How Do You Plan With An App In Mind?

On Friday, we had a PA Day. For the morning, we got a chance to address our school focus as identified by our Directions Team. I must say that I was thrilled when I saw this focus!


With this focus in mind and thinking about our Board’s Transforming Learning Everywhere initiative, all grade teams got a chance to learn about the Explain Everything app, and how we could possibly use it in the classroom. The Triple E’s (Explain Everything Experts) — I loved our vice principal‘s creative name — introduced the app to different grade teams, and together, we looked at how we might use this app in the classroom with our students. While we were exploring a specific app, the focus of the discussion was on good pedagogy, which I love.

It was actually because of this focus on pedagogy that I struggled at the time. I was trying to figure out a way to use Explain Everything in the classroom, but for every idea I had, I questioned why Explain Everything was the best choice. It always seemed easier and/or better to just take a photograph of the work or to record a video of the thinking. Why do this activity using Explain Everything? Why was this activity worth the time needed to teach the Grade 1’s how to use the app, when there always seemed to be a better option?

As the day continued, I continued thinking about my Explain Everything dilemma. That’s when I decided to think about our school focus instead of just thinking about the app. How could Explain Everything help me address this focus? Why would it be the best choice? It wasn’t long before I began thinking about our Science unit on Daily and Seasonal Changes. To help students see the impact of the seasons on living things (including humans), I need them to look closely at the seasons. I found four great, detailed posters: one on each season. I thought that the students could talk about what they see, what they think, and what they wonder, and begin generating some inquiry questions that connect to our big idea of how seasons impact on living things. Explain Everything could be the perfect app to get the students thinking and sharing more about this Science focus.

Here’s my thinking:

  • The visuals in the poster will help those students with limited English see and understand more about the seasons. 
  • The ability to orally record their thinking will help those students that struggle with writing.
  • The ability to draw and write on top of the image will help those students that may not want to share as much orally, still indicate what they see and what they think.
  • The use of a visual for this activity will help those students that struggle with reading.
  • The ability for each group to go to each of the four posters and add their ideas on top of the ones already shared will help all of the students see the range of ideas shared throughout the class and the similarities and differences between the ideas. (Just to clarify, what I’ve done is add one poster image to the Explain Everything app on four different iPads. Students will circulate around to all four, so that they can continue to build on the ideas shared by their peers.)
  • The ability to easily upload and share these screencasts will allow me to post them on our class blog so that the discussions can be continued at home and maybe even expanded on more.
  • The ideas that come out of these discussions will hopefully help us further develop our inquiry questions and lead to some meaningful sharing of student learning.

While I could probably do a similar activity with the use of sticky notes and/or an iPad (with a camera and/or video camera), Explain Everything will allow for more ways for students to share their thinking (built-in differentiated instruction) and make it easier for students to go back and see and hear the similarities and differences between all responses. I’m also hoping that these screenshots will help my Grade 1’s easily navigate through the app so that they can spend the majority of their time recording ideas and not problem solving glitches. What do you think of my Explain Everything plan? How do you keep focused on pedagogy when planning for the use of a specific app? I’d love to hear your thinking!


12 thoughts on “How Do You Plan With An App In Mind?

  1. The use of the app represents more than the tool itself as you are explaining. It leads to a certain disposition that is developed in the class that goes beyond the use the app. Students realize that they should think about their experiences and make sense of them. You are creating a community of sharing which is required for inquiry to happen.

    • Thanks for the comment, Byron! I never really thought of it this way before, but this is so true. I hope that through this activity and many others, students see value in making sense of their experiences and posing questions connected to what they would like to learn.


  2. You have a great plan for students to apply Explain Everything App. When students explain their thinking and it is shared then others will learn from them too. It also makes students accountable to share their experiences. My students always chose Explain Everything than ShowMe and educreation. It has many options for speaking about the process of learning. I have seen on twitter also a site for primary research called pebblego I am not so sure if you know about it. Looking forward to your next post to find out how it works.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rola! It’s great to hear that students tended to choose Explain Everything over other similar options. I do like screencasting apps because students can use them to explain their thinking, and I’m very curious to see how things go tomorrow.

