Students who are non-verbal have found their voice in a new software program that shows what they are doing in the classroom with photos, text and video.
FreshGrade, developed by a Kelowna company, is being touted as a "transformative" tool that will make communicating between home and school easier and more meaningful.
Tuesday, Pinetree secondary teacher Jon Hamlin showed trustees at a board of education meeting how FreshGrade worked at his school to build relationships between home and school for two non-verbal students whose education programs are modified and supported by educational assistants.
The way it works is an eportfolio is created for a student who can then upload photos and video of their work with comments and parents and teachers can respond. For students who can't speak — or don't want to talk about what they do in class — the program is an easy and efficient way to communicate what's going on, Hamlin said.
As well, FreshGrade is helping education assistants who upload photos and videos for students with special needs feel more involved. It's a great morale booster for staff, said Hamlin, and parents are happy to get a closer look at what's happening at school.
"We've seen an increase in positive comments when the work is sent back home and an increase in [student] self esteem with parents saying it helps them support their student with homework," Hamlin said.
Many elementary and middle schools are using FreshGrade to document student work. The plan is to expand the use of FreshGrade at Pinetree secondary, possibly in home economics, language and performing arts classes, in addition to skill development classes for students with special needs, with more training and orientation offered for staff and parents, Hamlin said.
With FreshGrade automatically organizing student work into a "year in review" slide show, there are numerous advantages for students at all grade levels.
"We plan to incorporate those [slideshows] into some learning celebrations throughout the year in 2016/17," Hamlin said.