Flipped Catechesis with the Seesaw App

Preview: Seesaw is an awesome app that allows students to create a digital portfolio to showcase their work. We tried it out in a religious education setting that was using a flipped catechesis model. Parents and students logged in together to show what they were working on at home. Read more about our successes and struggles with using Seesaw in this unique way.
Seesaw is an awesome app that allows students to create a digital portfolio to showcase their work. We tried it out in a religious education setting that was using a flipped catechesis model. Parents and students logged in together to show what they were working on at home. Read more about our successes and struggles with using Seesaw in this unique way.


For the past seven or eight years, I've taught religious education (Catechism, CCD, Religious Formation, etc.) in the after school program at our Catholic church. For all of those years I've taught first grade and for all of those years but one, I've team taught with my mom. We have a good rhythm and groove. I tend to be the organizer and planner and come up with the crafts and activities that we do and my mom teaches the lessons and has a strong knowledge of our Faith.
Seesaw is an awesome app that allows students to create a digital portfolio to showcase their work. We tried it out in a religious education setting that was using a flipped catechesis model. Parents and students logged in together to show what they were working on at home. Read more about our successes and struggles with using Seesaw in this unique way.



Last year, we were thrown a curve ball when it was announced that we would be offering a new family program called CONNECT. This was a flipped catechesis model where the parents would be the primary educators of their children. They would teach a weekly lesson at home and then once a month the students would come to us for a "normal" class while the parents were at their own formation with one of our priests. This had been in the works for several years but was also a response to our Archbishop's pastoral letter Unleash the Gospel, where he (Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit) made it clear that parishes needed to make educating the youth a family-based program and put the ownership back in the hands of the parents.

"In recent generations, the pattern for many Catholic parents has been to delegate their children's religious education entirely to the parish, assuming that by doing so they fulfill their obligation to pass on the faith. Parishes must make every effort to resist this pattern, since catechizing children has little effect if parents themselves are not living as disciples of Jesus. Parishes must look for ways to make catechesis and sacramental preparation family-based, helping parents grow in discipleship so that they can then form their children." -Unleash the Gospel

There was still an option to do the weekly after school classes like normal if parents preferred that. We almost instantly leaned toward that option as teachers and ran from the CONNECT idea because of a few concerns:

  • loss of control - how were we going to teach these kids and be responsible for their education when we only saw them once a month
  • change - change is hard and it just seemed easier to do what we had always done
  • lack of connection - we laughed at the irony that the program was called CONNECT yet how would we actually connect and get to know our students when we only saw them monthly
  • parent participation - would the parents really stay up to date with the lessons or would they sign up for this because it looked like the "easier" option with only coming once a month
  • accountability - how would we know that the parents covered chapters from home and that the students were really learning the curriculum if we weren't the ones teaching it
But we did some thinking and brainstorming about how we could make this work by bringing in some technology. I had been watching several teachers on Instagram use an app called Seesaw. Seesaw is a digital portfolio that allows students to showcase their work through photos, videos, text, links, drawings and more. I was watching teachers using this app successfully with students as young as kindergarten. I was beyond intrigued and started asking questions and created an account to play around with the app.

Then I had an idea that luckily my mom was okay with and my DRE supported us piloting. We would use the Seesaw app to stay connected to our students. But we wouldn't use it the way it was traditionally used. In a traditional classroom setting with multiple devices, students use the app throughout the day to post what they are working on. Then the teacher can see it and approve it to be put into their digital portfolio and the parents could view from home what their child added each day. 

My plan was to have students and parents login together from home as if they were the student. Realistically we knew this meant parents would probably be logging in from their device as our students were too young to have their own. They would show us through a picture, video, voice recording, etc. what they learned from each chapter. We would document on our end what chapters they covered and be able to use the app and the comment section to start a dialogue.
Seesaw is an awesome app that allows students to create a digital portfolio to showcase their work. We tried it out in a religious education setting that was using a flipped catechesis model. Parents and students logged in together to show what they were working on at home. Read more about our successes and struggles with using Seesaw in this unique way.
Students sharing their learning from home by filling out a graphic organizer, snapping a picture and uploading it to the app for us to see.

Our Successes with the Flipped Catechesis Model

We found that as teachers, using this app was way easier than the way we previously taught. After class each week we are required to send an email to the parents updating them with what we did in class. The emails always turned into novels as we explained in detail what we covered during class, what the homework was and any reminders. With the Seesaw app it was SO easy to update them on the weeks we had class. We would take pictures of what we were doing and post them in the app with a caption. On the weeks we didn't meet, we would send out an update/announcement of what chapters needed to be covered that week, links and ideas to support the lesson, and general reminders.

