Explain Everything is a digitized interactive whiteboard that could be used for collaboration among teachers and students. It’s free for all users with upgrades available at a cost. You can find it in the Chrome web store, iTunes, and Google Play. It can be used on any type of devices such as a laptop, mobile phone, as well as a tablet.
What is Explain Everything and how is it used in language classroom?
Explain Everything is specifically designed for tablet users to collaborate and interact on devices such as IPad, SamSung Galaxy Tab, and Microsoft Surface Pro. Other touchscreen devices are also welcomed but may have some issues such as small screens, and less precision in the writings. It can be used in an ESL/ Foreign language classroom or in other content-area classrooms. To learn more, please visit the Explain Everything YouTube Channel.
There’re three main functions for this particular application.
- First, it can be used as a tool for digital storytelling
- Second, it can be a tool for lecture capturing/recording
- Third, it can be a direct substitution for an online version of an Interactive Whiteboard
IWB (Interactive Whiteboard) have become popular use in the classrooms, and Explain Everything might just have the exact functions. The IWB platform allows instructors to hold a language classroom online by sharing the screen with students. In addition, the design of a shared screen, collaborative-oriented digital system could “promote mutual interactions and communication, contributing to more effective shared knowledge construction in collaborations” (Hsieh, 2017, p.117) for language learners.
Furthermore, the IWB allows language teachers to save time in preparing the traditional resources such as flashcards, poster, and have access to online resources that can be easily gathered and stored for future use (Coyle et al., 2010).
See this article for 10 ways to use Explain Everything in the Languages classroom
What does the app look like? What does it do? How does it work? Does its use in language learning require repurposing?
The above image is a screenshot of the tablet view. On the left hand-side are the tools provided for creation on the Interactive Whiteboard. When you open up the application, you can choose to work on a pre-designed template or a simple colored canvas. Users can choose from drawing and writing with different style of pens/pencils by choosing the wanted color/shades. Insertion of images, links, videos are also available to incorporate onto the whiteboard. By clicking on the bottom right hand-side, you can add a new canvas to create more work. For more information, click on this link to watch an introduction to Explain Everything.
As mentioned above, Explain Everything can be used for screencasting, storytelling, and real-time collaboration and lecturing. The recording and microphone button is available at the bottom of the screen with a red dot and a microphone symbol.
To use Explain Everything for language learning, simply create whatever you need on the canvas. For example, write out the vocabulary and its meaning and pronunciation for a vocabulary lesson, so on and so forth. It’s very straightforward and does not require any repurposing.
Can integrating a collaborative IWB platform, such as Explain everything, further enhance, or even transform, student activity in the higher education context?
Depending on the course context, Explain Everything can further enhance and transform students’ activity. First, we need to take a look at Puentedura’s SAMR model to make sure the App is in good match with the course objective for the lesson you’re planning. Therefore, we can successfully evaluate the effectiveness of the App for a specific activity.
Application like Explain Everything with the “interactive group-settings motivate students because the students’ interactions within the context of these technology features make lessons more enjoyable and interesting, resulting in improved attention, engagement, and student behavior essential to the learning process” (Lopez, 2010, p.902).
Explain Everything is an digitized whiteboard that is a direct substitution for an actual whiteboard that hangs on the wall in the classroom. The space provided on the IWB will allow students to draw and writing without using a pencil or color pencils.
By using Explain Everything, it takes the lecturing and learning experiences to a whole new level. With the tools provided in the application, it allows better “multimodal” instruction and allows “learners and teachers to manipulate the various modes and break free of the temporal linearity of traditional classroom instruction” (Walker and White, 2013, p.85).
A great way to use Explain Everything at the stage of modification is Digital Storytelling (DST) as discussed in Christiansen and Koelzer (2016). DST is a great way to empower EFL students to develop the necessary language through using “different technological modes, such as images, music and sounds, video clips, text, and/or narration” to create digital stories contrary to the traditional storytelling of writing it down on papers.
In the redefining stage, Explain Everything could be a platform for assignment for students to collaborate together as reporters from various part of the country to record interesting stories that happened and have further discussion to share ideas with each other. See this video for the idea of what this assignment might be like.
Does Explain Everything provide opportunities for communication and/or collaboration?
Yes, Explain Everything is in fact a platform designed to encourage collaborative assignments. It will also allow communication within the App by using the microphone so that both students and teacher could have instant conversations while in session. According to Ranga (2018), it could also be an used as a tool to create video feedback to provide the reasoning behind the corrections given by the instructors.
Sample ideas for language teachers and learners
Teachers can use Explain Everything for screencasting a lesson and create a digitized classroom. According to the research done in Lopez (2010), “[t]he evidence strongly suggests that the Digital Learning Classroom increased student achievement for ELL students compared to ELL students in traditional classrooms” (p.902). Furthermore, the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) can “promote student learning among diverse learners by providing visual context through its multimedia and multi-sensory capacity” (p.903) which is a big plus to English language learners.
Another way for teachers to use Explain Everything is to create a lesson by using the storyboard template provided in the application as shown to the right. In this video, the instructor created the storyboard to give a lesson on the difference between tattling and telling. It’s a great use for language learners to learn about the differences between the two words.
Explain Everything is not only limited to the use in the language classrooms, it can also be used for other content-area classrooms. An example for the use in Chemistry classroom can be seen here.
Explain Everything could be a great tool for learners to do assignments like digital storytelling by incorporating a variety of multimodal sources such as video, audio, images and etc. An example could be doing a DST on their summer vacation and have the class split into groups so they can participate in each others’ storytelling and ask questions! Language learners can benefit from such a multimodal lesson because the “visual representation plays a prominent role in aiding ELLs’ understanding of linguistic text” (Choi and Yi, 2016, p.316).
Alternate Apps to explore
Below are two alternative Apps similar to Explain Everything to explore for similar use in the classroom. Users can choose to work with the ones that they feel most comfortable. Click on the link to learn more.
Current student in the MA – TESL-C program at The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Enjoys working with kiddos and travel around the world. Future goal is to teach abroad!
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Classroom Practices for English Language Learners. TESOL
Journal, 7(2), 304–327. https://doi.org/10.1002/tesj.204
Christiansen, S. and Koelzer, M. (2016) Digital Storytelling: Using Different
Technologies for EFL. MEXTESOL Journal, Vol. 40, No. 1
Coyle, Y., Yañez, L., & Verdú, M. (2010). The impact of the interactive
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Hsieh, Yi Chin (2017) A case study of the dynamics of scaffolding among ESL
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Assisted Language Learning, 30:1-2, 115-132, DOI:
López, O. (2010). The Digital Learning Classroom: Improving English
Language Learners’ academic success in mathematics and reading
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Ranga, J. (2018). Multipurpose Use of Explain Everything iPad App for
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Walker, A. & White, G. (2013). Technology Enhanced Language Learning: connection theory and practice. Cambridge University Press.