Monday, November 2, 2015

Seesaw in the Kindergarten Classroom



I have utmost respect for primary level teachers. If you've never had the experience of working with early learners, I highly recommend taking the time to observe or even assist in a Kindergarten classroom. It is eye opening for other grade levels to experience the rapidly changing learning experiences in order to meet the needs of young learners. It is much like watching a maestro leading and conducting an orchestra. 

Primary Needs

With the pace of the classroom, technology must be able to keep up. Technology needs for primary students require that tools are time efficient and an effective means by which students can express their learning. One of the more difficult questions to answer is how to fit a learning management system (LMS) into the equation. Quite frankly, the majority of LMS options do not meet the needs of primary students or  teachers effectively. LMS options may effectively provide opportunities to distribute content, but the main problem lies in the ability for students to return content to the teacher. 

Being a Google Apps for Education school district, we naturally look at Google Classroom as an option. It is an excellent resource and very user-friendly. However, students still need to be able to read in order to effectively communicate their learning experiences. A better option I'm considering is Seesaw

How It Works

Connecting Students

Students can either sign up with their Google Apps for Education account, use an email address, or connect using a QR code! If students are able to type in their email address and password, I recommend using it through that method. Otherwise, I suggest taking advantage of how easy it is to utilize the QR code option.

QR Code Method


Submitting Content

Submitting work in Seesaw is extremely simple as it is icon based. The icons are straight-forward and easy for students to understand. This is essential when selecting digital tools for primary students. Students can submit a drawing, image, video, typed note, or other file type. What makes it truly primary appropriate is the option for an audio recording. Most one-on-one conferences consist of students reiterating what they attempted to communicate on paper or other media type. Here, students can communicate verbally what they attempted to communicate through written work or drawings. 

Submitting Content in Seesaw

Feedback

Feedback is equally easy for teachers as they can communicate through text and/or audio recording. This is powerful for young students. I highly recommend providing both text and audio recording so that students can read and hear your feedback. If given a parent code, parents can participate and give feedback just to their student. This is exciting as one of the biggest criticisms for students using technology in the classroom is the ability for parents to be involved in an easily accessible/universal manner.

Ideas

Seesaw is intended to function as a digital portfolio where students/teachers/parents can participate. However, I see the potential well beyond that. Here are some ideas:
  • Class Blog - Seesaw could easily function as a class blog as members of the class can easily find their classmate's work. By clicking/tapping on individual names, all of the work samples from that particular student appear in the feed. 
  • Content Curation - This would appear very different according to grade levels, but younger students could curate images for projects. Older students could submit links to various websites relating to a topic. This would allow all group members to benefit as they can quickly access content submitted by the class.
  • Flipped/Blended Learning - Seesaw is a great platform by which to distribute video content. It works very compatibly with a variety of video formats. The teacher can submit a video and ask students to respond either through their own brand new post or through comments. 
  • Connecting Classrooms - I'm actually in the works of making this happen with some kindergarten classes. I think Seesaw would be an awesome way to connect students with other classes. Having a shared class would allow students to submit work and receive feedback from peers outside of their physical classroom. I'm actually considering making a system for digital pen pals in the near future. I'll be sure to let you know how that works out! 
  • Learning Management System - Essentially everything that Seesaw can do functions as a learning management system. The only real element it is missing is the option to provide actual grades and house a gradebook type system. However, that piece is not necessary when teaching primary students. The feedback options provided are much more meaningful than a percentage/point system. 

Platforms

Seesaw is available on Android, iOS, and is web-based. So no matter what your device, Seesaw is a great option. I currently have teachers and students using Seesaw on iPads and Chromebooks. I utilize the Android app from time to time as well.