Thursday, 26 April 2012

Management speak explained

I just went to a 90 minute meeting, the inaugural discussion of the Workstream 4: Staff Motivation, Engagement and Communications. It was actually much more lively and interesting than anyone might imagine, and I left thinking that at long last, the Executive sections might see its employees as colleagues rather than whinging minions.

One of the things we discussed was the difference between marketing and communications - not always apparent here: the university Twitter and Facebook feeds certainly don't engage in conversations, and we're often informed of decisions rather than consulted about them. We all agreed that this was A Bad Thing.

Then I return to the office to find a memo. It runs (paraphrased) as follows.
1. There's going to be a consultation about the university's electronic platforms.
2. You'll be using the new version of PebblePad.
3. Er… that's it.

See what I mean? Even if I didn't think PebblePad makes Alan Sugar's Amstrad stuff (my parents, late to the new media game, bought one and even they thought it was a plastic turd) look modern and user-friendly, this is exactly the problem. Someone somewhere in the university, probably the people who invented PebblePad and failed to sell it anywhere else, took a decision that affects students and staff without eliciting any opinions from those who use it. My school's blameless management gets to make the announcement. Bad moods all round.

Talking of crap software - did anyone have Barcode Battler? PebblePad's designers must have been fans…


Grumpy Bob said...

I went to the Pebble Pad website and clicked on the 'What is PebblePad3 ' link. It didn't explain what it is. Enough said.


The Plashing Vole said...

Brilliant. That really does say it all!

Graham Quirk said...

I have absolutely no idea what Pebble Pad does or is meant to do. This is not for the want of actively trying to find out. It will now remain a mystery forever.

M-H said...

There's no mystery about Pebblepad: it's a portfolio system that is owned by the student; anything created in it can only be shared by the student choosing to do so. We have made Pebblepad centrally available at our very large Uni. It is often used for reflective exercises, and also for recording of skills and competencies in professional training-type degrees. It also has the ability to create portfolios of work that the students can use to showcase themselves to employers if they wish.

Some of the specific uses we've helped staff with are creation of portfolios of registration requirements for professional degree students (e.g. teaching, nursing, medicine) throughout their degree. One school in the science faculty is trialling its use as an electronic lab book (in the absence of specialised software). This has been hugely successful, with students uploading pictures and videos of experimental techniques, as well as filling in the usual template-based forms for their lab sessions online and creating something much more interesting and reflective that their old lab books allowed.

I'm aware that people have great difficulties getting their heads around just what Pebblepad can do (it took us quite a while!) and it sounds like your institution hasn't handled its implementation very well. I hope that when you have access to it you will be inspired to suport your students' use of it in creative ways.

The Plashing Vole said...

Thanks M-H. I know PebblePad very well: my university invented it. The education department spends all its energy on trying to force us to use it. Sadly (for them) it's unreliable, clunky and based on a pedagogical philosophy rooted in 70s self-help nonsense. We have a perfectly serviceable VLE called WOLF - nobody can work out what PebblePad adds to it other than 'recording a thought'.

M-H said...

Didn't know you were at Wolverhampton. :) I do think PP is only a tool, and it can be made to serve many different pedagogical purposes (as outlined above), without too much time needing to be spent by staff. Don't know about WOLF - is that locally built, or based on Moodle or something similar? (Can't tell from the website.) I'm interested in how Unis provide these services.