Explain Everything is a screencasting app and an interactive whiteboard rolled into one that can be installed on your mobile device. It is available on both the iTunes App Store and on Google Play for a very small charge of €2.69 and €2.65 respectively, and it’s worth it!
What are screencasts and interactive whiteboards, and of what use are they?
A screencast is a short narrated video of the creator’s computer screen and all that happened on that screen during the length of the recording. Screencasts are used extensively to demonstrate and teach software applications for example. Anyone can make screencasts really easily by using some of the free browser based tools available such as Screencast-o-matic and Screenr, or you can download Jing for free also. I made this screencast in a matter of minutes to show DIT first year students how to log into our Virtual Learning Environment. I used screencast-o-matic and then uploaded it to YouTube.
Virtual interactive whiteboards are applications that allow you to draw on your screen, or import an image and draw onto that, and share that screen with others. They are often incorported into softwares used to run webinars such as Blackboard Collaborate and this allows the instructor, who is at a distance from his/her students, to use the drawing tools provided to draw on his/her slides so as to highlight important elements on those slides as he/she presents etc. or to explain something like a difficult computation etc.
What does the Explain Everything app look like, what does it do, and how do I start using it?
Explain Everything has been described as the no. 1 app for every teacher. There is so much that it can do from importing documents, images or video; drawing and annotating; moving and animating items on screen; recording and playing; and then exporting and sharing your finished product. I recommend that you watch this 3.24min video to get a sense of its capabilities.
All the help you could possibly need to use Explain Everything is provided in these video tutorials.
Can integrating a screencasting and whiteboard app, such as Explain Everything, further enhance, or even transform, student activity in the higher education context?
Explain Everything could be used to create much more advanced ‘how to’ tutorials than any of the other free screencasting tools linked to above could produce due to its integrated whiteboard functionality. Such tutorials could really support face-to-face practical labs or workshops for example, allowing students to review, as many times as they need to, the steps or procedures that were covered in class, or that complement and extend the work done in class. This type of activity, while very useful in its own right, would sit within the two lower levels of the SAMR model, ‘substitution’ and ‘augmentation’.
But where an app like Explain Everything really comes into its own is when it’s used to facilitate the pedagogical model referred to as the ‘flipped classroom’ approach. This approach inverts or ‘flips’ the traditional teaching approach by moving the instruction phase online and out of the face-to-face classroom while moving the types of activities that were traditionally seen as ‘homework’ into the classroom. To learn more about the flipped classroom approach, read this very good two page article ‘7 Things you Should Know about Flipped Classooms’ . It begins by presenting a scenario that demonstrates how a flipped lesson might be structured, before explaining the approach itself in more detail. To flip lessons effectively, the learning materials that are made available before the face-to-face session must be interactive and engaging. As you can see from the Explain Everything demo video above, it has everything that will enable you you create such materials more quickly and more easily that any other piece of software I’ve come across, and all for under €3 too!
Providing good feedback is a hugely effective strategy for driving improvement. There has been a lot of research done in recent years about the benefits of video and audio feedback, but how about employing a multimedia approach to giving feedback? A student’s assignment submission i.e. a PDF or a DOC for example, can be imported into Explain Everything and you can work through that submission recording your annotations, explanatory drawings, and your running commentary, as well as embedding a whole host of other supports/media for them if required. Utilising the functionality available to you in the Explain Everything app in this way transforms the feedback giving process, bringing it to a level not quite possible with other softwares, let alone in person!
Take a look at this quick example…
1. Download Explain Everything from either the iTunes App store or Google Play
2. In freehand, using either your finger or a stylus, write ‘I’m [insert first name] and I’m going to use this app to [insert educational use]. Import a general picture and /or a short video file showing for example what you can see from your office window.
3. Export your finished project to YouTube or Vimeo if you happen to have accounts there before sharing the link to your video on #12appsDIT if you’d like you.
Don’t forget to tweet #12appsDIT your opinion of this app, or indeed post a comment below. Let us know your ideas on how to use it effectively with students to transform teaching, learning and assessment practices. The more we share, the more we learn!