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Teachers' Essential Guide to Seesaw

What is Seesaw? And how are teachers using it? Learn more about this popular platform and how to use it with students.

Paul Barnwell | November 16, 2020

While Google Classroom and its accompanying suite of tools is immensely popular in education -- especially at the secondary level -- Seesaw is a fast-growing and user-friendly digital platform for teachers to assign work, engage with students, and provide feedback, among other classroom activities. It's also a standout choice for incorporating teacher, parent, and student feedback -- something not as easily achieved on Google Classroom.

Read on to find answers to teachers' most commonly asked questions about the platform, in addition to information on how you can use Seesaw with your students. Also, be sure to check out our tips video for parents, as well as our detailed review of Seesaw's potential for learning.

What is Seesaw?
Who can use Seesaw?
How do teachers use Seesaw?
How do I set up my class in Seesaw?
What can students do in Seesaw?
How can families use Seesaw?
Does Seesaw have a built-in gradebook?
How can teachers use Google Docs with Seesaw?
Do teachers use Seesaw to teach live, like with Zoom or Google Meet?
What about privacy and safety? Is Seesaw vulnerable to hackers?
Where can I find more ideas for using Seesaw?

What is Seesaw?

Seesaw is a digital platform where teachers of all grade levels and content areas can create learning tasks and assignments for students. The assignments can incorporate videos, photos, text, images, files, or drawings. In addition, teachers can also use Seesaw to create a class blog, communicate with students and families, create and curate activities from a robust and ever-growing library, and assess student work via digital portfolios. The tool offers a free version for teachers with access to its basic features. A paid upgrade to Seesaw Plus gives teachers access to more privacy options and other features. Seesaw for Schools is for school- or district-wide adoption and is priced per student. 

Setting up a class on Seesaw is straightforward, and Seesaw's online interface leads users through its various processes. While Seesaw doesn't currently include a live video-streaming platform, it's being widely used for remote learning due to its versatility with asynchronous learning models being used around the world. The Seesaw Parent & Family app, available online and via Android or iOS, allows for parents and caregivers to stay abreast of their kids' learning and to keep lines of contact open between school and home. A translation tool is also available for families (not for students) for notes, captions, and comments on student work as well as messages to or from the teacher.

Who can use Seesaw?

Teachers, students, and families can use Seesaw. Seesaw is used by primary grade-level teachers, middle school subject area teachers, elective teachers, and after-school program teachers, but it's most often used in elementary schools. Just like in Google Classroom, students can be members in more than one class. School and district administrators have a number of options to manage school-wide announcements, monitor teacher and class rosters, and set up summer school classes, among other possibilities.

How do teachers use Seesaw?

Teachers can use Seesaw in a variety of ways, which is part of its rapidly growing appeal.

Assigning work: Teachers can assign all sorts of tasks on Seesaw, which can be as simple as a scanned worksheet or as involved as a multistep assignment with video tutorials and integration of Google Docs. Check out this tutorial on how to post a basic assignment on Seesaw, which includes the option to add voice instructions for students (great at any age but particularly important for younger students). As an added bonus, teachers can view all student submissions at once to gauge understanding of a concept or skill.

Class blog: This option allows teachers to create a shared learning space, which gives students the chance to collaborate and see and comment on each others' thoughts. The blog, which is housed at a separate web address/URL, can be password protected, and teachers can opt to moderate posts. This overview video about Seesaw blogs gets into the various hows and whys of using the feature.

Communication and feedback: Teachers can comment on student submissions with an audio recording or a written comment to provide feedback, redirection, and encouragement. Teachers can send group announcements to classes or families, and they can send individual private messages through the built-in messaging system, which will also send notifications when students complete work, depending on setting choices.

Activities library: Just as Kahoot!, Quizlet, and Edpuzzle allow teachers to create, share, and curate activities, Seesaw lets users do the same. After all, teachers tend to be a generous bunch and are often happy to share the activities they create! At the time of this posting, there were thousands of lessons and activities to choose from. You don't have to sign up to get access to see what's on the site, but registration is necessary for full access and exploration.

