system support for the next academic year, there are some new features with the Blackboard upgrade. Find out more …
Turnitin’s Feedback Studio has all the same features as the previous Document Viewer, however the interface makes better use of space, and is more accessible and responsive. Find out more ….
Like PebblePad, Medial has moved their interface to HTML5. They have also added a useful multispeed player option. Find out more …
PebblePad has moved from v3 (used Flash) to v5 (uses html5). The main difference is to Pebble+ – the personal space within PebblePad – where assets are created, shared and stored.
ATLAS, the assessment area within PebblePad, remains unchanged.
Everything in your Pebble+ account has transferred over into the new version.
The main differences:
- Works on all mobile devices and looks and behaves the same, no matter what device is used.
- Drag and drop to add files to your asset store.
- Improved text editing functions – you can use your mouse to copy and paste text.
- All Assets and Resources are in one place – no separate tabs for shared assets any more.
Here are some guides to help you navigate your way around the new version:
PebblePad v5: click the link to see what the new interface looks like; how to create assets; upload files; share with people or for assessment and Alumni information.
Academic PPDR instructions: click the link to find out how to fill out your Academic PPDR for the first and subsequent years.
Don’t forget, you can take your PebblePad account and all its contents with you if you leave or graduate from the university and you can continue to use it FREE forever. Just register for an Alumni account before you leave or graduate.
There are a number of learning technology system changes expected to happen prior to the start of 2017/18;
- PebblePad moving to version 5
- Turnitin GradeMark moving to Turnitin Feedback Studio
- Blackboard upgrade and theme change
- Medial moving to version 5
Details and descriptions are subject to change, and more information will be circulated as necessary and as it becomes available.
- Our current version of PebblePad is being moved to the latest version (V5) over the summer
- The underlying technology moves from Flash to HTML5 – more accessible, and in-line with browsers that are phasing-out/removing Flash support
- Accessible on all devices, such as smartphones and tablets
- Redesigned, and simpler interface
- ATLAS remains unchanged
- All Assets move across
- Our current version is no longer being developed, and will be phased-out shortly
Support & communication
Workshops for staff will be delivered over the coming months. Some have already taken place. Those who attend will have access to V5 via a temporary account that will remain available to them until the upgrade.
There are many “how-to” guides directly on the new home page. We will produce a transition guide, which will be applicable to staff and students.
Most users will move across on Monday 7th August, however, any reassessment students will be left on V3 (current system) until they have resubmitted, and will be moved at the end of August.
- GradeMark interface is being updated to Feedback Studio
- Same features, but improved use of space
- Easier to add comments & Quick Marks
- Can now add clickable URLs to feedback – support pages, documents etc.
Support & communication
A transition guide will be produced to help staff move to marking via the updated interface.
Some of the features can be seen on Turnitin’s demonstration site.
We are able to switch-on this feature at any time, with a forced change to all users initially planned from Turnitin by July 2017. We are checking current timings for this forced switch; however, the current proposal is to make the move at around the same time as the Blackboard upgrade (i.e. late July / early August).
We will be looking to perform our annual upgrade of Blackboard over the summer. There is no licence-cost impact to upgrading to a newer version of the system. All upgrades bring security improvements, as well as support for newer versions of client software and systems (browsers etc.). However, an essential reason for needing to regularly upgrade is to ensure full support for the system for the up-coming academic year.
The upgrade will bring some new features and an updated colour scheme and theme change.
Regarding the theme, we are proposing to move incrementally towards the – desired – responsive web design theme as it develops. The proposal is a move towards the look-and-feel, but maintaining the course design options for a period of time (these themes need to be turned-off when we move totally onto the responsive design).
The last two upgrades have happened towards the end of July / early August, and the proposal would be to do the same again (these upgrades didn’t appear to cause any major disruption issues). Blackboard should be on Managed Hosting by the time of the upgrade; this should offer more flexibility and options for upgrade timings.
- System update to version 5
- Updated and fully responsive interface redesign
- HTML5 player by default (Flash fallback still an option)
- Multispeed playback (i.e. 2x)
- Multi-bitrate playback
- Version 5 is required for MediaLecture (if we were to consider this option)
- More customisation & branding options
- Live-stream workflow improvements
Support & communication
Much of the current interaction with Medial is via the Blackboard building block, rather than directly through the interface. The main changes via this route will be the new options on the player, and the switch to HTML5. All the web interface features will still be there, just with an enhanced interface.
