Petra thinks it is unacceptable that some students are so anxious about engaging in learning and that many parents have misconceptions about assessment and reporting, contributing to the anxiety young people suffer. She believes in a school where learners feel safe to explore challenges, and where challenges are embraced as learning opportunities, however that wasn’t the reality Petra was experiencing at her site at the start of the year. In the last 12 years, Petra has seen a rise in the number of students experiencing anxiety from 10% to 37%. One in four young Australians currently experience a mental health problem, and nearly 50% of these health problems arise before the age of 14.
Petra decided that she could alleviate some anxiety for her students through connecting them and their parents with the learning process. This year, students in Petra’s class have documented and reflected on their assessments (via photo and video recording, or via videoing the work and the feedback from the teacher), identifying their successes and one focus point for development, and sharing these reflections with parents.
Petra decided to use the free app, Seesaw, with the 6 iPads in her classroom. She used the guides provided by Seesaw to set up students with tasks for a range of outcomes, and invited parents to join Seesaw using the individualised QR code print-outs provided by the platform.
The class developed a ‘Seesaw Online Learning Journal’ where their work was recorded and regularly updated, and they talked this up in the class newsletter, at Acquaintance Night, in staff meetings and at Open Night. Petra also modelled the use of Seesaw in parent meetings during Student-Led Conferences.
Petra ran a PD session on the use of Seesaw for teachers in the Sea and Vines Partnership, leading to other schools keen to trial Seesaw in their classes, and did another session with staff at her school that opened up the range and number of staff utilising Seesaw.
She taught her students to focus on growth mindset and introduced a new language of learning in her class where learners talked about ‘areas for growth’ rather than failures. Every improvement was celebrated along the way, developing a culture of mutual respect and support while acknowledging that everyone is different and everyone faces challenges.
Once they had Seesaw up and running with the 6 iPads, Petra introduced the 1:1 Chromebooks into her classroom, meaning that each student had greater access to technology to upload videos, photos and comments. They put time aside in class for ‘Review and Reflect Seesaw’ activities; time where students would look over the past week’s entries and could read parent and teacher feedback.
Keen to share the self-review strategies she’d developed for students in her class with other teachers, Petra worked with colleagues to develop ‘Target Time’ across the Grade 4/5 classes where students identified a personal literacy, numeracy and wellbeing goal and developed strategies to work towards their goals. Each class shared these goals with parents, provided class time for students to actively work on their personal goals & to share their improvements in a celebratory environment and made Target Time a part of their homework expectations.
Petra has worked intensively with her class of 30 students on Review and Reflect Seesaw processes this year, and has had a positive impact on another 120 students through her Target Time initiative. Nice work, Petra! With over 1,300 posts on Seesaw to date and 32 parents connected, it’s clearly gaining traction!
“I love the way my class embraces Seesaw: they are always 100% engaged when Seesaw is involved – whether the task itself is for assessment or the post is about reflecting on their learning – it is just so powerful. It is fantastic to be able to listen to every student explain their thinking – even when I’m not with the class! Seeing parents react to the posts – often in live time – has also been terrific for me but I think Fred’s story is the highlight. Fred has gone from finding any way to avoid written tasks to being highly engaged in literacy work and focussing on his handwriting as a clear goal to support him to communicate effectively. He absolutely loves doing Seesaw posts, where you can hear the the pride in his voice. His parent was very aggressive and combative in a meeting with me in Week 3 of Term 1 and avoided any connection or communication with me for the rest of Term 1 and most of Term 2. At our Term 3 Open Night Fred brought his family in and proudly showed them every single thing he could in the room. He had volunteered some of his work for every area we’d put up on display and was in the room for over 30 minutes, enthusiastically sharing the whole time. He even came back in later to show them more! His mum connected to his online journal after that and now smiles, speaks to me regularly and in a completely welcoming and accepting manner (even when I have to inform her of silly choices made in sessions with others). She even thanks me for my time, and has provided help with our SAKG project. Fred’s mum views every Seesaw item posted very swiftly and Fred is definitely now enthusiastic in literacy and far more focussed! His handwriting is improving and he is switched on to growing his skills and understandings.”
Like the idea?
Petra would love your support for Seesawing High, or for you to start a similar program in your school, and she’d love to hear about any ideas you have or lend a hand where she can. Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get in touch with Petra and we can connect you. Feel free to cheer her on in the comments below as well.
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