Playlists aren’t just for music anymore

Classroom Tools on June 27 2014

In the age of internet-connected devices and “e” everything, there exists a high need for solutions to manage our educational content and resources. Most likely, you have playlists of songs in your iTunes library, or perhaps you’ve got the entire season of Breaking Bad recorded on your DVR. Either way, the goal is to centralize the location of your favorite, or most relevant, media, and allow you to play, pause, repeat, skip and so on, at your own pace. Most video content sources enable users to create playlists of video content, allowing learners to more easily consume the information. But what if video isn’t the only type of content in the lesson?

Blendspace (formerly Edcanvas) is an easy-to-use web tool that allows users to create a playlist of lesson content. Blendspace lessons can include content from YouTube, Google, OpenEd, Flickr, Educreations, and Gooru, all of which can be searched directly within the lesson builder and added to your lesson by simply dragging-and-dropping to any open space. Adding additional, custom content is available as well, such as inserting a webpage or uploading a file from your computer, Dropbox or Google Drive. There’s even a nifty bookmarking tool that you can add to your browser’s bookmarks bar to gather content from wherever you are on the web.

Using Blendspace for lessons

Building your lesson is, of course, only the beginning. Sharing the lesson is easy, whether via link or sharing a unique code with students in your class. Once the lesson is accessed, students can just click “Play” to go through the series sequentially. The fact that Blendspace is browser-based allows viewers to complete lessons on any device, with the exception of certain files that may require a specific program or app to open. Quizzes can be added at any point in the lesson to check for understanding and allow the teacher to collect formative data. Viewers also have the ability to leave comments or ask questions on items in the lesson, so it’s not void of two-way communication.

Refreshingly, the free account is quite generous, allowing unlimited classes and up to 100 active lessons. However, there is an option to upgrade to a “Premium” account, which adds the ability to collaborate with others on lessons in real time, and gives the option to add audio to lesson items. Adding to the overall convenience of Blendspace, Google Apps for Education and Edmodo users will benefit from another level of integration.

Blendspace Teacher

Whether you’re flipping your classroom or leading a professional learning network in your building, here are a few ideas for using Blendspace:

  • Hence the name, if you are creating a blended or flipped learning environment, this is a great tool for managing and distributing materials, as well as supporting feedback along the way.
  • Consider using Blendspace as a “public” space to display student projects.
  • How about creating varied lessons to differentiate instruction? Try creating lessons with more or less items for different ability levels, or tag some items as optional.
  • The centralized and sequential layout lends itself perfectly to end-of-unit review activities.
  • Using mobile devices in your school? Use Blendspace lessons to post links to apps based on various categories.
  • Lastly, as professional development becomes more flexible, try flipping or blending that process as well.

Now you’re ready to blend! If you’ve tried Blendspace, please consider sharing your thoughts with us! To see a sample, check out my blendspace that was used as a follow up to one of my  “20 Coolest Things” workshops: