Price: Free to use; paid options
Summary: An online lesson-creation tool.
Blendspace offers a tool to educators who wish to create online lessons for their learners. The tool supports different educational praxis including a Flipped Classroom approach, a Socratic teaching method, and a tool to follow an elaborative path providing educational scaffolding. Blendspace offers flexibility for learners and considerable options for educators when it comes to building and executing lessons.
Educators have the ability to plug-and-play with videos, PDFs, PowerPoints, websites, Dropbox files, quizzes, images, text and forums, which are placed in an organized, easy-to-follow grid. Lessons are easy to create, customize, share and edit. Learners can access lessons with a wifi connection. Full participation in lessons is possible without an account, with the exception of in-platform forums. Educators can create classrooms, add their students to those spaces and track progress.
Blendspace allows educators a platform to contain many different kinds of learning tools. All content for each lesson is collected in one place, in easy-to-follow blocks. In-platform tools are available to monitor progress and understanding.
Blendspace can support teaching praxis in several ways including:
- Access to several resources and modalities within a central digital location (time-saver)
- Adaptable for workstations (assign groups to square numbers)
- Provides students a resource to review, complete in their own time (for students who need more time or more challenge)
- Creation of convenient study guides (students can collaborate and pull from multiple resources)
- Limited preparation required for student use (central action, all elements housed together, click-through)
In addition to creating lessons from scratch, Blendspace offers a free Lessons Library and resources users can use or adopt in their own lesson development.
Critique and Implications for Education
Time (Ease of Use): Educators who have already been using online elements to their lesson plans and have developed their own digital resources can create a Blendspace lesson in minutes. The drag-and-drop interface allows for fast and easy creation of valuable easy-to-use learning tools.
Cost: There is no cost for educators to use the Blendspace platform. There are thousands of pre-made educational resources available at no cost. Students are not required to pay for access, or even have an account to access the material created by their instructor. Free accounts (can sign in with Google or Facebook, if desired) are required to participate in in-platform forums and to sign into classes created by instructors. Users can create classes with up to 35 students in each class and can have 100 lessons in their free account.
Self-Contained: All elements of the learning tools are housed in one place, which eliminates clicking in and out of multiple applications, as well as remembering where everything is. In-platform forums and quizzes allow verification of understanding in real-time as well as conversation and debate available at every log in. Blendspace houses YouTube links, Websites, PowerPoint presentations, text, images, Google education applications, documents, Drop-box files and PDFs, all without the requirement to click outside of the platform.
Critical Thinking: Blendspace fosters a constructive approach, pulling from past knowledge, offering concepts, information and possibilities from ample resources and, when using all the tools available within the platform, encouraging critical thinking practices when responding to prompts, activities and classmates.
Segmented Design: Educators can use the modules to segment their content delivery, scaffolding lessons with support of collaborative activities. Assigning specific blocks can help build upon understanding and encourage elaboration to take place over the course of a single sitting or an entire unit of learning, spanning several days.
Learner Control: Students have control over the time spent with each lesson or block. They can review as often as necessary or desired.
Deliberate Design: All elements included in the lesson are chosen by the educator and fosters a coherent, straightforward delivery free of distraction that could occur when having to click outside of an LMS or provided link.
Reports: Blendspace offers users the option to create classes of up to 35 students. Within classes, tracking of access, engagement, participation, quiz scores and use can be tracked.
Access: An account is not necessary to access lessons on Blendspace but a secure wireless connection is required to both access the platform itself as well as many of the different elements educators would use to build the lessons.
Time: Educators may have to vet resources they find on the internet to verify they are appropriate and fit with the lesson plans. Without planning, developing a robust lesson will take longer than the 5 minutes the platform boasts.
Design: The Blendspace interface is made up of square blocks. They maintain a very module and organized appearance but it can be difficult to size all elements of the lesson to appear as centered, well-designed title blocks. For many users, this would not register as a flaw, but for this reviewer, it poses as a drawback for the overall aesthetic of the platform.
