I recently attended a seminar and workshop in Sydney on PebblePad, a Personalised Learning Environment (PLE) built around WebFolios, as the PP mob like to call them. The system has been very well thought-out and (hurrah, hurrah) places the learner at the centre, rather than the teacher or the institution (as per the Web 1.0 systems of MyClasses, BlackBoard, WebCT and Moodle). In this sense, PP is a huge step beyond the clunky, unresponsive, inflexible Learning Management Systems (that term again! See a previous post) that most Australian educational organisations are currently running with.
Pebble Pad is pedagogically sound, individually customisable for the student, very user-friendly, and it looks terrific (again, a big improvement over the Web 1.0 systems mentioned above). When I was first playing around in the interface, I was very impressed by the amount of thought that had gone into it. However, there are some broader issues I think thatteachers and educational leaders need to think about, and I’ll get to them in another post.
In PebblePad, users create ‘assets’ such as action plans, meetings, ‘experiences’, ‘thoughts’, blogs, CVs and webfolios. For each asset you create, you’re taken through a set of steps. For example, if you are creating an action plan asset, you are asked to think about and record your current situation, the ideal situation, the steps you will take to make it all happen, a SWOT analysis, the supporting resources you will require (books, journals, web, people, courses etc). You can also tag things up so that they’re easy to find afterwards, thus doing away with the rigid folder system that, again, reflects a Web 1.0 environment. No folders in PebblePad!
It’s a similar process for each asset you create, so, as you can see, the whole thing is very well constructed both technically and educationally. However, the system does have some failings. The blog function was very basic when I looked at it and the visual editor that the whole of PP uses is also fairly primitive. Further, teachers are relying on the makers of PebblePad to have gotten the pedagogy right — which is not such a huge problem, thankfully, because it’s looks pretty good to me — but what if you want to change things yourself? Maybe there’s that function available, but I’m not sure … There’s also the general question of the need to pay for all of this functionality at all when it’s already free and often more developed on the web. See my next post for more on that issue.
Another consideration has to be how easy it is for the student to take all their work with them when they finish at your institution. PebblePad allows them to do that, but why would you ask students to muck around with transferring stuff when they can be doing it all outside of the LMS or PLE anyway and to much greater effect? You’d think it was a hassle, and so would students …
Having said all that, PebblePad is a good system and I’d encourage you to have a look at it.