Scaling up: From Novices to Experts. An up close and personal look at PebbleBash 2018

by Jodie Young, Alison Poot, Jenny Masters, Melissa Finnen


Scaling up: From Novices to Experts. An up close and personal look at PebbleBash 2018

~ PebblePad Events ~

APRIL 5th 2019
Jodie Young
Alison Poot
Jenny Masters
Melissa Finnen


As we roll over into a new season and the first quarter of the year has just slipped away it already seems an age since our last international gathering of committed PebblePaddlers, although it has only been a couple of months. PebbleBash 2018 was held over 3 perfect mid-December days in the beautiful surrounds of the Macedon Ranges, about an hour north of Melbourne, Australia.  82 delegates, representing 25 different education institutions attended, almost one third of whom were international, hailing from New Zealand, Singapore, England, USA and Canada.

We’ve taken a little while to reflect on the conference and think about the best way to share the experience with those who were unable to be there, because we think it is definitely worth sharing – and celebrating. PebbleBash is something special – this is not just the idle boast of your proud hosts and organisers, but something our delegates tell us after every PebbleBash event. So we thought it fitting to invite two of our 2018 attendees, one for whom it was their first PebbleBash experience and the other a veteran of three, to share their reflections on the conference and a little of what they have taken away from the experience. We have also put together a Portfolio that captures some of the flavour of the occasion, along with links to some of the resources, and hope you enjoy getting a taste of the event, or reliving some favourite memories for those lucky enough to be there.

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The PebblePad Novice - Melissa Finnen

2018 was the year of firsts for me. The first year working as a Practice and Portfolio Coach at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) University College; the first year of being part of the pilot program using PebblePad; the first time I have presented at an interstate conference; the first time I presented an Ignite presentation; and the first time I attended a PebbleBash.

Admittedly, being a newbie to the world of PebblePad and having our abstract accepted to present an Ignite presentation at the 2018 PebbleBash conference was an exciting and daunting prospect. As a presenter and a newcomer looking into a sea of unknown faces, who have a multitude of different experiences and qualifications, I did not feel uncomfortable. It did not matter where you came from, what title or degree you had, we were one community of like-minded, student-centred people who genuinely liked to share ideas, resources and experiences - good or bad, warts and all. The PebbleBashers collectively were supportive and appreciative of the energy and time that had been given to putting together my presentation and welcomed my input, making me feel that I did have something to contribute and add value to the conference. Even if it was simply putting the UC Associate Degrees on the PebblePad community map.

What I enjoyed throughout the three-day conference workshops and sessions was that they were thoughtfully put together, timed like clockwork, and there was a variety of guest speakers and topics presented. The venue was relaxed and stimulating, but had all the facilities required to present in a professional manner. Not to mention good food, great champagne and a toe-tapping band on the last night.

Having the opportunity to tell our story with a group of teaching and learning professionals who were willing to share ideas, resources and their time was a fabulous experience. Moreover, knowing that the issues that the P&P team have faced and the steps that we have taken over the year with the roll-out of PebblePad were like many other stories that I heard at the Bash over the three days, was liberating. Hopefully my next ‘first’ will be at an international conference at the 2020 PebbleBash, something I am looking forward to.

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The Expert PebblePaddler - Jennifer Masters

PebbleBash at the Grange in December, 2018 was my third Bash and they really get better and better. The Pebble team, as super hosts, always manage to cultivate a relaxed and informal atmosphere that masks the meticulous scheduling and planning that goes into such an event.  I particularly noticed that every presentation that I attended went really smoothly, with no technology issues or scrambling.  This enabled presenters to relax and audiences to engage.

Although I have been using PebblePad for many years, this was my first PebblePad event with Pebble users from my current university. I was delighted to have this opportunity to strengthen links with my colleagues across the university and I truly believe that PebbleBash can act as a catalyst to connect like-minded Pebble users from an institution who work in the same setting but may not often meet up.  I heartily endorse the benefits of sending many rather than a few!

Of course, it was also wonderful to see familiar faces too. The Pebble community is particularly strong, and it is great to meet up to reflect and report on Pebble adventures. I find it interesting that although there are very experienced PebblePaddlers, no one really is positioned as the guru. It seems that all of us, including the Pebble team, are still actively learning and exploring the potential of PebblePad. I guess this is because PebblePad is an active, growing system rather than a static entity? This is refreshing and leads to presentations being rich and explorative rather than prescriptive.

As always, PebbleBash provided us all with the opportunity to spend quality time with like-minded people and reflect on the value of our wonderful community.  We had many first time PebbleBashers and a small number who have attended every one of our 5 international conferences, and across the board the feedback was extremely positive. 

Be sure to visit our PebbleBash Portfolio for links to our fabulous resources and some snippets of the action.

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Jodie Young is Content Manager here at PebblePad. An experienced educator, talented writer, and a genius at simplifying the complicated, Jodie spends her days planning, crafting and publishing content for the PebblePad community and wider higher education audiences. Outside of work, Jodie is a published poet and can occasionally be spotted performing at open mic events around her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. To the disappointment of some of her colleagues, she avoids employing rhyme in her copy but her expert stamp is still recognisable on many of our hugely popular publications.

Alison is PebblePad's Australian Director of Service and Partnerships and leads a small team of implementation consultants supporting our customers across Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Alison has notched up more than 30 years' experience working within the Higher Education sector and gets great satisfaction from helping our customers get the very most out of PebblePad. She is also passionate about developing and supporting the amazing PebblePad Community.  Alison lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland and makes the most of the climate and the location by filling her spare time with cycling, running, climbing, kayaking, and swimming.  

Jenny Masters is a teacher educator with over 30 years of experience who is “into” digital technologies, with a specialist focus on the use of digital technologies in education. She has used ePortfolios and PebblePad for many years to support pre-service teachers as they plan, reflect on, and celebrate their learning journeys and, luckily for us, she is now putting that expertise to use in her role as Implementation Specialist.

Jenny is based on pristine King Island in the middle of Bass Strait and is living the dream – a couple of hectares with a tiny house, off-the-grid, subsistence gardening and free-ranging chickens. Fortunately, an awesome Internet connection via satellite means that she can have the best of both worlds and working with PebblePad is fitting in just beautifully with the life-style.

Melissa Finnen is a Practice and Portfolio (P&P) Coach working with the University College (UC) Associate Degree team at the University of Tasmania. As an academic, in the role of Coach, she mentors and works extensively with students assisting them with their Practice Manual portfolio development using PebblePad. She also works collegially across state with the UC staff on curriculum and resource development. In particular, she supports staff with curriculum design and where PebblePad can be incorporated seamlessly into the curriculum to support, showcase and record students' experience-based learning.