Busy, busy, busy
When you work at PebblePad you become accustomed to always being busy - it's just part and parcel of being submerged in an 'ideas generation' culture. Yet it's easy in this type of culture to find yourself reviewing the 'bright ideas for 2018' notebook and realising it's going to be difficult to find time to achieve all the things on the list in a 10-day working week, let alone a 5-day working week.
Earlier this year, my colleague and 'writing partner' Jodie Young and I started crafting a blog post reviewing the highlights of all the fantastic PebblePaddling across the globe in 2017 and the great stuff we have to look forward to in 2018. Well, if the truth be told (and given that Jodie will proof this post before it goes live) I had the idea and Jodie started doing the hard work. However, I have spent much of my time since conceiving the idea supporting a successful second outing at the Learning Technologies conference here in the UK, and Jodie has been jetting all over the Southern Hemisphere supporting our wonderful new customers at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and Le Cordon Bleu Australia.
The usual busy start to a new year has resulted in this post sitting on the 'draft shelf'. But since we spent a long time reviewing the successes of 2017 we didn't want to let this blog post slip through the net. So, without further ado, I shall pass this blog post over to the always inspirational Jodie Young to walk you through some of the highlights of 2017 and what lies ahead in 2018.
Throughout 2017 we hosted or attended an impressive number of events across all of our territories, embracing opportunities to connect with like-minded people and organisations in both the Higher Education and Workplace Learning sector. From our first venture to Learning Technologies 17, where we were keen to see whether what we do in higher education could translate to the modern workplace, to D2L Fusion and CanvasCon in the US (which you can read about in a blog post here), being able to have conversations with education professionals about their challenges and hear about the vast range of learning experiences they are facilitating helps us keep focused on how we can keep improving PebblePad to meet the needs of 21st century learners and the educators who support them.
To that end, in addition to local user groups and MiniBash 17, PebblePad in the UK were proud to initiate or sponsor a number of events focusing on what in Australia might be called ‘barbecue stopper’ issues. In February, a PebblePad-sponsored event was held at Sheffield Hallam University on the subject of eportfolios in professional development. And we finished the year with a flourish as we hosted our Degree Apprenticeships symposium, which brought together a group of experts to facilitate discussion around the planning, implementation and delivery of degree apprenticeships. You can read about the key ideas and takeaways from the event in a post written by PebblePad CEO and Chief Mischief Maker Shane Sutherland.
In North American highlights, we held our first ever North American MiniBash, which as Gail Ring described, centred on the importance of a space to think, reflect, and create - whether in private or publicly, whether as student or faculty. And attending the largest eportfolio event on the continent, the AAEEBL conference, prompted Melissa Pirie Cross to reflect on what she described as “a magical experience”, in a blog post covering themes and metaphors as diverse as the death of privacy, garden composting and the similarity of developing digital identity for employment to dating.
And in Australasia, our most memorable events included the ePortfolios Australia eportfolio forum, the singular conference dedicated to portfolio practice, and ANZAHPE - a conference for Health Professional Educators we have been associated with for many years and which we were proud to sponsor. With the overarching theme of ‘Transition’, the conversations were just as applicable beyond the Health Education disciplines, and we put together a summary of the key takeaways on how best to help learners make sense of and cope with transitional experiences.
Connections and community
We know that our PebblePad community is something pretty special. Our PebblePaddlers comprise a generous group of committed and enthusiastic teaching and learning professionals, who always seem to go above and beyond when it comes to supporting others, sharing practice and seeking to improve and extend their PebblePad know-how. As always, we held local MiniBash and user group events, but we are aware of the fact that we are now very much a global community. So while there is nothing quite like the energetic buzz of being in a room of inspiring colleagues with tea and cake, 2017 saw a renewed focus on providing other ways of strengthening our community ties.
The PebblePad Community Site saw a redesign in structure with a fortnightly digest to keep subscribers abreast of new forum posts and resources that include exemplars, help and tip sheets and more (if you haven't already subscribed to our Community digest, why not do that now?). Our monthly webinar series hit great new heights with a raft of brilliant presenters from across the globe sharing their expertise and showcasing outstanding examples of PebblePad practice. You can view all of the 2017 webinars here. And, if this wasn't enough, we also launched a new thought leadership programme, which saw us sharing useful ideas with both customers and the wider community. We kickstarted the campaign by sharing a paper on Global Trends in Higher Education. This paper, along with a host of other free content, is proving to be massively popular - if you want to make sure you don't miss out on the ideas we'll be sharing throughout 2018 please remember to subscribe to this blog.
