Thing 35: Digital Portfolios for Students

The Setup

For this week’s activity, I decided to finally try out the Seesaw app. I learned about the Seesaw app last year and immediately requested it be placed on the school iPads. However, there were a variety of technical difficulties and issues the result of which was I didn’t get the Seesaw app on all of the iPads until after the midway point of this school year! And, as is often the case in teacher world, suddenly weeks had gone by and I hadn’t tested out the new app I had been waiting months to get…

Determined to test it out before the year ended, I decided to try it with my 4th graders this year. I’ve been struggling with this grade all year. I see a lot of off task behavior from them each week and since the class sizes are on the large size for this group, I feel like I’m constantly redirecting and correcting, and getting very little teaching accomplished during any given class. My hope was that putting them in charge of their own learning documentation (and letting them know I could instantly share with their teacher and parents) would motivate them to stay on task and allow us to get more done than usual.

Tips, Tricks & Fun Ideas

Back in February, I watched a webinar on using Seesaw in the classroom and picked up tons of tips, tricks, and ideas!

If you have an ALA membership, you can click on the link to watch the webinar. Here are the best tips and tricks I learned from it:

    • How to get around the class limit-In the free version of Seesaw, you can only have up to 10 classes and I definitely don’t work in a school with only 10 classes in the building! The trick here is to set up each grade level as a class. Then, create folders for each of your teachers in that grade level. I went a step further and made subfolders within the teacher folders for each of the students. Then, it was just the quick matter of showing students how to select their teacher, then their name when uploading a document. There really is nothing to it and they caught on very quickly.  Just make sure you go into your manage class settings, scroll down to folders and make sure you’ve enabled the “show add folder step” for students and teachers. Otherwise, they won’t be able to find their folders.


  • Alternatives to Student Folders-Another tip I loved was setting up folders based on the material or project, not the individual students. The example was given by a teacher who uses Seesaw to document her Maker Club projects and I loved this idea for documenting our Maker Club projects next year. It not only gives them another chance to get hands on with their projects and learning, it’s a great way to reflect on their successes and failures.  
  • Connecting with your Community and Stakeholders-One of the teachers talked about how they had a bunch of potatoes donated by the PTO and a local food bank. They used the potatoes to make potato characters from books and used Seesaw to document the process, final project, and share the results with their donors. What a great way to connect with members of the community who want to give back but can’t necessarily come into the schools to do so!
  • Keep the Learning Coming- The webinar also mentioned all the great resources you can use to answer your Seesaw related questions.


    • #seesawchat on Twitter-the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of every month at 7pm. A great place to find and share real classroom examples.
    • @seesaw -in between live chats, follow them on Twitter for more great tips and advice
    • – the seesaw website has a getting started guide, tutorial videos, activity ideas and more

The Project

For our final weeks of the school year, I decided to do a read aloud/book study. I picked a book and found some reading activities to go with it. Each student got their own packet and as I read aloud to the class, they follow along in their packet and answer questions/prompts as they come up. At the end of class, they use the library iPads and Seesaw to record the evidence of their work that day.  Once that is complete, iPads and packets are turned in and they can do a book exchange.

The Results so Far

The difference in their involvement and degree of on task behavior has been incredible! They are much more aware of how much they are or aren’t getting down and much more likely to self correct the last few classes. They also seem to like being in charge of recording their progress. I’m amazed (and sold in incorporating it into more classes next year!).

Things I liked about this Portfolio Option

  • I loved that you can have students access Seesaw from either their email or a QR code. For my older students, I would like to use their email addresses because I can see this being a great way to help enforce that information and help them remember it earlier in the school year. For my younger students, I love the simplicity of the QR codes. I think I could teach even my K’s to do that without too much work!
  • I like that you can decide who has access to the student work. And not just if you’ll let parents and teachers have access but if the students can see each others work as well.
  • I like that you can turn the ability to comment on or off.
  • I liked that even work created with another app can be documented through Seesaw. As long as that app can export the contents as an image, video or PDF file, it can be imported into Seesaw.
  • I liked the variety of options for documenting learning. Since not all students learn the same way it’s nice that Seesaw gives them multiple options for documenting and sharing their learning.

Final thoughts on Librarians and Portfolio Development

One of the downsides to the free version of Seesaw is that the portfolios don’t really follow the students throughout their student career. However, as an elementary teacher, I don’t know that these projects following them through their career is really the most important part of keeping a digital portfolio in the lower grades. I think simply getting them use to the idea of recording their work and reflecting on it is powerful and sets them up for greater success when they get to the upper grades and do need to keep a portfolio that reflects multiple years of learning.

As librarians, we should absolutely be involved in their digital portfolio process. Digital portfolios teach them how to use technology for a larger purpose than fun and recreation and they help them connect and share with other students (possibly beyond their classroom/school). Using technology purposefully and as good digital citizens are key components of our library standards so those are great places for us to be involved in the portfolio process, as well as adding their library work to their portfolios.

I can’t wait to keep exploring this app further and expand the classes I use it with next year!