It is part of our school-wide action plan to transition from hard-copy portfolio files to digital portfolios. This year, some teachers have been trialling Seesaw, myself included. I am aware that there are many options available for documenting work electronically, but I have little experience of other platforms. I am not in a position to say that Seesaw is better or worse than any other, but I can confidently state that is a fantastic tool! Not just for documenting learning, but for learning. I want to outline the reasons why I have loved using it this year with my students.
Seesaw is brilliantly simple to use. It is equally simple for all stakeholders, including parents. It was designed so that students as young as kindergarten can independently use it. It really is that simple!
Login: Seesaw does not require any usernames or passwords. Students access their class by simply scanning the unique QR code (generated when a teacher creates a new class). If your devices are not shared with other classes, this step can even be skipped by not logging out!
Tagging: Students can easily and independently upload new items to the class once they have scanned the code. Once an item is uploaded (follow steps below), students simply tag themselves by selecting their name from the class list. Multiple students can be added to a single upload. The item will appear in the digital portfolio of any student who is tagged.
Teacher approvals: Before items are added to portfolios and before they are shared with parents, it is necessary for the teachers to approve them. This is an important step. Do not allow the requests to build up! If you approve items regularly, it will not become a huge task. To occasionally skip this step, the teacher could upload the item while working with the students. Items that are uploaded from the teacher login do not need additional approval.
Reflecting: We do not want the digital portfolios to simply be a collection of work. They should actually enhance the learning. This is achieved through quality reflections. Seesaw offers multiple ways for students to reflect on their work, including voice recording.
“Instead of coming home and asking your kids what they did at school today and hearing nothing, you actually get notifications on your phone and see.”
Carl Sjogreen, Seesaw co-founder (Interview with TeacherCast)
This is one feature that we have not yet trialled. After schools have provided access, parents can use the parent version of Seesaw to see their child’s digital portfolio. They can choose to receive notifications when new items are uploaded. Although we have not yet trialled this feature, we have shared the portfolios with parents at student-led conferences. The feedback from parents was overwhelmingly positive.
Commenting: Anyone with access to the digital portfolio can comment on its items. Importantly, this includes parents (if access has been allowed). The commenting can create meaningful online discussions and is another way to provide feedback to the students. Like I said, we have no yet invited parents to Seesaw, but I can imagine how this would strengthen the home/school connections.
Specialist subjects: This year, we allowed some students to be ‘Seesaw monitors’ during specialist classes. The monitors were allowed to take an iPad to specialist lessons (PE, music, etc.) and add some photographs from these classes to Seesaw, tagging the students in each image (of course, the specialist teachers were made aware of this). By tagging multiple students in each upload, the whole class can be captured on Seesaw with minimal disruption to the lessons. This was beneficial for me, as it gave me further insight into what students were learning in specialist subjects and how it connected to our class learning.
Folders: This extra step can easily be enabled for students. When uploading an item, the student can categorise it. This organises their work, and work by the whole class, into convenient folders. We have used this feature for categorising by subject area/ transdisciplinary theme. Multiple folders can be tagged for each item.
Example: how to upload an image:
The infographic below shows the most commonly-used method for uploading items in my class. It shows how students can add a photograph, add a reflection, categorise it, and tag themselves… all in five very simple steps.
1: From the class feed, add a new item
2. Select the type of upload
3: Edit the item, add sound and/or text (this stage for reflection can be done at a later stage if time does not allow)
4: Categorise the upload (multiple folders can be selected)
5: Tag the student(s)
These are just some of Seesaw’s features. There are many more that you can discover for yourself. If you haven’t yet tried Seesaw, download it and give it a try in your classroom (be sure to seek permission from leadership where necessary). I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.
Further questions from the trial:
What items should/ should not be added to Seesaw?
How can we ensure consistency across year bands?
What do other digital portfolio platforms offer?
How can we improve the quality of student reflections?