3 is the magic number
When we sought to expand our team of consultants, you may quite reasonably have assumed that we wouldn't possibly attempt to employ two people with very similar names to start on the very same day. But this is PebblePad, and finding solutions to challenges is Business As Usual for us. We are delighted to welcome Dr Sarah Copeland and Sarah Chesney to our ranks, and since we already have the fantastic Sarah Roden (Product Owner) in the business, the new appointments take our total 'Super-Sarah-Count' to a magic ‘3’. For this blog post, the new Sarahs were quizzed about their backgrounds, what the future holds, and asked to reflect on their first PebblePad event as fully-fledged PebblePaddlers.
Sarah Chesney ...
I have just moved to a new phase of my longstanding working relationship with PebblePad that goes back to 2006. My first association with PebblePad was as a senior lecturer in e-learning using the platform to support staff CPD at the University of Cumbria ten years ago. Back then, I was drawn to using PebblePad for educational development purposes and some of you will be familiar with the Jisc funded Flourish project which Shane Sutherland and I bid for and I managed for the two years it ran. The ethos underpinning PebblePad strongly resonated with widespread educational development approaches so it seemed a well-suited blend of pedagogy and technology.
I’ve kept up contact with PebblePad since leaving University of Cumbria to go freelance, and have worked for them on and off for a number of years. I was proud to co-author Pebblegogy with Shane Sutherland and Jane Brotchie, a process that really underlined for me how fundamental the learner-centred approach is to the design of PebblePad. I am delighted to have now joined the PebblePad team as an Implementation Specialist.
Sarah Copeland ...
I'm thrilled to be working for an organisation I have also long admired. I have been occupied with educational technologies for over twenty years in a variety of contexts. When I started out, people had probably heard of "the internet" and were starting to get personal email addresses, but any notion of streaming visual content was firmly in the domain of video, primarily television, although my first interactive systems design job did involve laser discs! Instructional design was very constrained, but that suited the limited functionality - a totally different world to that which our students, apprentices and employees experience now. As an educational designer I have worked with academics to help design robust assessments, digitally-enriched learning experiences and created my own lesson plans as an academic and tutor. I'm looking forward to embracing all that PebblePad can offer to support this new world in my new role as an Implementation Specialist.
Sarah Copeland ...
Moving from interactive design used in training in the corporate world into post-compulsory education gave rise to a whole new ecology of pedagogies. I still delight in exploring how these are evolving. But there are a few standards in educational practice that remain at the core of what I do. Reflection is one, and storytelling is another, both borne of sense-making and both led to a PhD in digital storytelling. The alignment between digital storytelling (in its broadest sense) and a media-rich personal learning space that affords reflective narrative is clear, and the moment I saw PebblePad being used in context by undergraduates, I understood how educational technology was evolving too, to support the new student-centred educational paradigm.
Sarah Chesney ...
Every so often I have attended PebblePad events and at each event I have seen how the system has matured and developed - it never stands still. Over the years, use of the environment has become ever more creative, yet at the heart of this creativity still lies the learner-centred approach that was such a driving force in the early days. It would be easy to dismiss this approach as simple to execute, but one of the advantages of being freelance is that I have had to work on a number of different digital educational systems and platforms. Much of my work has been centred around educational development and academic integrity, and I know from experience that universities are usually keen to design courses that put the learner (be they staff or students) at the heart of course design. However, experience has also shown that other educational technologies don't necessarily always complement these approaches: PebblePad truly embeds its learner centred ethos throughout - from the design phase, to the way it treats users, and the aim for continuity (for example by giving them alumni accounts).
Sarah Chesney ...
The event was a great opportunity to see how PebblePad use has matured. For me, the most significant difference between my first days of using PebblePad at Cumbria and the experiences shared during the user group is the scale of use. The stories shared at the user group underlined the extent to which PebblePad is now a key part of programmes with large cohorts, operating in complex and challenging environments such as on placement in hospitals and schools. ATLAS is an impressive assessment engine, allowing tutors to fulfil some of their learning and teaching desires e.g. large-scale peer assessment or double-blind marking of dissertations. PebblePocket, allowing users to record and store reflections and evidence offline on a mobile device, is something I would have loved to use with my students ten years ago.
Sarah Copeland ...
Our trip to the Scottish PebblePad User Group enabled us to hear shared practice from a committed group of academics and professionals regionally. As with my previous experience, integration of an eportfolio capability in healthcare and medicine courses still dominates, although not exclusively.
Examples of terrific practice
The User Group heard how the University of Edinburgh Business School has successfully embedded PebblePad in students’ final dissertation output to maximise use of the double-blind marking function in ATLAS. Crucially, the system enables reconciliation of feedback and grades before alerting the students, a function I have seen tripping up academics previously (in other systems I hasten to add).
In terms of media-rich content generation, the teaming up of PebblePocket and course objectives allows students to now video themselves practising medical procedures for formative feedback, an everyday streaming event so different from the world of corporate videos. Learners as active producers, rather than passive consumers, allows for the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and sense-making in media-rich forms.
Queen Margaret University has likewise seen success in using video through PebblePocket, employing peer-filming of clinical competencies ahead of OSCE examinations. As well as streamlining tutor feedback, a clear benefit is the ability to ask students to consider their performance, and has resulted in deeper reflections on their own practices.
Colleagues from Abertay University shared a development in the Achievement Record for Nursing. Rather than the hefty paper-based Scottish Ongoing Achievement Record, student nurses now log their pre-registration training - some 2,300 hours on clinical placement - in their eportfolio. They benefit from media-rich submissions and an improved quality of feedback and assessment.
Back at the University of Edinburgh, we heard from colleagues in the Medical School about their peer practice implementation, which uses PebblePocket for formative assessment in clinical skills. This makes the most of the offline functionality on offer, and, whilst a very recent rollout, has been well received by students and staff to date.
Elsewhere in the Medical School, we saw how a large-scale migration in a short timeframe to PebblePad workbooks for undergraduates has been designed. To counter the perennial problem of working under NHS system restrictions, the school has enabled placement students to share evidence by scanning paper evidence signed on site, and to use these to create their own PebblePad assets. Designing a simple feedback template for the hundreds of clinicians assessing this evidence has enabled a better iterative process, where students benefit from formative feedback. This is a very complex and large-scale operation and great to see in action.
Finally, we saw the metaphor of a busy city road network being applied to an educational technology system – take the simplest route and don’t get distracted getting there! This advice comes from a project to use ATLAS at scale for students applying for funding to study abroad. Students are placed in sets and asked to peer-mark the other submissions, requiring permissions to be applied for this task.
Sitting at the Scottish User Group as newly minted Implementation Specialists gave us a different perspective. We were greatly impressed as we listened to the varied stories of innovation and learner-centred practice, and engaged in the follow-up discussions. But, as fully fledged PebblePaddlers, it evoked a different feeling as well - one of pride. We are both proud to be part of the team (and to be two-thirds of the 'Super-Sarah' PebblePad trio) and already feel a sense of pride and ownership in the difference PebblePad can make to learner-centred teaching and assessment. And we're excited about the future, as it will no doubt involve many more similarly engaging days filled with innovation, making a difference, and conversations with our inspirational customers and practitioners from all across the globe. Exciting times.
Sarah Copeland & Sarah Chesney #officiallypartofthegang