Fresh Grade

fgIf you were paying attention to your email last Friday you know that we now have Fresh Grade up and running for K to 7 classrooms! Yahoo!

If you’ve used Fresh Grade in the past, you likely have a plan for how you’re going to use it. If you’ve decided that this year is the year you make the leap into Fresh Grade, here are a few things to think about before or as you get going!

Free vs SD45 Account

Yes, you can get a free account but the district has an enterprise account and I advise you to use that one. When you use the district account, parent emails are already added in and all you have to do is send the invites. Also, district accounts are automatically archived and a student’s work will follow them from year to year.

Names, Names, Names….

You have likely noticed that the names in your Fresh Grade classroom might not exactly match the names of the kids you see in your room every day! That is because Fresh Grade pulls names and data from MyEd BC, where students are known by their legal names. Those might be quite different from the names you use in class! At this time, there is no way to change those names. I ended up taking pictures of my class and uploading them for each kid – it helps with identification!

Post Once, Twice?

Think about how often you are going to post to Fresh Grade, what you are going to post and who is going to post it. Make sure you set reasonable goals for this. I know a kindergarten teacher who made a goal to post a Math centres picture with an explanation to all her students’ accounts once a week, a Grade 3 teacher who taught her students to use the iPads to post a picture and reflection of something they were proud of each week and with my Grade 7 class the students posted pictures and reflections of their work and I posted video and assessments on a weekly basis.

How often you choose to post and who does the posting will be up to you. However, be thoughtful about it – the idea is to post exemplars and indications of learning and progress. In my experience of using Fresh Grade over the past few years, my students’ self-reflections have been very powerful indicators of their learning and self-awareness.

What To Post?

Images – Pictures do tell a thousand words! And they don’t need to be pictures of the students themselves. Post pictures of their work, centers or activities you do in class or even field trips. The one caution here would be students whose parents have said “no pictures” – be careful not to include those students in pictures that go out to everyone else.

Video – I often use video to capture my students doing presentations. There are two advantages to this – parents get a window in to the classroom and I can mark their presentations later rather than scrambling to mark them as I watch them. Just be aware that video clips can’t be too long and that uploading them at school can sometimes be slow.

Sound – One of the coolest uses of this I’ve seen was from a primary teacher who recorded her students reading once a term. At the end of the year, you could listen to all three recordings and really hear how much the student had improved!

Self-reflections – As I noted before, this can be very powerful. I do spend a bit of the time at the beginning of the year teaching my students what a good self-reflection looks like and before long they are writing self reflections that are in-depth and very interesting.

Written work – students can add writing right into Fresh Grade. If the work you want to include is on paper, I suggest taking a picture of it. If you want to upload a digital file, it needs to be in PDF format at this point.

Help and Support

Finally, if you have questions about using Fresh Grade, they have loads of support! You can find support on the website here and there is often interesting information in the Fresh Grade blog here. You can also check out their Youtube channel.

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Google Classroom

google suite logo

I am starting my 3rd year of using Google educational tools in my classroom and professional life and I have to say that I am a convert….I’ve gone totally google-y! Sure, Keynote and HaikuDeck make cooler presentations than Slides and Pages is better for those who like their writing to have flair. Excel is a more powerful spreadsheet tool than Sheets and Photoshop is a more powerful image editing tool than Google Photos. I get all of that. BUT!!!! Google works on all platforms and it is solid and dependable. And as a teacher who works in a BYOD environment, that’s as good as gold!

I do use almost all the G Suite tools in my classroom, but I think my favourite is Google Classroom. Classroom is the one tool that Google really designed with us in mind and they’ve worked hard over the last few years to listen to feedback from teachers like us and to modify and improve Classroom to make it work for us and what we do.

As usual, Google announced some changes to Classroom this August. Most of them are fairly small and ones you might not even notice. The other thing they did, however, is create a whole website with tips and videos and advice from other teachers on how to set up Classroom and how to best use it. The site is called Welcome to Your First Day of Classroom and it’s got great content! There are how-to videos as well as PDF step by step guides. And for those of us who tweet (or who lurk in the bushes and watch the other birds tweet) you can learn even more by following their Twitter feed.

So…..are you convinced? Are you ready to become a Google-groupie? Or are you already there, like me? What do you like about Classroom? Leave a comment telling the rest of us what you like and the first 5 West Van teachers or admin to do so will get some cool Google stickers!

Password Responsibility

The first year I taught with laptops, I kept track of every student’s password for everything we used. My thinking was that if they couldn’t remember their information, at least I could quickly help them. Well, after a few years of that I realized that all I was really doing was making more work for myself and teaching them that they didn’t need to be responsible for their passwords because anytime they forgot, I would step in and fix it for them. Smart kids – not so smart teacher!

Fast forward to now and I make it very clear to my students that it is their responsibility to look after their usernames and passwords. Originally, I had them write the info in their planners. However, I very quickly realized that 12 and 13 year olds don’t use their planners so much, unless you force it on them and that’s not a battle I am willing to fight. For the past four or five years, I’ve used a sheet of paper I’ve created, with room for them to record urls, usernames and passwords. They are supposed to keep that in their binders, in the homeroom section. I even give them a plastic protector sleeve to keep it in! Here’s what it looks like:

password sheet

Not bad! It works really well except for the 3 or 4 kids in every class whose personal organization style can best be described as Pig-pen-like.

This summer, while surfing on Pinterest, I found another password sheet I really liked, created on Google Docs. It came from a blog called Ladybug’s Teacher Files. I liked it because it’s colourful (which pleases me) and because while I was bemoaning the fact that I lack access to a colour printer I realized (call me slow) that I could just share this with the kids through Google Classroom and they could keep their own copy in their files! That means that the only information I really need to keep for the kids is their school Google credentials (’cause yes, there will inevitably be those same 3 or 4 kids who forget even that!). By the way, yes I do realize the other one could be handed out digitally as well…it just took looking at someone else’s idea before that occurred to me!

colour passwords

So, for those of you who think it’s time your students were more responsible, here’s a link to an editable version of the first tracking sheet and the second. Just please remember to make a copy for your own drive before you start editing! Use and enjoy!