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.