We felt like by using the app we got to know our students through their videos and work in a way that other teachers in the CONNECT program did not have. That was a huge plus for us.
Seesaw is an awesome app that allows students to create a digital portfolio to showcase their work. We tried it out in a religious education setting that was using a flipped catechesis model. Parents and students logged in together to show what they were working on at home. Read more about our successes and struggles with using Seesaw in this unique way.
Easily show parents what you did in class by taking pictures and adding quick captions and posting it in Seesaw.


Our Struggles with the Flipped Catechesis Model

With all pilot programs there were definitely some growing pains and some kinks to work out. We noticed as the year went on, less and less of our students were posting in the app regularly. This was hugely frustrating to us, especially with the time we devoted to posting on our end and prepping activities to go with each lesson that they could do at home. It was hard to tell did they not like the app, did they just not want to use it, were they really behind and having trouble staying caught up with weekly lessons, etc. 

I truly think a lot of parents got overwhelmed with the idea of completing a weekly lesson. On paper it doesn't sound hard but if you have multiple kids in the program, a busy after school schedule, a busy work schedule, etc. it makes it hard to stay on top of those lessons.

I think another problem was that our religious formation department made a sign off sheet that had each chapter they were expected to cover and a place for the parent and the child to sign off that they completed it. That was it. They turned it in and got to go to the next grade level. I think if the teachers had been included in the accountability piece and the parents knew that the teachers had to sign off for each student, that they would have made more of an effort to show us what they were covering at home. So in reality the parents knew that they didn't have to use the app or show us any proof that they did the lessons in order to complete the year and move to the next grade level. This was something we struggled with because ultimately the parents are the primary educators of the faith, so I see why the teachers weren't included on the sign off sheets, but it was hard to not have a say at all and I think it would have made our pilot of the Seesaw app more successful.

I also would have liked more time to go over the app with the parents at the beginning of the year. While it really is a simple app to use, we only had 10-15 minutes on the orientation day to go over everything about our class including the app. I would have preferred to spend more time having the parent and child try out the different features and talk about different ways that they could share their learning each week. We typed a lot of it up and handed it to them, but I'm sure many did not read through everything.

I truly believe that using the Seesaw app was a great way for students to showcase their learning. From quick videos answering the end of the chapter questions to pictures showing their learning, it was great to see what each child learned at the end of each chapter. It helped with the accountability piece and the staying connected and getting to know each child better piece that we were so worried about in the beginning.

We also require students to memorize six prayers like Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, etc. and they could post a video of themselves reciting the prayer once they memorized it. No more class time spent listening to students recite their prayers, which was a huge time saver.
Seesaw is an awesome app that allows students to create a digital portfolio to showcase their work. We tried it out in a religious education setting that was using a flipped catechesis model. Parents and students logged in together to show what they were working on at home. Read more about our successes and struggles with using Seesaw in this unique way.
Easily share videos, links and resources in Seesaw that the parents and students can use at home to help supplement the lessons.


Getting Started with Seesaw

It can be overwhelming to think about starting this up, but it is really easy and user friendly. Our whole CONNECT program will be using the app this year instead of just our class. I will be walking teachers through how to use the app and how to set it up, but if you are interested in trying this out, I'd suggest doing what I did and creating an account and a test class.

With a test class you can play around with the different features and see how it works. I even logged out so I could login like I was a student in order to see what they would be seeing from their screen. Seesaw works on all devices and computers but each one looks slightly different. Play around with it. Don't be overwhelmed, just click and see what all the features do.

Also, use the Seesaw website. They have tutorials, videos, FAQs and more to help you. They also offer free webinars to help you get setup. Their site is super helpful and a wealth of knowledge about using the app.

Because this flipped catechesis model isn't what the app was designed for, you will have to do some things slightly different. You will still set up your class like normal, but you DO NOT want the parents to use the family version of the app. This is what parents would use in the traditional setting where students use the app at school and parents just view their work from home. You want the parents to have just the regular app since they will be posting as the child. This means you will need to print off the QR code (found in the app when you set your class up) that allows them access to your class and then they will click their child's name to login. That is really the only difference you will need to worry about if you are using this format. I also made sure to adjust the settings so each student's journal was private so that others in the class couldn't see what they were posting or comment on their posts.

Once you are comfortable with the app, make sure to spend enough time explaining it to parents and students and letting them try it out. Have them come to the first class/meet the teacher/open house with the app on their phone so they can try it out with you. Be sure to explain to the parents and students what you want them to post. This could be unique to you, your classroom and your program. We started out very basic and accepted anything - pictures, text, videos, etc. but as the year went on, we found that a quick video of the students sharing what they learned or answering questions from the chapter was the best way to see student learning.

Make it work for you!!! This tool is supposed to make it easier for you, your students and their parents to connect with each other and partner in educating students in the faith, so make sure you are using it in a way that works for your needs.

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