Documenting student learning with Seesaw

      As a teacher, it is easy for me to see the progress students are making by the work that they produce. What I have found, however, is that students and parents aren’t able to see that same progress because they do not have access to the finished products on a daily basis. I have recently introduced Seesaw, a student driven digital portfolio into my classroom. Seesaw allows students to create notes, upload work, and make videos to document their work. At first, I was skeptical about how this program would engage students and invest them in their learning, but after the first use of Seesaw I have no doubt this program will be a success.


How I am using this:

Students will be given a simple daily assignment on Seesaw as seen below.

Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 10.12.32 AM

Students can then complete the assignment in a variety of ways.Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 10.13.30 AM

      Once students have completed their work, they submit it for my approval. If approved, their assignment is posted on the their personal Seesaw timeline, and the class timeline which only the teacher is able to access. Other classmates are able to see the work of their peers and like or comment on it (with approval, of course)!


Here are some examples of what we have done in Spelhouse!

Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 10.15.45 AMNa’Shon’s uploaded Dust Bowl narrative

Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 10.17.08 AMClassmates showing Taurus some love with their likes and comments!

Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 10.18.36 AMJay’Quan explaining to classmates how to conduct a proper experiment.

Other features:

      Seesaw allows for parents to follow their child’s timeline and check-in and comment on their work. Seesaw even provides a handout explaining their product and step-by-step instructions of how to access it!  Another feature that I really like is that Seesaw allows for teachers to create a classroom blog, and easily link items from your class timeline on to the blog. I feel that having a class blog where we publish work will introduce a new level of academic ownership in my classroom.

Pros Cons
  • Students are SO invested in the Facebook and Instagram like features of Seesaw
  • Allows students to document learning in a variety of ways
  • I am able to approve all posts, comments, etc
  • Parents are able to follow their students work
  • Extremely user friendly
  • It is easy to link work from the class timeline to the class blog
  • Students like to take pictures and create videos that are not necessarily school-related

        Overall, I am so happy to have introduced this app to my class. I will continue to use it to document student work to show the progress we make as a class.


Blended Learning Throughout the 5E Science Model

Most science educators are familiar with the 5E model as shown below. Until this year, I have not been able to fully incorporate blended learning techniques throughout the entire model. After much experimentation, and many learn-as-you-go classes, I have found how to successfully use technology not only for student engagement, but for data driven instruction.


ENGAGE: excite, hook, attract

Traditional Engage Activities Engage Tech Integration
KWL charts

Thought questions


Word sorts


Do Nows

Padlet: a digital corkboard, where students can post ‘sticky notes’ on a wall together.

Poll Everywhere: survey students current knowledge, create word clouds, etc

Socrative: quick ‘spark’ question to grab students’ attention/curiosity.

Exit Ticket: gathers and allows for teacher to access real time data on prior knowledge of topic. Tool for differentiating/forming groups.

Most traditional engage activities have some platform that can generate that same information and excitement that you are looking to gain in the classroom. However, in my opinion, there is no substitute for hands-on demonstrations to hook students into an awesome science lesson. I have used each of these platforms in my classroom, but still find myself going back to traditional ways of presenting an engage activity.

Engage Spotlight Item: Padlet
Glows 🙂 Grows 😦
  • Interactive
  • Allows for students to type, add attachments, take pictures, add audio
  • Visually appealing for kids
  • Kept students engaged with activity
  • Hard to set-up first Padlet
  • Students could not figure out how to write on Padlet
  • Too advanced for the simple answers I was looking for 

Screenshot 2015-12-10 at 10.06.50 AM

Overall thoughts: I really enjoyed the visual aspect of this program. I also found it really awesome that the posts were not just limited to text. Students really enjoyed seeing their answer projected for the rest of the class to see, and it kept even my wiggliest students engaged for an extended period of time.  However, I did find this to be too complex for the simple brain dump of vocabulary words. I think this would be a great tool to use in professional developments or with high schoolers, but not necessarily in a 6th grade classroom.


EXPLORE: inquire, examine, ask questions

Traditional Explore Activities Explore Tech Integration
Experiments/Labs PhET Simulations: students  explore essential questions/topics like a lab, but as online demo instead.

Web Quest: an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web.

Glencoe Labs: students  explore essential questions/topics like a lab, but as online demo instead.

Go-Lab: online portal that contains inquiry labs and apps for all branches of science. It also allows for teachers to create their own inquiry learning based spaces for others to use.

Gizmos: online lab simulations. Membership required after free trial period. Only some work with Chrome OS.

While most of these sites cover topics presented 6th-8th grade curriculum, there is not one site has labs that can be presented to students without modifications. Most virtual labs and interactives comes with downloadable resources that allow you to modify the content to the needs of your students. I often times find myself using snippets of these labs in my classroom, mostly for  standards that are highly conceptual or completing a traditional experiment would be too expensive.

