We looked at several apps and sites in class yesterday that could be used for education. One was for Minecraft, which I admit I have never understood the draw to it…There was an interesting one called Raspberry Pi, which I am still confused about although it does seem amazing. I just need about a hundred more Youtube videos and a 12 year old to show me how it really works.
We looked at an app that called Freshgrade that is being used in Surrey school district at the moment. There is a great intro video by Surrey Superintendent that talks about the necessity for more accurate assessment and that does not include letter grades on a report card! Essentially it is an app that can be downloaded from Google Play or the app store and used on a mobile device or computer. Each student has a portfolio that is set up which they and their parents have access to. The teacher has access to all portfolios in the class. Information can be uploaded to the portfolio including project work and assessments, as well as messages from teachers to parents. This way parents have ongoing knowledge of what is happening in class and can see where their child may need help or what they are doing successfully. Documentation can be added by any of the 3 people with access, so much greater communication happens than a report card with a couple of lines on it that only comes out a couple of times a year.
This looks amazing and I am very impressed that a school district is understanding the need to do away with letter grades and look at the value of true learning in a real time way. Parents will be much better informed and students will have access to their work digitally at any time. I do have a couple of concerns around the teacher aspect. One is that it seems this would actually necessitate much more work on the teachers part. It is unclear if the teacher is doing all the updating or if the students are documenting their own work as well. But if the teacher must constantly be updating the portfolios then it seems like it would take previous time away from them. My other concern is that not all students have such easy access to technology. I am sure they will at some point, but having some students able to document easily and some not seems to create another divide. I was a TA in a high school last term and there were several students in the class who did not have cell phones, and although they have access to computers in class, I’m not sure if that is as easy to use as hand-held tech. So I wonder if this would make things more challenging than simply sending home whatever project they are working on.
Overall I can see this as a huge step forward. Parents want to know what their children are learning and hopefully this will open up more conversations in families about education. Also it seems to be a platform that has the potential for better communication between parents and teachers. If it is simple to use, then it is better for teachers to be able to have an ongoing documentation of work and see how the students are doing without having to have a constant discussion with them. Of course nothing replaces face to face conversation, but some students are more comfortable writing something or texting than saying something out loud, and for them it will be better to assess their progress.