Spaces is a new digital portfolio tool that offers some unique features that teachers and students will like. Not the least of these features is a group portfolio function that is best described as providing asynchronous breakout rooms. This post will highlight the features of Spaces and what makes it different in a crowded market of digital portfolio tools.


Types of Spaces Including “Asynchronous Breakout Rooms”

Spaces offers three ways for you and your students to share materials and interact with each other. These three ways are referred to as “Class Spaces,” “Individual Spaces,” and “Group Spaces.”

Class Spaces are spaces where you can post materials and announcements for your entire class to see. You could use this space to publish documents by attaching PDFs, Word documents, pictures, or PowerPoint slides. You could also use Spaces’ Google Drive integration to publish something from your Google account. In Class Spaces you can also write messages for your class to see as well as record messages by using the audio and video recorders that are built into Spaces. Announcements in Class Spaces available to all students.

Individual Spaces are students’ individual portfolio spaces. These are the Spaces where your students can share examples of their work, ask help questions that they only want you to see, and receive feedback from you about their submitted work. Parents can be invited to join their child’s individual space.

I foresee using Individual Spaces not only as a place for students to post completed projects but also to post their work in progress so that I can give them feedback on it. This semester some of my students are working on an Android app design project. Obviously, I’ll want them to share their completed projects but I also want them to share their projects in progress throughout the semester. When they post their projects in progress I can give them verbal and written feedback to guide them toward their larger project goals.

Group Spaces are spaces that can be described 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. For example, some of my computer science students are working on semester-long projects. I can put them into small groups in group Spaces where they will share bits of their design work and bits of their programming work. They’ll then get feedback from their classmates as well as from me.


Getting Started with Spaces


I’ve always felt that the best way to discover the potential of a service for your classroom is to jump in and give it a try. You can quickly start using Spaces for free by signing up at Spacesedu.com with your email address or with a Google account. If you use your Google account, you can import your Google Classroom rosters.

Once you’ve created your teacher account you can then start creating your classes and spaces. To get students into your class click on the “people” tab in your Spaces classroom then click “invite students.” You have three options for inviting students to your class. You can give them a direct link to your class, you can give them a class code to enter on Spacesedu.com, or you can use the Google Classroom option to add students.

After creating your class it’s time to create Spaces within your class. As mentioned above, there are three Space types. The default space is a “Class Space” in which you can publish materials for all of your students to see. Likewise, your students can post materials here for all of the class to see. In the Class Space you and your students can respond to each other with written comments, video comments, and audio comments.

To create Individual Spaces you’ll simply click the “+” in the Spaces tab in your teacher dashboard. Then you can select “individual” and choose the students for whom you’d like to create Spaces.

Creating Group Spaces is done in a similar manner to creating an Individual Space. The difference is that when you create a Group Space you can manually assign students to groups or you can have it done randomly.

Finally, it should be noted that you can have multiple Group Spaces within your Spaces classroom. In other words, your students don’t have to work with just one group.

How to Create a Spaces Portfolio – Part I

How to Create a Spaces Portfolio – Part II

Accessibility
An increased awareness of the need to make resources accessible to all students in a classroom is one of the few positive things to come out of the last year of online and hybrid instruction brought on by COVID-19 school closures. To that end, Spaces provides a way to make sure that the announcements and feedback that you post for students can be accessed by them in a variety of ways.

When you post an announcement in your class Space you can write it, 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.

Just like when posting an announcement in your class Space, when you post feedback for students you can do so in the forms of written comments, audio comments, and video comments.

And it’s not just teachers that can make audio and video recordings in Spaces. Your students can also record audio and video comments by using the recording tools built into Spaces.

Accessibility can also refer to accessing course materials from multiple devices. Spaces, as is to be expected of a quality portfolio service, offers a free iOS app and free Android app for teachers and students. Using the mobile apps provides a quick and easy way for students to add images of their physical work to their portfolios and to record video messages to add to their portfolios.


Bottom Line

Spaces’ best feature is its Group Spaces. If you’re looking for a way that you can have students do asynchronous online group work that you can also monitor, give Spaces a try.



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