Tech Tool Review: Seesaw

Digital portfolios have been demonstrated to increase student engagement and student self-regulation and reflection with learning (Wade et al., 2005). Seesaw is an educational technology platform that can function as a digital portfolio for students to store, showcase, and share class work as well as a communication tool. As a digital portfolio application, it allows students to upload and share files, videos, pictures, voice recordings and more in order to document their learning that occurs throughout the school year (Johns et al., 2017).

Seesaw is available for use on any device, including iOS devices, Android devices, Chromebooks, computer internet browsers, and Kindle devices. Seesaw offers a large variety of features depending on the type of “plan” users are utilizing to access the application. For instance, educators can sign up for free to create an account for their classroom and access the basic features of Seesaw. Some of these basic features include use of creative tools, the ability to message with students’ families, provide home learning codes, and setup a maximum of ten active classes at once. However, in order to access the premium features of Seesaw, a paid subscription plan is required. With an individual teacher subscription or a school/district-wide subscription, users have the ability to increase their amount of active classes, create a greater amount of activities, send drafts of work back to students for revision, and more.

Although originally created as a digital portfolio application, Seesaw gained popularity and use as a remote learning tool during COVID-19. With the application, teachers are able to create digital assignments or choose assignments from the activities library that students can complete at home. Videos and other files can be uploaded for visual supports and demonstrations for students, and then teachers can share steps for students to follow in order to demonstrate and share their own learning. Students also have the ability to upload a variety of file types as well and use creative tools such as drawing, creating photo collages, adding typed captions or explanations, and adding voice recordings or videos. With some teacher modeling and usage demonstration, these tools can widen accessibility options and help to create a variety of ways for all students to take ownership of their learning outcomes, reflect upon their learning, and share their progress with others.

Seesaw is well aligned with the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Standards for Educators. ISTE has developed standards to guide educators as they assist students in becoming empowered learners with the enhancements of technology (International Society for Technology in Education, 2020). Seesaw is aligned with all of the ISTE educator standards in some element, including the roles of designer and facilitator. The designer role includes the substandard of creating authentic learning opportunities that align with standards and to use digital tools to encourage deep learning. With the use of Seesaw, educators can create learning activities for all content areas that can provide digital resources, activity steps, and prompts that encourage students to apply their learning at a deeper level. Students can also use the creative tools like voice recording, drawing, and photo collages to connect to and reflect upon their learning. For example, teachers could create assignments where they share a visual demonstration with voice recording on how to find evidence to match a claim within text that students have read. Then, students could use the creative tools to annotate text themselves to show where they found evidence and use voice recoding to share how the evidence supports their claim.

Another ISTE substandard that Seesaw connects to is the role of educators in establishing a culture that encourages students to take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes (facilitator). As a digital portfolio application, Seesaw allows students to upload a variety of file types in order to show and reflect upon their learning throughout the year. Students could set specific writing goals (or math goals, reading goals, etc.) at the beginning of the year based on an initial work sample. This initial work sample could be added to Seesaw with a student-created reflection of it and why they chose the personal learning goal they created. Then, as they work towards this goal, they could also submit other work samples along the process and use text, voice, or video recording tools to reflect upon their progress in meeting their goal. These steps in the process of building a digital portfolio could really encourage students to take ownership of their learning outcomes.

Seesaw also helps to support the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines, which were developed by the CAST organization. These guidelines are tools and suggestions that can be used across various learning settings to help educators with implementation of the UDL framework (CAST UDL Guidelines, 2018). This framework helps to ensure that options are inherently built into a classroom environment and curriculum in order for all students to be able to successfully access learning. Seesaw connects with each of the guidelines through various means. Specifically, it aligns with the UDL guideline of “Providing Multiple Means of Action & Expression” under the area of “Internalize” by creating opportunities for students to improve executive function. Seesaw can help students to set appropriate learning goals by encouraging reflection upon beginning work samples and providing checklists or mentor goals as supports for students. As they reflect upon their progress towards their goal throughout the year, these reflections and demonstrations on Seesaw, as well as teacher feedback provided through the application, could also help students to realize when they’ve achieved a goal and when they might want to consider developing a new goal.

Although Seesaw offers multiple benefits for both in-person and remote learning, it also includes some limitations. For instance, the offerings of creative tools for students to use when responding to an activity or adding to their portfolios may not be expansive enough. The simplicity of the tools can be helpful when educators and students are starting out with Seesaw, but students may eventually desire access to a wider variety of creative options and functions when documenting their learning. This may be especially true for older students beyond the elementary level. Having access to a greater variety of digital creative options exposes students to more skills that they might need to apply in a future career or education path.

Overall, Seesaw is an educational technology tool that provides students with options for storing, documenting, and showcasing their work and learning. It also helps to facilitate communication between home and school whether in a face-to-face or remote learning situation.

CAST. (2020, May 31). The UDL Guidelines. http://udlguidelines.cast.org/.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2020, June 25). ISTE STANDARDS FOR STUDENTS. https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students.

Johns, K., Troncale, J., Trucks, C., Calhoun, C., & Alvidrez, M. (2017). Cool tools for school: Twenty-first-century tools for student engagement. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 84(1), 53–58.

Wade, A., Abrami, P., & Sclater, J. (2005). An Electronic Portfolio to Support Learning. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology / La Revue Canadienne de l’apprentissage et de La Technologie, 31(3). https://doi.org/10.21432/T2H30P

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