Using technology to track a child’s progress

MANISTEE — “What did you do in school today?”

Manistee Area Public Schools third grade teacher Leah Antal explains to the board of education the new Seesaw program that allows parents to follow their child's progress in class on a daily basis.

Manistee Area Public Schools third grade teacher Leah Antal explains to the board of education the new Seesaw program that allows parents to follow their child’s progress in class on a daily basis.

That is a question parents have been asking their child at the end of the day since the school systems first orignated. However, parents of elementary students at the Manistee Area Public Schools now can find out the answer to that question thanks to the use of technology and an innovative program called Seesaw.

MAPS Superintendent Ron Stoneman said they have focused on opening the door for parents to get a better look at what their child does in a normal school day.

“We have been looking at ways to improve our communication skills with our parents,” said Stoneman. “We started the program Seesaw this year, and it seems to be a great success with a lot of bells and whistles.”

Third grade teacher Leah Antal gave a presentation recently to the board of education on the new program and how she utilizes it in her classroom.

“There is a lot that we can do with Seesaw, but I am going to focus primarily on the communication aspect,” said Antal. “The K-6 classes are using it this year with their iPads and basically it is a digital portfolio for students.”

She said it kind of runs like a Facebook feed that the parents signed up for at an open house at the beginning of the school year.

“They can get the app on a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop and it is really easy to do,” said Antal. “When they sign up they are attached only to what we call their child’s digital journal. It allows the parents to see things that are happening during the school day that they may not ordinarily get to see because not everything is exactly on paper that you can see. That is especially true with our one-to-one technology.”

Antal said a good example is her class did an activity using Legos where they made various fractions. The student then takes a picture of what they did with the Legos and uploads it to his portfolio so the parents could see how the student created fractions.

“Ordinarily, we would do that project and then pick up the Legos and put them back in the bin and that would be the end of it,” said Antal.

Stoneman said kids often go home and when they are asked by the parents what they did, they give the typical answer of “nothing.”

“Now the parents have a way of actually seeing it,” said Stoneman.

Other ways they use it is students will do recordings of when they read books, so their parents can hear how they are developing their reading skills. They also deliver a verbal summary of the book giving the parents the chance to grasp their child’s comprehension skills as well.

“They use something call Chatterpix that creates a mouth on an animal that will move as the student is talking,” said Antal. “It’s very easy and user friendly for the student.”

Antal said Seesaw can be utilized in many ways and one thing she does with it is to award the students On Track cards

“If I catch them being On Track in a task they get a card that says that, and when they have five cards they can post them on the journal for their parents to see,” said Antal.

The program works like any other app in that the parents get a notification when something new comes through. They can look at it and they can comment back to their child.

“It is really great because I have many families that live in separate homes and it always is a challenge to get two newsletters, progress reports to each home,” said Antal. “Even if you put two in there they don’t always go to both homes and they love this.”

Antal said they can even add little videos to the kid’s Seesaw which adds a whole new dimension in keeping parents connected about what is going on with their child and in school.

“I can send it out to them and parents can respond to only me,” said Antal.  “We love it, the kids do and so do the parents,” said Antal.

Stoneman said they plan to bring it back next year.

“We just made our decision to renew our subscription for next year,” said Stoneman.

Antal said the subscription is important.

“That is why we need the subscription, as we also have a skill section where teachers are able to connect their educational standards, so when a progress report comes we can go right to it,” said Antal. “It travels with them for year-to-year so their digital portfolio will go with them to their next teacher.”

Although they are piloting the program at the elementary level it is something Stoneman said can be worked up to the higher grade levels as the students progress in school.

“We will be district-wide real soon,” he said. “It really allows parents to generate conversation with their child on a regular basis. If a parent has a concern with this they can communicate right back with the teacher.”

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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