Over the years, I have always defended Interactive Whiteboards. They hang on the walls of almost every classroom in the country. Of course, they are in no way perfect. Many offer up ‘calibration issues’. Others simply sit too high on the wall for the smallest children to reach them. Schools have slowly migrated from ‘projector based’ whiteboards to full on interactive screens. These HD-all-singing-all-dancing solutions are much better. They don’t rely on the bulb of a projector for a start.
However, the biggest issue is not technological. It’s not particularly pedagogical either. The biggest issue really is that interactive whiteboards are not really used interactively. Sure, the teacher might model some writing and occasionally the children will be invited to prod on hyperlinks but that isn’t really enough is it? When you really think about it, how could it be fully interactive? There is only one big screen for around thirty children and a teacher. So on a practical level, it’s just never going to work.
This is where tablets come in. Mobile devices that can be put in the hands of the children and the teacher alike. There are loads of options as well! Different devices and different apps. Some are better than others. Some are free. Some come at a price. One is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest in my opinion. The Explain Everything app is the best. It’s latest update is unbelievable. It is so good that I can confidently call this blog ‘The Death of the Interactive Whiteboards’.
Let me explain why I'm so confident...
Explain Everything's Collaborative Whiteboard
Explain Everything is an app that has stormed the education world in the last few years. Essentially it is an Interactive Whiteboard app on an iPad. It gives you everything that an interactive whiteboard would give you but on the screen of a mobile device. The iPad itself has built in features that compliment this perfectly.
The latest version of the app has now upped its game to a brand new level of awesomeness. You can now connect a class of devices all together through their new collaboration feature.
They see everything that the teacher is doing on their device. In terms of modelling, this is a really engaging way of explaining the ins and outs of a task. It’s far more accessible for children with visual impairments. Crucially, each child in the class can then react to the teacher’s instruction on their own Explain Everything board. In turn, the ‘hosting’ teacher can see what the children are doing in real-time. They can switch through each child in the class and save or monitor the progress. In other words, the interactivity is a two-way street.
Going even further than that, if the children are not necessarily on the same Wifi as the teacher (for filtering purposes perhaps) the slides can be shared via a unique code. This not only means that accessing the slides is easier for all concerned but it also means that potentially children across many locations can access the learning all at once.
Explain Everything is a cross-curricular core application. It can be used for all sorts of topics and can add additional accessibility to any lesson, even if you do not venture down the route of ‘collaborating’. Without a doubt, it is one of the most innovative and useful apps out there within the Education market. Children and teachers deserve a better, cleaner and more efficient way of working in the classroom. For too many years, classroom practitioners have had to troll through resources on various internet sites to try and find something that vaguely works for their class. Even after downloading the powerpoint or smart slides most teachers then have to adapt the resource to make it work for their children. And for what? The end result is usually a 2D presentation that is played through at the front of the class. The children have no interaction with the presentation and they move on from it as soon as the main activity starts.
The latest version of Explain Everything is not only potentially the death of ‘interactive screens’ at the front of the classroom. It could also be the death of presentations and modelling as we know it. It is that good.
Nick Acton is an Apple Curriculum Specialist at JTRS as well as being a part-time Computing and Music teacher. Through the creation of bespoke training, Nick specialises in empowering educators so they can embed Apple technologies into their day-to-day classroom practice.