Adam Kveton photo                                Springwood Elementary School teachers Ashley Wiet, left, and Janessa Vega are using a new computer program to give parents a look into the day-to-day lives of their kids at school.

Adam Kveton photo Springwood Elementary School teachers Ashley Wiet, left, and Janessa Vega are using a new computer program to give parents a look into the day-to-day lives of their kids at school.

No more ‘I don’t know’ after school for these Parksville students

Facebook-like program keeping parents, kids connected

A pair of teachers at Springwood Elementary are smoothing over those “what did you do at school today?” conversations with a new computer program.

Ashley Wiet and Janessa Vega, kindergarten and Grade 1-2 teachers at the school, have been working together through School District 69’s mentorship program for the last year.

The pair found they were both looking for a new way to connect with parents and bring them into their classrooms more often. But with many parents simply unable to attend classroom events due to work, Wiet and Vega started working with the Fresh Grade computer program last summer.

The program is modelled after social networks like Facebook in that teachers can post photos, video and captions that parents can see. On the other hand, the program is a closed network.

The public has no way to access it without being given a password, said Vega and Wiet. In fact, explaining the security aspect of the program was a major step in getting parents on board.

But since then, the pair have recieved lots of positive feedback, they said in a presentation to SD 69’s board on March 28.

“We want (parents) to know what happens during daily life at school,” said Wiet in an interview with The NEWS.

After getting parents’ permission, the teachers now post a picture with a caption talking about what happened that day, which parents can view by signing in. They even suggest a question for parents to ask their children, as well.

“So we took a picture of our garden and put it on Fresh Grade. We said, ‘We planted our garden today, put out the soil,’ and then we put in a question like, ‘ask your child what we planted in our garden today,’” said Wiet.

“There is no more ‘What did you do at school today?’ (answered with) ‘I don’t know.’”

The program can be especially helpful for parents whose work takes them out of town.

Checking out what their child did in school that day can help them feel like they are still a part of what is going on, said Vega and Wiet, and help with phone conversations with their kids. Even grandparents who have a large part in their grandchild’s life can be added to the network after getting parent permissions.

As for the kids, they love it, said Vega. “They are just like, ‘put it on Fresh Grade. Can you put it on Fresh Grade? I want to show my mom when I get home,’” she said. Sometimes it’s Lego creations, sometimes it’s drawings or even journal entries. The kids want to share what they are proud of, she said.

The next steps for the program in their classrooms is to eventually have students themselves post things on the program for their parents to see, and to focus more on academics to keep parents informed of those as well.

Vega and Wiet said they are by no means the only teachers using this sort of program in the district, but said they would encourage many more to see what can be done with them.

“It’s a commitment,” said Vega, but a worthy one.

“It really does develop an amazing sense of community from your classroom to home, and the parent engagement really does help the child become more successful,” said Wiet.