Explore Spotlight Item: PhET Simulations
Glows 🙂 Grows 😦
  • Interactive
  • Premade worksheets are available in both Word and PDF form
  • Students are invested in these explorations
  • Only some simulations work on Chromebook OS
  • Simulations can be too difficult for middle school students, only certain parts are applicable to Louisiana standards
  • Simulations do not have written directions for how to complete them
  • No guided learning points throughout simulation

Screenshot 2015-12-10 at 10.12.05 AM

Overall thoughts: I enjoy using this simulations when I am teaching an abstract concept, for example, conservation of energy. I have taught, and retaught this standard for the past 3 years, never seeming to be truly successful. The PhET simulation that allows students to explore conservation of energy has helped by investing students in their exploration of this topic, allowing for this conceptual topic to be shown in a tangible way, and allowing for reference points while explaining this concept during the explain portion of my lesson. I have found that this lab, as a whole, is too complex for my 6th grade students. I am only able to use the most basic part of this lab, which allows for only about 10 minutes of class time actually using a small portion of the interactive.


EXPLAIN: describe, make clear, give details

Traditional Explain Activities Explain Tech Integration

Introduction to new material

Connecting observations from engage and explore to conceptual concepts

YouTube: create notes video for each student to take notes at their own pace.

Educanon: create or use videos made by other educators and embed checks for understanding to assess student knowledge as new material is introduced. Teachers can access data in real time.

Edpuzzle: create or use videos made by other educators and embed checks for understanding to assess student knowledge as new material is introduced. Real time data not available.

Prezi: software that uses motion, zoom, and spatial relationships to bring your ideas to life. More advanced version of PowerPoint or Google Slides.

NearPod: presents interactive lessons & assessments that students can access on any device. 

The way that I have presented the explain portion to my students has evolved over the past 3 years. I began with projected notes, moved to YouTube videos, and have found myself now using Educanon. I enjoy that my students are able to complete notes at their own pace and I am able to check for classwide misunderstandings by looking at the data gathered from the embedded CFUs.

Explore Spotlight Item: Educanon
Glows 🙂 Grows 😦
  • You can embed CFUs
  • Students cannot skip a video, they must answer CFUs first
  • Variety of options for CFUs (fill in blank, open response, MC, check all that apply)
  • Easy to design bulbs
  • Share bulbs between teachers
  • You can use already existing videos and create your own CFUs or use the ones already embedded
  • Does not hold high expectations/engagement for students unless outside expectations are in place
  • When high volume of computers on Educanon is can freeze
  • Some issues with Firewall/Blocked Sites

Check out my video on work & power!

Overall thoughts: This is a great way for students to take self-paced notes. It is great that teachers have the option of creating their own bulbs for the class or search pre-made ones. The only issues we experience are technological ones, computers freezing or having to get past the network’s firewall.  My only personal issues with Educanon is the lack of engagement over time. If you want to keep your students on task and engaged in the videos it may be wise to have an outside incentive system to hold them accountable.


ELABORATE: practice, make habit, push

Traditional Elaborate Activities Elaborate Tech Integration
Guided practice

Independent practice

Check work  

Exit Ticket: online program that allows teachers to upload/create questions. Provides real time data as well as a mastery breakdown per student.


EVALUATE: assess, gauge learning, analyze

Traditional Evaluate Activities Evaluate Tech Integration
Exit Ticket



Exit Ticket: online program that allows teachers to upload/create questions. Provides real time data as well as a mastery breakdown per student. 

I have always struggled checking the independent work my students complete and therefore not really knowing if they are mastering a standard. I started using the Exit Ticket program for students to check their  independent practice and exit tickets from science class.

Elaborate & Evaluate Spotlight Item: Exit Ticket
Glows 🙂 Grows 😦
  • Provides real time data on overall assessment and breakdown of each question
  • Students can see how they did after each question
  • Students can see their progress over the week, semester, year
  • Has a projector mode which can be used to show students without giving away student data
  • Easy projects question breakdown for reteaching
  • Keeps a bank of all items you create/find
  • Students have to enter a code the first time they log-in
  • Sometimes link doesn’t work and students have to find from google
  • Free response answer have to match exactly for it to be counted as correct
  • Can only grade 1 point constructed response questions
  • Cannot be easily used or constructed response question with multiple parts

Screenshot 2015-12-10 at 10.23.31 AM

Screenshot 2015-12-10 at 10.25.03 AM

Overall thoughts: I really like using this program to use hold students accountable for completing their independent work. I have found that this invests student in their science GPA. I have often times used this as a talking a way to address misconceptions in the moment (see image above). Often times I have students raising their hands to defend their answer or challenge one they believe is incorrect.