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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Seesaw: An ePortfolio and Paperless Class Option

Seesaw, who advertises themselves as "the learning journal," is my newest favorite tech tool. It's available both on a browser and on iOS-compatible devices {download the app for free here} or on Android devices. In a nutshell, it's an easy way for students without e-mail addresses to turn in work to you and/or create an ePortfolio. 
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You, the teacher, must create an account on the Seesaw app. Afterwards, add a journal for each student -- it's very quick! Seesaw generates a QR code that students scan in order to join your class. From there, students can upload or take a photo from within the app, annotate over the top of it, and record his/her actions and voice. In that respect it's a lot like Educreations, but Seesaw allows each kid to have his/her own special journal. 
  • Totally free.
  • Compatible with iOS and Android. Both apps are free, of course.
  • Free web access.
  • Multiple sign-in options. Kids can sign in with a (Seesaw-generated) QR code or an e-mail address -- choose what works best for your students.
  • Unlimited space. Teachers can create an unlimited number of spaces, have an unlimited number of students, and students get unlimited amount of space for work uploads.
  • No e-mail address, username, or password required. Each class has a QR code that students simply have to scan in order to access the class. This eliminates the need for logging out and back in before every assignment, which can eat up a lot of time!
  • Plays well with others. Seesaw is compatible with lots of commonly-used creation apps so that you can import work from there into the Seesaw journal. It can also help you bypass the need for an account in those other apps. For instance, users typically need an account in order to export work from Shadow Puppet Edu. However, if they export to Seesaw, no account is needed!
  • Co-teaching? No problem. Add a co-teacher to your account by simply e-mailing the Seesaw team. 
  • Moderate as needed. Ability for the teacher to approve/deny each journal entry, along with reassigning work to students if they accidentally upload to the wrong journal.
  • School-wide account option. E-mail the Seesaw team to activate this option. Once done, you can upload student accounts in bulk, and a student's work can go with them from year to year.
  • Activate alerts. Get notified via e-mail and/or on your device each time a student uploads work, if you want. {Parents also have this capability with their own child's work.}
  • Easy parent communication. Teachers have the option to invite parents to view their child's work {parents only see their child's work}. Parents can view everything that is uploaded to their child's account and comment on individual assignments {if you activate that feature}. If their child is enrolled in more than one class that uses Seesaw, the parent should see all work merged into one stream.
  • Optional upgrade for parents. A basic parent account is free, but they can upgrade for $10/year to access additional features. 
  • Quickly find student work. The teacher can access a calendar view; click on a day to access all work added to the journal that day. The teacher can also click on a specific student's journal in order to see work only he or she completed. Finally, the teacher can flag work for follow-up, and then later choose to view only the flagged items.

  • No way to push information to students. I spoke with the support team, and they said they've heard this from a few teachers and might be adding this feature in the future. But for now, you cannot upload anything to a class journal for students to grab and work on, for instance. If your iPads have AirDrop, though, there's an easy work-around. 
  • No way to edit. This is a feature the team is supposedly working on, but for now, once something is uploaded, the teacher has to delete it -- as students cannot delete -- and the student will have to edit and re-upload, as there are no "do-overs." 
  • School accounts seem needed. Journals do not carry over from year to year unless you have a school account. I'm not sure what happens to the student's work after the school year is over, but it's something to look into. 
  • No way to grade. It would be super if this app gave you the ability to grade things or annotate on work, but right now, it's just a storage hub for student work.
  • No PDF support. But you can take photos/screenshots of PDFs, so this is only a minor annoyance.
Personally, I think this would be awesome to take into parent conferences. If the parent already has an account, there are no surprises! But if not, all of the student's work is on your iPad, so you can just let his/her work samples do the talking. 
You can use Seesaw even if you only have 1 iPad in your class. Just have students take a picture of their paper work and upload it to their own account instead of turning in the paper version. And because Seesaw is compatible with so many other commonly-used creation apps, you aren't limited to just annotation and videos for student uploads. Here's a list of apps with which Seesaw plays well. Plus, the Seesaw website even has lots of activity ideas already posted for each subject area so you can dive in ASAP.

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