Streamlining the Documentation and Sharing of Learning With Families
Bel-Essor School is a specialized school within the Marie-Victorin Education Service Center located in Montreal’s South Shore. Today, the French preschool and elementary school welcomes 112 students aged 4 to 12 with a moderate to profound intellectual disability associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or a severe motor disability. Students come from over fifteen communities and various nationalities. The school is dedicated to helping students acquire essential skills in the following areas of development: autonomy, motor, cognitive, communication, social, and emotional.
Sharing real-time, authentic learning with families
Bel-Essor School is committed to providing an accessible and inclusive learning environment for its unique student population. “The majority of our students are non-verbal. They do not read or write, which means that we don’t have written evidence of learning. Students can’t share their daily activities with parents,” explains Marjorie Viau, special education teacher at Bel-Essor School. To document and share student learning and progress with families, teachers would create a PowerPoint presentation for each student with photo evidence and send it home to families at the end of each term. Some teachers would go above and beyond and add additional photos to a student’s USB outside of reporting time to capture student learning more authentically and in turn, allow families to see the daily activities that took place at school.
While this process allowed the school to communicate and assess student learning, Bel-Essor School was looking for a way to streamline the reporting process and reduce time spent, making communicating with families easier, and sharing updates in real-time. This led to exploring a new, online approach to documenting and assessing student learning and growth. In thinking of a better solution, the school realized that a digital portfolio solution available in French would be easier for all to use, especially to engage families in the process of student learning.
Streamlined documentation and sharing of learning
In 2021, Bel-Essor School decided to run a Proof of Concept (pilot) of SpacesEDU with a few of their teachers.
“The ability to test out the product voluntarily before our school administrators made a final decision and mandated its use had a big impact on choosing SpacesEDU. Teachers were able to play around and see if it met our school context and needs firsthand,” explains Paule Tremblay.
Beginning in September 2022, Bel-Essor School partnered with SpacesEDU, to provide a platform available in French, for all teachers to document and assess learning in real-time. Since moving to SpacesEDU, teachers have saved valuable time during end-of-term reporting due to the SpacesEDU iPad app:
It's really practical because I can take photos and videos as I go with my class iPad. When you get to the report card, there's nothing to do because you’ve captured evidence over time! You can also sort your posts by competency/curriculum tags to see the distribution of learning and where you may need to gather more evidence for particular students, says Paule Tremblay
Since many of their students have medium to severe language-based disabilities, teachers have been leveraging the multimedia functionality within SpacesEDU: “Sometimes there are things we evaluate that are hard to take a picture of, for example, the routine of unpacking their bag in the morning… It's really fun to film a video of the whole routine. The parent can see the level of help we offer and their student’s ability because sometimes the student may show less progress at home”, explains Paule.
To support communication beyond the classroom, Bel-Essor School leverages SpacesEDU’s two-way messaging feature to communicate with families. “These days, many families prefer to communicate via text than over the phone,” Marjorie Viau shares. “The fact that I get push notifications when a parent writes to me in SpacesEDU is great. If there's an emergency with a parent, I see it at the right moment and not in an email at the end of the day when I have time to check those. Parents' comments on photos and videos are also fun to see!”
Bel-Essor School also leverages SpacesEDU to share student growth over time, appreciating, “the fact that the portfolio follows the student from one year to the next, from one teacher to the next, from one school to the next. As a teacher, you’re not just adding evidence of learning for families to see, but more importantly, for their next teacher to see and work from!”
I wish we had SpacesEDU when I first started here. I would have seen all of my new students’ evidence of learning from previous years. We want to continue using SpacesEDU to simplify transferring information to the specialized school in our Service Center that welcomes our secondary students so that their team can quickly respond to the needs of students when they change schools.
Result & Next Steps
Documenting learning for all
Bel-Essor School has been able to effectively mandate the use of SpacesEDU as the vehicle for documenting and assessing student learning for all.
“SpacesEDU is practical because you can just take photos or videos of student workshops of all kinds and as learning happens. The photos and videos we take are in a more playful context, so parents can see what's going on during the day and what activities are taking place at school,” explains Marjorie Viau
The special education school has been steadily training new teachers on the platform and is committed to continuing the use of SpacesEDU for years to come. Now that they’ve successfully implemented the platform for 2 years, Paule explains: “We'd like to standardize assessment and ask teachers to use the tags. Our idea is to keep track of student learning from year to year to better equip incoming teachers.” To support this objective, their focus for the coming school year will be to further leverage SpacesEDU’s competency tags and proficiency-based reporting capabilities with all students.