CEO Insights at Melbourne MiniBash 2022

Shane Sutherland, PebblePad

Shane Sutherland, Founder, CEO and Chief Mischief Maker at PebblePad welcome message. This recording is from our 2022 Melbourne, Australia MiniBash community event. Videos are for educational personnel only and require a live educational email to watch. You can read the video transcript below.



I’m really sorry there are a a a day of fabulous, list, list, list, list, you know, I mean to close the day.

I’m genuinely blown away with what I’ve seen.

This is my third MiniBash in Australia. I started in Perth, then Brisbane, and then here. And everywhere I’ve gone. The work has just been absolutely outstanding.

And I’m actually getting a little bit emotional because it’s just when or seeing a little bit of software used to such great effect by all of you and seeing the impact to the students. And one of the things I’m gonna start off with some reflections.

One of my reflections is gonna be what are reflections kind of feeding back to you the things I’ve taken from today.

Was Ruth’s mantra, adage, about, make I sure get it right because you added a bit to it. But have a vision, build momentum, and then you should also remain flexible, and we I didn’t say that too. But that was the last bit that I should have said stay flexible.

The bit I’ve seen today more than anything is the vision. The vision you have, not for using a piece of technology, what are helping you or stew the best sense of their learning. And that’s the most powerful thing I think of anything I’ve said. So and it’s the thing I buying heads with most university leaders about it. Because they talk about technology and curriculum back overcrowding and resource in locations, they don’t kind of carry forward that vision of the kinds of students that we want to turn into universities that are self regulating with strong critical critical evaluative skills, and a great problem solvers that have an ethical moral framework for their decision making. And all of that stuff really has been sort of part of what we’ve been talking about today.

Can I say before I go any further? A massive thank you to Deakin, to Trish, to Joe who did so much. Every time I say to Joe, thanks for all the stuff you’ve mentioned. I just fill the form here.

Nice. She filled me in, obviously, you’re right. It’s empty. Exactly the right person. Thank you so much for hosting us tonight.

Thank you for all of you coming up Friday. And the weather did turn out quite as bad as thank you especially to our presenters who just said to them, a marvelous job.

The whole pandemic mentioned we’ve we’ve got no kind of frames of reference for time having some time in the recent path within employability of everyone. And one of the questions I asked at the beginning of it was who knows what a a small artist is?

Did anybody here know a small artist is? She has this. Well, it’s one of those people that could get, you know, three hundred drones amazing white shows. And you see them everywhere now?

So they these are jobs that just who knew who knew that would be a job? Incredible. So that’s why it’s so important not to be teaching people lots of content stuff. Then some domain knowledge is absolutely essential for see the learning base of it, learning what to do with that information, learning, I think, the power of unlearning that.

You only put lots of effort into learning something. Some hard it’s hard to let go of that. We have to learn how to let go of that because the world is changing so quickly.

So developing students that are able to gather new information. Now when all the information goes out, they learn to discern between what’s valid useful information, learning how to use it in different contexts, reading the room and seeing how people respond to it, then things, I think, which will make our students successful in the future.

That was my little strokes.

Another kind of another couple of another couple of leads. Sharon, you talk about house rabbits.

Is that house rabbit? You also talked about makeup. I’m a qualified makeup artist. Who?


Soon noon.

On airline pilots flying over from the UK that landed in Perth on the fly over middle of the night. And if scratch it like very long legs. They don’t mow well on airplanes. So I’m stood in the kind of, you know, where the doors are. And the pilot we did buy, I think you’ve been to bed somewhere. And how are you doing?

It’s great. Thank you. How are you? Trying to keep you with the pilot.

And why why you fight to Australia? Is it leisure or is it for business? So it’s for business.

We sell software to universities.

Promise this is true.

What’s your software doing?

Well, it’s sort of yeah. It’s hard to explain. Hard to explain about you lot that way to so this kind of design helps students make sense of experience, gather evidence of skills they’re developing, This is not called PebblePad, is it? Hello.


