Monday, August 11, 2014


I've been making lessons with Blendspace for my classes this year, and I really enjoy it so far.

In a nutshell
Blendspace is a free service that allows you to pull content from various sources for a single lesson, and then store and present that lesson online.

More details
Blendspace allows you to import media from a variety of places on the web or upload your own stuff {from a cloud service, any website or embed code, from your computer, or just by typing directly onto the page} and keep it all in one space. It's set up like a grid, and you drag and drop your lesson components into the grid's boxes where you want them. You can rearrange the boxes however you'd like, which is, essentially, rearranging your lesson.

Blank lesson template

It's a great way to pull in a variety of media types for one lesson and not have to hunt down each component separately. For instance, I have one lesson where I uploaded a YouTube video, Google images, my direct typing, a PDF from my computer, a picture from my Dropbox, another website, and a Prezi presentation. I like that Blendspace keeps it all in one place so I don't have to hunt down each component on its own when I'm teaching the lesson.

Users can "play" a Blendspace lesson much like they would a PowerPoint presentation -- just click the arrows on the right and left to scroll through the slides. Depending on how details you make your  lesson, I think you could literally just type the link to the Blendspace into our lesson plan book and be done with it. I particularly love that I don't have to write a lesson plan that lists every single component I'm going to use because Blendspace corrals it into one space for me.

There are a few ways to share a Blendspace lesson: you can link to it {which is short and sweet}, share an automatically-generated QR code, share on social media, and/or embed it onto another website. 

Here's an example of an embedded lesson that I made for my 2nd graders about the scientific method:

If you are doing a flipped classroom, the ability to share on social media would be nice. I could also see a teacher just showing the pre-generated QR code on the Promethean for students to scan as they walk into the room... Then students can immediately begin working on the day's lesson without the teacher doing anything other than clicking a couple times.

Speaking of lesson planning, if you ever have a substitute, all you'd need to do is send them the link to your Blendspace lesson. As long as they have some way to log on to the computer, that link would be all they need to get through the day. You can even print them a copy of the lesson so they know which slide is coming next. The printed version of the lesson above would look something like this:

Blendspace allows you to make your lessons public or private, AND you can share and collaborate on them with your team. The collaboration portion would be great if you are team teaching because you can all work on and teach from the exact same Blendspace lesson. And because some Blendspace lessons are public, you can search for other teachers' lessons, copy their to your account, tweak them for your needs, and then share them with students.

Browse other teachers' lessons by subject or search for one on a particular topic
You also can create classes and assign Blendspace lessons to each class. I use this portion for sorting the lessons I use for my five different Science Lab classes so I can easily find the lesson I need, but there's another use for it, too: Blendspace allows students to connect their account to their teacher's.  You, the teacher, can assign lessons for the students to view, and then you can see when or if the student views it {another great option for those you that are doing flipped or blended classrooms}.  Additionally, if you add any quizzes into the Blendspace lesson, the students can take those quizzes on their own account, and Blendspace will grade the quiz and send the results back to you. I personally haven't been able to utilize that option because my kids are so young {and don't have access to many online accounts because of their lack of e-mail address}, but I think that would be amazing for any teacher trying a flipped classroom.

The top toolbar doesn't give you a lot of options -- just enough to get you by -- so the website isn't overwhelming.

Blendspace saves your lessons continually as you work -- much like LiveBinders -- so there's no need to remember to hit the "save" button over and over again. In fact, there isn't a "save" button.

There are 5 templates, which just give you different ways to show the grids in your lesson. You see the first template in the picture of the grid toward the top of this post. Other templates make the boxes larger or put them into a scrapbook-like format, with some squares bigger than others.

There are only two themes: gray or colorful. The gray theme makes the top of every square gray. The colorful theme give each square a color based on what type of media is inside the square -- you do not get to choose the colors. For instance, the video below has a red-orange title, while the picture has a teal one.

Text that you type directly into your Blendspace lesson has a purple title, and links you import are blue.

You can add a title to every box, which shows up above the element when you are "playing" your lesson in the enlarged view. Other users can also add comments to the different squares in your lesson, which means that your students could add comments if they have an account.

Additionally, you have the ability to add captions to all of the boxes in your lesson grid except the "type directly into it" boxes, and those captions appear in a white space to the right of the squares when you're playing the lesson. You can choose to show or hide the captions while you're playing the lesson.

Here are some video tutorials I made about Blendspace {remember to type in the password to have access to the videos... CISD employees, it's our plural mascot}:
Also: this link provides you with some ideas about how to use Blendspace in your classroom.

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