How do you evaluate an app's educational potential? The best post I've found for this is at learninginhand.com - It's loaded with checklists, rubrics, ideas and discussions. Well, I've found one of those rare apps that gets an A+ and that adds value, no matter the subject: Explain Everything.
You'll remember back in 2010 when the iPad 1 made its debut. Apple was heavily criticized for making a device that was based solely on consumption. It wasn't until people started writing, drawing, and making things on it that everything changed (This is a great article that asks whether or not an iPad is being used for consumption or creation). I'd like to think schools are purchasing iPads for creation.
Investing in a tool for creation is great- assuming there are applications applicable for students and teachers that enhance learning rather than distract from it. I have found an app that is the model others should strive for in the field of education because it inspires creation through video, audio, text, and drawings to show, share and teach ideas. I've been using it for a week, and below are examples of how it has enhanced learning through the lens of Bloom's Taxonomy:
Working with second graders and trying to help them learn how to research is a problem. Students have been working on researching an Arctic animal and connecting it with the Inuit. The issue is that there aren't that many books/sites that are easily read by second graders -- never mind vast differences in students' reading levels. I was able to take a picture of a page and read it once to the student while recording myself. I highlighted the words I was reading, emphasized text features, and drew attention to what matters. The student was able to replay my reading and our conversation as many times as needed. When working with struggling readers, there can be no better equalizer than repeated instruction that can be reviewed by the student as many times as they need. Part of the video below is of my reading with some student voices in the background. Don't judge how I sound; it's pretty horrifying to throw this up on the internet!
Everyone loves the Kahn Academy. Well, that's not true, but I do because of my obsession with repeated viewings for students who don't get it the first, second, or eighth time. The grade 5s and I were able to discuss and critique a video on Perimeter, which we used as an exemplar. Students then demonstrated their understanding by creating their own videos to teach their classmates. It was great to see/listen to them talk through the process of calculating perimeter. One video is included below, but all students are quite proud! Not only was I able to assess what they understood/didn't understand, they were able to teach their peers and become leaders for our upcoming project.
I don't understand why teachers claim that summative assessment can't be formative... I'm not an assessment expert, but the task below was meant to summatively assess their ability, while also guiding the next round of work we do. Taking the same concepts that were explored in the "Making a Khan Academy Video" and applying them to a unique situation was absolutely eye opening! Anyway, in the video at the end of this post students were asked to calculate the perimeter of a picture frame and to show how they did it through recording video and audio. I really enjoyed what they came up with!
What a challenge we've had getting kids to examine their own work... The grade 4s have been working on assessing their work through student-created, bull's-eye rubrics (see more at the Galileo Educational Network). I wish we had time to sit down and discuss each assessment with each group, but as all teachers know, time is a valuable commodity! Grade 4s created a wiki for the Regions of Alberta (not live at the time this was written) where they each became an expert on 1 region. They are currently tapping into the expertise of their classmates by researching from the wiki and creating a presentation about all regions in Alberta. To make their presentation, students were asked to assess themselves based on a student-created rubric. I took a picture of the SMART Board and had the students digitally scribble all over it! The only rule was that whatever they were thinking, they said. Below is an example of this. Students were asked to discuss it prior to the video and to submit a 2-3 minute video sharing where they fell on the rubric and how they planned on working towards the bull's eye.
The grade 6s are about to begin work on an art project where they must consider colours, symbols and composition. To begin, they will need to examine exemplars. By creating a short 2-3 minute video, they can critically evaluate exemplars and visibly (and audibly) share what they like and what they would improve were they to create a similar product. This video has not yet been made, but will be soon enough.
Students in the sixth grade are also studying Athenian Democracy and the Iroquois Confederacy. With this app's ability to tap into augmented reality by photographing and drawing on top of pictures, students are able to transform our school ground into a traditional Athenian Assembly or an Iroquois Longhouse. The audio allows students to discuss and share what happens in different places and explain the significance of critical objects (the Water Timer, for example). This hasn't been done yet. Like I said, I've only had the app for a week!
Anyway, if you'd like to check the app out it's called Explain Everything. And it's wicked awesome.
If you use this app, please share what you've done!
Here is the video. It's not complete... I've only had the app for a short time, but I'll get on it soon!