Check out our new video feature as we unfold the district and dive into the important work we do each day to provide students with a top-notch educational experience. In this episode, see how technology and learning combine to impact students.
BONUS STORY: Seesaw strengthens classroom connections
Connection. It’s the knot that ties the Dubuque Community School District’s educational experience to its community every day. The daily connections are endless – teacher to student, student to lesson, parent to student, and so on.
The motivation to deepen these connections to the classroom bound two teachers with a shared goal to implement Seesaw, a student-driven digital portfolio, into daily classroom instruction. Those individuals are Prescott Elementary School’s fifth-grade teacher Jill Gehl and technology integration coach Courtney Weydert.
Gehl explained that she became inspired by a fellow district teacher at Irving Elementary. “She was explaining to me all the things that she was able to do,” said Gehl. “I was a little afraid of technology at that time” but she said it was user-friendly.
While Gehl was feeling empowered to start the journey with Seesaw, Weydert was also looking to test the application with an older group of students. So the team paired up in the 2016-2017 school year, to introduce Seesaw to Gehl’s fourth-grade students. That year, students became familiar with the interface, basic functions and their responsibility as digital citizens.
Seesaw assists in documenting a student’s growth throughout the year and captures the classroom experience from the students’ perspective. Additionally, it helps students share their learning with those at home.
There will no longer be hesitant answers to the question “what did you learn today?”
“It becomes a great piece for home-school connections when the parents are able to see what their kids are doing in school,” said Weydert, who is also a Seesaw Ambassador. “They’re able to comment and say, ‘Oh I saw today that you did this,’ and they can just talk more about more what’s going on at school.” And before any document is saved on a student’s portfolio or shared with a loved one at home, it has to be approved by the teacher.
The Gehl-Weydert collaboration continued into the 2017-2018 school year as Gehl followed her same fourth-grade students to fifth grade. The two are currently working to integrate Seesaw in day-to-day curriculum and lessons, emphasizing digital citizenship before each activity.
“It’s really important, especially with going off to middle school, that students understand that they leave that footprint,” said Gehl. “They leave that trace and…it does leave a mark and for them to be aware of that.”
“I think they’re hearing it and they’re knowing what decisions they need to make and you know that they know what should be online and what shouldn’t be online, which is great at this age so I hope it just continues as they get older and older,” said Weydert.
Helping infuse the use of Seesaw is the Dubuque Racing Association, which funded the purchase of 25 new iPads for Gehl’s classroom. Since the students are adapted to the devices and portfolio, the whole class can take their skills to the next level. Now the class is integrating more advanced apps that are engaging students beyond the ways a pencil and paper could.
Seesaw is simply a tool – but the collaboration of Gehl and Weydert is bringing it to life. The two put their students first, reworked instruction and advanced their knowledge base in order to encourage the growth of their students.
It’s work like this that is changing and bettering the experience at the Dubuque Community School District.