On Saturday, October 31, 2020, I joined Alicia and Matt Rhoads, Alfonso Mendoza, and Taylor Armstrong to discuss best practices, tips, and strategies for effective Seesaw and Google Classroom integration. Here is our conversation.
Questions That Guided Our Discussion
1:24 – Who are you and what is your context in education right now?
4:19 – What is there to like about Google Classroom as a learning management system?
8:45 – How can students split their Chromebook screen to see Classroom and Seesaw side by side?
11:46 – What is there to like about Seesaw as a learning management system?
19:06 – How can we use Seesaw in 4th and 5th grade classrooms? (Alicia shares her screen.)
28:07 – Matt and Alicia, how did you each convince your partners of the value of the other platform? (Matt shares how he came to use Seesaw at the secondary level while Alicia share how she came to use Google Classroom at the 4th and 5th grade levels.)
30:53 – What other strategies or hacks would you share with teachers looking to integrate these two platforms strategically? (Alfonso says “Get clicky with it.”)
38:15 – Why and how can Seesaw be used effectively at the secondary level?
41:11 – How can intermediate and middle school teachers make the best use of Seesaw?
44:33 – How can we use Seesaw analytics to make sure every student is socially and emotionally supported?
46:55 – How many Seesaw activities should be pushed out to the Seesaw blog?
48:29 – How can viewers connect with you and continue to partner with you in their learning?
With Thanks to the Guests Featured in This Roundtable
As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!
Connect with the Teachers on Fire Podcast on Social Media
Highlights from my learning at the 2019 CAFLN Conference
Something that my friend and incredible educator Rose Pillay has reminded me of more than once is that professional learning has a better chance of penetrating our consciousness and altering our practice if we actually take the time to intentionally reflect and write about that learning.
That was the motivation for this piece. My aim? To preserve some of the highlights of my learning from the 2019 Canadian Assessment for Learning Network (CAFLN) Conference. Welcome to my journal.
CAFLN exists to share and mobilize knowledge about Assessment for Learning (AfL). On May 2–3 of 2019, CAFLN held their sixth annual national conference and symposium in Delta, BC. The event was hosted by Delta School District’s Principal of Innovation and Inquiry, Brooke Moore, and the Director of Learning Services, Neil Stephenson.
I was thrilled to attend this event with a few of my middle school colleagues and administrators. What follows is a curation of Twitter highlights, photos, and short reflections from this event.
Day 1: School Tour
The conference started off with a tour of local elementary schools that have completely embraced standards-based assessment. Notice the learning targets for educators on the right side of our itineraries.
Gray Elementary had a lot of signage that consistently articulated principles of formative assessment and learning targets. Student agency and ownership of learning is clearly a priority here.
Over at Holly Elementary, we noticed a bulletin board display of educator learning. Each staff member answered these three questions:
What are you learning?
How’s it going?
Where to next?
This is such a brilliant way to model a culture of learning and growth mindset in your school community. I was very impressed, and I hope our school does something similar in the fall.
Here are a few zoomed-in examples:
I also liked the way another teacher added kid-friendly descriptors to each of the proficiency levels (emerging, developing, accomplishing, and extending). Notice how the students have placed post-it notes to assess their own progress.
The Big Three Questions (below) came up often in our tour as well. These questions really capture it all, don’t they? This isn’t just a powerful metacognitive practice for students — it could also be used by us as educators as we think about further growth in our own professional practice.
Delta Farm Roots
At the end of Day 1, we visited Delta Farm Roots. This is a highly innovative high school facility that is building most of our provincially mandated curriculum around project-based learning. These high school students are applying all the skills and content they are required to master as they run a small farm. It’s a brilliant concept and an impressive undertaking.
Here, Jacob Martens explains a little bit of what goes on in this multipurpose learning area.
We also explored the gardens that students must hoe, cultivate, plant, and maintain. Lots of STEM skills and activities required!
The conference hosts then invited visiting educators for a dinner behind the main building. Not pictured here is the ocean — just a short walk away.
Delta Farm Roots is an exciting example of what is possible in pure project-based learning. Follow them on Twitter to see more of what they’re all about.
Kaser and Halbert also reminded us of the Spiral of Inquiry, a powerful cycle that can drive continuous growth and improvement for any learning community.
Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum
Then there were these gems from Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum, who tag-teamed on the philosophy and applications of formative assessment in the classroom.
Although I didn’t seem to be able to tweet out much from Karen Fadum, she shared some gems as well. Here were a few things I got down in my notes in Google Docs.
