(Note: All images used in this post are screencapped directly from the Seesaw website, and meant to be visual guides throughout this post)
If your school district is anything like mine these days, chances are it’s hard to come by money for things that cost. There are many, many great resources out there, but a good many cost, which presents a setback for districts that cannot afford to purchase them. Portfolios is one such area. I actually attempted to work with a portfolio program at the end of last school year with the elementary school where I work. It was great because it had a lot of features for both the iPad and the desktop versions. The plan was to implement it with every teacher come the fall. However, by the time fall rolled around, the portfolio program had turned into a paid tool, and was no longer free in any form. I spent some time trying to find a new program to use, and came up with only paid options.
That is, until yesterday at the Infusing Technology Spring Showcase.
Enter Seesaw. Seesaw is both a free and paid portfolio tool. Since cost was a factor for myself and other teachers around me, we’ll start there. Seesaw is free for a teacher to use with their classroom. A teacher can have up to 10 classes listed under their account and they have unlimited storage space. Free accounts have the ability to allow parents access, and they also have the class blogs feature. If a child has a teacher who uses the free account option, the parent only has access to the child’s portfolio for 12 months. After that, it is up to the parent to purchase a Parent Plus Account for $9.99 per year per child. If teachers want some of the more advanced features, they’ll have to get their school on board. When a school purchases the Seesaw for Schools option, they also get more features. Every student’s portfolio will follow them throughout the entire time they attend that school. Schools will have access to any classroom portfolio and parent usage analysis. There is also bulk download and management features. Parents will have access to the child’s account the entire time they attend the school. The actual cost for a Seesaws for Schools account is unknown, as interested parties must contact the company for a quote.
Signing up for an account is easy. Once you click the sign-up button, simply select the “I’m a teacher” option on the next page. Seesaw requires your name, email, and password to create an account. Once an account is created, it’s time to set up your first class! If you have younger students or will be sharing devices, use the option to have your class use a class code. Once you’ve selected this option, simply name your class, choose the grade level, and add student names. Names can always be added later on as well, so no worries if new students come to your class during the year. Create the class and you’ll soon find an email in your inbox with a QR code for mobile devices to scan, as well as a join code. If your students are older and have email accounts, the second option is better. All you have to do is give the class a name and select a grade level. You’ll give students in the class the join code when they create an account for the first time.
Now that our classes are created, it’s time to get started! Before students get started with posting, teachers have the option to set up a class blog to go with the portfolios. Blogging is a great way for students to showcase their work and discussions with others online. Seesaw allows your class blog to be public on the internet, but nothing will be posted to it unless you say so. The teacher is in absolute control.
First set up the name of the blog and give it a unique web address. Since I was playing around with a test 4th grade class, I made it pretty easy on myself. As for a unique identifier, I used my usual education username, 4th grade, and the year for the class.
The final option for teachers to choose from is choose whether or not to enable comments on the blog itself, and whether or not to password protect the blog to keep it semi-private. As you can see from the screenshot, student last names are never shared, just the first names used in the portfolio.
Teachers will notice that the final window lets them know that students can publish material to the blog, as can the teacher. Remember, teachers are always in control, so everything needs approval first. Students are never able to publish anything without the teacher knowing.
Blogs can be customized, but it’s truly nothing fancy. The name and URL can be changed. Teachers can also add a header image to the blog to catch the reader’s eye. No bells or whistles here, but that’s okay because the look isn’t as important as the content.
Now that we’ve set up the class blog, let’s take a look at our dashboard. Right now, it’s currently empty. As you can see, I’ve created two test student accounts for this particular class. On this view, we have a few options. Check out the area above the class list. The first icon will show all approved student posts. The second icon is the calendar. Here, teachers can see how many posts were made each day, and then click on a day to view. The last icon links directly to the class blog, if one has been set up. Teachers can also look at students’ work individually by clicking on their name in the class list. This is a great feature if the teacher is looking for a particular post.
Now it’s time to take a look at what happens when students post. First, students can use mobile devices or a computer. Mobile devices can be easier when it comes to taking photos to upload to the portfolio. Seesaw has apps for both iOS and Android. The apps are free to download. Once the app is loaded, it will ask for the student to click on “I’m a Student” and then scan the class QR code. Remember, this was received in your email right after you
created the class.
If students will be using the computer, they’ll need to go to the Seesaw website and login in. They will need the class code, which can be gotten from the teacher’s account. Simply look in the upper right corner when logged in and click “Get Class Code”. This code will change often so that it cannot be used indefinitely. In fact, as soon as the class code is received, it’s only valid for 15 minutes. After that, it can no longer be used, and the teacher would need to get a new code.
Once students are given the code, they go to the Seesaw website and choose the “I’m a student” option. If a webcam is available, it can scan a QR code. Below that option is the option to enter a temporary text code. This logs students into the class.
In order to add content to their portfolio, students would click the green + in the upper right corner. They are then given a list of options as to the type of item they would like to add. Students have the option to add a photo, video, drawing, upload an existing file, add a note, or add a link.
For the sake of this post, I chose to add a photo. Seesaw immediately asks for permission to use my webcam, and I have the option to take a photo. As you can see from the next few images, I can take my photo (or retake if necessary), then edit and make changes. In this case, I chose to add a caption (did anyone catch the random Digimon reference?).
I took the photo I wanted… and yes it took a few tries 🙂
Above are the different options I can use to improve my work. I chose to add a caption here.
All I have to do now is make sure I select my name from the class list.
Once I’m satisfied with everything, I then choose my name from the list of students. All I have to do now is watch for approval.
This is what my screen will look like once my image is posted and teacher approval is pending.
The next time the teacher logs in, they are told in three different areas that there are unapproved items. The first location is in the upper left corner. The second location is a red bar across the bottom of the screen that states just how many items are unapproved. The final location is in the middle of the dashboard, and a link is provided to take the teacher directly to the approval page.
Once on the approval page, the teacher can either approve or deny each post one by one, or click the green bar at the bottom of the dashboard to quickly approve all items.
Once the item is approved, the teacher can return to the class page and view the item. Now, anyone in the class can like or comment. Of course, the teacher has final approval on all comments, but this is a good way to begin teaching students how to respond to their classmates.
That’s all there is to getting started with a class of students! From this point forward, it is up to the teacher to monitor the use of the portfolio for the class, and perhaps post items to a public blog for the classroom. Teachers also have the option to invite parents to view their own child’s work. However, Seesaw does caution that before a mass invite is given to parents that all students have something in their portfolios.
Beyond using the portfolio to document each student’s progress throughout the year, the public blog is a way to showcase classwork to other colleagues and adminstrators. Administrators no longer have to come to your classroom just to see what your students are up to. They now have the option to view the class’s work from the comfort of their office as well!
Do you use Seesaw? How do you use it in your classroom, and do you have any tips or tricks for new users?