Review: Seesaw (Part 2) – Privacy!

Today I continue my review of the increasingly popular Seesaw educational application. In part one, I focused on the usability of the application, and discussed its potential to transform educational practice. My review was, overall, very positive. This is one application that has impacted my practice in more ways than I could have imagined, when I first began using it in the Fall.

Today, I turn towards analyzing the privacy policy in more detail. This has been the continuing and overriding focus of my project, as I seek to better familiarize myself with the myriad of considerations that surround our fusion of technology and educational practice.

My privacy review will consist of two parts:

1) My own review of the privacy agreement, as posted by Seesaw

2) What Regina Public Schools has done with Seesaw

Privacy Agreement


To begin with, from my perspective, Seesaw makes an effort to make their privacy policy accessible and easy to read. They have a ‘privacy center‘ tab prominently displayed at the top of their homepage, and it links to a summary of their policy. Key points from their policy:

  • We don’t own the content you provide – students and their schools do.
  • Student work is private to the classroom by default. Teachers control what is shared and with whom.
  • We don't advertise in Seesaw, create student profiles or sell any user data.
  • We use security industry best practices and routinely monitor our systems to protect you.
  • We are transparent about our practices and will notify you if things change.
  • We are COPPA and FERPA compliant.

Seesaw clearly has a bead on many of the current and most controversial topics swirling around student privacy and confidentiality. In contrast to Voxer, which I recently reviewed, they state that they do not advertise or sell student data.This is important, and alleviates concern of data being sold off, as happened with ConnectEDU here. They also affirm that data is property of schools and their students, not their own.

Recently Updated

As I click into the full version of their privacy policy, the first thing I notice is that it was updated on January 28th, 2018. Again, this compares favourably to Voxer, which has not updated its policy in years. This is important, and I argue can be seen as a sign that Seesaw is at least taking privacy considerations seriously. In a field that moves as quickly as social media does, it will be imperative for privacy agreements to be reviewed continuously.

What does Seesaw know about me?

Seesaw collects some identifiable information through account registration, as well as use of its application. This data includes names, email, and photographs if uploaded.

It also collects drawings, photographs, and potentially voice recordings as students use their journals to document learning, although it states that this information can be considered as a student record, protected by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act. This can perhaps be considered a weakness, as FERPA is an American federal act passed in 1974 to protect student records. I’m not sure that a 44 year old law could have envisaged the way data and records are stored in the cloud today. More on this below.

Also important to note, Seesaw does state that they may collect information on your web browser, operating system, mobile device type… while this does seem to be almost standard practice now, I am far from convinced that this is ok. I do not yet understand why this data is needed to improve and develop their product. Well, only one way to find out!

I also rebelled and filled in that I was using an iphone. (using a PC). Take that!

common sense: privacy evaluation runs a section where they evaluate the privacy policies of educational apps and assign it a score out of 100.This score will inform an overall recommendation. Seesaw scores a rather mediocre feeling 64:

In their evaluation of Seesaw, they point to some of the same concerns that I felt in my own initial review of their privacy agreement. Specifically, they highlight as concerns the fact that Seesaw collects geolocation data and personally identifiable information.

Another concern that I had not even considered was that parents have the ability to share their child’s journal content to their own social media outlets, which certainly carries significant potential privacy considerations. Example: student takes photo of them-self and a friend, post to Seesaw, parent sees and posts photo on their Facebook before teacher has a chance to see the artifact)

There will definitely need to be some teaching around digital citizenship and responsible use with both students and parents.

RPS Response

This entire privacy project stemmed from my initial frustration in August, 2017, to our schoolboard collecting our school ipads and centralizing control over what applications could be installed. When we received our ipads, we saw that there were not many of our previously installed applications remaining, including some that we considered to be very useful for our teaching practice.

Seesaw was an application that was originally not included on that list, and that was very concerning to many teachers. However, we soon heard that Seesaw had been in fact been approved by our school division and, sure enough, the application was found on our ipads.


I asked Erik Vandussen how this came about. He told me that Seesaw actually agreed to sign a specific confidentiality agreement drafted by Regina Public Schools. The terms of our RPS agreement are added to the generic privacy policy published by Seesaw.Elements of our RPS specific confidentiality agreement included:

  • data ownership
  • security measures undertaken by Seesaw
  • where data is stored, and
  • action in case of a security breach

He went on to tell me that this appending agreement, along with a privacy impact assessment, led to RPS approving use of Seesaw.

I am happy to learn that some companies are willing to at least negotiate with school divisions to address their own particular and local concerns. I can’t help but wonder if if some larger companies out there would be as willing to talk…







on “Review: Seesaw (Part 2) – Privacy!
2 Comments on “Review: Seesaw (Part 2) – Privacy!
  1. Thanks for sharing Joe! This is really interesting. I have been using Seesaw for my major project and went through their Privacy Policies as well but I didn’t know they had made a special agreement with RPS. I agree, it is interesting that companies are willing to negotiate. These policies after all are human constructions and it is nice to know that others can have a say in privacy matters.

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