Support and upgrades of Medial is included in our annual licence. The upgrade is carried out remotely and is expected to take less than an hour (updates in the past have been around 15 minutes, with actual video playback disruption less than that). We just need to book an update “slot” with the vendors. As there isn’t a test system for Medial, updates always carry a slight risk, and we only see the changes at the same time as all system users (we rely on their demo server to view some of the potential feature changes ahead of the move).
What was the problem/challenge you were trying to address?
At the end of their QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) courses all Initial Teacher Education (ITE) trainees must record their areas of strength and areas they need to develop in their first year of employment using a document called the CEDP (Career Entry and Development Profile). Their targets must be linked to the Teachers’ Standards and be made available to the school at which they gain employment. The secondary trainees already use PebblePad to track their progress throughout the course ending with the completion of a CEDP. Primary courses however don’t use PebblePad and with several hundred primary trainees on a range of different QTS courses at the University, the recording and dissemination of their transition documents was very problematic. As part of the new Ofsted inspection framework for ITE trainees, targets are scrutinised by inspectors to assess their effectiveness for the individual trainees in their first teaching job and so it is imperative that these targets are quality assured by the UoC. In the past we have relied on the trainees themselves taking a paper copy of their CEDP to the school on their first visit.
What did you do/implement?
With the help of Sarah Ruston, the IoEs NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) Coordinator designed an electronic CEDP to be completed via PebblePad. The CEDP records not only these targets, but also provides a place to record the trainee’s place of employment, alumni contact information and it also includes a link to the Bristol on-line exit survey which all students need to complete. All the programme leaders and personal tutors were given access to their trainees’ completed CEDPs via a PebblePad workspace, allowing them to ensure the quality of their targets before they go out to Head Teachers in the employing schools. This is done during a tutorial after the trainees have completed their CEDP electronically. It proved to be a very useful source of evaluative data as 644 forms were captured in one place.
What advice would you give to others looking to implement something similar? (positives, negatives, lessons learnt)
This was a very straight forward process once the trainees had been enrolled, helped by the very useful simple guidance put together by Sarah for both staff and trainees. One of the issues was that we only wanted to send part of the CEDP to schools and this proved impossible as the form could not be easily split into sections so my advice would be to use a “book” format instead of a “form” format so that information can be extracted as required. Next year we will design the form differently.
Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?
The new CEDP for 2016/17 will allow for the strengths and targets section to be extracted and emailed to schools.
What is the evidence on the impact on students/your processes?
Students preferred to complete their CEDPs electronically and appreciated that all their “course exit tasks” ie completing the CEDP, the destination information and the exit survey were in one place. Feedback from tutors was also positive as they thought the process was straight forward and valued the immediate access to the CEDPs via the PebblePad workspace, to allow for the timely beginning of the QA process. It has also meant that we have a complete set of documentation captured electronically eliminating the risk of losing forms. The Alumni office has been given access to the destination data and values the ability to transfer employment data into Raisers Edge electronically. This also facilitates our ability to send on-line surveys to employing Head Teachers.
We now have access to a lot of valuable data which PebblePad can assimilate for us. It can group together the answers given by respondents of the forms, which give us really useful information such as who has filled in the form, which programme they are on and have they found a teaching job, if so, where and what key stage will be taught.
Here are some examples of the types of information that can be extracted:
Responses broken down into Programmes
Employment Secured? Yes/No
If employed in school, which Key Stage will you teach?
What do you plan to do next?
As mentioned above this process will continue for 2016/17 and the relevant information will be sent to schools electronically in the summer of 2017. It is important that the trainees record the URNs of their employing schools to distinguish between schools of the same name so this will be emphasised to trainees and facilitated by a link on the form to the web-site containing all the URNs of the schools in the country.
Using PebblePad in PhD Research …… and much, much more.
Following attendance at a summer research workshop provided by AQD, which outlined the potential of using PebblePad for research, Charlotte decided to use the personal learning system to collate and manage the information she was gathering for her PhD research.
In this module, students are tasked with creating an artifact comprising a story-sack which is designed to be used within family sessions. Students have to document the creation of their story sack – why they chose the subject theme, its evolution and a reflection on its usefulness. Students take photographs of their work as it progresses and include these in their webfolio with their reflections. Their work builds up over time.
Charlotte first used PebblePad as a student herself on the PgC in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLTHE) and for her Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).