He said because of a pandemic and everything has, you know, been it stopped flying. It’d go back to university at ECU, was doing a course in law and commerce. That’s right.

I’m really sorry.

I love and I can’t remember. I think it was you the only the only set up at Queen, you know, building and I think I’m gonna start talking about future ideas on lifelong learning. Life long learning skills, building them into the curriculum so they’re structurally unavoidable.

Mhmm. And I think not just really unavoidable for students, structurally unavoidable for lecturers.

Excuse me, the teachers. You know, I keep coughing by the way. Okay. I don’t have COVID. I’m worried about it really quick. I went for a walk on my one day off.

Up in Malaney or somewhere like that in the hinting of sometime coast. And so there was this water going through this massive Morton Bay Victory. Yeah. And so I’m reading at the sign as a walk in. Oh, thank you very much for that stuff. And Jin would be better. Yeah.


And then it said, we’re on a great treat. But be careful of the joint stinging trees.

Mhmm. Be careful because it leaves a lot fall onto the barriers don’t disturb anything because even little hairs can, you know, cause all sorts of So I won’t touch any leaves. I walk in. There’s a massive customer there. Mhmm. Customer would always say, Lee stop falling all around me. You know, my country boy from Shropshire, pets five mistakes, spiders, jousting injuries.

Think of what I saw at the the hair of a jousting increase.


Sorry about this. I’ve got a presentation to do as well after this. I was doing all my notes to go through.

Yvonne, Amanda, absolutely amazing.

And and I think that I think that among us I know you tweeted about this stretch. What was the, you know, learning all that phrase was that? Thing about periodically looking back to see where you came from to make, I guess, assessments of how you move forward. And there was I think it was David Bohm who talked about reflection being like managing a compost heap of your learning.

It was something like that. Because sleep. If you keep putting stuff on it, it doesn’t do as well as if you keep going and turning it over. That’s it.

That’s it. There’s a lot of the ideas a reflection of the cursed composty places.

So I I kind of I made that link immediately that I might have said that.

What else do I wanna say about I think what became clear in the stuff that Yvonne showed us was.

About and and I think our North American colleagues, in particular, make this mistake. They think about, poor phone, you. Like, we only all have one story to tell. And we heard about storytelling a few times today.

And I think in in PebblePad world, it’s about how multiple portfolios that tell different stories at different times to different audiences. And those stories can be very creative, very person all that can be in the context of what we’re trying to achieve in education about how you went through learning a particular skill or process, what you gain from that, how you can map that to other skills that you have. So I think it’s really important to hold in our minds. The idea of multiple portfolios.

And then, of course, because there was that thing I think it was Steph.

Steph, you said about do you do those if you like structured portfolios? Or do you offer the choice of the the most more idiosyncratic creative portfolios?

I see lots lots of examples now where people do both.

It doesn’t mean it’s right for you, but the structured portfolio is a sort of scaffolding that word again, scaffolding the process and helping people do the hard work.

And then, although, this is not not hard work. And then they do a sort of not probably capstone has a very kind of particular connotation, but at culminating portfolio that draws on all of that and tells you if you like the executive summary of what was learned I think that’s quite a nice model. You might really think about.

We touched very I might as well turn my laptop over here to my presentation. We talked about PebblePocket and the up in the Brisbane user group. We had a fantastic presentation from due Julian


And she said about her students who would be she gave one example, she gave some examples, but the students driving home.

It’s got an insight on from a lesson that the student had just taught, pulls over to the side of the road, gets that come off pocket. Makes a reflection there and there because they don’t want to wait until they get home onto their computer. Because there’s something really powerful about reflection being caught as close as possible to the activity.

And you don’t always make sense of that, of course. We’ve seen stories in the past of where students make regular reflect And they think, oh, that’s the theme that’s emerging here. And when they go back and read them all again, they’re, oh, It wasn’t there at all. It was this other thing. This other thing was the powerful link across all of these experiences. So I think that’s really nice idea of how a pocket capturing that stuff.

I think, Lillian, you asked a question about how does this transfer to LinkedIn?

I want to just say, I I don’t think.