      PebbleGo is a wonderful online resource for research. It’s great for primary students because there are lots of visuals, tons of topics, and the text can be easily read aloud to you (by the computer or iPad). I use it through our Board’s virtual library, and I will definitely be using it a lot this year.

      I’d love to hear more about how other students use Explain Everything! Maybe by sharing ideas, we can inspire each other.


  3. I have to go through the students eportfolios from last year. I have come across this video. my students always uploaded their videos on youtube. I will share more with you later.

    We have not used explain everything this year. The students chose ShowMe and 30 hands. 30hands is great for the younger ones too. They can annotate, record and take a video. the pro costs money the free one is great too.

    • Thanks Rola for the link and the suggestions! Our school is trying to focus on the use of one screencasting tool, and this one seems to be Explain Everything. I’ve used ShowMe before, but never 30 Hands. I will still check it out, as it’s always neat to see different tools and the way that they’re used.


  4. Hi Aviva ~
    I understand your dilemma. I was actually just browsing notes from a conference I went to last year, and I have this in my notes from a session with Franki Sibberson: “Focus on the task, not the tool.” She provided the example of annotation and she shared the idea that we should choose the tool that best supports the students in their need to annotate – not necessarily choosing a tool and hoping that it can be made to fit the task. She also suggested that teachers use lots of tools so kids can see the possibilities and use the best tool for them.
    One of my goals for this year is to explicitly teach the students several apps (not sure how many yet) and show them some of what is possible with these apps. This is a real shift in philosophy for me, but I want to give it a try. I want to share the apps and their possibilities without overwhelming my students. After being introduced to these apps the goal is for the kids to differentiate between the apps to determine which app best fits the designated task. My guess is that my students will come up with ways to use these tools that I never even contemplated.
    I believe any app has the capability of acting as a shared learning experience. The very idea that kids are creating and sharing promotes a learning environment conducive to inquiry.
    As usual I have learned from your blog post and comments. I have not used Explain Everything and your clear thinking on this tool makes me want to check it out. I also look forward to checking out PebbleGo.
    I hope you are having a great start of the year in your return to first!

    • Thanks for your comment, Julie! I actually prefer to plan the way that you described (and I do love your idea of introducing many tools and letting students choose the one that works for them). On Friday, during our PA Day inservice, we were asked to think of a way to use Explain Everything in the classroom. Our school’s iPad Roll Out as part of Transforming Learning Everywhere starts this week, and the idea was that if we had a plan, we’d all have a way to use the iPads with students. Picking a tool that all grades use will hopefully help students as they go grade to grade. Explain Everything is also a great creation tool that helps students explain their thinking, regardless of subject area. So, in this case, I’ll admit that I planned with the app in mind, but I would also like to do what you are doing. Please let me know how it goes.

      Have a wonderful year!

  5. Like all tools, Explain Everything can help students communicate their thinking and learning, but alone, it is not magical.

    Like Rola, my students last year often chose to record their learning with ShowMe or Explain Everything. It worked especially well for students who were collecting photos from around the school (in talking about simple machines) and for those who were apprehensive to share orally in front of the whole class.

    • I can totally see that working well, Shauna! When I taught Grade 1 last, I used these screencasting apps a lot in math to see/hear students share their thinking. I think that ideally, students should be able to choose the best tool for the task. Explain Everything could definitely be one of those tools.


  6. Aviva- First of all I want to applaud you for your openness to exploring a tool that you were not so sure about. It’s nice that your school district is open to this technology. Here in the US, we are very behind on implementing technology in the classroom. I have many ideas about using apps and other technology for Language Arts in the classroom. But I always struggled with Math. The last posts on Math made me realize what a great idea it is to have students share their learning in Math. It drives me crazy when I see my kids trying to explain in writing how they added 3+3=6
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thanks for your comment, Maggie! I’m so glad that this post gave you a new idea (through the comments). I’d love to know how this goes if you give it a try. Screencasting apps are wonderful for having students explain their thinking.


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