First, Karen talked about the business of assessment in education as a collaborative experience. Traditional models of assessment relied exclusively on the teacher, but think of all the ways we can include students today:
Uncover the curriculum together
Learning intentions — set with students
Student-captured evidence of learning
Next, Karen unpacked these points a little further. Instead of “covering the curriculum,” why don’t we flip the paradigm and UNcover curriculum with students? We’re talking about …
Connections with student passions and interests
Digital portfolio organization
Karen shared a number of practical applications of co-constructed criteria, self-assessment, peer assessment, single-point rubrics, and student documentation of evidence of learning. She shared videos from her practice, too, and these were super helpful.
She ended with this challenge: How do you currently involve students in the process of assessment?
After Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum, I visited a session led by Christine Younghusband — an educator I had long admired on Twitter but never met in person. She was amazing.
YES. Building more checks for understanding and formative assessment into my Math classes is an important goal for me.
Then, this challenge from an assessment legend.
And how about this mic drop?
Jon Orr and Kyle Pearce
In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting two exciting educators who are doing amazing work in Mathematics. I don’t have a selfie or Tweet to share here, but this session summary gives you a feel for their message.
Jon Orr and Kyle Pearce are two dynamic but down-to-earth practitioners who understand the challenges around engagement and the wide range of proficiencies in the modern Math classroom. They’re worth following!
I was also thrilled to learn that they have a podcast, Make Math Moments that Matter, and I got a promise from them that they would come on my own Teachers on Fire podcast. I look forward to more learning with these two in the future.
This was my first CAFLN conference, but I hope it won’t be my last. To put it simply, I’ve never been part of an assessment event so focused, so progressive, so high value as this one.
If you’re ready to rethink your assessment practices and learn more about your assessment FOR learning, connecting with CAFLN on Twitter would be a good place to start.
Growth mindset and the Power of YET have put me on a new course.
In 2017, I began a Master’s program at Vancouver Island University. As I entered the program, I read a book that would change my life.
In Mindset, Carol Dweck writes: “When do people with the fixed mindset thrive? When things are safely within their grasp. If things get too challenging — when they’re not feeling smart or talented — they lose interest.”
I realized that there were steps I was not taking and moves I was not making — because they weren’t safe. They were risky.
But growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone. After all, my fixed mindset was the reason it took me 16 years to begin working on my Master’s degree!
The Power of YET
As I read about the Growth Mindset I also learned about The Power of YET. You know about the power of YET, don’t you? In our classrooms and for our learners, it sounds like this:
I don’t understand this Math concept … yet.
I’m not a talented artist … yet.
I’m not a tech person … yet.
The Growth Mindset says that anyone can learn anything if they will simply apply effort over time. As educators, it reminds us that we never know the full potential of our learners.
I’m Not a Podcaster … YET
As I continued to read great books and engage in rich education conversations, the Power of YET started to whisper in my ear in another way.
I’m not a podcaster … YET.
You see, as I made the 30-minute commute between Surrey and Burnaby each day, I wasn’t listening to sports talk or pop radio. I listened to podcasts — because I had an insatiable appetite for learning.
I started to dream. Could I start a podcast that profiled great educators? Could I share their amazing ideas and practices with teachers around the world?
Carol Dweck says that we can look back at what could have been, or we can look back and say I gave my all for the things I valued. And so I jumped on the track of content creation with both feet, knowing that as terrible as I was at the beginning, I would continue to grow and improve my craft over time.
Two and a half years, 166 episodes, and over 130,000 downloads later, I can safely say that the Teachers on Fire podcast is impacting the education conversation.
Creation in the Classroom
But how can this passion for creation shape our classrooms and practice?
For one thing, creative activities in the classroom challenge us to move AWAY from cultures of passive compliance.
David Guerin says the ones who are doing the talking are doing the learning. And according to Jennifer Gonzales, our learners need to be DOING something.
In the classroom context, this looks like …
Agency + Ownership
Design Thinking & the Design Process
Genius Hour + IBL + PBL
Voice + Choice
A culture of 5 Cs
So how does creation show up in my 8th grade classroom?
Through creative representations of learning on Seesaw.
Through collaborative design projects on Canva, Google Drawings and Slides.
Through authentic product development, marketing, and sales.
Through movie making on WeVideo and screencasts on Screencastify.
And of course, through podcasting, including the Gr8 Expectations podcast. One student is even starting his own podcast!
Educators Have a Mandate to Create
My #OneWord for 2019 was CREATE. Create new content, new learning, new relationships.
But why should other educators take part in content creation? Because content creation …
Allows us to reflect more deeply on our own professional practice,
Allows us to share our learning with others
Allows you to build relationships with other great educators — like Rose and Gabriel Pillay (the organizers of EdVent).
