Thursday, March 7, 2013

ISTE_SIGML Webinar - Explain Everything for Education

Students and Teachers Creating Learning Objects with

Explain Everything

Dr. Tim Pelton
Associate Professor
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Victoria

March 14, 7:00 pm EST


Our abstract from our SITE 2013 Paper  (with Leslee Francis Pelton) entitled:

Using an iPad to Explain Everything by Creating Interactive Activities and Vignettes
Explain Everything is a fantastic app that has huge potential to support students and educators in the learning process. The Explain Everything App (and others like it) allows teachers and students to create projects such as interactive activities that can be used by others to explore concepts and processes.  As well, through its recording functions, it also allows teachers and students to generate and publish vignettes or video expositions of their understandings, and demonstrate proficiency in applying such knowledge to real situations.  Besides introducing the potential of Explain Everything, this paper presents an outline of a workshop to support others in exploring this tool in their schools and districts.

Note: I am one of the creators of the free MathTapper apps ( - for iOS devices  (yes free - no ads or up-sells either).  I have no affiliation with any of the apps presented below.  They are just useful tools.

I teach Mathematics Education to Pre-service teachers so most of my examples will be mathematical – but hopefully it will illuminate the potential for an app like Explain Everything to generate learning objects in any area.  

Outline for Webinar:
  • Big Picture
  • Reviewing the Potential
  • Mastering the Tools

Big Picture

How can iPads (and Tablets generally) support education?
  • access to content (textbooks, websites, blogs, wikis, etc.); 
  • exploration of interactive content/activities – to discover relationships, to master concepts, etc.;
  • consolidation of processes within some context – to build mastery and fluency;
  • demonstration of mastery and skills - by capturing a performance;
  • creation of interactive activities to share understandings; and
  • creation of conceptual vignettes to support the learning of others.

What are Learning Objects?
  • a digital object that can be used to support learning
  • interactive spaces or linear presentations
  • stand-alone activities, demonstrations, observations, etc. – or collections of such
  • purpose created or collected and repurposed
  • easy to share
  • created by educators to support learning or by learners to demonstrate mastery
  • may be augmented with supporting content and search terms
  • e.g., learning objectives, teacher guides, assessments and other information


Who is going to create them and why?
  • instructional designers – to illuminate concepts and processes
  • educators – to support their classroom learning process
  • students – to demonstrate understanding
  • students – to educate younger students
  • parents – to share their understanding
  • scientists, authors, etc. – to share their discoveries/creations/ideas

Reviewing the Potential of Explain Everything

Interactive objects to support exploration and consolidation

Project files can be created, retrieved, exported, imported, shared by email and by websites.  They end in ".xpl"

E.g., 1
Canadian coins:  This EE project presents Primary and Intermediate level learners with an activity where they can manipulate images of coins (high fidelity) and record the process as they demonstrate proficiency in recognition, counting change, making change, explaining relationships, etc..

Video using the EE coins project 

E.g., 2
Fraction Strips:
Students can use images of various fraction strips to explore such concepts as equivalent fractions and comparative size of fractions.

Download project file:

Video using the EE fraction strips project: 

E.g.,  3
Multiplying Fractions: 
By creating a collection of fraction regions  (1/2. 1/3, ¼. 1/5) and then generating a set of the possible fractions that might be represented – in horizontal and vertical orientations - we can manipulate these to examine the potential meaning of fraction multiplication, and use that model to support the development of an understanding of the nature of the traditional process.

Download the project file:

Video using the fraction multiplication project

Grant underway to encourage the development of more Explain Everything Learning Projects - both Teacher and Student generated

Animations/vignettes to support student understanding through demonstration

  • How tall is a tree?

  • Sum of fractions 

  • Trip to Grandma’s house

  • Volume/capacity of a box   

Mastering the Tools:  Quick overview of some useful apps

Paper 53  (free +)
  • Nice interface – e.g., Sketchbooks
  • Tools: eraser, pen, watercolor and others + rewind (bi-directional)
  • Free for fountain pen, some additional cost for additional features
  • Export by screen capture
  • No zoom

Background Eraser for iPad Mini ($0.99)
  • iPhone app also works – and scales up well.
  • Easy to use

1.    Import images
2.    Crop
3.    Erase background (adjust threshold and feathering)
4.    Export (PNG or jpg)  - note that the background looks black on ‘Photos’ app

iMovie ($4.99)
  • Nice interface – Easy to use
  • Everything on your iPad – no need for external devices
  • Can take audio from external mic
  • Import movies and improve audio, add background, etc.

Photos (free)
  • photo managing app for iOS

Explain everything ($2.99)
  • Create slideshows
  • Screen casting with animation
  • Effective set of tools
  • Each slide can be recorded independently
  • Newest version supports editing within a slide
  • External (mac based) compressor available for $15

Guided practice

Choose a simple example that supports the exploration of all of the tools and share it with the participants. E.g., Angles in a triangle

Use the problem solving process to complete

Understand the problem: 
What needs to happen for this learning object to be effective?
  • Clear voice and diagrams
  • Accurate information
  • Short (very important!)
  • Visually appealing

Make a plan: 
E.g., create a storyboard with Paper 53.

Carry out the plan
Using Paper 53:  Sketch a triangle
  • Moderately careful sketch
  • Angles are distinct (recognize that they will have to be inverted)
  • Color in, and trim with eraser
  • Screen capture (hold down power button – then tap on home button)
  • Now in Photos – with white background

Using Background Eraser: Trim off the background so that it can be manipulated
  • Load image 
  • Crop
  • Erase background
  • Export as PNG file
  • Now in Photos – with transparent background  (shows as black)

Using Explain Everything:

Make first slide – title page
  • Choose template (color of background and text)
  • Text “The sum of the angles in a triangle is 180°”
  • Audio overlay after ‘The sum of the angles in a triangle is 180°’

Make second slide – One triangle turns into three copies
  • Import image from photos – three copies of the triangle – stacked
  • Audio overlay ‘to demonstrate this … 3 copies’
  • Simultaneously move the 3 copies apart
  • Duplicate slide

Make third slide – with the two outside copies rotated and brought together 
  • Rotate the two outside triangles 180° (without recording animation)
  • Audio overlay ‘rotate two of the triangles… bring them adjacent…”
  • Simultaneously move triangles adjacent to the middle triangle
  • Then draw a arc showing 180°
  • Duplicate slide

Make Fourth slide
  • Zoom in on central triangle
  • Audio overlay ‘To sum up…’
  • Simultaneously use laser pointer tool to highlight angles
  • Export project as video
  • Save it into Photos

Add finishing touches in iMovie        
  • Add audio track overlay (music – quiet)
  • Export to YouTube account


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