Explain Everything is a whiteboard and screencasting app that makes creating interactive lessons a simple proposition. Its full-featured editing options and its import/export functions allow it to stand apart from the other competitors I tested. Read on to find out why the Explain Everything app’s educational focus, adaptability, and user engagement make it the best its kind.
Explain Everything Review
Background: According to MorrisCooke, the force behind Explain Everything, the app is a “unique interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool used by over 1.5 million students and educators.” The app’s tools allow users to create lessons, presentations, and tutorials to share in person or electronically. Users can annotate, narrate, and animate material, importing and exporting information to and from nearly everywhere.
The app is recommended for grades 7-12, but teachers of lower grades may still benefit from the app by using it to liven up lessons. Explain Everything is available for the iPad, Android devices, and Windows devices. Users can download the latest version of the app for $2.99 in the Apple App Store for iOS devices or on Google Play for Android devices.
Methodology: I began the evaluation process by downloading several popular interactive whiteboard tools for tablets, including Explain Everything V. 2.55. I tested the apps on an iPad running iOS 8. For two weeks, I used the app to create lessons for my 7th-grade English classes. During the testing period, I also split one of my classes into groups, assigning each the task of creating a presentation on Explain Everything to share.
Following their presentations, I asked the students to give me feedback on the app and the usefulness of creating a presentation to their learning experiences. I also assessed the app for its utility, user-friendliness, and effectiveness for educators.
Pros: Integrate content from myriad sources and incorporate social media for easy sharing. In doing so, you’ll make lessons more collaborative and engaging. The slide sorter makes it very easy to manage your slides. My favorite feature by far, though, is the pen tool, which allows you to add notes and annotations directly to my presentations. Also it’s the only screencasting app I’ve used that lets me do direct uploads to YouTube.
Cons: Improperly used, Explain Everything’s features may detract from the content. Students may focus on the app’s bells and whistles at the cost of comprehension.
User-Friendliness (4/5): The in-app prompts walk users through the process simply and logically. The interface is attractive and intuitive. The app is compatible with almost all major cloud services, and I experienced no bugs or crashes in the time I used it. Its usability meant that I didn’t experience any hiccups or delays in my presentations, allowing us to dive right into the material. I had to deduct some points for the lack of a timeline editing function and not being able to overwrite the recording. MorrisCooke says those features are still in the works.
Teaching (5/5): The ability to synthesize information from disparate sources makes lesson-planning easier for educators, and the features help engage students in learning. The app empowers students and hones their presentation skills. It gets a perfect score in this department, because there were no features I found myself wanting when I used this app. In particular, I love the ability to annotate slides during the presentation.
Support (4/5): The easy-to-read help section is supplemented by a more complete user manual available for download from Apple iBooks. Users can also view more than a dozen video tutorials on the MorrisCooke website. These materials were a bit more dense and numerous than I would have otherwise preferred, though. A more streamlined user manual that included all the videos would have been more ideal.
When you open the Explain Everything app, you first tap “New Project” and choose a blank screen or import photos, documents, and other material from various sources. Teachers can import PDF, PPT, DOC, XLS, Keynote, and RTF files from Evernote, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, WebDAV, email, and iTunes. Users can also export the final product as an MP4 movie, PDF file, PNG image, or XPL project file.
On the left side of the screen, you’ll see a self-explanatory panel of tools, including a pointing device to highlight portions of each slide with an arrow or a red dot. Other options include the drawing tool, eraser, and text box. The white area of each slide allows for infinite presentation space, as all content can be scaled and cropped as needed.
At the bottom of the screen is a record button that allows you to capture the slide creation process step by step, and you can narrate the content as it appears. You can also embed video from your device, YouTube, etc. to help explain the content. Alternatively, you can use the front camera of your device to record video of yourself unique to each slide.
Explain Everything’s utility is twofold. For teachers, its explanatory capability is invaluable. I used the app for one of my lessons on sentence diagramming, and I could animate each sentence with text and arrows that appear as I narrate. My students could literally see and hear my thought process as I identified the parts of speech. Additionally, I can send my presentations to DropBox and iTunes U. This was especially useful because a substitute teacher can then go into DropBox, access the lesson, and play it as an MP4 movie in my absence. Likewise, students who miss class can view the lessons later.
This app appealed to me and my students by putting the fun back in presenting material. It allows for a rich multimedia experience that let me seamlessly embed fun videos and gifs into my lessons.
For students, Explain Everything teaches important presentation and technological skills. My students thoroughly enjoyed creating presentations on the Greek mythology gods we’re studying. They amazed me with their creativity in using content from numerous unexpected sources, and they loved sharing their work on social media; in fact, we’re currently planning to set up a class Twitter account where we’ll eventually post these projects as well. Had I instead assigned them an essay on the material, I’m quite certain they wouldn’t have engaged with the topic as thoroughly as they did with this app.
While many whiteboard apps exist, Doceri Interactive Whiteboard is probably Explain Everything’s closest competitor. This app allows users to integrate various types of content to create screencasts and presentations. While the Doceri app is similar to Explain Everything, it falls short in its lack of a text tool and higher-end cost, as Graphite points out in its review of Doceri’s Whiteboard. To me, the missing text tool was the biggest deal-breaker — my presentations felt set in stone and undynamic when I lost the ability to annotate them. Its limited export options (limited to a PDF) also were less-than-impressive in comparison to Explain Everything.
The Doceri app is free to try but requires users to pay $4.99 to remove a watermark from their presentations to make them shareable. My students and I also preferred the simple interface and ample features of Explain Everything.
Educators and bloggers have given Explain Everything favorable reviews. In the iTunes store, the app has a four-star rating out of five. Likewise, Graphite’s review says it’s “the superhero version of PowerPoint” that “helps kids learn.” Finally, New School Technology calls the app a “must-have” for schools and praises it as valuable for “any age.”
In my day, I was excited when my teachers took the time to make overhead projector slides to supplement their lessons. Today, we can offer our students so much more, using apps like Explain Everything to bring material to life. No other app offers the user-friendliness, compatibility, and engagement that Explain Everything does, which is why I fully endorse it as the best whiteboard app for educators and students.