Rowan Roberts shares the inspiring way in which Rosendale School is using SeeSaw to stay connected with their classmates and teachers.
Rosendale Research School has a rich and varied approach to remote learning, some of which we’ve already shared. Its use of YouTube is heavily referenced in our guide, and headteacher Kate Atkin’s six best practice principles for remote learning in an emergency have helped shape our thinking since she shared them with us.
Rosendale has also been using Seesaw. We supported the school to get started with Seesaw several years ago during the second phase of the ReflectEd research project we developed together, which was all about metacognition. Metacognition, or ‘learning about how we learn’, is a way of encouraging pupils to better understand how they learn and ReflectED used technology to enable fast, effective reflections and feedback.
Writing and reflecting
We helped Rosendale to find a technological solution to enable children record key moments of learning and for teachers to learn from that data. When we started the first trial we selected the business tool Evernote as a way for children to record and tag their learning but by the second trial See Saw had been launched and its functionality and design for schools meant that the metacognition process was enhanced.
When Rosendale introduced Seesaw to the project I facilitated the training of its teachers, and when the research project was expanded to include schools around the country I worked with Rosendale staff to train the participating teachers. I was an admin on the Rosendale account for a while and so was aware of how it was being used to support the ReflectEd approach; children would photograph their work and write or record reflections on what they had learnt while doing it, what they needed to practice and where they could see themselves progressing.
A growth mindset
In this way the children developed a vocabulary for talking about their own learning as well as supporting each other – an ethos that was adopted beyond the duration of the research project. There is a strong growth mindset culture in Rosendale; pupils understand that finding something difficult is all part of the learning process and that with patience and determination we can grow.
Through this process the children have also become familiar with Seesaw and how they can use it to access activities, share their work and engage with their classmates by posting comments and clicking ‘like’.
All this has undoubtedly been extremely helpful for Rosendale’s ability to adapt to the current situation. Since teachers are now using Seesaw so much more, and because I had worked with them on it at the beginning, the school recently asked me to return as an administrator in order to help them get the most out of the platform’s data analytics features. Yesterday I logged in for the first time since lockdown began, which turned out to be an unexpectedly moving experience.
10,000 posts, 7,000 comments and 8,000 likes!
I was immediately greeted with the news that in the last seven days pupils had made a total of 10,000 posts, 7,000 comments and 8,000 likes. The overview page also gave me a rundown of some of the most recent posts by children. I could see that, as well as photos of drawings and handwriting practice, voice and video recordings and solutions to maths challenges, the pupils were using the platform to stay connected with their peers. Some posted pictures of craft activities they had been doing with their families, or shared things they had seen while out on a walk, or recorded happy birthday messages for their classmates. Teachers were also using the comment function, both for feedback and to respond to the children’s messages. In addition, the SeeSaw analytics meant that teachers can see exactly how much engagement children have with learning at a distance and they can contact and support vulnerable children in different ways. And, of course, it all helps with engendering a sense of belonging and ‘teacher presence’ that is so important in remote learning (see the recent EDT report on Best Practice in Pedagogy in Remote Teaching, which London CLC’s director Sarah Horrocks contributed to, for more on this crucial aspect of remote learning).
I’m not sure I can explain the full mix of emotions I felt when I saw all the interaction on SeeSaw. I was inspired by the children and teachers, proud to have played a part in the process, but also sad that the children clearly missed each other so much, and that we’re still a long way from this kind of online community being accessible to all children across the country. Within any school digital inequalities will be acting as a barrier for some pupils, and, of course, because there was so little time to prepare for this situation there will also be many schools unable to access the staff training and support that might be needed to get started with a platform like Seesaw.
Having said all that, if teachers have shown us anything in recent weeks it’s that they are dedicated and adaptable. Seesaw is one example, but we have seen so many innovative, inspiring ways that schools are staying connected with their pupils (read our blog post about how teachers are sharing activities with pupils and parents for some great examples). And of course, it’s not just about which tool you use but about how you use it. We hope that the materials we’ve been putting together over the past weeks, as well as the training we continue to provide, are helping other schools to navigate this situation, and would like to remind our SLA schools that we are just a phone call or an email away if there’s anything more we can do to help as you find your new normal.