So this thorough grounding gave her a good understanding of what the students need to know.
“I found it straightforward and not a challenge and so was really confident in explaining how to use it to students”.
The WCF team also use PebblePad in their Leadership and Management module and students are expected to upload their CVs into PebblePad.
“In the 21st Century, sending a weblink as your CV and personal statement makes more sense than sending word documents”.
Students can register for an alumni account when they leave the university and this is FREE FOREVER. So whatever they have created and stored in their PebblePad accounts whilst they were a student, will still be accessible to them forever.
Using PebblePad as a Student (1:16mins):
I recently attended the above Conference at the Technology Innovation Park, University of Wolverhampton. This Conference was a ‘global gathering’ and brought together established users of PebblePad from Australia and the UK with new users of the system, Canada and America for the first time. PebblePad conferences happen in the UK every 2 years and are renowned for their friendliness, collegiality and the obligatory ceilidh. The two days were brimmed full with the sharing of good practice, inspirational speakers and plenty of ideas to take away. As with any conference, it is good to get totally immersed with like-minded people and hear fresh ideas and approaches to current PebblePad usage from all over the world, by universities and professional bodies alike.
The University of Cumbria has been a user of PebblePad since its inception in 2005, and thus, we were one of the more established users at the event (along with Bradford, Edinburgh and Wolverhampton). We have seen it through its various stages from early ‘Classic’ (remember those plopping pebbles?) to Version 3 (our current version) and to looking ahead at Version 5 which most universities transferred over to this summer. (By way of explanation, we didn’t feel that the product was ‘ready enough’ for our students and staff at this moment in time, as major functions such as ‘Collaborate’ aren’t in the new version yet. They will be by the time we transfer across in the summer of 2017.)
Newer users of PebblePad have solely begun to use Version 5; so-called as it is written in HTML5 which means it will work on any PC, laptop or mobile device and will behave in exactly the same way on whichever device is used. Flash has now been written out of the operating system entirely, which proved so troublesome for Apple-based products for many years. These new users were brimming with ideas of how they currently use the system and are discovering more about it as time progresses. One clear theme that came through is, once students get to grips with using the system, the standard of creative work which emerges out of given tasks is far superior to standard written formats. Version 5 is heralded as the easiest yet to use, with items added via drag and drop.
Some of the ideas being showcased were not new to us, for example, using PebblePad for annual review processes, but others were quite unique, for example, using PebblePad to track dissertation proposals through from initial idea and meetings, through to allocation of supervisors, recording of meetings and collecting all the paperwork surrounding this complex process into one place. What did emerge is that where PebblePad has been enthusiastically adopted, students and staff were reaping good rewards out of the system.
Throughout the course of the two days, I saw demonstrations of how some institutions use PebblePad to map their NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) Professional Standards; others use it to track their TTA (Teacher Training Agency) Professional Standards, and many more use it for a variety of ‘soft’ employability skills – equivalent to our Career Ahead offer. Students in many institutions are ‘gifted’ (yes they speak of it as a gift they give to their students) with PebblePad and are expected to use it to chart their development through their studies. Inspiring talks demonstrated how PebblePad were used for health OSCEs (practical assessments); paramedic training, history artefact creation and website design, dentistry to name but a very few subjects. All inspiring stuff.
I particularly liked the use Plymouth make of PebblePad. All students compile a portfolio – called their Compass. There are 4 elements to their portfolio and students are tasked with collecting evidence and reflect on the following areas:
- The Critical and Creative Learner
- The Sustainable and Global Citizen
- The Confident and Competent Professional
- The Resilient and Thinking Individual
If students compile their Compass, overseen by the Employability Skills service they get acknowledgement for the work and recognition for it is added onto their final transcript upon graduation.
A clear pattern emerged, success stories come from institutions who have senior management or service buy-in to PebblePad; where managers model good behaviour; where student support in the use of the system is available and where it is just ‘the norm’. It does make me realise that, in attending an event like this, we are not using PebblePad to its full potential and that it can be used for so much more than it currently is. We will be moving onto a new version of PebblePad next summer and it would be great to get some revitalisation into its use. Showcasing, show-stopping, show-offing – that’s what it’s all about. Let’s make ourselves future ready in our use of this creative and innovative system. If you’d like to talk PebblePad to me anytime, my email is email@example.com
All the presentations and videos can be found here: http://www.pebblebash.co.uk/2016/presentations.aspx