As a teacher, I have always valued student portfolios. For me, ideally, portfolios are a place where students create a multimedia rich story of their learning. They can showcase their highlights along with areas of growth. Students and their parents can view and reflect on work and experiences in the classroom and beyond. Learning over a school year or many years can showcase the growth and development of a learner.
While there are plenty of educational reasons to develop portfolios, it can take a lot of time and effort to create something of quality. This past year I tried out a new platform called FreshGrade. It has been an excellent overall experience with great feedback from students and parents.
How FreshGrade works
FreshGrade is a multimedia repository of photos, videos, documents and notes about a student. There are many ways to contribute to the portfolios. I can post through the website or on any Android or iOS app. At the middle school level, many of my students have wifi enabled personal smartphone devices and laptops. Using their own devices, they do most of the posting. Take for example a common experience such as a school assembly. I can quickly snap a photo of a performance and then students all provide their personal reflections and notes. Parents then get an email to view the photo and reflections where they can add a comment.
Here is another example. Let's say in our PE class we are working on our dance unit. With a few clicks, I can capture and upload a video of the student performing their creative dance. The student and parent can see and enjoy the video and post comments.
Ways Students and Parents interact with me via FreshGrade
Student reflection has become a core part of my practice. Students can post notes and reflections on everything from results on a math test to a field trip in the forest. Other portfolio tools are very public and can be viewed by anyone on the internet. FreshGrade is different, only students, their parents and their teacher can view the portfolios. This means that the adults that are there to support the student are the only people who can interact with posts. This has lead to students being open and transparent having the confidence to post their honest thoughts and opinions.
Feedback from parents and students has been outstanding. Parents are constantly thanking me for providing a window of insight into classroom activities. Even a simple photo of a student during the school day provide an opportunity to connect parents to the learning activities.
How I've changed my practice
A common hesitation to trying a new tool in the classroom is the time it takes a teacher to learn and manage. The advantage I've discovered has been how much FreshGrade has changed my practice. There are a number of other tasks that FreshGrade has allowed me to stop doing. For example, I used to have a public teacher website where I posted lessons, a calendar and assignments. I've now moved all the notices and assignment descriptions into FreshGrade. This allows students to login and review criteria whenever they want. I no long need a paper gradebook of marks. I've exclusively used the mastery scale for student work and assess with language like fully meeting, exceeding and meeting expectations. I can also give meaningful feedback to help students improve on future assignments.
This coming school year I'm again going to use FreshGrade right from when I meet my students. I will be sending home a welcome email with a introduction on how I use FreshGrade. In the past parents have completed a paper form to introduce their child. Now this will be done entirely on FreshGrade this year. I find that the sooner that I reinforce the use of FreshGrade the easier it is to engage students throughout the year.
I'd be interested in comments below to learn how other educators are using FreshGrade. Leave a comment!
you are probably aware, the BC Ministry of Education has released a bold new
set of curriculum documents. What I have found is that the reduced number
of curriculum outcomes has 'unlocked' the possibilities in the classroom.
There is now more time and flexibility to focus on topics that best interest
students and teachers.
I find most striking is that they have separated the curriculum topics and the
processes of learning. Competencies are the new skills and processes of
learning that are highlighted in the new curriculum. As teachers, we know
that there are special skills that the best students already have. What
is excellent in this curriculum revision, is that by making the competencies
overt, we can help all students improve in the areas of communication, thinking
and personal and social skills. Taking the communication competency as an
example, there are now eight levels of communication that students can identify
with and improve on. They range from profile one where students identify
with 'I statements' such as 'I can respond to peers' up to profile 8 where
students communicate with statements like 'I seek consensus and focus on
collective results'. What I really like is that the profiles are linked
to specific age or grades of students but provide a continuum that students
really like this quote from the Ministry of Education website, "British
Columbia’s curriculum is being redesigned to respond to the demanding world our
students are entering. Transformation in curriculum will help teachers
create learning environments that are both engaging and personalized for
students. At the heart of British Columbia’s redesigned curriculum are core
competencies, essential learning and literacy and numeracy foundations."
are many ways in which teachers can use the inquiry model of learning to with
our students. Once they students have an overview into the content of the
big ideas, they can then spend time further wondering about related topics that
matter most to them.
has become a core process for learning and part of the lexicon of how I
approach my instructional planning. I would encourage other teachers to
consider how they offer inquiry opportunities for their students.
is a process of student learning that highlights the key aspects and opportunities
in the revised curriculum.
Students make personal connections to their peers and to the curriculum.
then wonder and investigate through a process of inquiry to topics that most
Student design ways to make learning visible. I'm a huge fan of student
portfolios of learning over time. This year I'm trying out the tool
FreshGrade. So far I've had nothing but positive feedback from parents
For anyone with a
teenager at home, they know that social media is a big part of their daily
routine. Here are some things to
consider when discussing the use of social media.
It is important for parents
to be part of their son's/daughter's social media platforms. Follow them to see what they post but
Ask your son or daughter to
share who they are talking to online.
It is a reasonable request to have them only chat and interact with
people they know in person.
Remind them that anything
they post online is part of their digital footprint. Once something is posted, it is out of
Busy teens need and want time
to connect with their friends.
Social media is how they accomplish this.
Teens feel a lot of pressure
online. Encourage an open dialogue
with your son or daughter would feel comfortable to get your support when
Keep it positive. Remind your son or daughter that written
posts can easily be taken out of context and be hurtful to others. The best way to avoid hurt feelings is
to only post comments that are positive and encouraging.
