I have been fortunate to have been involved in developing, managing and improving the assessment system in my school. During that time, I have seen and still see some misconceptions about assessment in the PYP, especially in terms of what is formative assessment and how student portfolios can be used as a tool for formative assessment. Based on the IB PYP definition, formative assessment should be interwoven within the teaching learning process and aim to improve planning for the next stage of learning; however many teachers still misunderstand this purpose. Rather than use student portfolios as part of formative assessment or a documentation of the students’ learning process, many teachers still use portfolios as a showcase for best learning products rather than as a documentation of learning process.
At the moment, we are working towards improving our formative assessment practices and we have adopted a single online platform for use across the school to support our learning in the area of formative assessment. We are currently is using Seesaw as a platform for students’ learning journal or portfolio. Based on my experience, I would like to propose some reasons why Seesaw (or any other online portfolio platform) is a great way to document learning and help to improve our formative assessment practices:
When using seesaw, teachers and students will be encouraged to focus more on the process of learning. We can post students’ learning journey any time instead of only posting the final result of learning. Teachers do not need to wait until the end of the unit to upload the students final product which is usually a summative product. Whether it’s a evidence of best work or evidence toward achieving goals or even a product that was particularly challenging for a student, posting it will inform parents and students about students’ progress.
The documentation is done when learning is happening and when students are actually showing their understanding. Authentic assessment become easier because this online platform provides tools for capturing the learning process and current thinking as it is happening.
3. Instant feedback
Feedback is really important to support students’ learning. By using Seesaw, feedback can be given by peers, teachers and parents directly to the student at anytime, using the Seesaw app. Feedback is the soul of formative assessment and this benefits not only to students’ learning but also give valuable information to all parties involved in the learning process.
4. Multimedia and technology
It supports 21st century learning skills. Learning can be documented in various formats: photos, videos, drawings and voice notes. Using the app, teachers and parents are able to give feedback not only using text, but also voice notes.
5. Safe and reliable
Formative assessment and feedback should be private for each student. The learning journey documentation is also kept secure within the school community. It is also fast and reliable which makes formative assessment more effective and efficient.
This article is not an advertisement for a certain online portfolio provider (in this case: Seesaw), but it is a sharing of knowledge and insight that might be helpful to those who have not tried to step into the 21st century world of education. An online portfolio platform is just a tool that helps us to improve the assessment system, but whatever tool that we use, the most important thing is still our understanding of assessment itself. It is important for our PYP beliefs or philosophy of assessment to be reflected in our practice.
Using digital portfolios
The PYP teachers at Sekolah Ciputra have been using various versions of digital portfolios since 2009. Teachers have experimented with different platforms and various formats, trying to find the perfect one. However the old fashioned digital portfolio was considered less effective for the teachers, students and parents because the portfolio was actually not as interactive as we wanted it to be. Teachers and students had tons of photos and evidence to be scanned or uploaded but with no effective way of organizing and sharing them, there were possibilities of missing files and other complicated issues to deal with. After a while, the pre-elementary teachers decided to go with hard copies of portfolios which meant a lot of copying, printing and manual verifying of items.
Last year, as a learning community at Sekolah Ciputra we reflected on whether we could find a single tool that would allow all year levels from Playgroup to PYP 6 to upload samples of student work with descriptors and feedback to share with parents. What we wanted with an interactive tool that was user-friendly, one we could link to our focus on formative assessment and share with parents for information and for their input. The main function of the platform needed to be for the teachers and students to share documents related to all aspects of student learning and maintain the confidentiality of student work. After some trials and discussion, we finally decided to use Seesaw as the platform for our digital portfolios. Since it works very much like Instagram, it was felt that teachers, parents and students would find it easy to use.
Tools and features used
Seesaw can be used with computers, tablets, or smartphones but from our experience, tablets are most effective devices for using Seesaw. Seesaw has many simple features, likes Photo, Video, Drawing, and Notes to show students’ daily learning. Once we capture student work on the tablet, we can directly upload it to Seesaw. Using the camera and other cool features of Seesaw, student learning can be captured in real time with students explaining what they have learned. These are only some of the many handy features that Seesaw offers.
Developing IT skills
Teachers also get the opportunity to improve their IT skills when using digital portfolio. We had Professional Development among the colleagues (based on the year level) to learn how to use digital portfolios. We explored the tools available in Seesaw and decided how to best use them with different year levels For those who wanted extra time to explore, they viewed various tutorials that are offered in Seesaw.
Teachers are using Seesaw for setting up students’ goals as a preparation for three-way conference with parents and students. Besides the benefits, there are some challenges that teachers may encounter in using Seesaw. Firstly, teachers need to learn new skills as they have to explore the features in Seesaw considering it’s our first time as a school using digital portfolios to set up students’ goals. Furthermore ,we also have to maintain consistency in uploading samples of students’ progress and their learning experiences in their digital portfolio. During the period of learning this can be very time consuming. Finally within Seesaw, there is a minimum length or duration of recorded video that can be uploaded which means extra time for editing and perfecting what we upload.\
All in all, despite the challenges, we believe it is a good idea for us to use a single tool across the school so we can be consistent and we can support each other. .
PYP B Team (Mirna, Eka, Denok, Santy, Vine, Didik, Lina and Hana)
Pre-Elementary, Sekolah Ciputra, Surabaya