Seesaw: from showcase to learning

Seesaw is advertised as ‘The Learning Journal’, and it certainly has that potential. However, just like any educational technology, the impact on learning depends greatly on how it is used. If I’m being honest, I did not use it to its fullest potential during the trial period. This post will summarise ways that I plan to ‘level up’ my students’ use of Seesaw this year.

To read my introduction to Seesaw and its basic functions, click here.

George Couros writes for his blog The Principal of Change and has also published The Innovator’s Mindset. Both are highly recommended reads! In a recent blog post, he explained how some digital portfolios are just a showcase of students’ work. That’s what mine were like last year. There’s no harm in a showcase, but I want to use digital portfolios (specifically Seesaw) to actually take the learning further, not just to showcase it.

Students’ posts are just a showcase of work. The key to ‘levelling up’ is the online dialogue that goes with each post.

Less is more

Last year, my students posted so many different things onto their Seesaw portfolios. This meant that they didn’t have time to engage in quality conversations about the posts. There were simply too many! They need to take a ‘less is more’ approach this time to ensure that each post is accompanied with meaningful reflections, feedback and next steps. The image below highlights the most underused function from my Seesaw trial.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 3.14.46 PM


Whether these are typed or recorded, each image/video/link must be posted with a thoughtful reflection. Students will need to develop their ability to reflect deeply, so this will be explicitly taught and modelled. For any impact, the reflections must be deeper than simply retelling what they did. I will create prompt questions to guide them through the process.

Peer feedback

Paul Solarz, author of Learn like a PIRATE, refers to peer feedback as ‘quality boosters’. The students can give positive feedback to their peers and also offer ‘QBs’ to suggest ways that they could improve. Again, effective and polite ways of giving feedback to peers will be explicitly taught and modelled.

Teacher feedback

This will take up a lot of my time, but high quality teacher feedback has proven to be effective. I will give feedback on every post and engage in the conversations with the students and peers. By having the app on my phone, I can do this at any convenient time.

Parent involvement

As a school, we have not yet discussed whether we will make use of the parent involvement ability of Seesaw. If we do, I will also encourage parents to be active users of Seesaw. Their contributions to each post will be highly valued.

Imagine if students engage in high quality, meaningful conversations about every post with their peers, teachers and parents. What impact will that have on learning and the strength of the learning community?

If you are using Seesaw for the first time, learn from my mistakes. By all means, allow the student to create their showcases, but remember to use every post as a starting point for reflection, feedback, next steps and dialogue. Don’t skip the part that actually enhances learning.

What are your experiences of using Seesaw? What mistakes have you made? Do you have any other advice for people who are using Seesaw? Please add your comments below.


  1. Adam, It sounds like you found out, as many have that “throwing technology at it, does not make it better.” We still have to do the hard work behind the technology. I have found that with many pieces of technology as well as new apps, teachers can get wrapped up in all of the stuff that it can do and forget about making the stuff meaningful. The quality vs quantity debate. That is where having good training can help but also doing some research online to find out how tech can be used to make meaningful connections to learning. For example having early writers be able to speak comments instead of write/type them allows them to learn how to make meaningful comments even before they can physically write/type them.

    1. Hi Cary,

      Thanks for the comment and feedback. I agree 100%. My use of Seesaw will be much more focused and purposeful this year. I hope that others can learn from my mistake (not just with Seesaw, but with any tech as you say) and jump straight to using it meaningfully.

      Thanks again,


  2. It seems you have gained some excellent insight from your early experience with Seesaw. You got your feet wet and now are ready for more. And I love the way you’re using that to inspire others to fully access what Seesaw has to offer. It is about transforming learning as you’ve stated! I am a K-6 Tech Integrator and last year I supported over 20 teachers who began using Seesaw. I’m hoping that they all are like you and want to take it up a level. Good luck!

    1. Hi Bobbi,

      Thank you so much for the encouragement and for the comment. Because Seesaw is so simple and easy for students to use, uploading anything and everything is an easy trap to fall into. This was my biggest lesson from the first year of using it. I hope that others will learn from my reflection instead of wasting a year making the same mistake!

      From what I did do, the potential of Seesaw is clearly massive. It’s up to me and the kids to make sure that we reach that potential, and I believe that the ‘less is more’ approach will work, keeping the emphasis on high quality feedback, reflections and discussions.

      Thanks again for the comment. Keep me updated on your school’s progress!


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