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!