Over reading break, I was able to meet with an administrator at School District 20 Kootenay-Columbia to discuss Freshgrade and online portfolios and how they are making their way into our education system. We had a great conversation on if she believes that online portfolios will become the new report cards and she believes they will as SD 20 has already been converting to using online portfolios. However, they don’t use Freshgrade they use another platform called My Blueprint. This is another online portfolio that she has said they’ve had some push back from teachers but overall, it has been working really well. From an administrators point of view online portfolios are great because it shows growth rather than 3 check-in points over the course of the year. We also discussed the change in grading and assessment. She informed me that there are now no letter grades from K-9 which I think is a great transition away from students being focused on grades rather than comprehension. We then took a look at the new grading scale that is being used in Vancouver and how the new titles to represent 1, 2, 3 and 4 are not fully meeting, etc. rather using language like beginning, developing, etc. which allows students to not focus on the “grade” they recieve. This plays into using Freshgrade and seeing continuous progress over the year. I also wanted to bring up the question on if parents don’t have access to technology how would they could access their children’s grades. She then told me how they have had 4 parents that don’t have technology at home, one had a phone and could access them through the app, two used the computers from the local library and one came into the school to view their child’s grades. Another benefit of Freshgrade is that all information is protected within our country, so parents and students don’t need to worry about having their information being accessed.
Overall, being able to talk to an administrator about the change in assessment moving to online was extremely beneficial to hear her thoughts on where we were moving with it. She says by the time we are in schools, online portfolios will be in full use. This is why it is so great to be learning this tool right now and become comfortable with it.
I recently spoke to a family friend who teaches within at an elementary school within the Victoria School District. SD61 has been using FreshGrade for a couple years and as a group we were interested in hearing from a teacher about their perspective on FreshGrade.
After speaking with her there were many aspects of the conversation that I found interesting and important. As most teachers would say she said she felt that it was a significant change from the old system that the school district used and was something that all teachers had to change and adapt to. One of the biggest benefits of FreshGrade is that it allows for continuous documentation throughout the school year instead of a report card a couple times throughout the year. She stated that it is easier to manage her work load through FreshGrade instead of having a stressful week of writing report cards when they are due.
Another aspect of FreshGrade that she enjoys is being able to share the students work and progress in a more direct way with the parents. For example in her class each student was presenting a science experiment with a loved one to the class. Through FreshGrade she was able to record a video of the presentations and directly upload it onto the students e-portfolios the same day. This allows for the parents to directly see how their child is working in class and examples of the work they are doing throughout the year. It ultimately allows for better representation of a students work.
Although she did say she found FreshGrade a little bit frustrating when she first began using the e-portfolios because she had to adjust to a completely different system. She stated that now she enjoys this method better she just had to get used to the new technology and ways of documenting her students work.
Overall it was a great learning experience for me to have been shown how to use FreshGrade from a teacher who is currently using it and hearing the benefits that it has for her students, the parents, and herself as a teacher.
My sister is four years younger than me and when she was in her grade eight year, for her English and Social Studies classes, her teacher started using Freshgrade. I chose to interview my mom since she was part of this process. First and foremost, my mom said that she felt more involved in my sister’s education. She also felt as though she had an instant communication with my sister’s teacher about her education as she was given daily updates on my sister’s progress in class. She was able to visibly see through photos, videos, and notes what was occurring in the classroom on a daily basis. One thing that Freshgrade allows is for teachers to send class announcements and information instantly to the parents, which my mom really enjoyed as she wasn’t concerned about whether or not my sister would bring home a newsletter or relay information; this way she felt like she was constantly being updated. Something that my mom found very valuable from Freshgrade was that because she was being informed about my sister progress often, if there were any problems, she wasn’t waiting until a parent interview or a report card to find out. This way if there was a problem, she knew right away and was able to help my sister in the moment rather than after the fact. My mom said that the two most important things she believes that Freshgrade offers for the students and the teacher are that the students know that everyone (parents and teachers) are paying attention to them therefore, they become more attentive and that Freshgrade keeps teachers accountable and on track with their students assessments. I asked my mom if she would rather have Freshgrade replace reports and without hesitation she said yes. She believes that at least this way, you are able to know their daily progression and you are able to help your child at the time. Another thing I asked was whether or not my sister had access to the system but, she said that at the time this was fairly new so my sister didn’t. However, my sister knew that there was communication between her teacher and my parents and therefore, she was more focused and worked harder. Overall, my mom believes that Freshgrade is great as it is a very interactive and informative platform. She wishes that more of my sister teachers would use it.
For students with IEP’s FreshGrade is an awesome resource to use. It helps parents support their students from home and keep them up to date. In the Webinar I watch that I will link below, they had people speak of their experience using FreshGrade for special education. I will overview what they said, but if you are really interested in the details, I suggest you watch the video as it is very informative and give tons of examples. FreshGrade, give a platform for you to talk to them about their learning and growth, one teacher said that she wasn’t sure if before FreshGrade if these students have seen themselves as “real learners.” Give students with IEP and choice and a voice to their learning, allowing them to be more independent with their learning but at the same time is viewable to parents and the teachers at all times so that you can make sure the goals are being met as well. The Gradebook makes it easy to follow their paths of their IEP’s. There are custom assessment tool that make it even more individualized. I think that the most important part of the FreshGrade experience for students with IEP’s is that they are not seen as indifferent, they upload their work and get graded on the same site as the rest of the class. It allows them to feel more included in the classroom learning even with their IEP’s. All in all using FreshGrade for special education make the learning experience better for everyone connected to that student with an IEP and the students themselves.
