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Improving Communicative Language Skills with Seesaw

Screenshot of Seesaw functions with Pushing The Edge logo

If you’re keen on improving students’ communicative language skills, then Seesaw offers many possibilities for your classroom – especially on the video and audio front. Here I detail my key likes and learnings.

This blog-post is PART 2 in a three part series on using Seesaw in the adult English Language Learner classroom. 

READ PART 1:  How to Use Seesaw as part of a Language Experience Approach (and Develop Photography Skills as well). 

PART 2: The Power of Video and Feedback

I have used Seesaw for a number of purposes in my Certificate 3 adult English Language Learner classroom:

  • Students created short written reflections and video reflections of less than 1 minute duration;
  • Students created short instructional videos demonstrating what they’d learnt – for students who were absent from class;
  • Students recorded conversational dialogues and roleplays – that we evaluated and then re-recorded in efforts to improve pronunciation, intonation, clarity and presentation skills. 

Key Likes and Learnings

It’s All There in the One App

As someone who loves using video as a tool to build student confidence and English language skills, Seesaw is especially useful. There’s no need for uploading, or dealing with different operating systems which is absolutely marvellous. 

When you make a video within Seesaw, it’s there to use and watch right away. It’s the same with audio, or written materials. There’s no need for dealing with multiple operating systems or processes which can be problematic for many students (and teachers) in the English Language classroom. It’s all contained within the Seesaw app.

Having said that, Seesaw does afford the possibility for App Smashing where you can utilise a number of apps (outside Seesaw) to do or to create something and then house what you’ve made within Seesaw.

Simplicity is Key

For the most part, Seesaw is quite simple to use. There’s minimal steps involved and it’s much more intuitive than a lot of other education apps. Thankfully too there’s little to distract students on the screen. On all these fronts, it will be loved by many English Language teachers and students. 

In my class, the simplicity of Seesaw, along with the possibility to showcase what you’ve achieved (to your peers), lead to a number of students using Seesaw at home to finish their class-tasks. 

Conferencing is Important

Much of the skill improvement among my English Language Learners is I think, connected to my regular conferencing with students.

As soon as my students created a video or piece of writing, and had submitted it – they’d want to get my feedback and then they’d work hard improve what they had created. It’s a process that my students and I have committed to across the year and it’s lead to marked improvements in my students English language skills and self-confidence.

Seeing is Loving

Seesaw has a class timeline where all the approved work is displayed to other students in your class. My students loved seeing their work displayed and receiving feedback via the comments function.

If students didn’t see their work displayed they’d very quickly tell me.They also enjoyed checking out their peers’ creations which I think contributed to the sense of community in our classroom. 

If students thought they could improve what they’d created, they would tell me during our feedback session so I wouldn’t approve it (and their work wouldn’t go on display to their peers). Then they go back and have another go using their evaluative thoughts as well as my feedback to guide them. 

I firmly believe that seeing themselves on video, along with timely feedback, and having another go straight away, are the key contributors to students’ improved language skills.

The Possibilities with Assessment

Seesaw offers a range of possibilities for assessment purposes. With a range of speaking and listening outcomes to assess in my work-place, students could record themselves in Seesaw. I could then tag each recording according to the Learning Outcome being taught and assessed.That recording would then be housed under each student’s name, in the appropriate Learning Outcome folder.

Since my organisation is still heavily paper-based, I was able to print out (via Seesaw) a page that contained a photo of the recording-in-action, and also a QR code that would take me directly to the recording. There was also a date and time-code.

The organisational structure of Seesaw combined with the tagging aspect also  enabled me to click on a student’s name, and a particular outcome, and then see all their work over time on that outcome. It’s a far more efficient and practical process than many of the paper-based alternatives that dominate my work-place. 

Limitations

I teach in a work-place that has limited funding for class resources. Where tech devices have been purchased, they’re not the top of the line models. So, it’s often frustrating to run up against apps that provide greater functionality to Apple (iOS) devices than Android devices.

As of December 2017) that’s the case with Seesaw with the Activities function. This function allows teachers to create tasks (for students) and also to share them with others teachers. However this significant element of Seesaw, simply isn’t available on portable Android devices. 

Teaching With Seesaw

  • READ PART 3 of my Teaching With Seesaw series

Improving Communicative Language Skills – Resources

Digital literacy is a key passion of mine. Check out the posts I’ve written below.

Digital Storytelling

Speaking and Presentation Skills

  • Flipgrid is another tech tool that I’ve used to improve my students’ presentation and speaking skills. It’s had a tremendous impact and in this blog-post, I detail my teaching process, and my key learnings. 

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