Explain Everything is a tried-and-true digital whiteboarding tool that has been around for many years, although in full disclosure mode, I have been more familiar with a similarly functioning iOS app ShowMe (one I’ve mentioned several times on this blog). Both of these have mainly been known as tablet apps. However, I discovered that Explain Everything now has a browser-based version, and even if the phrase “game changer” is way overused, I think it applies here — especially if you’re looking for a useful presentation tool while facilitating a concurrent or virtual classroom.
How does it work?
Firstly, you will want to make an account. Free is an option (but see “Downsides” below for more on the paid options); you can use Google or create an account through any email. This will enable you to save and revisit “Projects” as well as collaborate with others. When you first use the site, you need to allow it to access your microphone.
Explain Everything can be used presentationally or collaboratively. Its robust features that differentiate it from other types of whiteboard tools start becoming apparent from the minute you launch it — you can choose a blank canvas, but several useful project templates are also available like storyboard, timeline and Venn diagram.
|This is an example of the Explain Everything template “Meeting.”|
Your annotation and presentation tools are along the left side. They include the usual suspects such as a Hand (selector), Draw, Highlighter, Eraser, Shapes, Text, Add Media, and a laser pointer. You can zoom in and out of your Project in the bottom left.
Another innovation for Explain Everything is how collaboration can occur. In the upper right, once you are signed in, you will see an Invite Code for your Project. This can be shared so that others can instantly join you, from either entering the code at the main Explain Everything site or as an option when someone first launches the browser app.
If you click on this invite button, you can see other options. You can share a URL to your Project, change your access permissions (for example, anyone with the link can only view), or change the Scenario from the default of “open collaboration” (everyone works together freely) to “presentation” or “interactive broadcast” if you plan to screenshare your Project. Using your microphone can allow your collaborators / viewers to hear you as you whiteboard.
Lastly, there is a screen capture tool that allows you to record, or screencast, whatever is within an adjustable frame, which can also include you narrating from your microphone. Creating a screencast will also open up some video editing features, but there are limits in exporting video with a free account. (Note that when “Adding Media,” one of the options includes using your webcam to take a picture; you can also insert existing audio.)
For a short overview of how the internal screencasting and clip editing can work, watch the following video (2:04):
How could you use it?
Explain Everything creates an immersive interactive space to collaborate and ideate with colleagues. Students may do the same, especially with working through a compare/contrast of two concepts, making a storyboard plan before recording a film, or capturing prototype ideas during design thinking.
You could also use the tool presentationally to an audience. This audience could be experiencing your Project live via screensharing during a teleconference meeting, or asynchronously by watching a screencast recording.
Lastly, and obviously, Explain Everything is perfect for a concise explanation of a concept or process, in a way more engaging than simply narrating as you click through static slides. Explaining math processes in particular would be a natural for such a tool.
You might consider getting around the limitations of video exporting by screencast recording with another tool (like Screencastify or Screencast-o-matic), but the trade off would be the inability to use Explain Everything’s internal editing, or potentially sharing videos on its own cloud service.
The free version of Explain Everything only allows up to 3 projects, 1 slide per project, and 1 minute of exported video. Because of these limitations, you will likely want to consider getting a paid version of the tool. Current pricing is reasonable, however; for $24.99 a year, you can have unlimited projects, slides, and recordings, as well as 1 GB of cloud space. Also, if you use Chrome, make sure hardware acceleration is on or else you will have to use another browser.
Explain Everything was already (and remains) a highly useful tablet app, but this new browser-based version means theoretically that any laptop or Chromebook can now use it too. Consider it as an alternative to Google Jamboard or Padlet the next time you want to collaborate in a small group, or as a new way of presenting your ideas to an audience.
Do you use Explain Everything? Do you have a different favorite digital whiteboard tool? Share in Comments below!