Broken Links: The program will not alert creators if links to chosen resources are no longer valid. It is essential to review active lessons to ensure all links are working and accessible.
Opportunities & Ideas for Use
Blendspace offers a quick and easy platform for educators to pull resources together and keep them in one place for students to access, engage with and review at their own pace and schedule. The platform models for students, an element of digital literacy in demonstrating appropriate, trusted sources of information, as chosen and suggested by their instructor. The contained area allows students to interact with the lessons and activities while making appropriate choices for their own learning, teaching and sharing.
Facilitating a Flipped Classroom is made easy with Blendspace lessons. Students can be introduced to applicable material and activities before an instructor-led discussion in class which can be followed up with collaborative activities, content creation, quizzes and forums within the same lesson modules later. The platform has the ability to contain all the steps of Blooms Taxonomy and supports a Cognitive approach. The platform provides an easy-to-follow lesson structure, with many options for discovery, delivery, application and demonstration of learning and understanding. Educators who prefer to create all their own material will find an easy-to-use platform to populate with their own material. If create-your-own is not ideal for the user, Blendspace provides several high-quality pre-made units, unique elements to build lessons from and some paid content within the educational resource tool.
Other Ideas for Application
For struggling students: Blendspace allows repetition and reinforcement of learning materia. In a private environment (if desired), students who need extra help or reinforcements can be provided additional material and access and repeated review.
For advanced students: Allows deeper learning through additional modules – included on their own or as additional blocks within general lessons for class. This will work to reduce boredom and offer students (identified or not), the opportunity to advance their thinking with additional material that has been selected by the educator.
Group work: A large lesson plan can be divided by blocks or modules. Each group would be responsible for a specific number of lesson blocks. Alternatively, centers in a classroom could be set up (with physical elements to touch, build or feel) and be supported by specific modules within the Blendspace application.
Study guides: Educator- or student-created. Students can create and share with their friends, can collaborate with peers to gather appropriate material that will assist with preparation towards larger assessments. Educators can easily gather all applicable material that will appear on upcoming quiz or culminating assignment.
Flipped classroom: All required before- and after-class work can be housed together in one Blendspace lesson.
Digital literacy development: Have students create lessons, demonstrating good judgement with chosen material — learning about quality educational resources, vetting sources and developing useful exercises to support learning.
Completely asynchronus approach: The platform encourages such a variety of resources, complete lesson, skill and task learning or mastery can be supported completely within the Blendspace platform.
Access and Cost
The Blendspace platform offers free access, creation options and lesson hosting. You are able to create a profile or conveniently log in with Google or Facebook. If you are planning to curate content for your lesson or module, there are many free resources available. Additionally, there are resources that can be purchased individually if educators would rather begin with templated lesson plans rather than creating their own resources from scratch. Several tools, including Google Drive, YouTube, Dropbox, quizzes and forums are available inside the application. Creators can also directly embed external websites, links, PDFs and PowerPoint files. All of these tools are available without any additional costs.
Users can create classes, assign lessons to those classes and track progress within each class. Users are able to create and host 100 lessons at a time in their account.
Blendspace is only currently available as an online platform (easiest to use on desktop, laptop and tablets). There are no application-based options for this resource, but lots of development is currently taking place.
About the Author
Alison is a post-secondary educator at both Durham College and Loyalist College. She has taught courses in business, marketing, public relations, various computer applications and communication for the last six years. Her educational background consists of a diploma in journalism, a degree in English and political science and a degree (honours) in business with a concentration in marketing and consumer culture.
For the past 16 years, Alison has owned and operated her own business that has grown from graphic design to business advisory in the areas of media, marketing and customer service.
Alison lives in Cobourg with her husband and three boys — Jack (15), Alex (13) and Charlie (11). Alison loves to read and self-identifies as a creative problem-solver.
Blendspace Lessons. Blendspace Website. https://www.blendspace.com/lessons
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