Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Explain Everything

Extending the Lever:  APPlying Explain Everything

Big expenditure brings big expectations.  As elementary gets more iPads we focus our attention on the APPlication of Apps.  

"Technology needs to provide us with a low floor (an easy way to get started) and a high ceiling (lots of possibilities for taking things even further). There also needs to be wide walls, so that projects can be extended into other domains ..." - Mitch Resnick
The App landscape for the iPad can be overwhelming but in elementary we are quickly learning how to differentiate between content apps that may be used for a short time, like a book being checked out from the library, and production apps that become tools we use throughout the year for students to produce their own multimedia.  Explain Everything, a wipe board screen casting app, fits our criteria.  

Mr. Gahringer’s fifth graders piloted its use during their study of circuits.  Students documented their learning by photographing their circuits they created with batteries, wires, bulbs, motors, and switches.  They then photographed their schematic drawings from their wipe boards and their research notes.  The images easily imported into Explain Everything slides and students began recording their multimedia presentations that they then shared with their peers for review.  

Coincidentally, a week earlier I “attended” StemX, a free online education conference that has no physical location.  Presenters and attendees meet on Blackboard and interact, similar to how they would at a traditional education conference, only here the participants are scattered around the world.   Reshan Richards, the creator of Explain Everything, presented on his app, I was able to ask him a few questions.  

I learned the intention of creating the app was for highlighting process, to make thinking visible, and provide a foundation for reflection and revision.  Students’ thinking can be captured without the teacher having to be present which means that certain students, maybe shy in front of the group, or not apt to record all of the their thoughts on paper, can work and perform at their own pace in a tactile, visual, and auditory format.

Intuitive and social learning took over.  After a brief introduction to the app, students mostly discovered and taught each other how the app functions, similar to the cooperative learning shown in Sugata Mitra’sHole in the Wall” (see his Ted Talk) where students with no computer training were able to learn and teach each other without adults.  Students quickly manipulated the arrows, text, zoom, laser pointer, and then recorded multiple versions until satisfied.  But the most thrilling observation was seeing students who don’t share as enthusiastically as others create flawless oral presentations.  The inner perfectionist revealed in each student.  Their videos uploaded easily to Google Drive for peer review and teacher assessment.  

Pencil, paper, wipe boards and markers, and most importantly our hands and brains were all put to use.  Traditional technologies were still present, but Explain Everything and one powerful mini-media production studio, or iPad, helped us transform our learning to a new form and level.  Not only did students have to organize their thinking into written research notes, but they had to visually organize slides, logically order their presentation, and work on verbal delivery.  By putting their work up for peer review they used each others’ critical judgement before it ever reached final review.

The APPlications for Explain Everything are limitless.  Teachers can flip their classrooms by sending the lecture home for homework and doing the homework as classwork where students have access to the teacher.  Or students could do something as simple as photograph their text, record their reading and thinking, annotate it, and share it with anyone, anywhere.  It only takes a few minutes to learn and it is APPlicable to just about any content, any subject.  Explain Everything gets added to our toolbox for building a better CNG.