By Clint Hamada, ISB EdTech Coordinator, and Nick Yates, ISB Communications
The International School of Beijing (ISB) is looking forward to Parent Teacher Conferences next week as an occasion for strengthening the relationship between faculty and home. While the conferences are an obvious time for parents to find out about their children’s educational experience, it’s worth remembering that ISB families also have a sophisticated, convenient way to stay up to date on their children’s learning year-round!
ISB’s Strategic Plan being implemented from this year formally prioritizes relationship building, and ISB knows that strong, trusting relationships are built on clear communication.
In this high-tech age, ISB facilitates communication about student learning through its intentional use of online learning platforms. In the Elementary School, this is the widely used app Seesaw and in the Middle and High School, it’s the learning management system Dragons’ Exchange (DX).
Seesaw in the Elementary School
Seesaw started as an online learning journal to allow students and teachers to document various aspects of their learning process and to share this easily with parents. These aspects include “in-process work” such as writing drafts, sketches of ideas, and pictures of math manipulatives that model different concepts, as well as “finished products” such as paintings and audio recordings of students reading.
As Seesaw has evolved, teachers use the “Family Announcements” feature to keep parents up to date on what is happening in their child’s class. These include weekly overviews of upcoming learning, class newsletters, and unit previews for specific content.
DX in the Middle and High School
DX is a more traditional learning management system. For teachers, it serves as a platform to help them provide content and access to resources online. This is important in a “1:1” learning environment like ISB, where each student has their own laptop or device. Teachers use DX to inform students of daily tasks and upcoming assessments. It helps them to manage student activity, such as viewing which students have interacted with the provided resources or sending reminders to students who are late in submitting assignments.
Sample screens from Seesaw (left) and DX (right)
DX also provides students access to resources whenever they need it. Whether a student missed a day because of illness or they want to review material before their IB exams in Grade 12, DX empowers students to take more control of their learning.
Compared to Seesaw, parents have a more “high-level” view within DX. With the aim of transparency, parents are given an overview of their child’s upcoming (and overdue!) deadlines. Also, they can access information about the course provided by the teachers, such as a yearly syllabus, information on assessment strands, and general course expectations.
Strong relationships through clear communication
In both instances, ISB has been intentional in how and why teachers use these platforms. In addition to being vital for student learning – and being invaluable during periods of online learning – both platforms offer parents a developmentally appropriate view that encourages and empowers them to have learning-centered discussions with their child. For younger children, parents can use the posts in Seesaw to have a better understanding of the learning context and can follow up with open-ended questions such as:
- “Tell me more about what you were doing in this picture. That looks so interesting!”
- “I heard you reading your story. How did you come up with that idea?”
- “Your Seesaw post reminded me of when we did … together. Do you remember that?”
In Middle and High School, the calendar and deadline information accessible to parents is designed to help them support their child in planning responsibly and encourage conversations about learning and assessments. Prompts that parents find useful to help initiate these conversations include:
- “I can see that you have a number of deadlines coming up. What can I do to help you meet those deadlines?”
- “Last week, you had an assessment in your English class. What feedback did your teacher give you? Are you happy with your results?”
- “According to your DX calendar, you have a number of tasks and assignments that are overdue. Have you spoken with your teachers about what support you need to complete those? How can I help you with that?”
It’s well worth parents checking Seesaw and/or DX in the run-up to ISB’s Parent Teacher Conferences. At this time of year, and at all times of year, the two platforms help ensure strong relationships between students, parents, teachers, and school.
Want tips on how to access and get the most out of Seesaw and DX? These ISB videos for ISB community members will help! Click this link for a recorded webinar about Seesaw. Click this link for a recorded webinar about DX.
The kind of strong relationships aided by Seesaw and DX are one of three main focus areas for ISB under its new Strategic Plan. ISB news articles in 2022-2023 are all looking at an aspect of ISB that’s an example of one of the three areas. To find out more, click here.