The Watching Cooperative Preschool in Montclair is pioneering a new literacy program that allows children to use a special iPad-based application to create, narrate, and illustrate or even act out their own stories, often about the events of their day at school.
The application, Seesaw, is an innovative ‘learning journal’ that allows students of all ages to capture what they are learning at school with photos, videos, and their voice. Parents are notified (via text message, email or the Seesaw parent app) when new items are added to a child’s Seesaw journal and can immediately see and hear what their child did at school that day.
The teaching staff at the Co-op, which is a play-based preschool, uses Seesaw as an enhancement to the school’s existing emerging literacy program in their Discovery-Pre-Kindergarten classroom, for children ages 3-5.
The iPad application was introduced to the school by Victoria Fantozzi, a professor of early childhood development at Manhattanville College. The Co-op is part of a pilot program to see how a play-based preschool can integrate the iPad to support emergent literacy skills like storytelling, retelling, and book making. The project focuses on use of the camera functions (photos, videos and audio) in conjunction with the many creative functions of the iPad. Dr. Fantozzi is at the school twice per week to support the use of Seesaw, but the Co-op’s teachers use Seesaw in the classroom on a daily basis.
As digital natives, the students are very comfortable with the technology and the teachers work to make the iPad open for anyone’s use. Seesaw has been used to make whole-class books about a shared experience, such as making applesauce or about the class pet, Carlos the bunny and to make individual books such as an All-About-Me book, or a description of a special project.
The children’s final documents (photos, videos, books) are then uploaded by into the Seesaw parent application where the children’s digital portfolios are accessible to their families.
Fantozzi says of the program, “It has enabled the children to use language to describe their work in an easy and seamless way. They are avid storytellers and love describing their art, projects and thoughts. We have coupled their natural excitement and energy and taught them to use the iPad for photos and video they can narrate. Our goal is for them to see the iPad as a tool for them to be able to express their stories.”
The Co-op’s Director Christina Porter Johnson praised the project for its communication capabilities. “We have received much positive feedback from our parent’s, such as the ability to see what their child is excited about and working on even though they may be at work. Seesaw is also fostering relationships in our parent community as they are able to communicate and comment on group projects.”