I am currently landscaping my garden. I expect many of you reading this post may well be thinking that I received the wrong brief on what to write for the PebblePad blog, but please bear with me.
At the current rate of progress my ambitious garden plans should be complete by the time my youngest child, Noah, is ready to go to university – he is currently five years old! From this you might infer that I am not someone who is naturally at ease with a cement mixer – and you’d be right. I’d certainly like to believe that my PebblePad consultancy skills, and my ability as a teacher, far outweigh my competence with a handsaw. And with me never having trained as a carpenter, a horticulturalist, or a bricklayer, it has been a fantastic (and an occasionally daunting) learning experience.
Lucky, then, that I have a fantastic technology like PebblePad to help me out on my learning journey. A tool to help me capture my triumphs in rich media form, to help me reflect on my failures, and plan for what to do next based on my experiences. A way to share my endeavors with others, to get feedback on where I am going wrong, and to receive the much needed praise for those fleeting moments of success.
I would genuinely love to say that I have used PebblePad to support all of these things and more, but I haven’t. As a PebblePad ambassador, I should be truly repentant, and I am.
So why have I not used PebblePad to support my journey?
It comes down to two things – motivation, and “the pretty stuff”.
Let’s start with “the pretty stuff”. The only evidence of my horticultural learning journey is the images I’ve taken of what I’ve created, the things that I’m proud of – “the pretty stuff”. I’ve focused only on output and disregarded the host of experiences that led me to the end point. And this, in some respects, is the reason why the term ePortfolio sometimes gets bad PR – when the focus is solely on the output then folk fail to see the pedagogical value and ask “couldn’t I just use Pinterest instead?”
A great ePortfolio system ensures that the output is a compelling story of capability based on the synthesis of meaningful experiences. I chose not to evidence any meaningful learning experiences, thereby limiting my capacity to tell my story beyond the final outputs. In essence, I provided no more than the equivalent of a degree classification at the end of years of effort – more fool me!
And so what about this concept of motivation? I don’t have a real motivation to use PebblePad for this adventure; my journey is a very personal one, and the only player is little old me. However, what if we looked at the process I’ve undertaken from the perspective of a student motivated to get their first job, a young apprentice motivated to succeed, or a professional in the workplace motivated to advance their career? These motivators, and other similar goals, should go hand in hand with actively using PebblePad. By me choosing not to use PebblePad I’ve not only lost the opportunity to create a beautiful portfolio showcasing the outputs of my endeavors, I’ve lost the ability to have it supported by rich evidence of my problem solving skills, my capacity for independent learning, for planning, my proficiency in handling dangerous machinery, and my ability to bounce back from failure – all of which could have been endorsed and verified by others.
In reality, it doesn’t matter so much to me, but the same can’t be said for many of the students in higher education; students who are looking to justify the investment in their education by securing a good graduate position at the end of their university journey. This is why universities have a responsibility to help students evidence their journey and showcase the very best they have to offer in a compelling way. This evidence should run far deeper than just the outputs – “the pretty stuff”.
So, what have we learnt? Well, we’ve learnt that I don’t have a free weekend until 2029, but, more importantly, we’ve hopefully learnt that PebblePad’s ability to support “the pretty stuff”, and underpin the whole process of learning, is a staggeringly powerful mix. It’s a mix that will no doubt become increasingly valuable for students and professionals looking to gain an advantage in today’s competitive world.