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Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Blendspace April 10, 2014

Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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Blendspace, one of AASL’s 2013 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning in the Manage and Organize category, offers both teachers and librarians a very intuitive, option-rich environment for sharing content online with students and other teachers. With Blendspace, you can:

  • build a simple “playlist” of websites, videos, images, and text you can share in a presentation or live lesson

  • embed a playlist in a website or blog to share resources online

  • create flipped or blended lessons that have students watch videos, visit websites, and respond to short quizzes to monitor participation and comprehension

Blendspace first came to life in 2012 as Edcanvas, offering an easy way for educators to blend  “materials together from all over the web into beautiful lessons,” as described in the Blendspace blog.

My first exposure to this tool was at the 2013 CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference where Brian Bridges from California Learning Resources Network (CLRN) used it to share “50 free online ready reference works and web 2.0 tools for lifelong learners” (bit.ly/clrnfun).  Edcanvas served both as part of his presentation platform and as a way of providing links to the 50 tools participants could access afterwards.

In a similar way, the AASL Best Websites Committee used Edcanvas for the session announcing and showcasing the 25 best sites for 2013 at the June 2013 ALA Conference.

2013 best websites.png

It allowed the committee to include links to each of the 25 sites, as well as to images of the sites, examples, video interviews with the site creators, and more. And, once the session was over, both the live participants and others who weren’t able to attend could visit the Edcanvas playlist to easily access this series of site links and related materials.

Thanks to its attractive interface, ease of assembling through drop and drag, and embedding option, it has recently become one of my own tools of choice for curating online content for my teachers and students. For example, when I needed to provide one of my classes with a selection of sites for creating online vocabulary games and quizzes, I used it to quickly assemble site links and examples I shared during class and also embedded in a webpage for later reference:

 

I also used it to share digital storytelling tools, creative writing tools, and Twitter resources.

The Blendspace blog posting last August 24 explained that the creators wanted to provide more than just “a space where you put digital content.” This led to the transition from Edcanvas to Blendspace, with the goal of making the site “into a suite of tools where you can measure your students’ understanding of material and track their progress.” In addition to finding and including weblinks, it now allows teachers to set up classes and assign lessons to students in those classes, embed short quizzes in with the other digital content, and track student participation. It allows students to create lessons as well, and users can search the gallery for lessons and playlists created by others. Check the site Resources page for lots of ideas and tips on how to use Blendspace.

As with many free sites, there is also now a paid account you can upgrade to for more options. The upgraded accounts allow for real-time collaboration on lessons and voice annotations. The team is also planning a new Blendspace for Schools option, which will become available this Fall.

Do add Blendspace to your toolkit for flipped or blended lessons, curation, and more.

 Submitted by Jane Lofton: AASL Best Websites Committee Member

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