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  • Writer's pictureMegan Mariano

Seesaw in Middle School: Safe Social Media

The amount of tech tools available to teachers right now is overwhelming. The amount of virtual classrooms, LMS (learning management systems), online sharing platforms, etc. for students is pretty intense, too. They all have their merit, but my 6th graders stick with Google Classroom and Seesaw for pretty much everything.

I will be presenting at the Teach with Tech Conference about this very topic starting July 27th, 2020. You can get even more information by viewing the conference (it's only available until 9/15/ check it out and there are tons of other sessions). Here you will find an overview of some of the key points, but I get into more at the conference! I show some how-to's, as well.

I know FlipGrid is pretty popular, too, but, at least when I started looking for an online portfolio, I felt it was limited and it focused mostly on video. Seesaw provides video options plus more.

What I Needed

I was using Google Classroom daily to manage my students' work, posting announcements, and sharing out documents. It worked great for those purposes, but it was lacking something. These are the things that I was looking for:

  1. An Instagram-like site where parents and students could see daily happenings. Previous to this past school year, I had an actual Instagram account just for my classes. It was very limiting because not every parent has an Instagram, and nowadays, not a lot of students do either (TikTok generation). I needed something I knew parents and students would look at daily.

  2. A place where students could record videos and/or audio. I wanted students to be able to do read-alouds, book reviews, mini-podcasts, etc.

  3. Something in which parents can see their child's work! I was so frustrated with the fact that Google Classroom does not allow parents to see student work. My students' parents were literally getting NOTHING from their kid. They never saw their actual essays or notes.

These were the three major things I wanted and there were lots of sites that did each of these individually. I came upon Seesaw and it does ALL of these things.

What is Seesaw and how is it Different from Google Classroom?

Seesaw is a digital portfolio for students to share their work. There are annotation tools, which allows lots of flexibility for activities. The major highlight, in my opinion, are families can see their child’s work through the child posting or you, the teacher, sharing out pictures and work!

ACTIVITIES: You can post "activities", just like you would in Google Classroom, and student work is organized in the activity, similar to assignments in Google Classroom. The difference is assignments on Seesaw are NOT saved to your Google Drive, they can only be found through Seesaw.

The activities themselves are dramatically different as well. These are the types of activities you can do:

  1. Annotate a photo or PDF that you upload. Students use the drawing tool to "write on" the file you upload. They can color, too!

  2. Record a video or voice recording. You can only do up to 5 minutes, which is a bit of a pain, but they can always do multiple videos. I never really had a need to do much more than that.

  3. Take a picture and then use the recording or annotating tools. So, students can upload something and then use all the tools above.

ASSESSMENT: Assessment is a bit different, too. On Google Classroom you can put grades right there on the site, and with Seesaw, it's not really set up for that. Also, Google Classroom has the rubric tool. You can certainly add a rubric to Seesaw, it's just not as seamless. So, I don't do a lot of heavy assignments on there (more on that later).

PARENTS: The big difference is parental connection, which is what got me on board with Seesaw. Google Classroom's parental access is, well, annoying. I feel like the parents are always confused on how to see anything and the email notifications aren't always reliable. Sometimes they get announcements, sometimes they don't. Plus, there is no way for them to see their child's progress on Google Classroom.

Seesaw allows parents to see student work and allows YOU to post announcements, pictures, etc. that goes directly to the parents. They get an email and notification alert if they set it up that way. You can also tell whether a parent read a message or saw a posted you can hunt down those who never check in! See the images below to see what I mean.

COLLABORATION: On Google Classroom, students cannot see anything by other students. Seesaw allows students to see each other's posts (you can change the settings). This is great because they get to see each other's work...they can also tag each other!

How I Use Seesaw

There are 4 major ways I use Seesaw:

  1. Informal activities

  2. Messaging parents

  3. Student portfolio

  4. Photos of the class in action

INFORMAL ACTIVITIES: I often have the students take a picture of a page they are reading a highlight, comment, or circle specific things. I'll have them create timelines. Sometimes I will even have them color!

The students also record themselves reading a passage, putting themselves into the shoes of a character, or doing book reviews.

I also do what's called Seesaw Challenges. On TikTok, people challenge others to do certain things. Usually they are silly, but I thought it'd be fun to do challenges on Seesaw. Most of them are not academic-related. These go right into the "stream" and students can see each other's posts. Parents only see their child's posts. Here are some examples:

It's a nice way to just have fun and get to know each other!

MESSAGING PARENTS: There is a way to directly message parents through Seesaw. Parents get an email alert or a direct notification on their phone. It's actually similar to texting.

STUDENT PORTFOLIO: This is the best part. Every time students finish a major essay, writing piece, or just anything I want the parents to see, I have them upload it to Seesaw. It works very smoothly with Drive. Students can find a finished Slides presentation or Doc and add it directly to Seesaw. Parents and students can see it once it's posted! Students and parents can also comment.

Every few weeks I have my students upload what they are working on since everything we do is mostly digital. This way, parents can see what they are up to!

CLASS PHOTOS: Another thing I love to do is take pictures of the students in class. My son's preschool used to do something like this and I was obsessed with seeing him in school. It made me so happy to see him playing and working with other students. Even though our students are older, parents still love seeing them working hard!

I post the pictures in each student's journal (it's an easy select-all) and it gets posted to the main stream. Parents get notifications right away and students can see the pictures in the stream.

Get Started!

This is the Seesaw YouTube channel. There are tons of very helpful videos. I had to watch quite a few to familiarize myself when I first started out!

Keep it simple for your first year.

All these links here will get you started.

Bottom Line

We all know kids love social media and parents love when communication is EASY. Seesaw is a great way to keep everyone connected in a safe way.

Go to Seesaw to get started!


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