How to Use Seesaw for Distance Learning
First of all, I hope you are all safe, healthy, and as sane as possible as we navigate this new reality we are all living in. Working from home with a school-aged child has been exhausting, exciting, and eye-opening all at once. Whether you are teaching, working, parenting, or all three, you have probably done more on a computer in the last month than ever before.
To begin with, teachers are doing whatever they can to stay connected to their students. For many, that means finding and learning new tools as quickly as possible. If you’re lucky enough to work for a district that has dedicated instructional technology teachers, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information that has been thrown at you. Google Classroom, Zoom,Google Meet, Flipgrid are all tools you may be exploring. If you don’t work for a district like that, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the lack of information. Whatever your situation, chances are you’ve been a bit overwhelmed.
The goal here is to help lessen that overwhelming feeling. One of the most effective and useful distance learning tools is Seesaw. My daughter’s teacher is using Seesaw to share activities and communicate with parents and students! If you are on the fence about Seesaw as a remote learning tool, please read on to learn 5 Tips for Using Seesaw for Distance Learning!
Use Home Learning Codes
To help with distance and at-home learning, Seesaw has just come out with a new type of log-in for students. “Home Codes” were created to allow students to be able to work from home. With these codes, students do not have to remember a Google log-in or an email address/password combo. This is perfect for primary grade students! The log-in process is similar to what students do in the classroom with the teacher’s QR code. With “Home Learning Codes”, students can only see their journal/work as opposed to being able to see everyone else in the class.
To get started, click on the “Home Learning Codes” banner on your classroom landing page. It should look like this:
After you click on the “Get Home Learning Codes” you should see the option to print or download codes for each of your classes. Each student will need their own “Home Learning Code” because they are individual to the student.
To begin, choose the “Download” option. The document downloads as a spreadsheet, with a link to the individual “Home Learning Code” for each student. The spreadsheet also includes the parent emails if the student has family connected to their account, so everything you need is right on one page. When you click on the link next to the student, a PDF specifically for that student opens to forward on to the parents. The PDF has instructions on it for the students and families, so they can get started right away!
Keep Parents Engaged
When Seesaw first came on the scene, a big draw was the fact that parents could have an app on their phones/tablets/etc. that connected them to their child’s schoolwork. The school-to-home connection Seesaw provided was a new concept, and the online journal of student activities drew parents in. (No more scrapbooking? Or saving random pieces of paper? Sign me up!)
In order to make the best use of this connection while distance learning, parents need to be connected to their students. If you have not already completed this step, there is no better time than now! From your landing page, look for a plus sign with the word “Families” next to it.
Once you click on that button, you may be asked to “Turn on Family Access.” Don’t worry if you don’t see this window, you only have to do it once, and you may have clicked it a long time ago!
When you see the invite page, you have several options for each student. You can put in an email address or mobile number for each individual student, and invite parents individually. You can also print the invites or send an invite link to parents. The last option is convenient if you already have a parent email list.
Once you have parents invited, you will see who is connected by clicking on the same button – the “+ Families” button. Just like the “Home Learning Codes,” the invites for families walk them through the sign-up process step-by-step. In the rare event where you have a parent who can’t get connected, just remind them that they need to have the “Seesaw Family” app instead of the “Seesaw Class” app.
Eliminate App Fatigue
If you are like me, you are probably tired of jumping between platforms, trying to remember where the buttons are, what to click on to “accept the invite” and how to keep everything straight. Can you imagine how students feel? Seesaw is now robust enough to be considered an “all-in-one” platform. While it is not quite a “Learning Management System,” having student work through Seesaw helps them manage their distance-learning experience and gives them only one platform to master.
You can help students do this by showing them all the different types of journal entries they can send in. As students, they can click on the big green plus button on their landing page, and add a journal entry in one of a few formats.
Both the “Photo” and the “Video” options open the built-in camera on the device the students are using. From there, students take the photo or video as usual and click the green check button to submit their work.
The “Upload” option allows students to choose an already-existing file from their device to send in. “Drawing” allows students the most versatility – and is my personal favorite! Have students work with either the “Upload” or “Drawing” choices. “Upload” allows students to share something they created elsewhere, and “Drawing” allows for multiple pictures, annotation, backgrounds, and lots of other fun things for students.
The “Note” option is a text-based, lined file that students can type in. Lastly, the “Link” option is the chance for a student to share a URL with their teacher. These two options are more appropriate for upper-elementary students.
Browse the “Activity Library”
When you are ready to start sending activities to your students for independent learning, make sure you look in the “Activity Library.” Activities in Seesaw are like individualized assignments for students – you can “assign” them to the whole class, just one student, or anywhere in between. The “Activity Library” is a collection of activities that have already been created by “Seesaw Ambassadors” – master users.
In the Activity Library, you can choose from all sorts of topics, grade levels, and skills. When you click on “Browse Activity Library” OR click on the “Community” tab in the “Activity Library” screen to browse options from all over the curriculum!
When you find an activity you like, click on the heart icon in the upper, right-hand corner of the screen. This saves that activity to your “My Library” tab, where you can assign the activity to any class, student, or group of students you would like!
Create your own Activities!
If you are getting bored with assigning activities someone else created, you can try your hand at making your own! From your “My Library” tab, click on the first option – “Create New Activity.”
From here, you can add anything you would like. Give the activity a name that helps you remember the lesson it goes with. Make sure your student instructions are clear and easy to follow. Add a recording of you explaining the activity if you think it would be helpful. An example from the teacher is usually a good idea if you have one. Lastly, a template for your students to fill out can ease some stress for everyone, especially if you work with younger students.
It is a good idea to try your activity out with one or two trusted families before sending it out to a whole class or grade. Sometimes what seems simple to us as teachers can be confusing to families who don’t use our nomenclature every day.
Seesaw is a tool that is certainly worth exploring if you haven’t already. The possibilities for connecting with students and families while distance learning worth the hassle of learning a new platform. Which of these 5 Tips for Using Seesaw for Distance Learning will you try? Which ones have you already done? What tips and tricks have you found when using Seesaw?