Ah, the ever-dreaded task of “teaching research.” For a long time, the county in which I taught mandated that every student complete a research paper. Here’s my criticism of that policy: if we are trying to teach our students the skill of research, a skill in the real world that does not always culminate in the writing of a paper, then why does the end product matter so much? Why can’t a student incorporate research into a presentation? A speech? A blog post? A Facebook post (would love to see more Facebook users around the world cite credible research in some of their posts)?
Sometimes, in order to teach our students how to research independently, we need to give them the research. TES Teach (formerly Blendspace) aids in this process. Now, keep in mind that the mantra of educational technology should be “Do not use technology for technology’s sake.”
- First, identify a problem and/or an objective in your classroom.
- Second, find a strategy that best suits the objective and, more importantly, your students.
- Third, identify a tool that would enhance this strategy.
- Note: Always keep your students’ needs at the heart of every strategy and tool that you use.
Our Problem: Every year we taught Persepolis, a graphic novel memoir about growing up during the Iranian Revolution, most of our students did not have a frame of reference for understanding some of the context. Previously, we gave students copies of texts and had them complete a JIGAW activity, but they never really seemed to grasp the concepts fully using this strategy. We needed a way for them to process all of this information a bit more independently and at their own pace.
Our Objective: Students will read about Iranian culture, specifically elements incorporated into the graphic novel Persepolis, so that they can establish background knowledge for reading the text Persepolis.
Our Strategy: Guided Research — if we had them look up all of these elements, it would become overwhelming for them. Plus, we have to think about how much time we can dedicate to this task, and we simply do not have enough time for students to peruse the enormous World Wide Web for answers that may or may not be credible.
Our Tool: TES Teach (formerly Blendspace) — we chose this tool because all of the information, despite it being from different sources, can be located in one place. We found this tool especially helpful for our students who become distracted easily by the vastness of the Internet. Also, we could choose a combination of videos and text so that we could reach different learning styles with the same tool.
About TES Teach with blendspace
What is TES Teach with blendspace? Formerly, it was just “Blendspace.” This educational technology tool allows you to create lessons that house a variety of resources (PPT, YouTube video, external web link, PDF, Google doc, etc.) in order to instruct and even assess your students. The lesson shows up looking like rows of “tiles” (similar to what a Pinterest board looks like if you’re familiar with Pinterest). I like this introduction to Blendspace.
Membership & Sign Up: Free. Students do not need accounts in order to access the lesson that you create. However, if you want to track their progress within the lesson, then you will want them to have accounts. This particular lesson culminated in a Google Form, so I did not need students to create accounts in order to demonstrate learning.
Is there an app for that? Yes, you can also get the app for free in iTunes or Chrome Store!
What can you add in a TES Teach Lesson?
- TES resources
- YouTube videos
- External web link (it’s like a new-age webquest)
- Anything you search from Google
- Pictures from Flikr
- Insert something from your Google Drive
- Insert something from Dropbox
- Insert a file from your computer
- PPT Presentations
- Link to Common Core Standards
- Add a quiz
- Add text to a box (for example, you might want to separate stuff in your lesson with “headings,” so you can have a text box before each section with a title for that section)
- You can tag the subject area.
- You can create classes. (Students join the class with a class code.)
How can teachers use TES Teach?
- Great for an exam review! You can upload all of the most important documents that students should review before the assessment and even leave comments about the most important material in each of those resources.
- Great place to house classroom expectations because it can include videos (like “lab safety” for science classes), pictures, and text.
- Makes for a great vocabulary review (in pictures, in videos, in text) or as a means of assessing students on vocabulary. Maybe you could pre-assess students this way.
- Background information on a text or topic. Students can even add their commentary on the lesson itself if you want more student interaction.
- Guided Research — have a class that needs an introduction to research before you set them off to research independently? This tool would be a great stepping stone.
- Create a lesson for a student who will be absent for an extended period of time. What a great way for a student who will be gone for a week or more by making a lesson full of resources for him/her to access? If you think it would benefit other students in the class, then you can make it available to them as well!
How can students use TES Teach?
- If students are teaching a lesson, they can put all of their documents here for the teacher to view (and evaluate). Additionally, if the content that these students are teaching to their peers is something that the class will be assessed on, then the lesson can be accessed by all of the classmates at any point before the assessment.
- If students are studying for an assessment, they can create a “lesson” that houses all of the important documents for them/their group/their classmates.
- It’d be a cool, different way for students to compose a narrative. I could really see students using this tool to compose personal narratives because they can incorporate videos, PPT presentations, Google docs, and pictures!
- Great place for students to house their research on a topic. They can even add their notes on the resources in the comments section of each resource they upload to their “lesson.”
Want to see an example? Find an example of my Persepolis introduction below!
Questions or suggestions about other tools to use? Sound off in the comments or send me an email at email@example.com. As always, I’d love to hear from you.