Spaces – Capturing & Celebrating Student Growth
Disclosure: Spaces is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com
Spaces is a free digital portfolio tool that launched earlier this year and has quickly become one of my top recommendations for teachers and students who want to bring Portfolio-based assessment into their classrooms. Since it came to my attention in the middle of the last school year, some teachers may not have tried it because they already had a digital portfolio in place. Now that the new school year is here, take a look at
Spaces and its many features for teachers and students including some that were just launched for the new school year.
“Activities” is my favorite new feature in Spaces. Activities are exactly what the name implies, activities that you can assign to your students to complete and add to their Spaces digital portfolios. And because Spaces offers group portfolios and individual portfolios, you can assign Activities to groups or individuals.
You can create an Activity that is as simple or as complex as you would like. A simple Activity would be something like “attach a picture of your marshmallow tower and explain what you’d do differently next time.” A complex Activity might be something like asking students to record a short video explaining the key points of a presentation they’re making and how those points align with the standards you’ve assigned. Here’s a list of some sample Spaces Activities.
To create an Activity in Spaces simply sign into your teacher account, choose the class that you want to assign an Activity to, and then click the blue “create” button under the Activity heading in your account. Then all you have to do is write the directions for what you want your students to do. If you already have directions written in Google Docs or Word, you can simply import those directions instead of manually writing directions in Spaces Activities. Spaces will even let you record a video to explain the directions to your students. When students submit their Activities assignments you can review them in your Spaces account just like you can review any other items that they add to their portfolios.
Curriculum Goals & Tags
Curriculum Goals & Tags is another new Spaces feature for this year. I’ve seen other digital portfolio services try to do something similar, but none has made it as easy for teachers to implement as Spaces has.
Curriculum Goals & Tags lets you import sets of standards with which you want to “tag” your Activities. The sets of standards that are available to import is quite impressive. There are the usual state and province standards commonly used by public schools as well as standards frequently used by private schools.
To import Curriculum Goals & Tags into your Spaces account simply sign into your account, pick a class, then click on “Curriculum Goals & Tags” on the left hand side of the screen. You’ll then see a search box pop-up where you can search for standards sets according to state, province, or organization.
After you’ve chosen the set of standards that you want to import into your Spaces class, you can then add standards tags to your assignments in Spaces. This is a great way to help parents and students understand how an assignment aligns with a curriculum goal.
Three Reasons to Try Making Spaces Digital Portfolios
As I wrote earlier this year about
Spaces, accessibility was one of its big selling points when I tried it for the first time. Spaces provides a way to make sure that the announcements, Activities, and feedback that you post for students can be accessed by them in a variety of ways.
When you post in your class Space you can write it out, but you can also record audio and video messages to accompany that written message. For example, let’s say that I need to post a clarification about an assignment. I can do that by writing a message and I can use Space’s built-in audio and video recording tools to post the same message. Likewise, when you post feedback for students you can do so in the forms of written comments, audio comments, and video comments.
2. Parent involvement.
As I alluded to above, parents like to see what their children are working on and digital portfolios are a great way to facilitate this. Parents can be invited to view their child’s Spaces portfolio. Doing that provides a great opportunity for them to see their child’s progress throughout the year rather than just at parent-teacher conference night. Inviting parents to view their child’s portfolio also provides them with the opportunity to talk to their child about what they’re learning in school. And the new Curriculum Goals & Tags feature in Spaces makes it easier than ever for parents to understand how their child’s work aligns with the goals of your curriculum.
3. Group Portfolios
One of the things that makes Spaces somewhat unique in the digital portfolio space is that there is a built-in way to create group portfolios within your class account. Your students can have individual portfolios where they display their individual work, but they can also be a part of groups in which they share their work.
Earlier this year I described the group option in Spaces as “asynchronous breakout rooms.” You can assign students to specific group Spaces to share with each other and with you. Group Spaces could be used for simply sharing finished group projects. The better use of group Spaces is as a place where students can share their work in progress and get feedback from each other as well as from their teacher.
How to Get Started!
The quickest way to get started is to sign-up at https://app.spacesedu.com/signup then create an account using either your Google account or email address. Then you can create a class roster and invite your students to join. Once they’ve joined, from your teacher dashboard you can quickly generate individual spaces for them to use. This video walks you through the process of creating spaces for your students and this video shows the students’ perspective.