Tuesday, September 4, 2018

How to Increase Parent Engagement Using Seesaw

I am thrilled with what Seesaw adds to my practice as a speech-language pathologist! If you are new to Seesaw, it is a FREE app that allows you to create a digital portfolio of your students’ work that you can access through an iPad, android tablet or computer. I have been using Seesaw consistently for about 2 years now.  Let me share with you a few ways that I have used it and the benefits that I have seen. Did I mention that it is free?!?! 

{Note: Seesaw also has a paid version but all of the benefits contained within this post can be accessed through the free version}.

How does Seesaw increase parent involvement?

To give you a little background history, I work in a school that is comprised of students from a low socioeconomic background. About a third of our students are also English Language Learners. Historically, this can be difficult for parent communication with both the language barrier and families who are working really hard to get their daily needs met. Seesaw has been a game changer for me. 

A few years back, I attended a session on Cultural Poverty by Celeste Roseberry (Side note: If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, run. Don’t walk. It’s worth it).  In the session, one of the take away points for me was the power of video with families living in poverty. 

In cultural poverty, families live for the moment, not what tomorrow may bring. So, though others may judge a cell phone or smartphone as frivolous spending, families are really trying to make the best of the current moment. 

The parents of the families that I work with often change their phone number as their minutes run out or their plans change so other applications like Remind weren’t a viable option for me. With Seesaw however, they can access their child’s account regardless of their phone number or from the library because it is web based.

How does Seesaw increase communication in the home?

Parents that do not speak English are able to watch a video of their child in speech therapy and gain an understanding on what they do while in school. Yes, there still is the language barrier but it gives our students a frame of reference or visual support to explain to their parent what they did that day at school. That is powerful

Parents love to know that their child is loved, learning and enjoying their time in speech. To see the smile on a parent’s face on conference night after watching their child in action is PRICELESS.

Seesaw also offers parents insight to topics that they may want to discuss or explore further with their child. For example, I used Seesaw in sessions with a student targeting social language goals by showing task cards and having the student record their response. One such task card involved receiving a text from an unknown person asking for the student’s location. Initially, the student was quick to reveal their location. The parent was able to hear us walk through why this is not a safe approach and what the student should do. The student was highly motivated by the “likes” that their parent would give their posts and it opened up a conversation at home that may not have happened otherwise.

How do you get parents involved?

Seesaw provides an individual QRCode that the parent can scan to access their student’s account and “follow” their student. They also offer an email option. I sent home the letter that Seesaw generates explaining Seesaw and the student’s QRCode in the beginning of the year. 

I’ll be honest, just sending home a QR Code didn’t yield a ton of parent participation in my experience but what did was having students excited about their learning as we added more and more to their account. Seesaw offers an option that generates a QRCode to a particular post. If a student was excited about something that they had posted that day, we would simply print out that post with a QRCode that they would take home to share with their parent. BINGO! This worked like a charm!! Not to mention that it opened up the dialogue between parent and child about their day beyond “what did you do at school today”.

How does Seesaw increase student accountability?

Realistically, we know that not every parent is going to check their child’s Seesaw account. In fact, chances are a large majority may not but do not let that stop you

Why, you ask? 

It’s simple. Our students are growing up in a generation intrigued by YouTube sensations and selfies galore. Putting their work out there (even if you wind up being the only one who sees it) adds accountability and motivation. Say you have a student working on descriptive language. The student can describe a topic/picture by either photographing the object/picture and adding an audio description or can video themselves describing it. Watch the student shine and proudly show off all of those awesome language skills they are growing in speech-language!

Baseline anyone? 

Students love to revisit their old posts on their Seesaw timeline. Let students witness their growth and watch them beam with pride. Show their skills off to their teacher for added reinforcement outside your therapy room.

Data, Data, & More Data!

When using another app in speech therapy that collects data, I can easily screenshot each student’s results page and upload it to their Seesaw account. This helps me streamline their data and reduces the amount of writing that I need to do in my daily session notes. I don’t know about you, but chances are you are back-to-back with groups like me and can’t realistically write extended therapy notes for each student every day. This allows for an accurate detailed account of data. At the end of the year, I simply print out each student’s Seesaw profile and attach it to the back of my Session Log sheet for the student.

Assign Student Practice

When planning ahead of time for therapy, I was able to screenshot a target sheet from a pdf file and save it to specific students. The student could then open the image and edit it using the text/drawing feature or record audio to capture their thinking.

With my preschoolers, I find that having them watch a snippet of therapy starring him/herself elicits more language than the activity itself did. Man, those littles sure do love to watch themselves! Capitalize on that and use it to your advantage!

Summer Carryover

I have mixed emotions about summer homework. I will usually send home a simple packet or calendar of sorts but many likely sit in unopened backpacks or find their way into the recycling bin. Remember when I said earlier that I print out the student profiles at the end of the year to attach to my session logs? I simply made an additional copy to send home with the students. 

In theory, the parents can access this through the app or online but remember, not every parent will do so regardless of how many times you do cartwheels and stand on your head. The students then had a yearbook of sorts of what they did in speech-language this year. Each post prints out a lovely photograph. When students recall what they worked on and all of the fun that they had, the learning extends far beyond your therapy walls!

 Okay, now what?

Download Seesaw here. If you need help setting it up, check out this blogpost on Seesaw I did a couple years back with picture tutorials. Also do not forget, I am just an email away. Reach out anytime!

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