Tech Tools: Blendspace

Last year I learned about what has quickly become one of my favorite organizational tools for PD. It also can serve as a great tool in the classroom too. It is called Blendspace. Blendspace allows you to combine, text, pictures, websites, videos, links to sites like Educreations, photos, and more in one place. I have used it for lessons and PD presentations and have loved it for both.

Whether I am teaching a lesson to students or sharing with co-workers, I find that I always have at least a few different links that I want to share with them both during and after the presentation. By using Blendspace, I am able to combine all of my information in one place so that I don't have to bookmark a bunch of different sites or have them open ahead of time. I also like that I can add text to highlight what it is that I want to share. It's also great that I can add videos from YouTube because there are often great tutorials there that I want to share. Then afterwards, I can share the Blendspace on my website so that they can access it themselves later to reference the sites that I spoke about.

For classroom teachers, there is a really great feature that allows you to create 'classrooms' with which to share your Blendspace lessons. So you could have your students join your 'classroom' using the given code, and always be able to access the Blendspace lessons that you've shared with them. This is great for flipped learning, review, or so that absent students have a way to catch up easily. 

Another thing that I love about Blendspace is that you can view other Blendspace lessons that were shared by other educators. I was able to search by subject areas and access incredible lessons complete with video tutorials and links to really useful sites. 

Yet another possible use is to have students create Blendspaces as a presentation format for their own projects. Privacy settings are completely adjustable.

Blendspace is great for organization, presentation, and giving students and parents access to what you shared at any time. I highly recommend checking it out!

Here is a sample Blendspace that I used for a recent staff PD:

Tech Tools: Edmodo

I thought I'd spend today's post sharing a website that I just love for classroom teachers.

Have you used Edmodo in your classroom yet?

I am a huge fan of Edmodo for the classroom. In the past I've used it to have students turn in work so that I could grade it and give them feedback right on Edmodo. As a language arts teacher, it was such a relief not to have to carry papers back and forth. I could write right on the papers they submitted if I chose and share a grade with them right there. I also used it to have students submit work right on the class wall so that others could view and comment on it. We did this when the students created projects, like websites or podcasts. Then they were able to learn from each other and share constructive feedback. It also made it much quicker for presentations so that students did not have to find their project (online or on their H-Drive), they could just open it from the Edmodo page. Any time saving strategy in the classroom is a win in my book!

Other great ways that I've used Edmodo in the classroom were to connect my students with students in other states. Another teacher and I made small groups in Edmodo based on the books that our kids were reading. They had a blast discussing with students their own age in a completely different state. On a smaller scale, I also made groups that connected kids who I taught in different sections. They loved knowing that they were communicating with peers who were not in their specific class. Besides the fact that this was engaging, it also offered the opportunity for more viewpoints, which led to very thoughtful discussions.

One of my other favorite features of Edmodo is the Communities. The Communities allow for teachers to connect, share, and inspire. I've received many great lesson ideas thanks to the Language Arts and Technology Communities. You are able to link or upload files that can then be saved to your own personal Library for later use. It truly is a place for inspiration among teachers. I highly recommend checking it out, even if you don't have any other use for the site.

There is a new tool on Edmodo that looks pretty amazing as well called Snapshot. This allows language arts and math teachers to assess their students' understanding of Common Core concepts. It then provides the teacher with data that they can reference throughout the year to really measure student growth. You can vary the amount and type of questions as well. It seems that Snapshot provides a quick and effective way for teachers to assess students and help students become more familiarized with an online assessment system. It seems testing is heading online across the nation, so this could become a very useful skill for students to understand how to do.

I recently shared Edmodo, and my obvious love for it, during a staff PD and I'm happy to say, I already had a few teachers who are eager to get started with it. While there are many other platforms that have some or many of the features of Edmodo, the user-friendly platform and teacher collaboration features make it stand out the most to me.

Any other Edmodo fans out there?

Gearing Up for a New School Year

We are just one day from August now, and I, like many teachers, am turning my thoughts fully back to school mode. I am entering the 2014-2015 school year with great excitement. Last year was a year of change and firsts as I accepted a new job in a new school/state and had so much to learn. Returning to this school and role for my second year (seventh as a teacher), gives me the time to really begin to plan some changes I want to make and the opportunity to try some new things.

One of the biggest changes that I am looking forward to trying this year is creating a Makerspace for our Media Center. I've spent hours reading great blogs and searching Pinterest for inspiration. Boy, did I find it. I saw everything from full lego walls to coding programs to Makey Makey pianos. I couldn't pin quickly enough. My goal over the next month is to begin collecting the items that will bring this Makerspace to life so that our kids have a new outlet for exploration.

I plan to document this school year using this blog. After slowly wading into the wonderful world of Twitter last year, I've seen the impact that a PLN can have and I hope that this blog can serve as one more piece of my PLN to help me continue to connect with and learn from other educators.

Here's to all the other educators who are gearing up for a great school year!