Don’t throw things at me for saying this. I don’t think the portfolio is important.

Although, we did hear from I think you said, in part about sharing your isn’t you that said you showed your employer? Oh. Yeah. Yeah. And so there are times when it is, but I think we shouldn’t sell that sell equipment is on the base of that because most employees probably won’t.

But I bet even if you didn’t show it, you could talk really confidently to your skills and experiences, and I variations because I think it’s the process of writing a portfolio. It goes with that portfolio learning and making connections, which the most important thing. And I think that probably helps you when you write your LinkedIn profile to be aware of the most important things to say, what’s quite a small out of space.

So that’s just my view.

Blah blah blah. Steph again, you said about signposting for bucket nuggets. I think you said that. That’s we talked about touched on that right at the beginning of our conversation, I think. And I’ve had a few conversations since I’ve been here, and universes are working hard on curriculum mapping.

And they say no, the students will be able to do this here and this here and this here. But it’s a bit like being an old language, instructional objectives instead of learning outcomes. It’s what we will do, what’s really important, it’s what the students do, what the students learn from what sense they make of it. So I think really important for academics, I guess, to be able to say, this experience you just have maybe it will map against this set of skills or maybe there was something in that shocking thing that just happened that you can learn from and link to your standards.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah, hedge records, makeup artists.

I’m gonna do the next one when this if I get to my slides.

Assessment for learning. Absolutely essential. But also the other thing I took from from Nick was whether it is or not, it looked to me like assessment was a bit more fun when you assess and you showed the stuff. I got essential new that you enjoyed it.

And I’ve heard that actually several find on this trip as well. I think that’s really important for us because as educators you give so much, it’s nice to get a little bit back. Isn’t it? I think you probably get back more from a portfolio or portfolio like assessment you do from an essay and another essay.

Got another essay. Is that make a make up somewhere is I mean, you read that spell back a bit. Yeah. But so now it’s my presentation.

Oh, still got twenty minutes.

In fact before I go any further, any any thoughts on my thoughts?

I’ll write down more of that. Well, thank You relaxed that nonsense.


No. Nick, because you know you know the thing like we’re our students are gonna get into, you know, Maybe they get the job they want, but they know right now what they want to do. Whether that job still exists five years after they do or it doesn’t live up to expectations, so I had lots of jobs. I was a furniture builder, a fencing contractor, a sailing instructor, I was a fighter for ten years. And when I was a fighter for ten years, I was also a first aid in instructor.

And we used to, you know, dress people up with like black eyes and limbs falling off and all that sort of stuff. So I was a casualty simulation a artist.

But it doesn’t sound super precious.

So but there’s there’s, you know, even an old person might be as a portfolio career, and I think that’s what we’re all saying, Petticankton folk school.

So what are we about. So some of this is because some of you may be new to and haven’t heard us talk about ourselves before.

Although I’m also thinking something’s redundant because it’s just been so evident in the things we’ve seen today. But for us, a pulp pipe was always about I used I used to run a very big first year module. Actually, some of the students I used to teach were early childhood studies students.

They’re studies education students, but a lot of first in family students. Mhmm. I’ve caught what sense could they make of university, had no frame of reference. They didn’t understand all the stuff about paraphrasing and quoting and word length and how to use the library and how to work together and actually it was it was good to work with people you don’t actually like because that was a quite good skill to develop. So I did a big module. It’s called learning for success.

And and I wanna tell you that because it was all very expiry and lots of active stuff going on. One of the problems with active learning is sometimes you don’t really know that you learned anything. And it took me a little while learn that I had to build into what we did, opportunities for students to pause to make sense of, to reflect, to make those connections.

And I think in because of that that we ended up building PebblePad. And it was partly also because I got sort of promoted to be the learning at the time of the school of education learning enhanced learning and the techno technology enhanced learn in coordinator. And the idea was I was supposed to encourage a k a drag kicking and screaming. All of my colleagues into using digital knowledge is support learning. But most of the digital technologies were about delivering content at scale.