In the video https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/522578463275652609 some great practices for teachers, teaching grade 4 -8 were discussed. In the video conference, one teacher expressed how he believed in allowing the students to bring their own devices whether it be a cell phone, tablet, or computer to class as it makes it much easier for the students to be uploading and commenting on their Freshgrade portfolios. This way, Freshgrade acts like a social media platform for the classroom. This teacher also mentioned how having mobile access is much more convenient as it makes it more multidimensional and multimedia. As well, mobile access gives the ability to share the students learning with their family instantly and the students family is able to view right away.
Another great thing for teachers to do is upload videos of presentations that are done in class and have the students self-reflect. This allows them to really become analytical of themselves and being able to see their progress from their presentation at the beginning of the year compared to one at the end of the year. At this age level having parental feedback is excellent; it has the parents becoming more involved in their students learning and shows the students that their parents are actually taking part in their educational journey and offering them feedback. As the teacher, if you are allowing parent feedback it is important to in a sense, coach the parents on what type of feedback they are providing their children as they want critiques that are going to build them up not put them down.
Another way that teachers can enhance their teaching through Freshgrade for these grades are by uploading photos, videos, audio files, etc of extra help or more on a concept talked about in class. The students are then able to access them at home and the teacher is able to see which students have viewed these or even commented back. This is a good way to show students engagement or dedication. Also, since the curriculum is moving towards eliminating letter grades, Freshgrade allows teachers to create their own type of assessment. For example, one of the teachers in this video talked about how he assesses. He created a completion tool where there are three options: complete by due date, not completed, or completed after the due date. He found this to be an easy and effective method to assess his students as well as, show parents how their children are doing on their assignments. Therefore, there will be no surprises when report cards come home or during parent-teacher interviews. Lastly, it would be valuable to encourage parents to download the Freshgrade App so they are able to view and track their students educational journey from anywhere.
K-3 uses Freshgrade a little bit different than the intermediate ages. Since students aren’t that technologically advanced at that age it is more about documenting their learning for their parents to see and keep track of rather than assessment. I watched a webinar that FreshGrade has posted on their site (I will include the link down below). This was a long video, but it was very informative and had teachers sharing their experiences on what they find works well for them in terms of FreshGrade. For the Grade one teacher named, Joe Merrill, it seemed that his main use was to keep the parents updated more regularly than the report cards that are sent home every couple months. He said that FreshGrade has changed the parent question of “what did you do today?” to “how did you do that today?” It extends the classroom beyond the four walls and give the parents some autonomy on their students learning. This teacher said that he will post activities that the whole class is doing that day so the parents can have ideas of have their kids’ day went, and can ask the students question when they are at home to keep the learning going allowing the students to reflect. He said that he will document almost everything his student are doing so that he can remember as well as so the parents can be updated. The 3rd grade teacher used it a little more advance than the First-grade teacher, understandably because her students will be better with tech, and would be able to upload their own work to documents. It makes their learning visible through technology. Robyn Thiessen said that her experience might be a little bit different as it is used district wide and her district manages the accounts, stating that they do a lot of the background work to make it happen so effortlessly. She talked about when she had a class that had extremely diverse learning needs, and not knowing how she would document their learning. She turned to FreshGrade and found that it worked extremely well since it was easier to evaluate their learning as they can add to their ePortfolios what they think is important. Before FreshGrade she said she would get a lot of complaints about how students are doing from the parents because they wouldn’t understand where all the marking in coming from. With FreshGrade this removes the old report card method and allows for the parents to be updated in almost real time on their child’s learning. It takes the surprise out of the student learning since there is ongoing communication from parents to students and parents to teachers. This teacher said that her main use of FreshGrade is to document “learning moments.” If a student is working, they can be making a learning statement that the exact same time. Her other main use was for reading. She will get the students to post videos of themselves reading, she can then comment and help them advance their reading. It allows the parents to see exactly what they need to work on with their reading, get help from the teacher, use the teachers comments to help their kid, etc. The students can also listen back on their own reading and see what they fix. All in all for the younger ages FreshGrade is more used as a way to keep the parent informed and allow for communication between the teacher and parents.
Assessment on FreshGrade as a e-portfolio is very different than the traditional summative assessments of report cards. FreshGrade is great platform for teachers to use while using formative assessment. It allows for different ways of representing the students learning and the progress they are making within the classroom. The teachers are able to upload videos and pictures of their students in the classroom while also providing information and explanations through writing. This allows for personalized feedback that can prompt change, improvement, and self-reflection.
There is also a section within FreshGrade where there is opportunity for teachers to provide the lesson the class was working on and how each student performed in the activity. The teachers are given the choice of how they want to assess each student. For example, 1-4 level grading scale or Exceeding expectations – Not meeting expectations. I have heard from many teachers that once you have learned how to properly work FreshGrade it saves teachers lots of time. Instead of the alternative of rushing to get report cards done for the whole class at certain times throughout the year.