S’Cool Tools, Teacher Voice Edition: FreshGrade, ScreenCastify, Quizlet Live

This week in S’Cool Tools, we share the real experiences of three teachers using three different tools, written in their own words. If you’d like to be featured in our S’Cool Tools column, click here to leave your very own Teacher Case Study.

FreemiumFreshGrade—Written by James, a Middle School teacher in British Columbia, Canada. James has a 1:1 classroom where students bring their own devices.

EdSurge: What was the problem in your classroom or school that you were trying to solve when you implemented FreshGrade?

James: As a teacher, I have always valued student portfolios. For me, ideally, portfolios are a place where students create a multimedia rich story of their learning. They can showcase their highlights along with areas of growth. Students and their parents can view and reflect on work and experiences in the classroom and beyond. Learning over a school year or many years can showcase the growth and development of a learner. While there are plenty of educational reasons to develop portfolios, it can take a lot of time and effort to create something of quality. This past year I tried out a new platform called FreshGrade. It has been an excellent overall experience with great feedback from students and parents.

Can you describe how you used the product?

FreshGrade is a multimedia repository of photos, videos, documents and notes about a student. There are many ways to contribute to the portfolios. I can post through the website or on any Android or iOS app. At the middle school level, many of my students have wifi enabled personal smartphone devices and laptops. Using their own devices, they do most of the posting. Take for example a common experience such as a school assembly. I can quickly snap a photo of a performance and then students all provide their personal reflections and notes. Parents then get an email to view the photo and reflections where they can add a comment. Here is another example. Let's say in our PE class we are working on our dance unit. With a few clicks, I can capture and upload a video of the student performing their creative dance. The student and parent can see and enjoy the video and post comments.

What worked and what didn’t?

A common hesitation to trying a new tool in the classroom is the time it takes a teacher to learn and manage. The advantage I've discovered has been how much FreshGrade has changed my practice. There are a number of other tasks that FreshGrade has allowed me to stop doing. For example, I used to have a public teacher website where I posted lessons, a calendar and assignments. I've now moved all the notices and assignment descriptions into FreshGrade. This allows students to login and review criteria whenever they want. I no long need a paper gradebook of marks. I've exclusively used the mastery scale for student work and assess with language like fully meeting, exceeding and meeting expectations. I can also give meaningful feedback to help students improve on future assignments.

FreemiumScreenCastify—Written by Jeff, a high school English Teacher and tech coach in New Jersey. Jeff has a 1:1, project-based learning classroom that includes students with special needs.

EdSurge: What was the problem in your classroom or school that you were trying to solve when you implemented Screencastify?

Jeff: I was looking for a way to start creating short videos of my direct instruction so that I could flip certain lessons. However, I liked the idea of broadcasting myself along with my PowerPoint/Google Slides presentations. Many of the options I found were for pay only, but Screencastify is a Google Chrome add-on. There is a premium version, but the free version solves both the problem of recording a laptop screen along with voice and video recording of the teacher.

Can you describe how you used the product?

I have begun using Screencastify to create short, 5-10 minute videos that I plan to post to my LMS. The videos are of material that I typically would direct instruct in front of the class, but I am looking to flip these lessons in the coming year. This way, I can maximize time with students in class.

What worked and what didn’t?

Screencastify, in terms of making videos works really well. You need to have a Google account if you want it to autosave your videos to Drive, and the free version puts a "Screencastify" watermark on your presentation, but that doesn't really bother me. It engages your laptop microphone, but I would recommend having an external mic for more clarity.

Free!Quizlet Live—Written by Aubrey, a high school English Teacher in Pennsylvania.

EdSurge: What was the problem in your classroom or school that you were trying to solve when you implemented Quizlet Live?

Aubrey: My sophomore English students are not always motivated when it comes to learning and practicing vocabulary. I wanted to find a fun, low-stakes method of motivating students to show what they know.

Can you describe how you used the product?

I used Quizlet Live as a game-like, group formative assessment. Students had to choose words that matched definitions or correctly completed sentences.

What worked and what didn’t?

Students had a lot of fun and they really liked that they worked in groups. The site suggests that students sit together to make the game easier, but because the groups were chosen randomly, it was difficult to seat them quickly and in an orderly fashion since I was using this with a large group. Quizlet Live also does not provide data or statistics for the instructor.

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