But someone I remember a quote from, Oleg lever said that LMS is I don’t recall when VLE is in the UK, but LMS is brought about the amplification of the December a nation of content.

And I’m not sure it changed it changed a lot. You know, we haven’t got a few more tools wrapped around it.

But it’s so so important that we actually support students in making sense of experience. But the problem with experience is itself, it itself can be quite the door checks with a a a federal fleeting, but also expensive setting up experiences in many ways. And so we have to do something which is around helping students really plan and prepare for experiences and then make sense of them make connections or evidence from them. And that requires a different way of thinking about learning teaching and certainly around thinking about assessment.

And I think and the moment you talk about experience going on a placement somewhere, doing an experiment in a lab, and all of those experiences are process based and most of our assessments don’t support process based learning. They say, here’s a top of you to do.

Here’s a big black box, and at the end wanna see an essay. And then we get essays that come out of that of that hidden process.

And we say, oh, we’re not quite sure that’s real or not authentic. So we’ll send to turn it in on. But I think actually if we could see some of that stuff. And the the the data are flipping heck. There’s So sorry. That’s awful. Linda.

Oh. The stuff said about, you know, intervening to help students be successful. So that’s sort of, you know, across your your placement book. But it’s the same just on a normal unit, you know, thirteen where whatever unit, a week unit, seeing what students are doing, seeing her, and getting material. Someone said to the day, feedback is that for me.

Doesn’t it doesn’t have to be extensive to start with. It’s I love seeing the start of your work. Mhmm. Call me to see if I can evolve a bit As you said, Paul, keeping a blog of things I’m doing, so it looks like I’m in a word that later this essay. More than that, I think we talk about this on Wednesday, Trish, why do some students end up cheating? And we don’t like to use good shooting anymore.

But I think it’s because of the tyranny of the black sheet of paper. They get to the eleventh hour, and I’m just not sure how to start right a essay or report or something. So let’s help them. Let’s give them steps of other ways. Not a it’s not springfield yet. It’s a couple of things. We can make those task more and more complicated and make the scaffolding more and more developable.

And I have to say by the way, both these links links on another bit of a joke. Sorry.

How employees might be getting old like me. Right?

The bit of PebblePad since we haven’t started, but summer eighteen, nineteen, twenty.

And then all of them on a daily or a certainty basis are problem solving.

They’re working with people they may not always like They are giving feedback. They’re receiving feedback.

They’re learning the information from the incident about new coding methods and problem solving around testing and all of that sort of stuff.

Really, really essential skills. I don’t care they got a degree? No.

I do care that degree in computing.

I’m actually much more interested in all the things they did whilst got that degree in computing, about the volunteering and the personal projects and all of that stuff they did. And probably, in fact, I say probably, I know this for sure. When the leave universe didn’t come to me, they kinda lurk in a way the history of computing because universes don’t come keep up with the pace of what’s happening in the industry. So it’s essential that they come with the skills to learn on them and all that stuff we’ve been talking about.

My god. It’s like preaching from the pulp panel. Really sorry.

Star but this is what we stand for. You’re creating curious question marks. A curious someone said you used to be curious. So there were curious in questioning why you know, and of course, you can’t just be curious in question then having the skill interpret them. We work out what’s good information, what’s not. But also, we heard that good about creativity. We heard from the wrong about just that that I my word not is the joy of in taking pleasure in the aesthetics of a thought.

And the pride in publishing it for assessment.

And so we’ve got both sides of this. How are we going on? The the very idiosyncratic creative portfolio style. Stuff, and then we’ve got the workbox templates, etcetera.

And it’s probably worth pointing out once all of these other bits.

Only ten percent of things, if how are portfolio like.

And the rest are results of templates and workbox that you build to support particular process, sometimes very complex processing.

And, of course, the other percentage or whatever that adds up to is the kind of files, videos, and whatever the people I do in those episodes.

I don’t know how readable that is. Steph, as soon as I you started yawning. I apologise.

We we wrote a book in 2010 called Pebblegogy



And and then we kinda started to forget about it because we got at the it was done in 2010. And we had a MiniBash like this in in Birmingham in June.

