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Achieving Better Communication and Collaboration in Class and at Home

Technological innovation, as applied to the creation of lucrative new business models and even the birth of entire industries, has delivered countless products and services that continue to solve consumer challenges. But when you examine the realm of education, it becomes clear that the fast-paced world of technology has crashed headlong into an institution rooted in traditionalism and resistant to change.

Consider this: a few taps on my phone can order up an Uber and show me the exact block my soon-to-be driver is on. If I ask my Amazon Echo, “Where’s my stuff,” the friendly robotic voice will tell me where my packages are en route to my house. I know how many calories my dog burned yesterday thanks to a Fitbit-like device hooked to his collar.

Technology has given us an amazing degree of omniscience. That is, except for in our classrooms, where many parents have virtually no line of sight into what lessons and activities their child is engaged in — let alone what skills and subjects he or she may be struggling to master. Despite the growing body of research pointing to the critical need for parents to be involved in their child’s learning process, many teachers are struggling to narrow the gap separating parents from the classroom.

This is the challenge FreshGrade is cracking in classrooms worldwide. An online platform that media outlets like the Wall Street Journal have called the “Facebook for Classrooms,” FreshGrade is making classroom learning as visible to parents as everything else in their lives. Except, unlike Facebook, FreshGrade goes beyond a simple newsfeed of student learning activities and achievements by inviting parents to become an active participant in their child’s learning journey.

An Introduction to FreshGrade

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FreshGrade gives parents a window into the classroom—a powerful strategy to ignite parental involvement—by connecting them in real time through the use of digital portfolios and assessment tools.

Using its suite of apps, teachers and students can capture, document and communicate examples of student learning —including videos, pictures, audio recordings, links, documents and notes—and upload them to an online portfolio where they can be accessed by parents, students and other teachers. Teachers can also map learning objectives to assessments and activities to ensure lessons are focused and early intervention strategies can be created for struggling students.

With FreshGrade, parents are armed with a secure channel to view, comment on and upload content to the student portfolio at any time during the day. They also receive push notifications when the portfolio has been updated. This consistent access to new information that details a child’s progress has generated more than one million FreshGrade users across 70 countries and in all 50 U.S. states.

How FreshGrade Brings Change to the Classroom

Teachers worldwide, including long-time educator Sarah Rich, have experienced how FreshGrade instills a new level of change in the classroom. When Rich embraced the application in 2014, she hoped it would solve a disconnect she was experiencing with parents. But incorporating FreshGrade became transformative to her classroom, as it has allowed for greater transparency regarding academic success and a more collaborative classroom.

FreshGrade has also made a significant difference with Rich’s students of all socio-economic levels. For example, some parents valued the consistent input and communication from educators – outside of a few parent-teacher conferences or quarterly report cards. In addition, other parents enjoyed feeling reassured that their children were being challenged in the classroom by having all assignments and artifacts in one secure location.

Rich received a Golden Apple award for her use of FreshGrade, as it connected her classroom to home and enables parents to feel a part of a child’s learning. By encouraging colleagues at Paul Cuffee School to also implement FreshGrade, the school was also recognized by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) with a Digital Early Learning Award.

Wendy Haley is a Special Education Consultant for Self-Design, a distance/distributed learning schools and personalized learning programs in British Columbia, Canada. Haley notes,“FreshGrade is a cutting edge education tool, because at its core, it acknowledges and supports that all children learn differently. It provides a platform for teachers to assess students based on their unique strengths, and provide support for their specific needs.”

Five Benefits of FreshGrade

The benefits instilled by FreshGrade have been substantial for Rich and thousands of other teachers, as the solution fosters communication for the well-being of students and has transformed classrooms around the globe. From an increase to student motivation and parent engagement to providing new opportunities for assessment, FreshGrade continues to alter the landscape of education by addressing challenges teachers face in classrooms today.

1. Personalizes Learning

The personalization benefit of FreshGrade allows educators and parents to support individualized goals. By creating a Gradebook activity and including a variety of resources, teachers can provide learning objectives that best supports their learning styles. In addition, when students have exceeded expectations, teachers can create advanced activities to support and challenge that’s student’s learning, while those who struggle can receive additional help.

2. Provides Immediate Feedback

The American Educational Research Foundation found that educators double their effectiveness when they focus on formative assessment and providing real-time feedback to students along their learning journeys. FreshGrade’s digital portfolios allow teachers to showcase a child’s progress year-round, which enables students to get evidential support before grades are finalized. Even for high-performing students, FreshGrade is a great tool to assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses coming into a new semester or school year.

3. Increases Parent Engagement

In a recent study, 62 percent of parents said that being updated daily on their child’s homework assignments, projects and upcoming tests is an important feature that they can use to help their children succeed in school. Although this is a continuous challenge many teachers are fighting to overcome, utilizing FreshGrade allows teachers to provide parents with continuous insight into the classroom.

4. Improves Student Empowerment & Motivation

A study by Civic Enterprises with Peter D. Hart Research Associates found that nearly 70 percent of participants reported a student’s lack of interest as a problem in schools. Now with FreshGrade, educators like Rich are finding students are able to take pride in their work by choosing which artifacts to post and then reflect on their learning experiences. In fact, Rich noticed one student often requested for particular artifacts to be uploaded, so parents would see it and be proud to share in the learning journey.

