04/06/2015 02:05 EDT | Updated 06/06/2015 05:59 EDT

FreshGrade offers digital report card for Surrey, B.C. students

Schools in Surrey, B.C. are gaining recognition for scrapping traditional letter grades and using a digital tool to tell parents how their students are doing.

The Surrey School District won the very first Cmolik Prize for Enhancement of Public Education in B.C., awarded by SFU's Faculty of Education, for it's use of FreshGrade — a tool that allows parents to monitor progress in real time.

"We needed a real way to document student learning for the 21st century," Robyn Thiessen, a Grade three teacher at Green Timbers Elementary, told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Teachers and students are able to upload video, photos and audio of what students are doing and learning, which parents are able to access through an app on their phones.

"In the culture, especially within my classroom, the students aren't just posting their successes. They're also posting their failures and their concerns and the things they need to work on," she said.

"It's not just a bright shining star, it's about the process of learning."

Thiessen said it has been a hit with the parents of her students.

"We all know that for the most part when you ask your children what they did at school that day, they always say, 'Nothing,' so this gives a parent an opportunity to have a conversation around the dinner table or in the car," she said.

Teachers still have the option to give out traditional report cards and assign students letter grades — something Thiessen chose to forego. 

"I teach third grade, so [letter grades] are not really even an option at this point," she said.

Surrey schools have been piloting the software for three years, giving the company feedback before it becomes available to other schools.

To hear the full interview with Robyn Thiessen, listen to the audio labelled: FreshGrade, report cards for the social media age.