Last week, my good friend and World Languages Teacher, Monica Lluch, and I presented a workshop sponsored by New Jersey Association for Independent Schools (NJAIS) titled, “Seesaw for Specialists.” Monica and I are Seesaw Ambassadors and felt that it has been an amazing game changer in our classrooms.
What is a Specialist?
In schools, specialists are educators who teach subjects that required them to earn specialized degrees. These are subjects such as art, music, world languages, library, media specialists, reading specialists, PE, and science, to just name a few. Though we used the term specialists because that is how we are termed in our school setting, there are a variety of terms schools use to describe educators that teach the subjects listed above. When utilizing Seesaw, Monica and I felt that specialists are in a unique place because we do not see our students every day and our time can be limited with our students. Therefore, we wanted to present a workshop that focused specifically on using Seesaw in a specialist’s classroom.
What is Seesaw?
As stated on Seesaw’s webpage, “Seesaw is a student-driven digital portfolio. Teachers can empower students to create, reflect, share, and collaborate. Students “show what they know” using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. It’s simple to get student work in one place and share with parents, and nothing is shared without teacher approval.”
Seesaw supports multiple platforms. The Seesaw Class and Family apps are available on iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire devices. You can also use Seesaw on the web via a Chrome, Firefox, or Edge browser. Seesaw has three versions: Free, Seesaw Plus, and Seesaw for Schools. To see the differences between the three versions, please click here.
Why Use Seesaw in a Specialist’s Classroom?
Seesaw is a game changer for a specialist’s classroom. It is a way for specialists to get their curriculum on the parents’ mobile devices. It allows students to capture and share their work. Seesaw also gives them the opportunities to reflect on their work. It showcases the process as well as the product.
For a special subject, where it is challenging to communicate with parents and to share our classroom with them, Seesaw gives us a fabulous opportunity for us teachers and our students to highlight and showcase their work. Instead of receiving the common answer to the question, “What did you do in Chinese Class?” with “I don’t know”, the parent can ask, “I saw your class singing Happy Birthday in Chinese on your Seesaw Journal today. Wow! I did not know that you could do this!” This was an actual conversation in my home this weekend with my six-year-old and it prompted her to sing the song in Chinese.
When presenting, Monica and I featured the following highlights:
- If a specialist is piloting Seesaw, we suggest that the specialist and a classroom teacher work together on one journal, as opposed to two separate journals. This is because the classroom teacher will be posting more often and possibly have a closer relationship with the parents. They can also assist with encouraging the parents to sign up. With two subjects posting together, there will be a bigger impact and the two subjects can support each other’s curriculum by making more cross-curricular connections.
- When working with younger elementary, it is perfectly fine if the specialist is posting more often than the students. Due to our limited time with our students, sometimes the teacher guiding the posts is necessary.
- When working with older elementary, it has more of an impact if the students can direct their posts when it is optimal. For example, when Monica and I were presenting, my fourth graders were posting from their music class. My sub did not know what Seesaw was; however, the fourth graders brought their Chromebooks to class, worked on the recorder assignment, and used the video tool to post their performances. I was so proud of them!
- The tools are extremely intuitive to post and showcase items and works from their classes.
- I showed them the family app and the past three years of my daughters’ journals. This drove home the points of the showcases of their works, the progressions of their learning, and their in-depth self-reflections.
- We dove into Seesaw Activities to encourage extending the learning to outside the classroom.
- We encouraged using the blog tool to assist in connecting with other classes from around the world. This, in turn, can promote digital citizenship as I showed how my third graders connected with a sixth grade instrument class in Michigan. They used their Design Thinking process to comment on their compositions. They would write, “I like…I wish…I wonder…What if…” when commenting and asking questions. An example was, “Hi. I loved your song! What if it was longer? It was beautiful! Great job!” – third grader at Far Hills Country Day School.
- Students’ works: Monica and I showcased numerous posts from our students.
- Active learning: Monica and I had the participants experimenting and posting throughout the workshop.
In addition, I created a list of resources for our participants. These resources highlight ones that are focused on specialists. The include links, webinars, articles, and Seesaw’s PD in your PJs.
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Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com