Digital portfolio: Students can compile their work in a digital portfolio, either by saving work that they've already completed online, or by using the app to take pictures of hard copies or artifacts demonstrating their learning. This allows teachers to assess student progress over time. In this video about using Seesaw as a portfolio, a student explains how she can take pictures and add an entry to her Seesaw portfolio.

How do I set up my class in Seesaw?

After logging in to a teacher account, setting up a class in Seesaw is fairly simple. Teachers can add students to a Seesaw classroom in a number of ways: by email address, Google account, Home Learning Code, QR code, and Clever badge. Note that you can only use the Clever login if your school or district has upgraded to Seesaw for Schools. For younger students (pre-K-2), the easiest option is the QR code that students can scan.

Teachers can invite families to join Seesaw by adding parent or caregiver email addresses or phone numbers to the student roster or by distributing a QR code for the parent or caregiver to scan. Families will need to create an account to access the family portal via the web or an app.

This step-by-step video guide includes how to set up a Seesaw classroom and establish settings for what students can do or see on the platform. For example, teachers may or may not want to allow students to comment on other posts. Teachers can use the Sample Student feature to preview their class and assignments from a student perspective.

What can students do in Seesaw?

Students can complete a number of tasks on the Seesaw platform, and all fall under three main categories: Journal, Activities, and Inbox.

Journaling: Students can choose to add a journal entry for their own feed, with a choice of how to respond. They can draw, add text, or add a video or an image, among other options.

Completing assignments: Students respond to specific assignments under the Activities tab. Depending on the assignment, students may respond with a variety of methods. Check out the following students narrating and sharing their work:

Blogging: If you've decided to start a class blog, students can post for an authentic audience of their classmates -- and possibly beyond -- depending on your class settings.

Communicating: The inbox allows students to send to and receive messages from the teacher, and teachers can also enable peer-to-peer feedback on assignments. Students can also add comments to their journal entries or assignment responses or respond to comments their teacher, family member, or peer has added.

How can families use Seesaw?

When families use Seesaw, they are able to view student work (along with teacher feedback), receive class announcements, and send and receive individual messages. All of this is accessible via the family login, whether they are using the Seesaw Family web portal or the app, which is available on Android and iOS. Parents and caregivers can also leave feedback on their students' work if they so desire!

Does Seesaw have a built-in gradebook?

Although there is no built-in gradebook, teachers with the upgraded version, Seesaw for Schools, can keep track of student learning through its built-in progress-monitoring tool. Seesaw Skills view allows users to keep track of student proficiency on any given skill or academic standard. Teachers can also tag student work with Common Core or TEKS standards, for example, and create a color-coded three- to six-star assessment system.

How can teachers use Google Docs with Seesaw?

Google Drive and Docs are such widespread and invaluable tools for learning and beyond, and they're fairly straightforward to incorporate into Seesaw. There are two main ways for students to access Google files: via a link, or by uploading the files. If teachers provide a link to a Google file on a post, on a message, or within a template, it's important to remember that students must be logged in to their own Google accounts to view the files, or the permissions must be set to "anyone with the link can view." On the other hand, uploading files allows students to annotate Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, or Drawings, as Seesaw automatically converts them into annotatable pages.

Do teachers use Seesaw to teach live, like with Zoom or Google Meet?

Seesaw is not used to stream live lessons like traditional platforms, but it is proving to be an invaluable tool for asynchronous remote learning. Teachers frequently record videos to supplement learning activities for students to access and complete independently. Some teachers are also supplementing the asynchronous work on Seesaw with live video chats -- it's easy to share Google Meet or Zoom join links and codes through the announcement feature. Here is Seesaw's own list of resources for remote learning.

What about privacy and safety? Is Seesaw vulnerable to hackers?

Because Seesaw does not have a live video platform, vulnerability to hackers interfering with live learning is not a problem at this point. There is, however, a massive amount of student data that moves through the platform. Seesaw's help center provides an overview of its privacy and security measures. Our full privacy evaluation of Seesaw gives it a "Pass" rating, meaning the platform's privacy policy meets our minimum requirements for data collection and sharing, data security, advertising, and more.

Where can I find more ideas for using Seesaw?

Seesaw's platform allows for integration of all sorts of materials, so creative teachers will enjoy designing student learning experiences. For more inspiration, check out the following articles: