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New app helps families connect with classrooms in Greenwich

January 21, 2019 GMT

GREENWICH — For a classroom activity on jobs in the community, Zoe Jean, a second-grader at Julian Curtiss School, drew a dentist.

A few years ago, she would have used crayons and paper and the drawing would have gone home in a folder. But Zoe researched the career on her iPad, and then drew a dentist and recorded herself explaining her work in an app called Seesaw.

But the coolest part, she said, is that she can send her videos to other people.

“Your parents can see it and they can be proud of you,” Zoe said.

As classrooms transition more in-class work to digital devices, teachers needed a way to send that work home. The Seesaw app, which lets parents see and comment on assignments, filled the communication gap.


The second-grade teachers of Julian Curtiss have piloted Seesaw in their classrooms for the 2018-19 school year, and say they have watched their students’ speaking abilities improve, seen shy kids grow in confidence, and strengthened their relationships with parents.

“The feedback has been amazing,” teacher Keren Brown said. “It gives parents talking points when their kids come home. … And (the kids) are so excited they’ll talk to you for an hour about their videos.”

It is nice for students to see their parents comment on their work, fellow teacher Samantha Shuster said. A few of her students have their grandparents, aunts and uncles commenting, too, she said.

“It’s just a different way of sending home work,” Shuster said. “They used to see work in the folder, but now they’re seeing it digitally.”

Two of Jessie Bennett’s three children are in classes that use Seesaw.

“The kids love when you comment on their work or videos, and I love to see the digital devices being used as such great tools for learning and sharing,” she said. “The older they get, the more they enjoy the comments and feedback parents can leave for them as well.”

Parents get better insights into their children’s growth, McGuire said.

“It’s more meaningful than sending home a unit test or a piece of paper,” she said. “They actually see their child doing the work, and explaining it.”

Over time, the videos form a portfolio that is organized by subject matter.

Dana Parsons’ students speak much better now than they did at the beginning of the year, she said.

“With a lot of the kids who are more reserved and quiet, and wouldn’t want to do this in front of the class, when they’re making their video, they’re talking loud, and holding themselves up,” Parsons said. “They’re a different person in front of the camera.”


Families who do not currently have Internet access can be provided with a hotspot that is able to serve the student’s iPad, Shuster said. Second- through fifth-grade students are able to bring home their devices in order to share work with families.

For families who do not speak English, directions in their native languages are sent home with students, she said.

The app has changed how Brown, Shuster and Parsons teach, and how they talk to parents.

“It’s changed everything that we’ve done, especially feedback with the parents,” Brown said. “It’s made a great relationship. It’s made our relationships so much stronger.”

During a recent school day, Johana Diaz was excited about showing her drawing of a veterinarian holding a dog to her mom.

The second-grader said her mom likes seeing her work “because I work so hard.”

“She always gives me a hug,” Diaz said. “She likes how I always try my best.”