Monday, August 14, 2017

Seesaw: A Teacher’s Best Friend

You’re probably thinking, “She’s exaggerating! How can an app by my best friend?” I got your attention, right? But trust me on this one, you are going to want to read about this AMAZING app called Seesaw.

What is Seesaw?
Seesaw is a FREE app (yes, I did say FREE) that you can use with your students. The Seesaw app works on all devices; ipads, Kindles, Chromebooks, desktops and tablets. Seesaw is a digital portfolio app that collects all your students’ digital work in one place. It can also be thought of as a learning journal for your students. If you are a visual  learners, think “whiteboard app” + “Facebook”. And when I say “Facebook” I do not mean your students are on Facebook and interacting with the public. It reminds me of Facebook because of the set up; the use of a feed and the ability for students to interact with each other. Another bonus- it has a way to connect with parents!   

So, how do my students use it?
Once your students sign in to your class, they can post an item. They have a choice of six items to choose from. They can add a drawing, take a picture, select a picture from their camera roll, post a note, select an item from their google drive or add a link.

This is the menu for posting items in Seesaw for both students and teachers.
This is the menu for posting items in Seesaw for both students and teachers.  Photo Credit:
Once they choose one, they can interact with it different ways; they can record over it, add labels or a caption. One example of the powerful use of Seesaw is using it as a tool to capture communicating reasoning. At my school, teachers love using the drawing tool with their students during math number talks. A teacher will post a number talk or a problem of the day. The students will then use the drawing tool to work out their math problem. Once completed, the students can label their math work and record their thinking and how they came to their answer.   When the student is finished with their work, their item will wait approval by you and will post to the class feed once it’s approved. But wait, it gets better...the students can then respond to each other’s work on the feed (think Facebook). Students learning and responding to each other about their thinking.  

How do I use it as a teacher?
Once you sign up, there are three ways to get your students to populate your class; one is to type each student’s name in or you can do a copy and paste from a class list. I make this suggestion for my primary teachers (kinder and first) because typing in a code can be a challenge with the littles. Another way is to have your student type in a code when they sign up for Seesaw. They do not have to keep putting in the code to join your class when they sign in, it’s a one time thing. Or, your students scan a QR code.  Seesaw has a built in QR code reader in their app and will generate a QR code for you when you select “QR code”. Once your students add items, you will need to approve these items just in case there is something not appropriate.  You will get notifications when students add items. It will be a red bubble at the top of your app or by your name on the desktop.

Alerts when students add items.
Alerts when students add items.
Seesaw will alert you when your students add items. 124! Whoa! I have this many because I’m added in two colleagues classes, which leads me to our next discussion.

What else does Seesaw do?
I’m so glad you asked! Through Seesaw, you can create a class blog. This is a great way to connect with other classrooms around the world; talk about your high level SAMR skills! According to Angela Gadtke, community lead at Seesaw, Seesaw is being used in 100 countries! This is a great and safe way to have your students and you connect with other classrooms in other countries. You can also join other classes as a teacher. You can also post announcements and as mentioned above, you can connect with parents. Parents will only see their student’s work and will get notifications when their students add items (only after you approve them of course!). Teachers also have the ability to send out private messages to parents.

One more thing - Seesaw Plus
Seesaw Plus is an assessment tool that is an added feature that is not free.  You do not need buy Seesaw Plus to use Seesaw.  With Seesaw Plus, teachers are able to identify student journal items by tagging them with a skill, very similar to report card grading. This allows you to see progress made in standards and goals. Other features include making private notes and posts. The good news is that when you sign up, you can try Seesaw Plus for a month! When you go to your account settings, scroll until you see Manage Seesaw Plus. Click on activate and you will have Seesaw Plus for a month.  

Seesaw is being used in 200,000 classrooms at 25,000 schools (; some districts have purchased Seesaw for Schools for their teachers. When a district purchases this for their teachers, all teachers have access to Seesaw Plus.  