The Teachers on Fire podcast is my weekly Pro D session. It’s my scheduled appointment with great educators around the world. I learn something in every conversation, and every single guest shapes my thinking and inspires my practice further.
So let me ask you: How will you contribute to the education conversation?
Don’t let your fears stand in your way. Remember, growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone.
We were created to create. So embrace the growth mindset, share your learning, and change the world.
ANDREW CANLE is an Assistant Principal at Shaw Avenue School, a K-6 elementary campus in Valley Stream, New York, a suburban town just outside of Queens. He’s a three-time champion coach at NBA Math Hoops, a program that engages students in math and social-emotional learning through the game of basketball. He’s also the creator of the #EDUCanle podcast.
Education or Law?
Andrew recalls a time during his second year of teaching when he seriously considered leaving the field of education entirely. “I just wasn’t happy overall,” he admits, which led him to consider moving from the classroom to a career in law.
What kept him in education, he says, was his decision to revisit his core passion: helping kids and doing the work of transforming lives. So many people made that sacrifice for him, he says, and so he redoubled his commitment to teaching. Looking back, he values this crisis of calling as a time that allowed him to find himself and redefine his true values.
The EDUCanle Podcast
Andrew credits colleagues and co-workers for the inspiration to start the EDUCanle Podcast. Part of his role at Shaw Avenue is to facilitate professional development opportunities for his staff, and at some point it occurred to him that recording these events and then repurposing the content on a podcast would be a great way to allow staff members to review content or catch up on missed learning.
Publishing in podcast form also allows him to support the learning of professionals outside of his own building and expand his professional network, something that can only benefit him and his teachers. Moving forward, Andrew plans to expand his asynchronous professional development offerings by screencasting presentations and sharing these on YouTube.
On 🔥 for Formative Assessment
Formative assessment is an area that is lighting Andrew’s fire in education right now. “It’s the crux of everything,” he points out.
Checking for understanding, strategic questioning, and determination of student progress are such critical components of what teachers do in the classroom, and so much of student learning depends on these activities done well. Lately, he’s been taking a close look at the mindsets needed to ask the most effective questions of students – questions that generate the data that informs our next instructional decisions.
A Professional Goal: Improving His Writing
At the forefront of his professional goals, Andrew is looking to become a better writer. He’s now had several articles published, including one with Edutopia, but he laughs about the silent suffering of perfectionism that remains a constant challenge. He talks about making his writing process more fluid and simply going with the flow of his ideas, steps that will make his writing more powerful and accelerate his productivity at the same time.
Personal Passions: Psychology, Sociology, and Sports
Passions that bring Andrew alive as a human being outside of his professional context include the studies of psychology and sociology. “They absolutely fascinate me,” Andrew says, and some of the learning he does in these spaces also equips him to be a more effective administrator. “You can never have enough tools in the toolbelt.”
Andrew is also a big sports fan and points to the legacies of dynasty teams like the New York Yankees and the New England Patriots as examples that our educational institutions can learn from.
Andrew’s Productivity Hack: A Little Blue Notebook
The engine that keeps Andrew on track and productive is a small blue notebook that he keeps in his inside pocket. That notebook is where he tracks to-do lists, items of concern, future tweets, and random notes. While others turn to cloud note-taking services, he likes to keep things analog.
Voices That Spark His Thinking and Ignite His Practice
Over on Twitter, Andrew recommends following @MrDataGuy, an important voice on the subject of assessment: traditional, PLC, and student ownership. His graphics are incredible and Andrew says they have supported many of his professional learning events.
One of Andrew’s favorite edtech tools is Review360, an application from Pearson that helps education leaders track student behavior patterns and support student learning based on situational trends.
“I don’t care about Twitter, and I’ll never go on Twitter,” I heard an educator say last year.
I understand this position. From the outside, Twitter may just seem like more noise, more distraction, more nonsense that doesn’t really add anything to our lives or professional growth.
I’ll also be the first to agree that as busy professionals and leaders of families, we need to be intentional and discriminating with our time. Meaningless scrolling and shallow engagement doesn’t and shouldn’t make the cut.
But what IF Twitter can serve a valuable role in our professional growth and development? What IF Twitter can add to our lives without consuming much time?
Educators Are Learners First
In my view, the case for teachers on Twitter begins with the idea that educators are learners first. The principles of learning that we believe in for our students apply just as much to our learning and growth as they do to theirs. If we’re hungry to learn and grow, it’s wise to build an active Professional Learning Network and engage.
Twitter isn’t the only place to build a professional learning network. But it’s an awesome place to start.
