Fresh Grade Redux

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A recent blog post by our superintendent brought up the idea of recycling or revisiting previous work, with a goal of enhancing it or adding new perspectives or ideas. Since Sean Nosek, Associate Superintendent for our schools, will be sending out an email today letting staff know that Fresh Grade is ready to use for our elementary schools, I thought I would reuse/recycle/revisit my post on Fresh Grade from last year, with a bit more perspective and some added “bits”! (Also, I ate lunch at 4, didn’t get home until 7:30 and was on a conference call until 9:30 so I am not sure I have it in me to write an entirely fresh, new blog post tonight. Like my family, you’re all getting leftovers!)

A couple of quick tidbits….this year, elementary teachers in West Van have a choice of reporting platform. Teachers can choose to use MyEd BC, which had been re-jigged to the point where we can create a very “West Van” type of document, or they can choose to use Fresh Grade, continuing on with what was started last year with a pilot group of about 20 teachers. Teachers who choose to use Fresh Grade as their CSL platform do not have to use it as an e-portfolio if they choose not to, although I would argue that it is in its use as an e-portfolio that Fresh Grade truly shines!

On with the leftovers…er…information! I am really going to focus on using Fresh Grade as an e-portfolio here – information about using it as a CSL document (along with supporting training videos) will be out to teachers soon!

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. Go to app.freshgrade.com and make sure you log in with your sd45 account. Note that in a shared teaching setting, the enrolling teacher is the one who “owns” the Fresh Grade account. However, they can easily invite their teaching partner into the classroom. Here’s how! When you use the district account, the students are already in your class and parent emails are already added in. All you need to do is check permissions and send invites to parents.  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, centres 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. Here is a year-end reflection from one of my Grade 7 students. I think it’s a very powerful reflection of her as a learner.

This term I have had many learning experiences that have helped me grow as a learner. For example, I have discovered that as a learner I like performing in front of people. This is very interesting because in the beginning of the year I was scared of presenting and always tried avoiding it. However now, I realized that presenting makes me happy because I get to see smiles or intrigued faces on other people. I learned that I enjoyed presenting when I performed my poem in front of the entire class.

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. Here’s a video they made last year about the Fresh Grade experience in West Vancouver!

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