See! I told you this was your new best friend! There are so many other cool things to learn about Seesaw but I had a word limit for this blog. It is very user-friendly and Seesaw has great tech support; you can do webinars if you’d like to learn more about Seesaw.  They have great ideas that teachers have used with Seesaw on Twitter @Seesaw and Facebook Seesaw Teachers.  So what are you waiting for?  Go check out Seesaw!

Melissa Monroe

Melissa Monroe is a Seesaw Ambassador and teaches second grade in Oceanside, California.  She was previously an Educational Technology TOSA for two years providing support for teachers with implementing technology.  Melissa has taught 11 years, working with all grades K-8th.  Her passion for helping teachers with technology has extended to district-level professional learning opportunities as well as the National CUE and SDCUE.  You can follow Melissa on Twitter @MelissaMonroeNT.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

Using Canva in Your Classroom and Beyond

Screenshot of the Canva homescreen
Canva can be accessed via the web or apps. This is the
homescreen once you log into your account. 
As educators, our messages are in constant competition with the world around us. From inboxes to social media feeds, how do we stand out in the barrage of information and images that our stakeholders receive? A 2012 UC San Diego study found that the average person processes 34 gigabytes of information a day! So if our minds were laptops, that would be enough for us to overload within a week. As the Director of Communications for the Poway Unified School District, my job is to cut through the clutter, convey important messages on behalf of the District, and make sure they stick. I wanted to share my favorite tool for accomplishing that, and show you how you can use it in your classroom and beyond.

Flyer for our new Foreign Language Program in Mandarin.
Flyer for our new Foreign Language Program
in Mandarin.
Invitation for our LCAP Community Forum.

Invitation for our LCAP Community Forum.
I was introduced to Canva at the CalSPRA conference for school public relations professionals. (Yes, we get our very own association!) Canva is a FREE online program that allows users to create beautiful graphic designs using templates in an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop platform. It is web-based with apps for iPads and Chromebooks. Canva is one of the most powerful visual communication and teaching tools I’ve come across due to its simplicity, accessibility, and did I mention it’s free?

Canva can be accessed via the web or apps, with templates on the left and your working project on the right.

I had no previous design experience. (Unless you count being the yearbook editor in high school.) Luckily for me, Canva works much like a digital scrapbook does: you pick a layout, upload photos, and customize the fonts and colors. Once you select a template, you can create a project in minutes. Not sure how to get started? No problem! Canva provides tutorials even for the total novice.

With Canva, there are no more boring newsletters, flyers, posters, invitations, brochures, presentations, or social media posts. Everything I create comes with eye-popping and modern colors, fonts, images, and designs. Once your project is complete, you can download the finished design as an image or a PDF.

The result? My communications now have a much more polished, professional look. This, in turns, attracts my audience to click, engage, or share. A visual representation of information is more likely to grab readers’ attention than text alone. In fact, Facebook reports an 87% engagement for photos and graphics on Facebook as opposed to the 13% engagement for all other types of shared information.

I knew I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm for Canva. In fact, I had a Canva addict living right in my own home! My 10-year-old daughter surprised me one day by showing me an infographic she was creating on the water cycle as part of her report on climatology.

Part of my daughter’s water cycle infographic
Part of my daughter's water cycle infographic.
The possibilities are endless. In my son’s class, students created brochures to market their products for a “Shark Tank” competition. In yet another, ASB officers made invitations to their graduation ceremony. I truly believe that teaching our students how to be effective visual communicators is essential to preparing them for their future careers. Yet it’s one of those “soft skills” that will often get overlooked or taken for granted. And teachers need not be experts in order to incorporate this into their curriculum. Trust me: the students will take to it intuitively. Need some inspiration? Check out 13 Ways to Use Canva in Your Classroom or 7 Creative Student Design Projects to Try with Canva.