The Learning Activities of a Twitter PLN
Just like our students, education professionals learn best when they learn together. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. When you have a question or you’re feeling stuck in a challenging situation, chances are your Twitter PLN will be able to offer suggestions and resources.
As David Guerin once wrote, “Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning.” When we write, read, and respond to professional conversation, we’re more engaged. We’re tuned in. We can’t help but learn. And the inverse is also true.
We also learn when we take the time to thoughtfully reflect on our journey. By answering questions like What am I learning, Where am I going, and How will I get there, we gain awareness and greater intentionality about our own learning path. I treat Twitter as a journal, especially when I’m trying a new project or attending an education conference. You too can use Twitter to archive and preserve your own learning reflections for future reference.
4. Visible Learning.
When we make our learning visible, we benefit from feedback, and others learn from our stories. And we can make the learning of others visible, too. When asked why he uses Twitter, principal Chris Chappotin used the word “showcase.” Administrators are especially well-positioned to play this role in their buildings, since they can be in more classrooms and contexts than teachers.
Whether it’s a lesson idea, helpful resource, or a word of encouragement, my edu-Twitter feed is an overwhelmingly positive space. Think of it as constant connection with a cloud of education leaders and mentors. It’s phenomenal.
6. Professional Relationships.
When we engage in professional conversations, we meet others in similar fields and spaces. Twitter is a wonderful place to connect with education leaders and authors, too. It’s as easy as reaching out.
5 Ways to Increase Engagement on Twitter
I believe the number one reason that so many educators try Twitter and then ignore the platform is lack of engagement. Maybe it took them forever to work up the nerve to finally tweet something pithy or valuable, but it’s only crickets in response.
What a waste of time, right?
It doesn’t need to be. By following these five simple strategies, you’ll increase engagement and gain more value from your time on this platform.
1. Use relevant hashtags whenever possible.
If you’re new to the platform, you may regard hashtags as little more than cute decorations. But for many users (including me), hashtags can be a great way to dig deeper into a topic. Think of hashtags as rooms. Whenever you use a hashtag, you’re putting your tweet in that room for others to find. Whether it’s #growthmindset, #goinggradeless, or #formativeassessment, tag your posts so that others can find them topically. With a little Googling, you’ll find the best hashtags to use for your context and areas of work.
2. Tag others whenever appropriate or relevant.
If and when you’re sharing ideas or resources that relate to someone else’s work or area of interest, you’re doing them a service by tagging them. Educators usually like thoughtful tags — especially if it’s an endorsement, shoutout, suggestion, or recommendation aimed specifically at them. I always like being tagged by colleagues in my building, because otherwise I might miss their tweets. And authors usually appreciate being tagged in quotes from their work, because you’re helping to share their message. Again, keep it genuine. But don’t be afraid to connect.
3. Use relevant images, GIFs, and videos.
Make your tweets stand out and get noticed by adding relevant media. Again, this isn’t purely an attention game, but it is about building the kind of engagement on the platform that makes activity worthwhile. You have to be seen to be heard, especially as you get started.
4. Engage in Twitter chats.
There’s absolutely no better way to build connections with other educators than by engaging in real-time Twitter chats. Not sure where to start? Try the weekly #TLAP (Teach Like a Pirate) chat, one of the largest to take place on the platform each week. Or, next time you’re at a large conference, tweet the highlights from your learning at the conference hashtag.
5. Keep it education-only.
Make a point of only following educators, which generally keeps your feed on track with education. It’s incredibly easy to switch between Twitter accounts quickly, so I have my faith, sports, and politics conversations elsewhere. If you’re still not convinced, here are 5 Reasons to Niche Down on Twitter.
The point is, if you follow @RealDonaldTrump, @Yankees, @Netflix, and the like, your feed will get noisy, distracting, and unproductive. My advice? Keep it strictly on education.
A Simple Formula for Getting Started
There’s no time like the present to use Twitter to develop your professional learning. Once you’ve created a Twitter account, how can you go about building a professional learning network? Here are some practical steps.
Start with at least one tweet a day.
Share questions you’re wrestling with, ideas from your learning, or inspiring quotes from your reading.
Use one or more relevant hashtags (like #MSed for middle school education).
Use one or more user handles (think of interested colleagues, figures working in related areas, or authors of your quotes).
Include relevant images whenever possible.
Then, try to follow at least one more educator a day. Not sure where to begin there? Visit @MisterCavey and select Following. You’ll see nothing but educators and education organizations. You can start following them, too.
As I said at the outset, Twitter can facilitate the same learning processes that we seek for our learners: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, metacognition, and relationships. If you’ve been a Twitter holdout, consider this both a challenge and an invitation.
Happy Tweeting! I look forward to learning with you.