And an Australian educational designer who day work at the University of Strathclyde presented to us and said, I’ve noticed all the work we’re doing with PebblePad, it promotes dialogic feedback. It promotes iteration. It promotes scaffolding. It promotes purpose all this. I’ve decided to call it pebblegogic.

And it’s just fascinating that we could stop talking about in one of our own communities kind of feeding about us. But that what we think, Pebblegodgy is all about. And largely that bit in the bottom, I think, developing self regulated lifelong learners from growing career success.

It’s like, from going career and life success. Because it’s not all just bad career for some people too. Some people work in the third sector become on proper nurse, volunteer, what do whatever they want to do.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’m gonna talk about it.

But if I don’t need stories, because you’ve all got it. You know, it’s no good just focusing, help and effort at the end of that journey. You know, year three, year four, or you’re leaving better than the portfolio.

If you believe in the processes of thinking about planning for making sense to make a connection that happen all the way through that journey. And we’ve used this.

The problem with this this diagram is you use a wide sort of it’s it kinda feels a bit linear. So I was thinking about, okay, how else can we represent this. And and started talking to a few universities, and and and now I’ve tried to kind of represent where pebble pad might be being used. And I know you’re not supposed to put the screens and stuff, which am I listening.

One of the things that’s emerging in the UK, a hard bit of it here is this from a whole center swim lane.

And the pre arrival stuff — Mhmm. — the sort of welcome no. In fact, not the welcome book, the pre welcome hook, actually, to help keep people connected with the institution. And not in an admin sense, not in an enrollment sense, but actually start to think about themselves as learners and belonging to our institution.

And by the way, quite a few nice projects going on around students going and working with high school students.

To help them think about those samples as potential higher education students because they might not have done. And then, of course, well which is a it’s an overwhelming time, isn’t it? Welcome orientation.

So much stuff gets thrown at you. I think opportunities of sense making there, some seen a lot of that going on.

Personal tutoring is a big thing in the UK. I know not here so much, but the touch the touch points with students as they come.

Please. Oh, alright. What’s going on? Oh, there we go. It is. Don’t we. And a conical blaint, Jody’s dodgy thing.

Because at least she’s got a Although, what I’d like to talk about is this and I’ve seen a few examples since I’ve been here.

I’ve had so many conversations in the past where we only have course placements, the practice will very important. And students just hang up on placements, and there are And and displacement prep or crack prep, as I’ve known them to call it. Really important. What what the success look like for you. Hey. Ready are you for this. And once and and sometimes it’s really practical.

Do you have your inoculations, your vaccinations, your travel documents?

Do you know where you’re going, or what time you’ve got to be there? Do you know what the the dressed code is. Do you know what all of that stuff is? But also one of the things that someone talked to me to me about the other day. So it’s fascinating to hear this from Newlander.

Was the band responding to feedback.

He got placement and saw grumpy old idiot like me says, no. No. No. Not like that.

And And something about how feedback is given in different ways by different people and how to respond to that. And I think that I think you said really resonated about how students without the skills of recognising responding to making sense of feedback, the deeply personalise it and actually becomes a problem becomes a blocker for those. So all sorts of things we could be doing to help support scaffold prepare students for those experiences And my my sort of proposition, if you like, is is for the end of this journey, we want students to have a clear understanding of their strengths, their skills, to actually understand their aspirations because they changed during this journey here.

I love that bit, Anthony, Kaori and Sharon about that’s the step model. The step the stepping stone work. Debbie And and always kind of thinking about how does how do we get to that job and how does that help me get to their next job and the and the next role the skills I need to develop. And that’s strategic plan for where I want to do, I want to get to bring it.

But if at the end of this process of rock students to have those skills.

And then if you take a time slice for any one of these years, the more times that they’re for me and I’m highly biased you have to recognise and filter that. The more times they’re using PebblePad, you think about their learning to make those connections to map it against the skills framework.

