How to “Explain Everything”

If the latest version of the NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition is any indication, tablet computing continues to be at the forefront of higher education trends. As a new tablet owner myself, I have been looking for more ways to incorporate it into my daily work life aside from reading email, taking notes and enjoying the occasional YouTube video. Also, as more librarians are using tablets for roving reference or during instructional sessions, it’s interesting to consider how shifting more of our day-to-day work to tablets might look.

Given the increasing number of librarians interested and involved in creating online instructional materials, one area to explore in tablet computing is screencasting and screencapture applications which allow librarians to do this type of work on-the-go.

Explain Everything

One of my favorite applications I’ve found so far for screencasting from my iPad is Explain Everything. Explain Everything is an iOS app which allows you to interact with images and presentations on your iPad, including adding annotations and recording live animation or voice narration.

Creating and Editing Projects

To begin a new project in Explain Everything, you can upload images (JPG or PNG), upload other compatible files (including PDF or RTF and PowerPoint, Excel, Word, Pages or Numbers files), or start from scratch with a blank project. Projects are presented as a series of slides, with new pages or images from imported documents each appearing as separate slides. You can rearrange, duplicate, insert, and delete slides within the Explain Everything project.

Explain Everything Home screen

Explain Everything home screen displaying saved projects.

Once a project is created, you can manipulate objects using the interactive white board. Tools in the whiteboard allow for adding new slides, annotating or free-hand drawing, inserting shapes or typed text, adding additional images, and opening a live browser window. You can also rotate, resize, and delete objects.

Explain Everything Whiteboard

Editing and recording interactive whiteboard in Explain Everything. Image created using Skitch


In addition to manipulating the slides on screen, you can record a presentation or screencast. Using the “Record” button on the bottom of the whiteboard will capture your live annotation, object manipulations, laser pointer, and voice narration. You can continuously record while navigating from slide to slide, and easily pause the recording during interruptions.

Since Explain Everything also allows you to open a live browser window, you can easily create projects which demonstrate online resources. This is particularly nice for libraries as we create guides for users to reference when interacting with our online catalogs, databases, etc. Unfortunately Explain Everything’s recording capabilities may not capture some online animations (including pop up windows and javascript), which can make it difficult to demonstrate certain interactive online activities (like typing into a search box).

For demonstration purposes, you can see a couple of quick videos I created using the recording function.

Saving and Exporting

One of the best features of Explain Everything is its ability to export projects in different formats to different locations. Projects can be exported as Explain Everything’s XPL format, or as PDFs, images (PNG), and videso (MOV/MP4), and can be saved to various places like the iPad camera roll or Youtube, as well as your favorite cloud storage service (including Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive). You can also adjust the quality and size of exported images and videos, though the quality of its compressed videos may leave something to be desired for some users.

Export and Save in Explain Everything

Export and Save in Explain Everything

Wrapping Up

Although not a free app, Explain Everything’s current price at $2.99 (or $1.49 per copy if you’re purchasing more than 20 copies through Apple’s education volume purchasing) is significantly lower cost than many other screencasting alternatives which offer the same type of features and capabilities. Additionally, you can learn more about using basic and advanced features of Explain Everything with video guides and a free iBook manual. [Note: At this time, Explain Everything is available for iOS only. However, Android users may want to check out these posts when looking for Android-friendly alternatives.]

In addition to creating quick, low-cost screencasts and tutorials, Explain Everything might be useful for librarians who are using iPad carts in library instruction or libraries with iPad check out programs, providing students an easy way to create and export their own screencast projects or narrated presentations.

Have you tried to create screencasts or tutorials using a tablet application? Leave us a comment!

Discussions via VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a tool for having asynchronous conversations around multimedia slide shows. Create a conversation by uploading PDFs, images, or videos (it is recommended to convert presentations, such as PowerPoints, into PDFs prior to uploading them). Then you, your colleagues, and students can leave comments using a phone, webcam, microphone, or keyboard. Each participant uploads an image to represent themselves which appears in the boarder of any slide they have commented on.

The webcam and microphone options are recorded through the user’s computer to the VoiceThread website (below you can see the video bubble that appears when listening to a comment left via webcam).

Text bubbles appear when viewing a typed comment and a speaker icon appears next to the speaker’s image when their voice is heard.

The ability for students to record comments via their phones is what I like best about voice thread. You can start a discussion by emailing a link or including it in your online lesson. Students viewing the presentation can then enter their phone numbers into the site, VoiceThread will call them and record up to a 3 minute comment, and the comment will appear in the conversation almost immediately.

I also really like the doodle feature. This allows users to draw/write directly on the screen while leaving their comments. Doodles can be added on top of videos as they play, or you can scroll back and forth and add doodles to a paused video, image, or document. And you don’t have to erase what you doodled! After a few moments the doodles begin to fade and soon disappear.

There is a lot to explore in VoiceThread, but without further ado let’s talk pricing. The Free Account option will be perfect for most students. It allows unlimited participation. Students will not be charged for viewing and commenting on VoiceThreads. If you would like your students to be able to create their own VoiceThreads, for a presentation or to lead a discussion, they’ll need to purchase a Basic Account for $2.

Instructors have three options: Basic $2, Pro $59.95, or Manager $99. If you would like to get started with a Basic Account, you can easily upgrade if needed.

pricing chart

The $99 Manager Account includes 1 Pro Account and 50 Basic Accounts. There are other fee structures for creating a customized site for your institution and for fully integrating your authentication system into the VoiceThread infrastructure.

VoiceThread has something for everyone, from small projects to major undertakings. Take the first step and try it out!