A picture says one thousand words while a report card says less than half of that! Fresh Grade is a free and secure online student portfolio service with apps for many devices. Their goal is to "Make Learning Visible" and they succeed very well at that goal. This blog entry is a personal reflection on my first sixty days of using the service.
Modern assessment practices demand higher quality information sharing with parents and students. No longer is an 87% or B+ sufficient feedback for learners and their guardians. Modern assessment insists that students are informed of their strengths and weaknesses specifically indicated in a snapshot of their learning. New Brunswick along with many other provinces and states are getting rid of grades in K-8 education and replacing them with scales of mastery (sometimes from 1-4) for each skill area in each course. For teachers this results in parents and students asking a lot of questions. "What does a 3 mean?" "How can my student get from a 3+ to a 4?" If teachers aren't prepared these questions can take a lot of time to answer and sometimes may never be resolved.
"Triangulation of Data" is one suggestion with huge traction in modern assessment practices. It recommends that teachers form a final consensus mark based on Observations, Conversations and Products. This is where Fresh Grade becomes the saviour for all teachers. Fresh Grade allows a teacher to quickly and securely capture images, audio, video and text notes specific to a student's work. Audio can be used for conversations and conferences. Observations can be captured with text notes and pictures. Video can be used when reviewing products submitted by students, perhaps even as the assessment rubric is being used. Fresh Grade has a built in grade book that allows a teacher to assess and store grades for each student. It also has a sharp multimedia presentation option that allows teachers to create music-backed slideshows of students' exemplar work for parents. The real gem of Fresh Grade is how it builds school communities by giving students and parents unprecedented access to the learning experience.
Students and parents (through the web or separate apps) can view, add and comment on content added by teachers. Students feel empowered by being able to see what teachers have gathered in their snapshots of learning and by being allowed to upload examples of their own work to their portfolios. Parents are appreciative because for the first time ever the school has invited them to share in the learning experiences happening in classes in a way that feels natural and least invasive. Finally, parents can receive updates weekly (or even more frequently) compared to the standard 6-15 week printed report periods. Fresh Grade gives families topics to discuss over dinner and removes the mystery of what happens in school each day. Here is an example of a student finishing her robotics project on a day I was away on professional learning. She shared it to her private and secure portfolio, I commented and then her mom commented as well. Fresh Grade is strengthening school communities every day and taking the pain and confusion out of assessment and feedback.
I teach over 200 students weekly from grade 6-12. Some classes I only see once a week for 50 minutes and learning student names becomes nightmarish. Fresh Grade has allowed me to take the needed time to conference with each student and my ability to really know each of my students has improved dramatically. Fresh Grade gives me a specific reason to touch base with students as much as possible about their learning which is just solid education practice.
If your district is making the move to modern assessment practices there is no reason to fear thanks to Fresh Grade. The navigation allows for very fast learning evidence collection which you will truly appreciate come feedback and reporting periods. Encouraging mass adoption of this service among your peers will lead to stronger school assessment practices and stronger school communities once you allow parents to participate with students in the learning. After 60 days of using Fresh Grade extensively I can see clearly my students' weaknesses and strengths and come reporting time weeks from now their entire learning journey can be recalled for a more accurate assessment of their skill mastery. Also, I have visual evidence of learning for each parent and for those already involved in Fresh Grade we have something specific to speak about at parent-teacher conferences! Substitute teachers love the class lists I provide via Fresh Grade complete with student pictures which I obtain primarily from the previous years' yearbook to save time and to be ready for the first day!
Fresh Grade has a great Champions Program so when you experience the benefits of Fresh Grade reach out to them to join the team.
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Apple Distinguished Educator and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB