Teachers want to follow their students and make sure that everyone understand the main concepts as well as the most important material. However, in a regular classroom environment, such thing is not always possible. Some students who have questions will be too shy to speak up, and some points that maybe should have been talked about more in class will not be. An alternative that allow teachers to assess their students’ understanding is Blendspace. Blendspace, formerly known as Edcanvas, is a platform on which you can create quizzes, lessons, anwith which you can know who needs more help with what.
The school version of the website is quite simple. As a teacher, you create lessons on the website. To do so, you can embed videos, pictures and documents both from the internet and from your computer. The website allows to search many different educational-oriented databases as well as other databases such as Youtube or Flickr. You can upload documents, pictures, and videos from computer, you Dropbox account, and even from your Google Drive account, which means that you can create your lessons on any computer! If you cannot find a particular document or piece of information, you can always write one on the website itself. It has a small editor, with which you can edit and format your text as you wish. Each document, video, picture, website or other becomes a ‘’tile’’ in your presentation. Once the media is imported, you can choose the order in which students will see the different elements by simply moving the tiles.
To assess students’ understanding of the lessons, you can create quizzes about the different elements of the lessons. You can write multiple choice questions, which will be answered by the students. You will then be able to see you got what mark, and what questions were more difficult for the students in general. Another functionality is the ‘’I like/ I’m not a fan’’ option. Students can click on either of the choices after, for example, watching a video. This will allow you to make your lessons better over time. The students can also click the ‘’Can we go over this in class?’’ button, which means that they need help with that particular element. You will be able to see exactly who needs help with what, so you can help students in private or talk about the element in front of the whole class. Students can also comment elements, which can be used to make sure they understand the material or to have them discuss a particular elements. One more interesting feature of Blendspace is that you can see who has spent time on the lesson and seen it and how many time they have spent on it on average. A more detailed explanation of this feature with an example of a lesson done online by an educator can be found here.
Blendspace is a great tool for ESL teachers because it allows the teacher to monitor the students’ progress so that he or she can adapt to it in class. This platform also allows the teacher to blend lessons. Blending is a kind of teaching where both online resources and traditional teaching are used. It can be used in an ESL classroom for a lot of purposes. For example, you can invite you students at the beginning of the year on Blendspace and post an online lesson every week about the notion you are going to see in class the following week. Without replacing class time, this can allow time class to be used more efficiently, since students can signify which parts are easier for them and which parts they want to spend more time on. It can also be used for projects. You can create online lessons about a particular subject to facilitate their research, or even have them find media to create lessons themselves. Another way to use Blendspace in an ESL classroom is to introduce a subject – you can gather some media about the subject of the unit you will be working on and present it in front of the class. You can also have your students react to images or texts, and even include grammar worksheets in your online lessons.
As a future ESL teacher, I think that I would personally use Blendspace in a classroom, for many reasons. I think that it is a great tool, and that it can easily be used as a platform for a school year. It is easy to create online lessons and to see who has actually seen what. Also, since I try to blend my teaching with videos, pictures, online quizzes and other resources, I feel like Blendspace is a tool that could help me achieve that goal. I also think that it is a good way to provide students with more material that they can access in their free time.
Here is a good tutorial to get started on Blendspace, it shows some interesting features: