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G-Suite + Seesaw = Visible Learning at its Best!

Visible Learning... This buzzword has been front and center for a few years now. What does it mean to you?  For me, visible learning is being able to see what my kids are learning on their journey to mastery. 18 years ago when I started teaching, I struggled to REALLY see what my students were mastering in the classroom. Multiple choice tests, cut & paste worksheets, there weren't many options. The best way back then to know if your students were proficient in something was the one-on-one demonstration of mastery, but I finding the time to assess each student individually one at a time was extremely tough, especially with 36 students and no assistant. Then came the technology, and today, we almost have TOO many options to choose from to make kids' learning visible. 

I wanted to share two of the tech tools that have transformed my classroom, especially when it comes to making learning visible. For the last few years, I have used Seesaw in my first grade classroom. Seesaw is a digital learning journal, or portfolio, that not only allows me to curate all learning in one place, but offers a variety of options in one place for gathering evidence of growth and mastery.  I love Seesaw because the free version rocks and overall it just keeps getting better. This year they came out with Seesaw Activities. Now I can "assign" activities/digital assignments. I can include typed directions as well as recorded directions. Recorded directions with visuals? Umm... YES PLEASE! Let's see if you can relate to this scenario:

 BEFORE Seesaw:
  • Me: Explaining all the directions for the week's centers or stations. "OK, get started!" 
  • Not one minute later... Student: "Mrs. Pavek! What are we supposed to do at this center again?"
  • Me: "Remember to ask 3 before me." 
  • Less than a minute the student is back... "No one remembers. They said they don't know either."
  • Me: (Big sigh) OK... [insert explanation I just gave 3 minutes ago...]
Did that sound familiar to anyone?  I feel like each year, listening skills get worse and worse... Solution? Seesaw! Here's what my classroom sounds like now WITH Seesaw:
  • Student: "Mrs. Pavek! What are we supposed to do at this center again?"
  • Me: "Go back to the Seesaw Activity and listen to the directions again."
  • Student gets back to work. 
I love Seesaw so much, I became a Seesaw 
Ambassador. Now I help spread the word 
about this amazing resource.
A new feature I love is the ability to create my own Seesaw Activities. These activities allow me to create assignments with recorded directions, a sample, and a template if I need it. It has made activities that my kids used to do with little to no monitoring more meaningful because now I have individual documentation of understanding. These activities allow me to differentiate tasks and give feedback to a child immediately. Oh and I can't forget to mention the school to home connection. Parents get notifications on their devices when I "approve" something in their child's journal. Now when students get home, the conversation is no longer, "What did you do in school today?" and "Nothing." Now it's, "Wow! I saw you are working on word problems in math. I loved your explanation! Now I will know how your teacher taught you to use that strategy." Seesaw was DEFINITELY a game changer!

I earn my Google Level 1 Certification
in the Summer of 2017.
OK... As you can see, I am a HUGE fan of Seesaw, but this post was supposed to be about Seesaw AND G-Suite For Education. So let me talk a little about Google Classroom in first grade. This year, my school decided that we would do Seesaw for Schools in grades K-3 and Google Classroom with 3 and up.  As a Google Reference District, we try to infuse G-Suite as much as possible to help our students show their learning. A few of the K-2 teachers and I decided that we wanted to see if using Seesaw and Google Classroom would be worth it. We formed a professional learning community (PLC) and began to dig into Google Classroom and more. We were skeptical, at least I know I was. I figured Seesaw was enough. I didn't think that Google Classroom would be needed. "Just more 'forced' tech integration," I thought. As we explored ways to use Google products to help students make their learning visible, we realized something - Google products filled in the gaps for Seesaw.  I mean, even a Seesaw-lover such as myself has to admit it has its flaws. Everything does, right? One of the big ones is that you cannot put multiple images on a "page" and manipulate them or move them around. Well, in Google Slides you can. What my PLC found was using G-Suite, especially Google Classroom and Slides, allowed us to create templates for our students such as digital Thinking Maps (flow maps, tree maps, circle maps, etc.). It provided a way for students to use more visuals to demonstrate understanding.  In the primary grade, that's GOLD! Then we discovered that, since Seesaw and Google "play nice", students could easily pull their final product into Seesaw and add voice to it. They could reflect and expand verbally about what they learned. They could explain the slide or doc right there inside of Seesaw. Recording their thoughts made all the learning TOTALLY visible to me as the teacher. For example, my students used slides to make a life cycle of a sea turtle. They read books about the animals in our digital library app (Epic! Books) and then went on Google Slides to create a diagram or flow map. As I was peaking in on their work through Google Classroom, I was so impressed with the vocabulary so many of them were using. Words like juvenile and develop. I was so wowed! Then... I listened to their final posts in Seesaw and realized that the majority of the students who used those words couldn't actually pronounce them. They didn't fully understand the word. If I didn't use these two products together, I might not have known that there was a hole in their understanding.

My PLC made me realize that Google products and Seesaw are not mutually exclusive. I know I am just barely skimming the surface of what these tools can do together. They compliment each other very nicely and my students' learning has truly become crystal clear to me and their parents. Voice and choice are key to making learning visible in authentic ways.  I am just so thankful that I have these tools to give my students SO many choices to make their voices (and learning) heard.


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