Seesaw in the High School Classroom

I used to like to walk the straight and narrow line

But I thought this tool was just for elementary? It’s babyish. High school students won’t want to use a kiddie tool. Yep, those are common thoughts I’ve had and things I have heard by educators in the secondary realm when it comes to using Seesaw. However, as the instructional technology coach, it is my job to seek out edtech that can help students for all levels, so I looked into Seesaw this summer. I was blown away by what I discovered.

I used to think that everything was fine

Not only is Seesaw free, but it is easy for all ages of students and levels of tech proficiency to use. That could be part of the reason it gets an elementary only rap, but I don’t see simplicity for users as a bad thing. I see it as a way to allow all users to tap into the power of its features. There are no handicaps. It doesn’t matter how tech savvy or old you are. You can use this tool immediately. Why would that be a downside? A downgrade in student age? I have high schoolers who aren’t good at using technology, and yet they needed very little help the very first time I used Seesaw this year. That’s called empowerment, not elementary. Adobe Spark is another favorite tool of mine that values simplicity for the user, and it doesn’t get the elementary rap. Why? Because it is the use not the tool that determines the grade level or age level of the activity, but the activity itself, which Spark users understand. It’s time the world of education sees Seesaw in the same light.

Teachers Need to Understand Student Thinking

While there are a lot of things I love so far (and I’ve used Seesaw in three classes for a little over a week at the time this post was written), the biggest is the ability for students to explain their thinking. The power in that alone makes this a powerful tool for my classroom. Without having students explain their thinking, I only see the answer, and based on that, there are a lot of wrong assumptions I can make. A student may understand one concept but not know how to apply it. If I don’t know this, then I can’t adjust my instruction to bridge this gap. On the flipside, a student’s “simple” answer may prove to be the result of complex thinking, yet I won’t know that unless I ask them to explain why they answered the way they did.

When Hayden explained what he meant here, I realized that my initial impression was that it seemed as if he hadn’t put any thought into the assignment at all. I was wrong. He explained that he felt if Ralph and Jack (Lord of the Flies) had just duked it out early on, then the novel would have had a very different ending, and lives would have been saved, since Ralph would have won.

Students need to explain not just the how, but the when and the why as well.

While it’s true that we don’t need Seesaw to find out what students are thinking, this tool makes it so easy for students to explain their thinking in a variety of ways. In one recent assignment, I had students select a quote from our current reading of Lord of the Flies, take a picture of the page in the book (either within Seesaw or with their phone and upload it to Seesaw & could also use Snapchat or Google Drawings to add their Bitmoji or clipart), underline or circle the quote/passage, type out a brief explanation, and then use the microphone to explain more fully why that passage or quote grabbed their attention. Did they find a personal connection to it? This not only will help me understand how my students are thinking as they read the novel, but will also help them find ways to connect to the content, which is sometimes hard for them to understand on the level that they need to understand it.

I stress to students as we dive into the novel that when selecting a quote or passage that appeals to them, it doesn’t always have to be “deep.” It just has to appeal to them. So this student explained via the microphone option in Seesaw that she found the funny and odd words like “wacco” used in the novel to relate to her life because she says odd things too. The fact that the vernacular of the 50’s in England can hook an American sophomore in 2019 is very amazing to me.

Sometimes I’d like to sit and gaze for days through sleepless dreams

Does this mean that Seesaw is only good for surface level interaction with the text? No, it means my initial assignment for students as they familiarized themselves with the tool wasn’t overly complicated. I don’t like to overwhelm students with a new tool and a complex assignment all at once. I get them comfortable with the tools and then layer complexity with the assignment. We are 1:1 with Chromebooks, so all of the tools work well with Seesaw. The students did not have trouble using the drawing tools, microphone, typing tools, camera, and more. Even my most technology challenged students were able to complete the task once encouraged and or given minor assistance.

All alone and trapped in time

In my Spanish class, my students are using Seesaw to do their oral assignments. Creating conversations with a partner or using the language by themselves via Seesaw has made it so easy for me to spot the pronunciation problems, verb-subject agreement problems, or errors with noun-adjective agreement. Using the microphone via my Chromebook or MacBook means I can give students feedback without taking up much of my time. I can give specific feedback in a timely manner, all without having to leave or modify the program. And through Seesaw, I have given all students a voice, even those quiet students who aren’t comfortable sharing their voice in the classroom. Through Seesaw, they can do the videos or audio where they feel most comfortable. This takes redfinition to a whole new level as we work to grow assessment capable learners. Empowered learners. Happy learners.

By making deadlines at the end of the day (literally at 11:59 PM), students often do the recording part of their work from home, where they feel more comfortable speaking in a foreign language, as it is a more private setting. With paired conversations, however, students complete those in the classroom or outside the classroom in the hallway.

All alone and trapped in time

I’m in my infancy in terms of how long I’ve used Seesaw as a teacher, but I am in love. While sitting in our PLC (Professional Learning Community) meeting recently, I was scrolling through my Seesaw classes, checking the notifications of responses to my assignments waiting to be reviewed. A high school history teacher sitting next to me asked in awe, “What is that program you’re using?” Boy was I thrilled she asked. I have trained elementary and junior high teachers on Seesaw, but it is so refreshing to see a high school teacher automatically understand the value in the is program once they really look at it (and I regret that it took me so long to give it a shot myself). After the meeting, the high school PE (Physical Education) and Body Conditioning teacher saw immediate implications for how he could use it in PE and in the weight room when students are working on a skill or working out. They all have Chromebooks and Seesaw’s video works really well to record students in action and explaining what they are doing and/or how they are doing something. When I showed both the history and PE teacher how easy it is to give verbal feedback, I could see they were sold. Still not sure yourself? Dive in and try it. Seesaw is free to individual teachers, so you have nothing to lose and the doorway into your students’ hearts and minds to gain.

Headings are partial lyrics from the song Crystal Ball by Styx.

7 thoughts on “Seesaw in the High School Classroom

  1. I’m already using google slides for each student as a sort of daily journal for notes, assignments, drawing graphs (I’m a high school math teacher) and more. Maybe I missed something but I really don’t see what advantage see-saw has over google slides. All things being equal, I’ll tend to stick with what the students (and I) already know rather than learning yet another tool. Maybe If I weren’t already using G-Slides, see-saw might be worth looking into.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do what’s good for you. This post just provides a high school look on a tool that does a lot, is easy to use for all students, and yet tends to get an “elementary only” rap. Slides is great. Seesaw is not the same as Slides, so I would use them differently, for the most part. Just know that the built-in audio and video tools in Seesaw are really good, in case you ever want to try it.


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