Wichita Public Schools Uses Seesaw to Deepen Family Engagement and Creatively Assess Student Growth

Background & Challenge
Wichita Public Schools (WPS) is one of the largest school districts in the Midwest with over 50,000 students, and 100 school buildings, including 58 elementary schools. The district is diverse, with over 120 different languages spoken by students and families.
In 2020, the district explored tools to strengthen home<>school relationships. They initially attempted to use other tools for digital instruction and family communication, but the learning curve was steep for younger students. WPS leaders learned about Seesaw from teachers in the district, many of whom had successfully used the platform in their classrooms to engage students and families.
“We needed new tools to engage students and their families,” said Dyane Smokorowki, Coordinator of Digital Literacy in Wichita Public Schools. “Seesaw was the answer.” Wichita decided to purchase Seesaw for PreK-2 teachers across the district.
After success in early elementary, the district expanded to PK-5 in 2021. The Wichita Digital Literacy team highlighted Seesaw’s ease-of-use and creative formative assessment capabilities as two of the primary reasons for purchasing and expanding the use of Seesaw.

“Seesaw sold itself with our elementary students, teachers, and families,” said Josh Ehret, Instructional Technology Specialist in Wichita Public Schools. “The creative tools were accessible and engaging for our students and it was easy for teachers to share student progress with families with Seesaw’s digital portfolios and messaging.”

Family Engagement
Witchita leveraged Seesaw’s unique messaging capabilities to engage families in the learning process. Unlike other apps focused on assignment completion, grades, or behavior, Seesaw gave families in the district insights into what students were learning and creating in school.
“Seesaw is the only product that we’ve seen in the district where parents can actually see the work that their child does. It’s not just notification of what’s going on or what grade their child received… parents see the learning taking place,” said Mr. Ehret.
Instruction & Assessment
Teachers incorporated Seesaw’s multimodal tools into instruction to give students creative and differentiated opportunities to demonstrate their understanding. Kristin Ford, Technology Integration Specialist, described an observation she conducted where a teacher used Seesaw for fluency checks:
“Previously, this teacher would sit 1:1 with students, ask them to read aloud, and take notes on their reading fluency,” she said. ”This created a high pressure situation for some students and may have prevented them from showing what they truly knew. By asking students to record themselves reading with Seesaw, it reduced some of the pressure on students and saved teachers time assessing fluency across their whole class. Now, the teacher uses that 1:1 time to help students who need additional support.”
Leaders in Wichita supported this tech-enabled approach to formative assessment district-wide. They use the centralized district library in Seesaw to create and share math and reading formative assessments with teachers across the district.
“Our Curriculum & Instruction team and teacher leaders across the district shared formative assessments via our Seesaw Library,” said Amanda Sharshel, Executive Director, Elementary Curriculum & Instruction. “We’re using Seesaw’s creative tools to check decoding and reading skills. The activities in our district library are great assessment opportunities for our kids.”
“Sharing these assessments district-wide ensured they were consistent, standards-aligned, and high-quality,” added Ms. Smokorowki.
Implementation & Professional Development
In order to support the effective use of Seesaw, Wichita’s digital literacy team developed and implemented a robust professional learning plan for teachers across the district.
Seesaw provided training and professional development resources that the district adapted for their specific needs during virtual and hybrid school formats in 2020 and part of 2021. They held in-person trainings, hosted office hours, encouraged teachers to join Seesaw’s PLCs, and created asynchronous resources that highlighted how to embed Seesaw into instructional routines.
“During all of our trainings, we were purposeful with how teachers could use the tool. They could start small by taking pictures of in-class activities themselves to send to parents, encourage students to use the audio and video recording tools to reflect on their learning, or integrate interactive tools into their lessons,” said Mr. Ehret.
“We also encouraged teachers to think creatively with ideas like documenting field trips or outdoor activities to share with parents,” added Ms. Ford.
In 2022 and 2023, the digital literacy team continued to adapt their approach to meet teachers’ needs around instructional technology and professional learning.
“We encourage teachers who’ve found success with Seesaw to show the power of the tool to their colleagues, giving them time during PD and faculty meetings to share how they’re incorporating Seesaw into their classroom routines,” said Ms. Ford.
More recently, the team “gamified” PD by creating “edtech playoffs,” where teachers entered a 10-week challenge to take asynchronous and synchronous courses and apply new skills and tools to their instructional routines. As part of the edtech playoffs, the digital literacy team leveraged Seesaw webinars and other professional learning resources to promote effective usage of the tool in Wichita classrooms.
Family Insights into Student Learning
The district highlighted a strong home-school connection as one of the biggest values of using the Seesaw platform. “There isn’t an easier way to engage and communicate with families,” said Ms. Smokorowki. “If you’re looking for strong family engagement and transparency with what’s going on in the classroom, Seesaw is the answer. It has really changed the narrative with family involvement in their childrens’ learning.”
Teachers have also leveraged Seesaw’s digital portfolio capabilities to keep parents in the loop and celebrate student growth. “It’s amazing for teachers to be able to share progress over time with parents via student portfolios,” said Mr. Ehret. “Using multimedia assignments to document student growth is a shift I’ve seen across our district with Seesaw. Teachers use it at parent conferences and throughout the year.”

The ease of use and age-appropriate tools of the Seesaw platform meant that the district saw broader benefits from Seesaw compared to other tools. “With Seesaw, we’re seeing teachers use the platform who typically aren’t considered the ‘techy’ teachers in their buildings.” said Ms. Ford. “The design of the tool makes it easier for our young students and less tech-savvy teachers to get on board quickly.”

Instructional Value
Wichita teachers use Seesaw in a balanced way in the district, blending online and offline learning, which prevents students from being glued to their screens while using technology intentionally to enhance lessons. “We’re purposeful about incorporating Seesaw lessons and activities into their curriculum guides. It has really helped teachers get quick snapshots into student progress,” said Ms. Ford. “I’ve also noticed more recently that it creates an easy virtual space for teachers to check in emotionally with their students and get a sense of how they’re feeling.”
Building a Positive Classroom Community
Teachers continue to use Seesaw in creative ways in their classrooms, including fostering a positive classroom culture. “One teacher used Seesaw as a way for students to get to know each other before school begins,” shared Ms. Smokorowki. “She encouraged her new class to take a picture of their favorite book, pet, stuffed animal, or what they did over the summer…when kids arrived on the first day of school, they were hugging each other, discussing what they shared on Seesaw. It helped to build a solid foundation for a classroom community, which is amazing to see.”
The versatility of Seesaw continues to add value to teachers across the district. “As someone who reviews many instructional technology tools and applications in our district, I believe Seesaw is the “all-in-one” tool for elementary. It’s a swiss army knife; connecting families, engaging students, and giving teachers creative ways to instruct and assess,” said Mr. Ehret.

We needed new tools to engage students and their families. Seesaw was the answer

Dyane Smokorowki

Dyane Smokorowki

Coordinator of Digital Literacy

Seesaw is the only product that we’ve seen in the district where parents can actually see the work that their child does. It’s not just notification of what’s going on or what grade their child received… parents see the learning taking place.

josh ehret

Josh Ehret

Instructional Technology Specialist

Sound Great?

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