Surrey school district wins award for providing ‘window into the classroom’

SURREY — When Grade 6 student Qiraa Qadri works on her latest book report, or aces a test, she can’t exactly go home and tell her father about it over dinner.

That’s because he and her three sisters live in Pakistan.

But now, there’s an app for that.

Called FreshGrade, the free program allows students and teachers to capture, document and reflect on students’ learning.

Through e-portfolios, students and their teachers can share pictures and videos of what the student is learning. Parents can download the app, sign up to receive notifications and all three parties can comment on the posts.

Qiraa, an exceptionally articulate Cambridge Elementary student, said her sisters frequently helped her with her schoolwork before they moved to Pakistan to attend medical school.

And thanks to the app, they still can.

"If I can’t explain something that I’m doing in school, they just go on FreshGrade. I wish they had this when I was younger," she said.

Imagine being at work and getting an alert on your phone that your daughter has just completed an oral French presentation.

Simply click to watch.

Or perhaps your child is visiting Science World in Vancouver. Open the app to see photos he’s shared.

The district recently won the 2015 Sylvia Charp Award for District Innovation in Technology from the International Society for Technology in Education, due in part for its use of the Kelowna-based app. Right now, the app is being used in 35 Surrey schools.

"Learning is not getting 10/10 on a test. Learning is where you can observe a change in a child’s behaviour, like how they write from one month

to the next, how they articulate their thinking from one month to the next, how they read," said Cambridge principal Antonio Vendramin.

"To me, that’s what we should be capturing because that’s what learning is…. For the first time, we’re providing a window into the classroom."

His school has jumped on board. Of the school’s 26 divisions, 17 use the app.

Before FreshGrade, a few of the school’s teachers were on Twitter and a few were blogging but there wasn’t a "significant bridge between home and school," according to Vendramin.

"But now there is. Now the doors are blown right off," he said.

Gone are the days of waiting for report cards to hear how your child is doing, he added.

Now, teachers are looking critically at what content they’re sharing – and how it helps students self-evaluate and showcase learning to parents.

"Students can also take ownership and be

responsible for their learning," he said. "For teachers that’s hard, because that’s always been our role – to teach, test and assess. This is a real shift where we’re giving some of that up and saying, ‘You know what? How about you decide how you’re going to show that to me.’" Leslee Burwash teaches Grade 6 at Cambridge.

She said the program encourages ongoing reflection for the students.

"Their job, now, is to post things that they’re doing well and things that they need to work on," she explained. "I find I’m excited to see what they post."

One of her students, Adrian Tsui, said he likes showcasing his work and growth to his parents through FreshGrade.

"It really helps. My parents know what I’m learning in school," said Tsui. "When my teacher comments on my posts, my parents know what my teacher thinks of my work…. They can also see the progression from the beginning of the year to now and how I’ve improved."

According to Burwash, this is the generation where parents are starting to get used to the idea of children having devices, and whether that’s a good thing or not.

"I’m really feeling that it is now."

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