Saturday, 14 October 2017

SAMR App Analysis: Explain Everything

How can an app like Explain Everything be used in the classroom? I used my personal experience and the SAMR model to help me analyze the different ways this versatile interactive whiteboard tool can be used in a teacher's reading program.

Explain Everything is unique in that the way you use it drastically affects where it sits on the SAMR model. While some apps are either transformative or not, this app has the potential to be on either end of the scale.

The first and most simple way to integrate technology into your classroom is the substitution level. This is where the tool is acting as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change. In other words, you may as well be using a non-digital option as there is no real improvement.

Explain Everything can be used for substitution quite easily. You can have learners take a photo of a worksheet or page out of a book. You can have them complete writing activities directly into explain everything using the textbox tool. You can dedicate each slide on E.E to be photograph of a page of a book.

All of these substitutions only really do one thing - save paper and ink. They don't actually deepen the learning task at all, nor do they change the ways students think. If anything, using Explain Everything in this way actually offers more distractions to learners than working with pen and paper - something I have seen first hand many a time.

The next step in the SAMR model is to substitute but with some slight functional improvements. This may be like providing labelling tools, highlighter tools, ability to add links to further information, and so on.

Explain Everything has many of these functions within it, and while yes many of these activities could be done non-digitally, it is the fact it is all these tools are located in one place that enhances the reading task. I have used E.E to have learners label a picture from a story to show emotions, to show character actions and behaviors, or to label parts of a building or animal. I have used E.E to have learners identify and highlight key words to summarise a main idea. These are tasks that aren't particularly transformative, but definitely are useful in helping learners practice core strategies.

Modification / Redefintion
The next step in the SAMR model are the transformative parts -  Now we're talking! So how can explain Everything be used to transform learner experiences in literacy?

One thing I have tried to do is make use of the voice tool. Explain Everything allows you to insert voice recording clips into each slide. This can be useful for both the teacher and learner. As the teacher, I sometimes like to use voice clips to give instructions, particularly if there is a lot of information or many steps, for example giving instructions when completing a reading follow up. This can also be useful when giving an example response, like to a comprehension question. Rather than writing out the example I can quickly embed a voice clip, which can be accessible to more learners as well - trying to incorporate some of that Universal Design for Learning.

Another strategy I have tried is the video recording tool, again useful for teachers and learners. Learners have been using this tool to video themselves reading a text aloud, allowing them to practice fluency and read the text independently before seeing the teacher. They can also give video responses to comprehension questions and practice other reading strategies. It allows them to give long, detailed responses without the demands of writing it all out, which is really powerful for those reluctant writers. As a teacher I have been giving video introductions to texts for the week, which learners have responded really well to. Student voice is telling me they enjoy being given a lot of information like this, rather than in text form. They are already reading such long texts, to read a long description of their follow up is quite demanding!

These are only a few of the ways this great tool can be used to transform practice. It really is a matter of thinking of your learning task, what you want the learners to gain or learn from this task, and then imagining how the tool can help you. Have a go! I would 10/10 recommend using this tool in your literacy program.

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