5. Provides Opportunities to Ditch Archaic Report Cards

A real-time feedback system allows teachers to help parents provide better support for own children, as it visually communicates what children are learning and why. Showcasing the criteria behind the digital portfolio moves parents to a deeper understanding of why their children are completing certain tasks. This can be an effective alternative to simply reporting a letter grade at predetermined times during the academic year.

How to Access FreshGrade

FreshGrade is free for teachers, students, and parents. A premium version of FreshGrade with custom integrations provides schools and districts with a view of the collective progress and engagement of their users in real-time. FreshGrade’s suite of apps for teachers, students, and parents are available on iOS, Android, Chromebook and any modern browser.

Download Now

 

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5 Brilliant Insights About Education From John Dewey

by Patrick Cole on September 28, 2016

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Education has yet to Catch up to the Wisdom Dewey Offered Long ago

Generally, society’s thinking about different topics will advance incrementally, as various individuals make their contributions to the foundation of our understanding. From time to time however, one individual will have a significant impact on an important aspect of society, pushing it forward by leaps and bounds.

John Dewey was just such a person. This philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer was instrumental in advancing education. Throughout his life he worked tirelessly to advance our understanding of what a student-focused educational system should look like, and how it should work.

Dewey is best known for his work in creating a more progressive educational system, but that isn’t the only field he wrote about. In fact, he was quite prolific. He wrote in such fields as epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, art, logic, social theory and ethics. To get into all of those, however, we’d need a whole book!

Today we’re going to focus on what he’s best known for – his insights into teaching and learning.

“Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself”

Dewey wrote about education throughout most his life and he regularly argued that education and learning, rather than being only between the teacher and the student, are really much larger than that. Schools are social institutions, which can and should serve to provoke and create a better society.

What’s more, if the students – instead of being passive learners – are encouraged to interact with the curriculum and are allowed to take part in their own learning, they can advance their understanding and their social roles far more effectively. This would allow them to become far more engaged with both what their learning and with society as a whole.

Schools, according to Dewey, are not just places where we learn facts and numbers, but also places where we learn how to live. In other words, the point is not just to learn a certain set of skills (though that helps as well) but rather to realize one’s full potential, and use what you’ve learned for the greater good.

How did we lose sight of this?

“Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”

Dewey understood that the best way was the middle way between the two conflicting schools of thought of his time. The first school was that of being curriculum focused and had as its primary goal to move through the material being taught.

The big drawback of this school of thought, according to Dewey, was the inactivity of the student, or – to use his words – “the child is simply the immature being who is to be matured; he is the superficial being who is to be deepened.” This he believed was the wrong approach. For education to be at its most effective, he believed, content must be presented so that the information the student is learning is actually connected to their prior experiences.

The secondary education philosophy was that of child centered excesses. Here he believed that being too focused on the child and too reliant on their previous experiences could be detrimental as well. The problem here was that in this educational philosophy the role of both the material and the teacher was overtly minimized.

His belief was that a balance between the two philosophies must be found.

“The child and the curriculum are simply two limits which define a single process. Just as two points define a straight line, so the present standpoint of the child and the facts and truths of studies define instruction.”

This realization led him to advocate hands-on learning, for he believed that it is through our interaction with natural objects that we can learn best, as opposed to simply thinking about them abstractly. In this way, students are engaged to consider the lesson actively and – when the question is asked correctly – to come up with the answer by themselves.

In fact, this directly contributed to the very popular modern-day educational model of Problem Based Learning, where learning is achieved through active inquiry rather than through the passive absorption of abstracted facts.

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

His influence did not stop there, however. He also realized that the schooling system as it had existed was not up to the task of teaching the students of his time. Previously, students were taught a basic set of skills so that they could excel at specific jobs.

Dewey realized that this was no longer a suitable way to educate our children. That instead of teaching them a set of simple skills, they needed to learn how to learn. This meant not just that students needed to be taught differently but that teachers needed to be taught differently as well.

Because how can a teacher teach students how to learn if they themselves do not possess that skill themselves? And so it was necessary to change education so that students became active and vocal citizens rather than people who simply complied with authoritarian government.

For Dewey and his followers, education taught in the wrong manner actually end up worse off than if they’d never gone to school, as the wrong kind of teaching – in which knowledge only goes in one direction and is not questioned – ends up stifling individual autonomy.

For him the most important facets of a teacher were not a set of mechanical skills, but rather a natural love of working with children, a natural propensity to inquire about a subject in order to understand it, and a desire to share what they had learned and how to learn it.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alteration of old beliefs. ”

In effect, Dewey pioneered the idea that teachers were to a degree social service workers, who were tasked with creating the social and psychological goods to promote the present and future progress of society. Teachers, he said, were there to increase the intelligence of society, while the school system should strive to maximize the opportunities for students to acquire this intelligence. Children should think in creative ways because that way their brains can develop faster.

The main goal was for people to leave the school system equipped to act intelligently and wisely, no matter what profession they ended up in. What’s more, this didn’t just measure the success of the school system, it measured the success of the civilization in which the school system was based.

Last thoughts

Most of these thoughts Dewey wrote about in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And yet we can still learn much from them today – or to put it in a stronger light – we still don’t seem to have fully learned the lessons he’s supplied.

In this modern era, technology and society is moving so fast that it is very challenging to provide people the technical skills they need, as some will be obsolete before the person even leaves school. It has never been more evident that an educational philosophy that encourages continuous learning (as with many of Dewey’s other ideas) was well ahead of it’s time.

 

 

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