Our 2017 Thought Leadership Paper is proving to be hugely popular
We also took the opportunity to learn from our customers and work with them in designing our future direction. In October, Shane Sutherland (PebblePad CEO and Chief Mischief Maker), Aaron Kenny (Scrum Master) and Brad Rushton (UX Designer) embarked on a whirlwind - and rather epic - three-week tour of Australia and New Zealand. The trip was jam-packed with user group meetings and dedicated focus groups to better understand our customers' needs, workflows - and get the heads-up on some rather exuberant wishlists! In conjunction with similar feedback gathered from our UK and North American customers, the ideas from these sessions will start to weave their way into the product throughout this year (we are more than a little excited about this). On a related note, our development teams were certainly on their game in 2017. Along with enhancements, plenty of accessibility improvements and the squashing of inevitable bugs, we saw a raft of new features and functionality released, including embedding content, word count and formatting enhancements, Canvas integration, banner design enhancement, asset locking, external assessor dashboard, URL resource sharing, and more.
And to round off the year in style, we were immensely proud of our joint award submission with Sheffield Hallam University - 'Innovation in Paramedic Training' - at the Learning Technologies Awards 2017. We lifted an award in the Best learning technologies project - UK public and non-profit sector category. You can read all about this award-winning work in Debbie Holmes' post from December.
2017 was an incredibly exciting year for the PebblePad crew as our team continued to grow. We saw Jodie Maddox and Dafydd Thomas (both previously with us on placement) return after graduation as permanent members of our family of expert developers, along with Richard Stretton. Together they are doing a terrific job of bolstering our capacity to do the magical techy stuff - yes, the stuff that goes way over my head. Mitch Williams and Andrew King joined as new members of our support team, which is fondly referred to by one of our Australian customers as the 'elves in the north'. Vikki Kenny joined us as Executive PA and we added two new Implementation Specialists to the team - James Blackburn - football aficionado & legendary hula skirt wearer - in the UK and Melissa Pirie Cross - self-proclaimed 'fixer' and authentic learning experience ambassador - in North America. And our headcount has already grown in 2018. Melissa Mills has joined the UK Finance Team and Sarah Copeland and Sarah Chesney have incremented the UK Implementation Specialist team by a count of two.
Eagle-eyed readers, and those familiar with the PebblePad team, may notice that we appear to have a recruitment policy which dictates that at least 50% of new recruits must have the same name as an existing PebblePaddler. While this is purely coincidence, we are well on the way to creating our own PebblePad version of 'employee snap'. If you haven't yet had a chance, take a look at our About Us page to gain an insight into our company values, history and meet some of the team.
Learn more about PebblePad's history on our About Us page
Looking ahead to 2018
I've decided to declare 2018 as the year of PebblePad Magic and Innovation - there is a host of exciting planned features to be released, more fantastic events to host and attend, and we'll conclude the year with a bang at our biennial PebbleBash conference, where we'll get to share and celebrate our customers' magical and innovative PebblePad experiences. It looks like it's shaping up to be another terrific year.
In fact, it would be fair to say the year is already off to a fantastic start. We have seen features galore make their way into our 1801 release. In the UK, we enjoyed a hugely successful outing at Learning Technologies 18 and our PebblePad user group at Edinburgh University proved to be a big hit. Equally, both the AAC&U Annual Meeting and our PebblePad symposium were big successes for Team North America, and here in Australia, we've had a great time delivering training and support to two wonderful new customers - UTAS and Le Cordon Bleu Australia.
Connecting, sharing, collaborating
We'll be building on relationships established in 2017 and forging new ones, as we look to return to events and attend new ones - keep an eye on our Events page to find out where you can catch up with us. Again, we have a host of new webinars planned for 2018 showcasing the best of PebblePad practice from our brilliant customers (the full 2018 schedule will be published shortly).
Undoubtedly, we'll be finishing the year on the highest of notes, with our December PebbleBash conference in Australia's sunny climes (although it is in Melbourne, so we're not promising 100% sunshine…). Returning to the location of 2014's very successful 'Bash at Grange Cleveland Winery in the heart of the Macedon Ranges wine country, the conference will have an intimate retreat-style feel as we explore the theme of Scaling up. You can find out all about the conference, register your place and submit a paper on our PebbleBash 2018 website. It promises to be an amazing event, so I hope to see many of you there to give an extra special Melburnian welcome to (seeing as it's my hometown!).
So as we head into our 15th year of supporting learners in whatever form their personal journeys may take, we hope you'll continue on this journey with us and share your experiences and learnings with us as we share ours with you.