Constructing Understanding by Explaining Everything—May 2016

Constructing Understanding by Explaining Everything:
One Way that iPads can Enhance Education
Tim Pelton,
Leslee Francis Pelton,

Using an app like “Explain Everything” teachers can create interactive learning resources to support student explorations and discussions, and generate animations to demonstrate procedures and concepts and support individualized student review (i.e., flipped or fortified classroom). These same resources can then be used as exemplars for learners to build upon as they generate their own learning artifacts (interactive objects and animations) using iPads.  By challenging students to generate artifacts they go beyond rote memorization and procedural mastery and focus on problem solving, consolidating, connecting, representing and communicating their understandings.

Classroom uses of iPads:

  •  Provide Ready access to Content (information, lesson plans, worksheets, videos, etc.) 
  • Support Exploration (browser, Wikipedia, virtual museum, calculator, etc.)
  • Present Consolidation Activities (MathTappers, reading, physics games, etc.)
  • Support Observation Activities (collect images, video experiments, etc.)
  • Create learning objects and artifacts (explain something, alternate projects, etc.)
  • Present (any of the above… )
  • Document Camera (for physical objects, papers, demonstrations, etc.)
  • Administration support (e.g., attendance, emails, etc.)

We can create learning objects (manipulatives and instructional videos):

  •  To provide students with efficient access to manipulatives for students to explore
  • To provide students with exemplars to support them in creating their own manipulatives
  • To capture explanations of concepts or processes – for use in class or out (flipping)
  • To share exemplar explanations that students can be encouraged to emulate

Supporting apps:
Explain Everything (EE):
EE is a Screencasting/whiteboard app that supports the creation and use of learning objects. As students are challenged to create learning objects, they communicate their understandings and undertake an authentic problem solving process – in addition they are mastering technology, problem solving, reflecting, reasoning, representing and making connections.  EE allows teachers and students to create projects or interactive activities that can be used by others to explore concepts and processes.  Through its recording functions, it also allows teachers and students to generate and publish video expositions/vignettes of their understandings, and demonstrate proficiency in applying such knowledge to real situations.
More info on EE

Paper (by 53):
A nice drawing app (extra features can be purchased as a bundle)
Create a new notebook for each project or collection of projects – handy sketchbook.
You can export images to your camera roll (turn on transparency to make trimming easier)
Here is a site with some hints on using paper:

An app that allows you to erase extraneous image elements efficiently (i.e., make parts of an image transparent).  We use this to create objects that we will use in EE.

Creating and Sharing Learning Objects
When you create a project on EE, it consists of one or more ‘slides’ with some number of ‘objects’ on each slide (pictures, text, audio, drawings, websites etc.).  These projects can be exported and shared (via email or web) and then imported/opened on another iPad using EE to be used as a manipulative.   Although these manipulatives don’t offer the texture and 3D aspects of physical manipulatives, they do offer, easy access, zero cleanup time, zero cost, infinite quantity, etc.—just load them on your class webpage and have the students download the manipulatives/learning objects you need for the day.  Once you have loaded a project, you might refine it to better suit your students’ needs, and then publish that revised version on your website.

You may also create a presentation with an EE project—animate objects and add narration—to explain some concept or demonstrate some process, or entertain, or make connections, etc..   Each slide can record both animations and audio tracks.  You can add the animation and narration in parts and restart or edit until you are satisfied.  Once you have a complete presentation, you can export it as a video and upload it to YouTube or Vimeo.  

Some Example Manipulatives/Learning Objects:
  • Coins – a collection of coins that can be used by students to work out money problems
  • Pattern Blocks – a collection of geometric shapes that can be used by students to explore geometry, fractions, art, etc.
  • Triangle sorter – a collection of slides with triangles on them to allow students to describe and classify triangles in different ways.
  • Fishy Glyph  - create a glyph to represent a circumstance and support students in understanding abstraction
  • Fraction strips - a background fraction strip grid with transparent fraction strip pieces that can be attached to each other and moved around on the grid to discover relationships
  • Fraction Addition – overlay divided rectangles to find common denominators
  • Fraction Multiplication – overlay fractions to make sense of fraction multiplication
  • Integer chips – a collection of complementary chips for working with fractions
  • Calculator pieces – a decomposable calculator that can be used to create and solve puzzles
  • Function machine – a 'slight of hand' function machine that lets you demonstrate functions
Some websites and video channels where we share some example EE projects and instructional videos/learning objects:

Creating a manipulative
·     Creation is a problem solving process – Understand, Plan, Execute, Reflect. Reflect and understand what manipulatives will work for your class.  Then plan and create.  E.g.:
- Sorting/classifying ordering/seriating, counting/skip-counting, etc.
- Art – understanding geometry, relationships, etc.
- Useful models Fraction strips, Grids, Algebra Tiles, Triangles

- Templates for Video (background and foreground actors/objects

Creating an instructional video
·    Suggestions:
o   Understanding is something we want to cultivate and motivate.
o   Focus on just one main message – keep it short (30seconds – 2 min)
o   Keep it simple

·      Get set up:
o   Gather your materials – create and import supporting images/projects/templates
o   Transform your storyboard into a sequence of pages/slides
o   Practice your presentation – but it doesn’t need to be perfect

·      Save as a project, export a video and share

·      E.g.: Demonstrate that the sum of the angles in a triangle is 180°
o   Think through the challenge – do you understand?
o   Draw/capture a Scalene triangle, mark angles as unique, export image to camera roll
o   Open a new project in EE and import your triangle (trimmed) on the first slide
o   Duplicate slide and make a couple more copies of the triangle
o   Lock scale on each triangle on second slide
o   On slide 1: record your introduction to the concept – the sum of angles in a triangle is 180°
o   On slide 2: rotate 2 of the triangles 180° and record your process while you reposition them to demonstrate concept.
o   Export – to camera roll, youtube, email, dropbox, etc.

·      Then think of where you might take this process:
o   Challenge 1 – what about the sum of the angles in a quadrilateral?
o   Challenge 2 – something from a recent unit plan? 
o   Challenge 3 – can you answer a question you know some children will have?

Discussion and Questions
·      Why should we create these types of videos?
·      Why should we challenge our students to create these types of videos?
·      How can you do this in the classroom?
o   Do you need a class set of iPads to make this work?
o   Won’t everyone be talking over each other?
o   Is the threshold to high?
o   Is the friction too high?
·      Other thoughts and questions?

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