Be careful with Seesaw

A friend of mine returned from Canada recently having been shocked by the proliferation of home-monitoring technology since his last visit and the number of his friends and family who now engage constantly in watching the goings-on in their houses while they’re out.

This really got me thinking about how the existence of new technology creates new habits and how this is true also of work. The developments in technology have led to different types of work and the fact that we can, and feel like we should, be working all the time. This isn’t a revolutionary thought, people talk about it all the time. However, I want to focus on one piece of technology, Seesaw.

The advent of Seesaw is exciting. It makes things possible that weren’t really possible before. In a nutshell, it is really the first way that teachers can do quick and easy documentation that is instantly shareable with parents who can see it using an app on their own devices.

Great! Right?

Well, not if you’re not really careful about how you use it.

You see, things that seem cool and different at first can quickly transform themselves into an expectation and therefore into work. If you’re not really, really purposeful about how you use Seesaw, it’s going to rapidly become a pretty pointless instant scrapbooking activity that gives parents a steady stream of images from within the classroom that they are going to depend upon but not necessarily learn anything from.

So, now you’ve got to deal with all of the massively important complexities of being a good teacher while also contend with providing a steady stream of posts that show everyone what you’re doing – basically classroom social media. Some people deal with this by handing responsibility over to the kids and calling it “agency”. But this, more often than not, leads to a steady stream of low-quality images or videos that are captured with little thought or purpose and that provide parents with little or no substantial information about the nature of the learning that students are engaged in. It also engages students in screentime that has little or no value. What’s more, it kind of feels like a gateway to the behaviours we see around us in society of having to post things on social media in order to prove they happened!

In your schools, put the following questions at the centre of everything you do with Seesaw:

When we post something on Seesaw, what are we communicating about the type of learning we value?

When people see what we post, what will they learn about the type of learning we value?

If you have some pretty good answers to these questions… proceed. If, however, your answers are “nothing” or “we’re not sure” or “we haven’t thought about it” then stop using Seesaw immediately and resume only when you have made some proper plans that will make it purposeful.

Part of those plans should involve making some BIG decisions about who your intended audience is for Seesaw:

  • Is the intended audience limited to colleagues? Some schools have taken this approach to great effect and used Seesaw purely for pedagogical documentation that is then used to inform responsive planning sessions. Of course, you’re going to have to wrap some intelligent ways of working around this – mainly involving time.
  • Are parents the intended audience? If so, make sure you are providing them with quality content that shapes their understanding about what education is, what learning looks like and what you are trying to achieve in your school, grade level or class. This is your chance to really have an effect on them – which of course can go either way!
  • Are students the intended audience? If so, you will need to make some plans for how they will make informed decisions about what content to post and why, reflect on their content, how they will receive feedback on their content and how their content will be used as evidence of learning that will inform next steps. This is going to involve a lot of thinking tools and just-in-time instruction to guide them towards those habits and practices.

I’m going to stop here… I think that’s plenty of food for thought for now. Please give it some thought! I hate to see so much time being wasted on something that may be pointless, or even harmful.

7 comments

  1. Stephanie

    Hi Sam,
    I read your post nodding my head, and again I wonder if you replaced seesaw with “inquiry”, “agency”, “blogging”, “iPads”, “mindfulness” people could answer those (paraphrased) questions you pose:

    When we inquire/blog/, what are we communicating about the type of learning we value?
    When people see what we we are doing, what will they learn about the type of learning we value?

    It all comes down to being critical about the why behind everything that is happening in the classroom and beyond.

    Stephanie

  2. Courtney Hughes

    I really appreciate taking the time to pause and consider your questions. I think all schools are grappling with these questions and pitfalls when it comes to documenting learning and the why behind it.

  3. Pingback: How we document learning: Portfolios – Lisa Dibbayawan
  4. Dominic

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for sharing your reflections. We use Class Dojo and the teachers run the newsfeed. Your thoughts about being mindful on how what we post reflects the type of learning we value is something I will be taking away with me in future. The questions are valid reflection points which I think we all need to think about.

  5. Amy

    Hi Sam, thanks for the post, our KG team are looking at it together. It is right in line with our recent conversations in which we wondered, “If we say we value social skills and self-management skills so highly in EY, why are the majority of my posts about emergent writing?!” We’re aiming for better balance. Constant conversations needed as always! Hugs from Phnom Penh :o)

  6. Pingback: Be careful with Seesaw – Time Space Education timespaceeducation.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/be-… #documenting4learning – Documenting4Learning Twitter Feed

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