You can also click this link to check out some of Canva’s teaching materials. What makes it even more classroom friendly is that Canva is a cloud-based collaborative tool that you can use with others. You have the ability to create a design and send an editable design for feedback or approval. You can also send a design for viewing on the Canva site without the ability to edit.

I’ve also shown principals, PTA groups, and foundations how to use Canva to create attractive flyers and invitations for their meetings and fundraisers, which they can distribute electronically via Peachjar. The response is always the same: “Wow, I can’t believe how easy this is. And it looks SO good!” So I encourage you to give it a try, you’ll soon be wondering what took you so long.
An example of the tri-fold brochures we made for each of our schools, using Canva.
An example of a tri-fold brochure we made for each of
our schools, using Canva.

 An example of the tri-fold brochures we made for each of our schools, using Canva.
An example of a tri-fold brochure we made for each of
our schools, using Canva.

Christine Paik

Christine Headshot.JPGChristine Paik is the Director of Communications for the Poway Unified School District. She joined #TeamPUSD in January 2016 where she has taken on the role of “Storyteller in Chief.” Since her arrival, she has overseen and implemented multiple projects to increase employee morale and District pride, including a new newsletter, redesigned website, marketing videos, as well as positive social media and news coverage of students, schools, and staff. As a former college lecturer, Christine enjoys working with young broadcast students within PUSD; she recently started an internship for high school digital media students in partnership with the Career Technical Education department. Christine has two young children who attend PUSD schools. She moved to San Diego from Fresno, where she was an Emmy-winning news anchor and reporter for 15 years for ABC. You can follow Christine on Instagram (@SchoolPRMom) or Twitter (@ChristinePaik).

Friday, August 4, 2017

Present at the San Diego CUE Tech Fair 2017!

Nanci Minicozzi speaking at SDCUE Tech Fair
Nanci Minicozzi speaking at SDCUE Tech Fair
The first time I presented at a San Diego CUE Tech Fair was in a classroom at CSU San Marcos. My topic was Google Hangouts, which had recently been released. I had prepared slides with screenshots on how to use the tools and all the functions. I had arranged with a colleague in northern California to join us remotely to demonstrate it. As the attendees filed in and my session started, I opened Google Hangouts to find… that Google had completely changed the interface literally the previous day. I believe I said something like, “I’ve never seen this screen before.” After a few moments of confusion, I said to the group, “OK, we’re all going to learn this together.” And we did! Comments from the group and evaluations at the end were positive, so I think the attendees learned something. I certainly did!

If you have anything that you think is cool that you’d like to share with others, San Diego CUE Tech Fair is the place to do it. Apply to present a session, either on your own or with a partner. The experience you gain will be invaluable.

Attendees at SDCUE Tech Fair 2016
Attendees at SDCUE Tech Fair 2016
But Kevin, I don’t have anything new to share. Everyone else already knows what I know.” - Nope. Every Tech Fair has hundreds of attendees for whom it is their first EdTech conference. You have experience that they don’t!

But Kevin, I’m not good at speaking in front of a group.” - OK, fair statement. But (a) if you’re a teacher, you do this every day, just with kids rather than adults. You could ask the adults in your session to act childish, if you like. (b) So don’t make it a “speaking” session with you in the front. Make it a hands-on, student-centered, activity-based session. And (c) the only way to get better at speaking in front of a group is to practice, and Tech Fair is a great place to practice!

“But Kevin, if I present in one timeslot, I won’t be able to go to other sessions then.” - True enough. However, I guarantee that you’ll learn from the people who attend your session as much as you would have learned in someone else’s session. Also, being selected to present means you get a free registration, and get to attend all the other timeslots for free. If you’re scheduled opposite a session you really want to attend, arrange to meet the other presenter at lunch and talk about your respective sessions!

San Diego CUE Tech Fair is coming up on November 4. Registration for attendees will open this week, when we reveal the new host site! Submit your speaker application with this form!