Parents of kindergarten students at Willowgrove School are receiving regular insight into their child’s school day with a little assist from technology.
Nicole Lemstra, who teaches 40 students in her two kindergarten classes, is using the Seesaw app to help increase the connection between home and school and engage families in their child’s learning.
“When they go home at the end of the day they can share their school day experience with their family. On a daily basis I witness four- and five-year-olds eagerly documenting their learning because they are excited to share what they have been doing during their day,” Lemstra says.
The app allows students to create a digital portfolio where they can document their learning in a variety of ways, including taking a photo of their work or by creating a video or drawing.
Posts created by students must first be approved by the teacher. Once approved, the posts can be viewed by the student’s family using the free app available for computers, smartphones and tablets. Parents are able to view their child’s portfolio and leave comments, and instant post notifications are available.
The app supplements traditional communication methods with families, and Lemstra says she has received a positive response from parents since it was introduced to them during parent conferences last November. The ability for a student to share their work in a visual manner provides an opportunity for discussions at home and has had a particular impact for some new Canadian students and families.
“For many students, especially our English-language learners, a photo is literally worth a thousand words,” she said “For example, during our conferences a students started sharing his work in his first language with his father and his dad almost looked at me apologetic as they were talking and I had no idea what they were saying. I assured him it was wonderful to see his son’s joy and confidence as he shared with them.
“This is significant because we need to support first language development at this young age. The research is clear, that a child’s first language is a tool for learning that second language. We know that the development of that first language is essential for a strong sense of cultural identity and self-esteem. It needs to be encourages to support a higher level of development of English.”
Lemstra says the feedback from students and families indicates that the opportunity to share students’ work through Seesaw is helping to increasing a sense of connection and excitement, especially for those ‘what did you do at school today?’ conversations.
“When this type of engagement occurs at this early development stage it sets a wonderful tone for the learning journey that lies ahead,” she says. “It is a little bit more work on my part, but to see them (students) so engaged and excited and independent is really a phenomenal thing.”