Students in Robyn Thiessen's classroom at Green Timbers Elementary in Surrey use FreshGrade to update their e-portfolios.

Surrey’s e-portfolio school initiative wins $50,000 prize

Surrey School District lands Cmolik Prize for Enhancement of Public Education in B.C. for digital assessment initiative.

An e-portfolio program in Surrey that supplements traditional report cards by recording and sharing student learning with parents daily has been chosen the winner of a $50,000 award.

The Surrey School District’s Making Learning Visible initiative was one of 28 entries shortlisted for the Cmolik Prize for Enhancement of Public Education in B.C., and among three shortlisted for the prize. The winner was announced April 2.

The Surrey program invites teachers to capture student learning by taking digital photos, video and notes as opportunities arise, filing them in a student’s e-portfolio, which can then be shared in real time with parents. The system allows parents to monitor and support (with teachers) their child’s progress at any time, without having to wait for a report card to arrive or for school work to arrive home in a backpack. It also helps students take charge of their learning and improvement.

Robyn Thiessen, the winning entry’s co-author and a teacher at Green Timbers Elementary, was among eight Surrey educators who began exploring the concept of e-portfolios three years ago using the online tool FreshGrade.

The online reporting system has now been implemented in several kindergarten to Grade 9 classes at 35 Surrey public schools. The district says there continues to be great demand by teachers to participate in the program, as well as interest expressed from educators nationally and internationally.

“The use of a digital portfolio fosters student engagement in learning by allowing students to choose evidence and artifacts that illustrate their personal growth. Students then create actions plans to improve their growth,” explains Thiessen. “Using a tool that provides a 24/7 digital window into learning is a profound way to impact student learning and achievement and prepare them for success in the 21st century.”

The Cmolik Prize, recognizing innovative educational practices in kindergarten to Grade 12, is awarded through Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Education.

The other co-authors of the Surrey entry were Supt. of Schools Jordan Tinney, Director of Instruction Elisa Carlson, Dan Turner, director, information management services and Antonio Vendramin, principal at Cambridge Elementary.