An application that has grown close to my heart is Seesaw. My use of Seesaw actually began hesitantly late in the Fall. The application is by no means new. I first ran into it a couple years ago while attending an edcamp for Regina Public and Catholic Schools.
I actually began using the application trying to solve a specific problem. As a Learning Resource Teacher, I do not run a classroom of my own. I support several classrooms with co-teaching and push-in support. Another element of my work, however is small group reading intervention. (L.L.I.) My experience doing running L.L.I. groups over the past few years has been immensely positive, with plenty of success stories.
One area of weakness, however, was establishing and maintaining home-school contact. I wanted to try something new, and Seesaw seemed to offer me a way of reaching out to parents in a novel way. Perhaps a way that is more meaningful for both the parents who I am trying to build bridges with, and the children in my reading groups.
To begin with, Seesaw is extremely user friendly. Friendly for both teachers in setting themselves up, and user-friendly for students in maintaining their online portfolios.Installation was already done for me, as Seesaw is one of our division approved applications. I had to register an account and set up my students and classes. Although there is more to do, this is enough to get going!
1) Teacher Engagement
Seesaw is made with three related, but separate audiences in mind: teachers, students and parents.
Setup: To begin with, the application is engaging for teachers in its ease of use and overall simplicity to get the portfolios going. Teaching ourselves, and our students how to properly use an application can sometimes be a very big hurdle.
Honestly, with every new group of students I introduce Seesaw to, this becomes easier. It’s been a lot of fun each and every time. Seesaw, obviously understanding their target audience, has published a set of easy to use ‘getting started guides’ that I found to be useful.The user guides suggest a series of very specific lessons designed to scaffold use of Seesaw with young learners. For example:
Transforming Practice: Seesaw also engages teachers by offering a growing database of ideas on how the application can augment, and potentially transform our teaching practice. A lot of these ideas come from teachers who have experienced Seesaw and come up with these ideas on their own, and this makes the application feel all the more relevant. Here is a video showing one such idea, ‘Listening Stations Come Alive!’ that I have taken on wholeheartedly:
2) Student Engagement
Student use of the Seesaw also feels pretty intuitive. In order to add artifacts to their portfolios, it can be as easy as scanning a QR code (which you can print and display in the classroom). Once they scan the code, they select themselves and then they are ready to take a picture, or video of their demonstration of learning. Here are some assorted examples of artifacts posted by students in a few different L.L.I. reading groups:
Sometimes this takes a bit of explaining and front loaded work. Seesaw does make resources available to try and help get things going with your families quickly. A parent letter is easily printed that you can quickly send home.Each student can have several different family members attached to their portfolio. I have found this useful with a couple of families. Once one parent was on, they wanted to get grandparents connected as well. Apart from using Seesaw to share their child’s portfolio, you can also use the app for announcements, and even homework assignments!
This video gives a quick tutorial on connecting parents with their student’s Seesaw portfolio:
An analysis of cost will be a relatively brief element of my review. Seesaw is free. What I mean by free is that there is no real need to pay to use the application as it is intended. There are limits to what you can do with the free pricing, but I do not believe these limits to interfere with use of the product.
Limitations of Free Pricing:
- 10 active classes per teacher,
- 2 teachers per class,
- 100 custom activities
$120 plan, which allows you to:
- 25 active classes,
- 5 teachers per class
- 500 custom activities
There is also a school-wide program which gives you access to features like carrying over portfolios form grade to grade (kind of cool), data on family engagement and tech usage and some more features. Again, while there are some neat features for the priced models, I do not believe limitations of the free version interfere with using Seesaw as it is intended to be used. I have not felt limited, anyhow.
I’m sure the tone of my review is obvious. I find Seesaw to be tremendously useful to supplementing and augmenting our teaching practice in many ways. It allows kids to show off their learning by using an intuitive, and safe social media driven platform. This is a fantastic way to hook parents into their children;’s learning that does not require a lot of effort on anybody’s part. It’s easy for teachers to get parent and students set up, easy for students to build up their portfolio, and easy for parents to enjoy.
My next post on Seesaw will shift towards a personal examination its privacy agreement.
Thanks for reading!