When one of my officemates called me over during a prep period to show me how her third grade daughter had just posted a video of herself reading a poem she had written, I had to investigate what this techy tool that allowed for parent involvement in the classroom.
Ideally, a great teacher will seek to inform parents of what happens inside the classroom. At the secondary level especially, this is usually limited to a weekly email update about what to expect for the upcoming week. I have tried to do parent-student book clubs with limited success and for the past few years have consistently published my weekly updates and nothing more. Sure, parents appreciate them. But what if they could see what their students were creating (let’s face it…high school students don’t tend to go home and share about their writing and reading) and learning? And what if students had a “real world” audience for their learning?
I piloted this new techy tool called Seesaw for the last project of the school year with my standard-level sophomore class. You know, just to see if it was worth using and reaching out to parents during this next school year.
And…I loved it. I knew that I would, but my students loved it, too.
Here’s why I love it:
It’s teacher-regulated (all posts and comments have to be approved by the teacher, and the teacher can choose to publish to the class blog or just keep it in the class feed for class members to see. Students have the ability to post a photo, video, drawing, file, note, or link which allows for diverse uses and displays of their learning. And, lastly, it’s really easy to use. I was up and running in ten minutes and my kids were on in even less time than that.
Here’s why students love it:
They can see what their friends and classmates are up to. I had student post videos of themselves analyzing, reading, and talking about a personal connection to their all-time-favorite slam poem. Students said that they were a little intimidated that everyone would see their work at first…but that was really student-talk for “wow, I’m going to have to make sure to really do my best work” and “I’m being held accountable by someone other than my teacher.” After they had posted, the room was silent as students listened, left comments and “liked” videos. Students were engaged and gave feedback that it was “fun” and “different.”
Here’s why my future self will love it:
This is going to serve as my classroom “blog” next year. Like I said in the last post, I will use Google Classroom as a place for me to post announcements, assignments, questions, etc. for students and for me to assess and provide feedback for their learning. This is piece two – a place where students can publish their work for other students, parents, and the world. There is even the option to link up with other classes around the world on Seesaw which is something I want to explore. I think that parents will enjoy being able to leave comments for their students just like my students and office mate enjoyed this feedback opportunity.
Drawbacks: The only question I have in my mind is whether or not students will censor what they write if they know parents/students will be viewing their work. Will they not be as personal? Will students get “stuck” and have more writer’s block and anxiety because of this? I have thought through these concerns, and realize that, yes, students might choose different topics because they are writing for the real world. But isn’t this real life learning (choosing to meet an audience’s needs)? Along these lines, I think that students may just surprise me and write about even more challenging topics and ideas just because they aren’t just another classroom assignment anymore. And, as for the students getting stuck and anxious, I hope to combat this as I always do by building an awesome and supportive learning community in the classroom and allowing time for feedback and revision prior to the “publishing” of student work. Again, I come back to the conclusion that this is real life. In a job someday, they won’t be able to say that they got “stuck” on a project just because they had to share work with a boss or colleague!
I’ll let you know how it goes as we begin using Seesaw full-time in the fall. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts. What techy tools are you using in the classroom to create 21st century learners?