Explain Everything for iPad Review: The 21st Century way to present

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We’ve all done it before. Sitting in a classroom on a hot, hazy afternoon, the teacher explaining something to the class in great depth, only for your mind to wander to the latest cricket score, what you’re going to have for dinner or what time you’re meeting your mates for an after school kick around. Suddenly, it’s work time and the teacher asks you to apply this knowledge they have so painstakingly imparted and you haven’t listened to a thing they have just said. So, the teacher will either have to patiently explain it to you again, or say “weren’t you listening to anything I just said?” and you have to desperately ask your mates for an explanation. Either way it’s not an effective use of either student or teacher’s time. As a teacher and student, I’ve been there on both sides of this situation and if Explain Everything was around in the 90s, I wouldn’t have had to worry about my mind wandering during lesson time.

If you are an educator, instructor, manager or someone who needs to present to get their point across, Explain Everything is simply a must have app. I can honestly say that this is one of the few apps which has lead me to think about changing the way I work to enable me to become a more effective practitioner. To give an example of the app in action, the video below was created in Explain Everything.

At it’s heart, Explain Everything is a canvas upon which you can record your thoughts, ideas, lectures, meetings and so on as a video. There are plenty of apps which do this on the App Store, so what sets Explain Everything apart from them all?

Explain Everything has a vast amount of options available for your video recording. You can import a variety of files from a variety of places. For example, say you wanted to analyze, annotate and talk about a picture of the Bayeux Tapestry, you can import that picture file from Photos, iTunes, DropBox, Google Drive, Evernote, WebDav, Box, SkyDrive as well as taking a picture direct with the camera. There’s a pretty good chance that if your picture is somewhere, you can get it into Explain Everything. You can even open a browser window inside the app and annotate webpages live on your video.

You can import a variety of files from a variety of places.
You can import a variety of files from a variety of places.

As well as pictures, you can import several different file types from a variety of places. Let’s say you have prepared a PowerPoint or Google Presentation on chemical formula. You can import this presentation into Explain Everything as a series of slides which you can highlight, draw on and voice record over. Other file types include video, various word processing formats, audio files, PDFs and even spreadsheets. You can import these from the places mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Basically, if you have a file somewhere that you want to be able to annotate and record audio on to Explain Everything will most likely be able to facilitate this for you.

The next thing which makes Explain Everything a standout app are the options for annotation. You have various picture editing tools, different types of laser pointers, various pens and colours, freehand moving tools, an ordering tool so you can send objects forward and backwards and magnifying tools to concentrate your audience’s attention on certain parts of your presentation.

The laser pointer in use.

As you would expect, with such a variety of ways to import objects into Explain Everything, there are plenty of ways to get your video out of the app once it has been recorded. Firstly, you can export in Explain Everything’s proprietary format, which can be viewed on any other device with Explain Everything. This is useful if you are in an environment where there are a lot of mobile devices (Explain Everything is also available on Android and Windows, although slightly less feature rich to date) as you can send the file direct to someone else who has Explain Everything. The other export option is to turn your presentation into an .avi file which can be viewed on pretty much anything. My only slight negative with this app comes here as it takes a while to encode and compress the video on an iPad, and you can’t really do anything else on your iPad while the video is compressing. Morris Cooke, the makers of Explain Everything do offer a ‘Compressor’ program for the Mac where you can export Explain Everything files on bulk and let your Mac encode them. This works well, but unfortunately you have to pay extra for this (although not much).

Options within Explain Everything.
Options within Explain Everything.

Once your video is encoded to an avi file, you can once more export to the same places mentioned in the import paragraph above, and also direct to your YouTube account, which is a really useful feature. Also, Explain Everything fits around me as I don’t have to put resources I want to use for it in a special place. I’m a Google Drive user so everything is already there for me, same as if I used Box, OneDrive or similar. Explain Everything connects effortlessly to my cloud account to avoid shuffling around of files.

So, how has Explain Everything enabled me to change my teaching for the better? Well, as we all know, explaining a concept to a group of people can be tricky as each one will process information differently and at different times. Some will get it straight away, some will be thinking about that after school kick about with their mates. I can now explain a concept to the group, then direct them to an Explain Everything video on my YouTube channel which explores that concept in greater depth which they can go through at their own pace. Rather than having to explain the same thing over and over in a lesson, I can now ‘tweak’, in other words spend the time re-enforcing, or for some students stretching a concept rather then explaining it, which my Explain Everything video does for me. I’ve found doing things this way frees up much more time in my lesson which can be used for 1 to 1 contact and ‘live’ assessment. You can’t put a price on this flexibility and I think my students are reaping the rewards. I also don’t think that this app is just an education app. If you wanted to re-enforce points from a meeting or briefing, Explain Everything would do a great job.

Explain Everything is available here in the App Store here priced at $2.99

Disclosure: I purchased Explain Everything with my own hard earned cash.

James Potter

My day job is Director of Technology at one of the UK's leading independent schools. I'm on a daily mission to use, and learn to use technology in the most creative, innovative and transformational ways. The iPad ticks all of these boxes. I'm also an Apple Distinguished Educator, so at least Apple think I know what I'm blathering on about. My geekery also extends to a passion for cricket, amateur astronomy, video gaming and bad guitar playing. You can contact me on Twitter with the link below.

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