Digital Portfolios: Making Learning Visible

When my eldest child started preschool it was a bit of a shock to me I have to admit.  For the very first time I entrusted my precious baby to people I hardly knew.  So there he was…three hours of the day on his own with people he didn’t really know and who didn’t know him.  The truth was I couldn’t really imagine how he was doing.   I got a weekly written note each Friday which told me in fairly general terms which activities he enjoyed.  I would have loved to have known more.

When I started teaching my preschool class in 2012 I really wanted to ensure that parents got as full a picture as I could provide of what their young child was doing.   I use a daily, written and pictorial, home-school communication diary.  I call parents and meet them on a regular basis.

The idea that children can behave very differently in school and home has been well documented (Tizard and Hughes, 1984).  Teachers have much to learn from parents.  So the more information we can share with parents and that parents can share with us the better chance we will have to assess the child’s abilities accurately.

Often parents are surprised by what children are able to do at school,  things that they will not do at home for a myriad of reasons.  This knowledge opens up new possibilities for parents and can sometimes change their image of the child.  The opposite can also occur.  I will often have parents tell me that a child can already do what I am having difficulty getting them to do at school.  I then have to adjust my expectations. It is a reciprocal relationship.

seesaw cover (640x215)

I want to share an app with you that I have been trialling in my classroom. It is called Seesaw. It is marketed as a digital portfolio app which is simple enough for children to use by themselves. It allows you easily to upload photos, videos, drawings, text and links.  It is compatible with many popular apps.

What I most love about this app is that parents can sign up for it and are able to view their child’s work online.  When I upload an item to their child’s account they get a notification on their phone.  Parents can comment or ‘like’ an item and I can comment in return.

seesaw screenshot (322x572) (2)

Many of the children in my class are emergent communicators and cannot tell their parents what they have been doing at school and so for parents to be able to see a photo or a video is very empowering. One of my parents told me that she could never get her child to sing and dance but when I sent home a video of an action song which we were learning in class, he joined in with his mum and siblings all doing the actions together.

I have had really positive feedback from parents.  They don’t just look at the uploaded item once.  It is shared over and over, with grandparents, friends and other family members. One of my parents has told me that her child will point to the app on her phone in order to revisit a photo or video.  Our use of the app has opened up dialogues between parents and children. The fact that a parent or family member can comment on a child’s work in ‘real’ time is powerful.

The use of this app in my class is, for me, an example of how technology can be used to support children’s learning. It makes teaching and learning visible and opens up the classroom.  I love the fact that it has enhanced my communication with parents, increased parental involvement and enhanced wider family engagement.

This wonderful app offers the possibility of delightful vignettes into a preschooler’s day. I only wish it had been around when my son was 3!


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