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PebblePad on the Web

Archived webinar session from January 18, 2012 with Shane Sutherland of Pebble Pad, Trent Batson facilitating. (Thanks to Patricia Donohue of ePortfolio California for making the archived resources possible.)

Webinar Powerpoint can be downloaded below.

The following questions are a compilation of the needs and concerns identified in an informal polling of eportfolio community members during spring 2011. The answers are the vendor's responses.

What vision or understanding of learning informed the design of your tool?

PebblePad is based on the idea that we learn many different things in different places and at different times. In order for these varied learning experiences to become meaningful, they need to be identified and reflected upon. This is not a natural process and learners require assistance to develop these skills. Learning is also enhanced through dialogue, both internal and with others. For personal learning to become life-wide and life-long, learners need a tool that provides a private, secure space that they can take with them and has the flexibility to support learning in any context. It must provide prompts and scaffolding for recording and reflecting on learning, and enable sharing and communication with others.

How does your vision of learning promote a student-centered approach to education? (e.g. student ownership of his/her learning)

PebblePad is all about personal learning and enabling users to take responsibility for their own learning. Inbuilt and tutor- provided templates can guide and scaffold the learning process so that learners (staff, students, professionals) can work independently, while sharing options provide the opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues. The PebblePad environment is totally user owned and controlled and interaction with work in this environment is by invitation only. While ‘others’ will often provide a purpose for use – multiple diverse purposes can be addressed contemporaneously - what is done within PebblePad, what is presented, and how this is presented is user determined. The more the user engages with the personal learning space the richer and more rewarding the products of learning will be. By drawing upon, and making connections between, learning in all contexts learners are able to see the relevance of their education experience.

Does your tool allow students to control permissions? Can they share with people outside of the institution? How? (e.g., advisor, prospective employer, etc.).

Learners have absolute control over who sees what, for how long, and what they can do with it. They can share directly with other PebblePad users within their institution. These shares appear in the ‘received assets’ of the PebblePad account of the recipient. Permissions include view, copy, comment, and collaborate. Students can also share with anyone external to the institution for whom they have an email address. Students can also share assets by publishing them to the web and sharing the PebblePad generated URL. Viewers of the asset can be given comment permissions. For all methods of sharing the student can pre-set the duration of the share and can remove the share or edit the permissions at any time.

What is the process for inviting feedback on work or artifacts?

Students can share selected pieces of work with comment permissions with one or more others, both within and external to the institution. An accompanying message can be sent to provide guidance to those they are sharing with. All feedback is attached to the work and there are options for feedback to remain private if there are multiple recipients.

Feedback can be free-form text, text drawn from ‘comment banks’, provided in the form of rubrics or as attached audio or video files.

Describe how your tool promotes and supports student-to-student collaboration.

The process for sharing work with others is very simple and is presented as an option whenever a new piece is created. Sharing involves live links to work in progress so actively supports formative feedback and engagement between students about the development of the work. In addition to view and comment permissions, work can also be shared for collaboration. Students then become co-owners of the piece of work and can each contribute to its development. The level of control that students have over their work and the permissions given to others helps to give them confidence in the sharing and collaboration process.

Permissions within the PebblePad assessment space (Gateways) allows tutors to organise more formal peer and anonymous peer-assessment.

Describe how your tool promotes and supports student-to-faculty collaboration.

All of the above describing student-to-student collaboration applies equally to student-to-faculty collaboration. Students and staff all have the same PebblePad accounts – there is not differentiation between users for basic functionality. Staff might have access to additional institution tools that help to support teaching and learning. These tools enable staff to create and make available to students additional templates to scaffold learning. Staff can also work with large groups of students through a space called a gateway. The gateway, once again, involves live links to student work, enabling staff to provide ongoing formative feedback. In this way staff can collaborate with students around the learning process rather than just receiving the product of learning at the end of the experience.

How does your tool support and encourage the reflection process for students and faculty?

Reflection is built in to every component of PebblePad. Every template finishes with a reflection page, and the questions within the templates prompt users to consider varied aspects of their experience. As described above, this applies equally to students and faculty. PebblePad also provides tools for faculty to create various types of forms and templates to further facilitate reflection and self-assessment. The focus is always on creating records of experience that reflect and enhance the personal learning of the user.

How does your tool address and support institutional level assessment needs (e.g., aggregating student data and generating reports for accreditation)?

At an institution level PebblePad can generate reports about student usage of the system including data about active users, shares, asset types, and file uploads. These reports can be provided for any group of users that can be identified within the system. Importantly, it is not possible to generate reports that undermine any aspect of the user’s privacy.

The PebblePad system contains an integrated ‘institutional’ space called ‘Gateways’ that provides all the tools required to support teaching and learning assessment processes. Gateways provide a space for academics to manage assessment submissions from large groups of students and support formative and summative feedback and processes such as grading, validation, blind marking, double blind marking, peer review, anonymous peer review, and external assessment. All grades can be exported as CSV files for import into other gradebook systems.

Does your application integrate with enterprise systems? Which ones? Do you have examples of effective integration in support of advising or other student services you can share?

PebblePad utilizes open standards and common processes wherever they are available and appropriate. For the purposes of authentication and access these include LDAP/AD, CAS, Shibboleth and OAuth. PebblePad also supports Leap2A, IMS eP, Atom, RSS and more recently IMS LTI. Specifically:

PebblePad can integrate with a variety of enterprise systems:

  • Integration with the student management systems enables automated account creation and management, linking of gateway groups to courses or units of study, and automatic population of personal details such as contact details, prior qualifications and current course grades into the About Me section of PebblePad.
  • The Blackboard 9.x block enables single sign-on, creation of PebblePad assets within the Blackboard environment, direct links to PebblePad gateways from Blackboard, Blackboard resources on PebblePad gateways, and a dashboard within Blackboard showing activity within PebblePad.
  • The Moodle 1.9 and 2.0 blocks enable single sign-on, creation of PebblePad assets within the Moodle environment, and the export of Moodle blogs, forums, assignments and resources to PebblePad.
  • Integration with TurnItIn enables students to submit their own work to TurnItIn or tutors to submit student work to TurnItIn via the gateway.

What is the main strength of your application?

The main strength of PebblePad is that it has its origins in the university environment and its design is based on principles of effective teaching and learning. It promotes a student centered approach to learning and its flexibility and ease of use engages all parties in the learning experience.

Whilst the most effective uses of PebblePad emerge from well designed curriculum activities it has been proven to provide effective support for learning in contexts as diverse as preparation/transition to university and independent professional development/accreditation.

What weaknesses have been identified relative to the user experience and shared with you?

The concern most often addressed is also one of the features most widely praised – that is, the interface. It was designed to allow users with low levels of computing competence and confidence to easily create attractive and meaningful records of their learning and experience. Many users still praise the system for this. However, some other users consider the interface too simple/childish. To the uninitiated the simple interface also belies the systems powerful functionality.

In a similar vein one of the systems greatest strengths – its flexibility – is also one of its weaknesses as users (particularly those charged with promoting its use with students) are often unsure where to start with the tool.

Our close relationship with our user community has resulted in wide ranging enhancements to the interface and work flows which are released as PebblePad+ in early 2012.

Further, drawing upon contributions from 50 practitioners we have recently published a guide to effective pedagogical practice with PebblePad – a 300 page handbook entitled Pebblegogy.

Please share some examples of user feedback.

"I am in the middle of marking 15 individual portfolios - part of a new module at level 6. Having given the students only minimal contact time (lecture) on the webfolio element, saying that I wanted to see what they could 'make' of the task with the facility that is Pebble, I am just loving the imagination that the students are unleashing ... and what they reveal ...all down to the options they have with Pebble - enjoying marking hurrah :)"
Dance Studies Lecturer (University of Wolverhampton)

"I used PebblePad as part of my Social Work Level 2 placement, when I first found out about my involvement in PebblePad I was very resistant to it.

'Upon reflection I feel that even though I had competent IT skills, it was something new and I didn’t like the idea of my portfolio not being in front of me in hardcopy. However, I used this as an opportunity to learn a new computer programme and I absolutely love it now, it has so many benefits. I feel that the primary benefit was because it was accessible anywhere, I used it every day, from updating and uploading work to writing a journal. Furthermore I feel that my understanding of the National Occupational Standards greatly improved because of the way in which they were set out on PebblePad, as you were identifying work, applying in it practice, considering your practice framework and then reflecting upon them. I would argue that this promotes good practice and continuing professional development. Not only does it enable IT skills development but you can compile a portfolio with one programme, you can upload, add links, personalise it, present it professionally and it is so easy to use. It is also environmentally friendly.

'I would argue it is a fantastic programme and I will be very disappointed if I am not able to use it for my level 3 placement.'
2nd year Social Work student (University of Gloucestershire).

Please share examples of the successful use of your application to help students achieve their goals undefined admission to graduate school, career placement and advancement, etc.

The case studies available on this page point to a wide variety of successful uses. In particular the student perspectives esp. that of Sandra Stewart -

What key changes or features do you plan to introduce in the near future?

PP+ will introduce a whole range of new features and functionality. The interface will be totally customizable; all users will have access to the template builder; features such as drag and drop, predictive text, and improved text editing will be implemented throughout the system; and collaboration between PebblePad users will be supported through features such as the template library and the capacity to connect with PebblePad users around the world.

Company Information

Company profile:Pebble Learning is based in the UK and comprises two UK Directors, an eportfolio consultant, and a team of 20 developers and customer support staff. The Australasian business is managed by a local Director/consultant.

Customer base/size: Operational installations of PebblePad = 100+ across the UK and Australasia equating to approximately 0.5 million users.

Student license pricing model:Any individual user can purchase a PebblePad account directly from Pebble Learning. The majority of users are part of an institution/organization that has purchased PebblePad for its student/members and therefore the institutional pricing model applies..

Institutional pricing model:Institutions purchase PebblePad on a per user basis. As user numbers increase the per user price decreases. Minimum per user costs are available to institutions that take out an enterprise licence. Upon leaving an institution that uses PebblePad a student is eligible for a free one year personal licence. At the end of this year the student can choose to continue to purchase a personal licence or export their content.

Postgraduate/transfer student license model: Postgraduate/transfer students come under the institution model as described above.

Institution service agreement model:From the initial reporting of an issue we will investigate and respond within 24 hours. Our initial response will include an estimated timescale for a resolution.

For all major issues we will endeavor to resolve the issue within 48 hours with a patch being made available after appropriate testing.

For minor issues we will endeavor to resolve the issue within 7 working days and make any fixes available in the next appropriate patch. Minor issues will not normally warrant the release of a patch unless a significant number of issues are cumulatively causing a more serious issue.

Under normal operation updates will be released once a year in early July. Patches will be released up to 6 times a year.

Online support information: PebblePad comes with full inbuilt help resources. These can be accessed from anywhere in the system are context sensitive. In addition comprehensive tipsheets aimed at supporting the teacher can be accessed from within the various institution tools within PebblePad. The PebblePad website also contains support information, FAQs, help movies, and user tipsheets.

Institutional support services (Free): Pebble Learning is committed to offering the highest possible level of customer support and service. All our license fees include full support and maintenance.
The following areas are all part of our inclusive support offering:
• Fault diagnosis and resolution
• Periodic upgrades to the system
• Assistance in system use.
Support is provided via access to our customer support website, email support and telephone support.

Institutional support services (Feebased): Available fee based support includes onsite consultancy, training, and bespoke system customization and development. Our aim is to support successful implementation and we will work closely with customers to achieve this.

IT staffing requirements: IT staffing requirements are largely dependent upon the type of PebblePad implementation. Where PebblePad is hosted on Pebble Learning servers and integrated with institution systems, enabling many processes to be automated, the IT staffing requirements are minimal. If PebblePad is self-hosted and/or not integrated with institution systems, requiring account creation and gateway management to be manual processes, greater staffing resources will be required.

Tech Information

  • System Requirements End User: PebblePad requires Flash 8 Player or newer to be installed.
  • System Requirements Server:PebblePad requires a Windows based server with Windows 2005 or 2008 server and MS SQL Server.
  • Hosted service? Pebble Learning offers a hosted service to all customers.
  • Storage Capacity (per account):250Mb minimum provision.
  • Privacy policy relative to student accounts and underage users: All assets generated in PebblePad carry a link to a default code of conduct which itself carries a link to the sponsoring institution’s own acceptable use policy.
  • Standards compliance:Leap2A, IMSeP, RSS, ATOM, OAuth, IMS LTI (basic).
  • Section 508 compliance: Because PebblePad uses a primary Flash interface extant web standards do not exist to claim compliance against. Never-the-less, PebblePad has been proved to be accessible by the 120+ institutions already using the system.
    • PebblePad provides the following support for all users:
      • Built-in text-to-speech engine;
      • Visual speaking avatar;
      • Logical tab ordering;
      • Keystroke navigation.
  • Published API: A single API allowing learning artifacts to be saved to PebblePad using the Leap2A standard.
  • Migration/Exportation: All PebblePad assets can be exported by users as HTML, Leap2A or IMS eportfolio 1.0. These assets can then be imported into other Leap2A or IMS eportfolio 1.0 compliant systems. Assets can be moved by users from one PebblePad account to another.
  • Systems Integration:See above.

  • Accepted artifacts/media (pictures, video, audio, text, html, documents, etc.):ADigital files of almost any type can be uploaded into PebblePad. In addition RSS and Atom feeds can be imported and data from supported services such as YouTube and Flickr.


Item Name Posted By Date Posted
Exploring ePortfolio Technologies PDF (1.84 MB)  more ] Administration 11/14/2013
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