You mentioned our mapping tool. So I haven’t experienced I don’t wanna just map it to my professional skills, I can also map it to my employability skills. At the same time, I can map it to my whatever other framework I might have. Because skiing on inside are that they touch across multiple kind of aspects of my being.

And we’re gonna flip.

So I took this I said to one of my newer customers in two years, started at the beginning of the pandemic, lead to investing.

How does this look for you? And they just took the medical so we went a little bit like that at the moment. Wonderful stuff, you know. This access to leads program for students who don’t have the academic credentials to get a place that leads, maybe they didn’t get those credentials because they were caring or working or doing something, stopped them putting all of energy into just studying their a levels in the UK.

So they work with leads and we used to workbook. They work with mentors. And if they if they’re successful, they show resilience, then they get offered additional academic credit to top up their tariff points and get for the place at least. And then Lee say, if we offer you a place, you belong with your success is on us, not on you.

And so it’s a real lovely partnership with our students.

But some you know, I mean, when you come out if you’re astute and you again take a slot time slice.

And again, if that goes back to vision thing again, Ruth, you talked about. What’s your vision for your learners? Well, like, they should understand that the richness of the experiences they’re having and the skills which are coming from there and themselves as I move it professionals and scholars. Blah blah blah blah blah. Can I show you two things? Mhmm. One is, and it speaks to this a little bit, deeply indebted.

An example from Monash.

We’re a great example at Monash


At least since they they implemented PebblePad to help students make sense of theory that was going on, and then relating theory, possible, you know, sometimes our modules unit courses, subjects, however you call call them. I deeply try load totally make connections across them, relate that to practice.

They started doing that, then they started doing clinical skills, they started doing simulations, then they do placements, they do vlogs, they use through through the students and through PebblePad, they support their clinical supervisees, if that’s the right term. There were two thousand kilometers away in the north of Western Australia.

The students here got PebblePads, workbooks on the background. It says, hey, birthed on the on the trolleys.

They’ve been sort of coming with these conditions. They were the handover notes on the crew that looked after him. Click here, listen to the heartbeat, or watch the whatever it may be. What are you gonna do?

They thought you’re gonna do stuff and make notes. And it builds a really rich kind of case book they can refer to when they go back out of placement. It’s a sort of pre placement workbook to prepare them for wipe all the water. But all everything they do has some connection to Belmont.

And the other thing I want to do is just a very simple learning design because sometimes, I think, it’s easy to get You know, we talk about iPhones that trap on this point on. I’m showing exemplars.

And the problem with exemplars is they can frightened with the Jesus over ordinary people. And then I could never I could never do that stuff. So it’s important just sometimes just really simple more powerful designs and pebble part of thing does that really well. And then in this example, students going on placement.

Have you got the accreditations or the safe that you can eat.

This has been so important. And I think one one way I talk about pillpack is it helps us scale up one more processes that we can’t do anymore, but it shouldn’t be in the proxy to ask these questions to the students. So what are your goals? What are you really interested in?

Problem a screen grab a whole pile more questions — Yes. — down here and somewhere.

And and then okay. Week by week, what are you learning? What’s happening? What are you doing?

How’s that connected we did last week?

And that’s also that at the end, we can have this end of term report not an essay, something it says. What did you what were the kind of light bulb moments? What were the inspired insight? I love the language of And that’s why I said earlier on.

PebblePad just provides the tool which fits you that make it really, really powerful. And I think it’s real power language and and this in particular, you know, the idea of making of celebrating magnificent failures.

I’ve got about four hundred and thirty separate examples. We could work through, but we won’t. Because actually, what I’m gonna do is start taking the examples. If you allow me, I’ll ask you first, stop sharing some of the stuff I’ve seen a day because it’s really, really powerful.

And I wish more I’ll only be recording it, which so it’s great. Because I was gonna say, I wish it could take all of you shown us today and show my crew back in Shropshire because they’ll be absolutely thrilled. When they’re sitting in in fact, not in in their bedroom. So wire.

Mhmm. What we’re in the shared dining table, we’re working on this stuff. You are bringing us the rankings and we’re really really grateful for that. So thank you



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