Have you heard of FreshGrade? It's a set of personalized learning apps to help build communication between teachers, students, and parents. Videos, audio, pictures and text can all be captured and communicated.
Full disclosure: I am part of the FreshGrade Champion program, meaning I am an advocate for them, however this post is full of 100% honest thoughts and opinions.
STEP 1: GET PERMISSION
I've been using FreshGrade for a full school year. This year was really all about testing it out and getting familiar with all that they have to offer. To start off, you'll want to send home a permission slip. My admin and I felt that this went a little beyond the usual FOIPA paperwork we send home. Also, because parents haven't heard of the app before, I wanted to provide them with some information of what they were signing up for. Click here (or on the image) to get your own editable copy of the permission slip. Click here to get the info from FreshGrade I copied on the backside.
STEP 2: DOWNLOAD APP
There are three apps, depending on your role with FreshGrade. I love how they are colour coded. There are some things I prefer to use the app for, like in the moment artifacts of pictures and videos. It's also great for quick parent communication as it notifies me when they add something to a profile. I prefer to use my computer for the gradebook, daily parent communication (I did this with a few students), and adding announcements.
This is what the main menu looks like on my cell phone. The "Activity Feed" shows any new notifications you might have.
STEP 3: CREATE YOUR CLASS
At my school, we switch kids for math based on ability. So, I had to set up two classes. This was really simple. I took a photo of each child for their profile. Then, it was basically data entry of student name, parent name and email. It didn't take very long at all. To switch between classes, you simply use the tabs shown below.
STEP 4: START USING!
From this point, you're ready to start using FreshGrade! So, what can you do? Get comfy, come closer, and let me show you.
I write a weekly letter and love how FreshGrade has streamlined that for me. Using the "Announcements" section I can see how many people have read the weekly letter, and exactly who those people are. When you click on it, names show up in red if unread and green if read.
I used FreshGrade 100% for my gradebook this year. I like the colour coding system they use. It helps to see students progress really quickly. You can add your outcomes, which isn't a piece I used often, but do like that it is available. The little coloured dots you see are labels. I used labels such as "term 1", "science", or "fractions". You can sort your gradebook by those labels, which comes in really handy at report card time.
I got a lot of comments from parents about the gradebook additions to their child's portfolio. For example, if I gave someone a 2/10 they would respond immediately with a "can they take this home to finish?". I could respond with "I offered this, but your child declined". The accountability for those students increased dramatically over the year. Also, I'd get comments of "Wow! So proud of you honey." on a 10/10. It might be a small assignment, that wouldn't necessarily make it home until the end of the year. Parents can celebrate the small successes in the moment.
I am continuing FreshGrade next year. The feedback I received from parents was all positive, and overwhelmingly so. They loved being able to see a short video of their child at swimming lessons, or a photo of them working away on their math. For those who needed daily communication with home, this was a surefire way for parents to receive that communication.
Next year, I want to go deeper. I love the parent communication I had, but other than one or two students, they didn't really embrace using it. I want them to reflect weekly on their learning and see the communication I'm having with their parents. This year I tried using the 6 iPads I have in my classroom for this, but it didn't really work. We couldn't do it all at the same time. Logging out was forgotten which meant the next student saw your account. I'm thinking next year that when we go to Library we'll make a stop at the computer lab next door and all students can sign in and check out their portfolios.