Using Seesaw to Bring Balance to Distance Learning

Contributed by Technology Design Coaches Manuel Martinez, Danielle Rivera, & Lana Stone

As an elementary teacher, you’re a pro at juggling multiple things. This is your superpower, right?!  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a centralized place – a sort of hub, if you will – for student learning, family communication, and sharing and collaborating with your fellow teacher community?  The district has many terrific and approved software tools to help, but have you heard of Seesaw? As we continue to use our common platform of BLEND (Canvas), Seesaw is now approved and premium accounts are provided for all EE through 2nd grade teachers. Lots of elementary teachers are jumping on the Seesaw train!

Seesaw is a platform for student engagement.  It provides a way for students to showcase their learning using a variety of creative tools within the platform.  Seesaw is also a place where teachers, peers, and families can give feedback and encouragement. Giving students a way to amplify their voice and take ownership in their learning, Seesaw is a place where students can reflect back on their work, express their thinking, and share what they are proud of. This platform is used by teachers to gain insight about all of their students and to document growth over time. Because Seesaw provides a simple way for families to connect, it’s an effective way to increase family engagement – think of ongoing parent conferences

We know that technology can be truly transformational if it is in service of Blended and Personalized Learning. Blended and Personalized Learning is not about  increasing students’ screen time, but about increasing students’ agency, and providing them with meaningful voice and choice.  In a blended learning environment, Seesaw can be used to give students this meaningful voice and choice, as well as give teachers and students a chance to provide feedback to each other. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Austin ISD teachers are elevating these strategies with Seesaw.

Sandy Chilton, a Kindergarten Dual Language teacher at Uphaus Early Childhood Center and her students love Seesaw! Although Seesaw isn’t new to this rocking kinder class, Sandy has shared how it has “really made home learning easily accessible for students and their parents!”  Sandy posts weekly activities, in this distance learning environment,  that provide her littles with a way to stay connected and continue their learning journey.

Check out this animal activity and discover how she shared a collection of Earth Day songs and read alouds!

Sandy explained how Seesaw provides a place for students to “share their voice and express their learning in a variety of formats.” Ms. Chilton’s kindergarten students post videos, pictures with voice-over, text and drawings to their online journals, providing their teacher evidence of their learning around various topics. These examples capture a few of the entries students have posted in their journals:

Patton Pre-K teacher, Jessica Thompson, and her students have also embraced using Seesaw.  Mrs. Thompson is having fun bringing her video lessons straight into the homes of her students! Take a look at this Parts of a Plant lesson where Jessica has used video instruction, audio directions that support the student activity, and even included a link to BrainPop as an extra resource.

Her students choose how they’d like to show their learning, whether it’s by drawing and using the textbox,

using the drawing tool to label the plant parts,

or even snapping a photo and recording alongside a parent. These lucky littles aren’t missing a beat!

Carolyn Robledo-Estrada is a second grade teacher at Metz Elementary, and she is new to Seesaw. For her, Seesaw is a powerful platform that enables her to effectively design meaningful distance learning experiences. The video below about Carolyn using Seesaw captures how she assigns an activity, and provides  written as well as oral instructions about what to do. It also highlights how the activities that she assigns  foster students’ choice in a variety of ways.

Students choose what animal to observe, going outside or using National Geographic, and how to demonstrate their learning by drawing a picture on their  journals or drawing it on the computer.  

Ragnar Rowland, Kindergarten teacher at Harris Elementary, is also a Seesaw user. Ragnar’s primary teaching space, though, is BLEND (Canvas). We know that some of our primary teachers are having great success using BLEND with their students. If BLEND is your main landing site for students, no worries. You can easily link out to your Seesaw activities from within BLEND, as shown in this screenshot from one of Ragnar’s BLEND courses.

Seesaw creates an effective home learning environment where teachers design learning experiences that foster student agency and make learning visible. Teachers, students, and families all become valuable collaborators in the educational experience. Using Seesaw will help all stakeholders validate that home continues to be a powerful learning environment, which becomes more meaningful and effective when families are integrated as part of it.

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