As you might have heard, the BC Ministry of Education is in the process of revising the curriculum for all students from grades K-12. As you can imagine this was a huge undertaking and not without its challenges.
Our local school context is that we have a middle school organized into teams. Each team has students in grades 6 to 8. Our goal was to find a way to spread the key concepts over three years and connect science and social studies along with the competencies which include personal and social, communication and thinking skills.
Key Features of Draft Plan
The plan that is shared below is designed to bring together the curricular and learning compentencies. Teachers will be able to use this a one-page visual guide to assist with planning lessons. The socials and science plans run in parallel to make is easier for teachers to plan integrated units, teach with themes and big ideas. You'll also notice that the rows below the 'concepts and content' incorporate our school community priorities. BYOD and Technology Integration - we are a 'Bring Your Own Device' school and most (80%+) of our students have a digital device on a daily basis. We have adopted two initiatives for this year: FreshGrade student portfolios and Microsoft Office 365 as our collaboration and communication space.
Environmental Connections - the school has an amazing natural setting surrounding the school so it is appropriate to find ways each year to integrate environmental science into the curriculum. For example this year we will look at the science concepts around survival needs of organisms through the study and observation of our local ecosystem with includes several major, salmon bearing streams.
Sharing of a Draft Plan
Thanks to Barb Buczewski for kicking off this process being willing to share with other teachers.
Feel free to share the plan with others that would find it useful.
I fully accept that this draft is a work in progress and revisions are needed. My hope is by sharing, others will do the same and together we can find ways to engage all our students! Leave a comment below to join the conversation.
Do you ever have
conversations with your adolescent child about what they did at school and get
little or no information? It is possible
that when you ask them about what they are doing with their personal technology
at school you may get even less information.
This might be because children perceive adults of 'not knowing how to
use technology'. While it may be true
that children are very capable at tasks like gaming and instant messaging,
there are lots that we as adults can offer them.
One of the
frameworks that is provided by the BC Ministry of Education is called the ICTI
Performance Standards. This stands for
Information and Communication Technology Integration.
ICTI Performance Standards focus on four aspects of how students use
information and communications technology to gather, organize, and present
information and to analyse and interpret information. The emphasis is not on
information sources or software applications associated with specific
technologies but on the student’s representation of their learning and the
steps they used to construct their knowledge."
Here are some
questions to consider asking your son or daughter on their use of personal
technology at school. These examples
fall under the heading of collecting
information and resources.
How do you make decisions on
how to select the best tool to use?
When is it better to find a print resource or digital resource?
How do you know if the
information you have selected is accurate and appropriate for the lesson
or task at school?
Can to work with other
students to socially gather and construct information such as surveys or
your son or daughter to help identify their strengths in these performance
standards and ways in which they can practice and improve their
that I value as a middle school educator:
Integrated learning of multiple subjects and topics
Co-teaching and planning using common preparation time with other educators
Outdoors and environmental education with an emphasis on active scientific work
Technology infused learning: digital environments that expand learning beyond the pencil and paper and beyond our the classroom walls
Flexible timetables and schedules that allow the learning to continue across long blocks of time
Reconfigurable learning spaces.IE the classroom, a double classroom, hallways and meeting spaces for various group sizes
Inquiry based learning using the framework by the BCTLA called the ‘Points of Inquiry’
Math instruction that is hands on and strengths student core competencies
Taking time to create and foster a learning environment that meets the social and emotional needs of young adolescents
Having a students and teacher shared responsibility for assessment/planning/learning (personalized learning)
What I Like about the revision:
That the curriculum overview is one page for easy scanning
That there are BIG ideas for teachers to connect to themes at the school-level
3-way alignment of competencies/curriculum/assessment
proposed curriculum is far from complete.The dramatic moment of topics between the various grades needs a re-mapping between the current and proposed curriculum.
Science curriculum needs to have connection to environmental themes.
Science is missing outdoor education opportunities
The heavy emphasis on mixtures (grade 6), mixtures and substances (grade 7).Seems to have a connection to BC’s new industries of LNG and pipelines but would like to see more natural science
That a revision of Math curriculum that takes us away from WNCP 2007 protocol will isolate BC teacher from the excellent resources used in other provinces. From the curriculum site: “While the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol K–9 curriculum (WNCP, 2007) remains an important resource, it has been aligned with the goals of the curriculum transformation, making it concept-based and competency driven.”
Assessment information on Ministry site is too vague to understand what is being proposed.Can we get concrete examples of report cards to understand what parents would see related to the process of their son/daughter?
What is Missing:
literacy and digital citizenship are key issues of 21st century learning and should be stand-alone competencies.There is some integration of technology into Identity and Communication Competencies.
Resources to support the implementation of the curriculum.Doesn’t need to be a traditional textbook but teachers shouldn’t have to be content creators.We need ‘Lit Kits’ that match the outcomes with material written at the appropriate reading level of our students.
Cross-grade ideas.IE. How to implement this proposed curriculum in a blended 6/7/8 classroom or team that many teachers now find themselves.
SD43 issue: implementing a new curriculum without staff development department educators.Without support there is too much
onus on classroom teachers to figure it out on their own.
This blog post is meant as the beginning of a discussion. I'm looking forward to new thinking on this curriculum revision and hope to gain new insight through feedback. Leave a comment below.