Language teachers are known for scouring physical and virtual places for resources for their classes. We are quite lucky in way, really, because almost anything one could think of could become useful in our classes. So it’s not surprising that we are equally likely to also adapt educational tools that may have been created for a different grade level or subject area in order to enhance our students’ achievement.
Seesaw is one such tool.
Seesaw is an app and Web platform with a robust free version and additional features in their “Seesaw Plus” and “Seesaw School” versions. When I first looked at it, I was pretty sure it was designed for elementary school teachers. It’s a very easy, simple and uncluttered interface with limited use of print language. And very, very good features for building interactive digital portfolios. So, of course, I began using it in my high school French classes.
Seesaw allows teachers to create a folder for each student and even add other thematic folders that will appear inside each student’s folder. Once the folders are created, the students and the teacher can easily add a variety of content to their accounts in a digital platform. For example, once a teacher creates a class and adds the students, each student has a file or folder. The teacher can put content in the students’ folders, but the students themselves can also add content. What kind of content? More than I was expecting, including:
- NEW!! File (including files from Google Drive)
Teachers and students can access the Seesaw app on their phones, as well as on Chromebooks and computers (as long as the computers have a webcam for the photo and/or video entries) by going to https://app.seesaw.me.
Because it works so seamlessly on their phones, it is one of the easiest ways to capture students’ speaking or other video- or photo-based activities —no need to create the video on their phones and then attempt to upload the video online to eventually work with it on a computer. Students are able to quickly and efficiently record and upload directly into their folders (which teachers can also access from any device) using the phones they already carry with them. And if the students don’t have phones, they can share devices: once one student is finished recording, he or she chooses his/her name from the class list along with the name of his/her partner(s) (if applicable) and the video is dropped into all of those students’ folders. They can then give their phone to someone else who needs it and that student can record and drop the file into appropriate folder from the class list that appears. For very young students, this would be best done with a class set of iPads, Chromebooks or laptops with webcams.
Here are some samples of what my students have added to their portfolios. These are different speaking samples that students submitted across my levels of French.
Another possible use of this tool includes teachers sharing a link or file that would be a good resource by posting it to the class feed in Seesaw. Teachers can even share a resource with individual students. Or they can pose a question and students can submit a video with their response, which allows us to capture evidence of their speaking skills.
What makes it interactive? Well, teachers can comment on students’ posts either by typing a comment or submitting an audio recording. This is great for universal access and accessibility but also particularly good for language classes, where teachers can model correct pronunciation and rhythm of the target language. In addition to the commenting feature, teachers can also choose to publish students’ posts to a blog (their names are removed) and share their work with the world. If desired, teachers can also toggle the settings to allow students to comment on each other’s posts.
One of the additional benefits of Seesaw is the ability to easily and safely share their students’ work with others from within the tool, whether using the app or the web version. For example, teachers can grant parents access to their students’ folders so that they can get a glimpse into the class and the kinds of learning opportunities students have participated in. To give their students’ work a public audience beyond the classroom, teachers can choose to use Seesaw’s “blog” feature to post selected artifacts from students’ journals to a class blog on the Seesaw platform. Teachers can post a link to the blog on their personal teacher website or share it via social media. Students’ names are only shown as initials.
There is a paid version of Seesaw with a few more features, but everything I have mentioned above I do with the free version. You can compare the features of all three Seesaw plans here: https://web.seesaw.me/pricing/.”