Located in Downers Grove, Illinois, Community High School District 99 includes Downers Grove North High School and Downers Grove South High School—two of the most prominent high schools in the Chicago area and in Illinois. Both schools have a rich history of excellence in academics, performing arts, athletics and activities. The district has over 5,000 students and more than 400 teachers. District 99’s mission is to “provide a caring and challenging environment where all students develop as lifelong learners,” and its outstanding reputation is demonstrated in the results that it delivers.
A collaborative culture already existed at both campuses; however, the ability of students to share interactive, multimedia material was underdeveloped. Students would create great material but the ease of sharing their creations did not exist.
Using a traditional lab report process, students were unable to share dynamic views of images and videos while recording a voiceover to explain their thinking. When assessing a typical lab report, teachers rely on the student’s ability to describe their observations and summarize outcomes. While writing a lab report may be conducive to some students’ learning styles, the ability to orally communicate findings and conclusions would allow students to better make their learning transparent to teachers and peers.
After multiple pilot programs exploring best practice for student learning, District 99 supplied Chromebooks to every student at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. This learning initiative has helped strengthen the district’s vision of supporting students to become collaborative, reflective, and empowered learners.
As the need for educational apps increased, subscribing to the Explain Everything app addressed the challenge of promoting student collaboration in an interactive environment. The ability to share learning, describe thinking, and reflect as a group or individually supports the district learning values and vision. The partnership with Explain Everything provided us the interactive and collaborative space to help us meet our goals.
The benefit for students and teachers to explain their ideas, questions, and solutions with clarity was evident immediately. Early on, students created projects that gave the teacher valuable insight into how they were thinking. This was incredible!
Students who did not feel comfortable with speaking in public recorded their voice at home. With time, they became comfortable presenting in public and eagerly showed what they had prepared. Since the app is integrated with the Discover Portal (a shared project space where students and teachers can upload and share their work) students could upload their creations without having to render them into videos. Teachers were able to link to student examples and present them to people who did not have access to the app directly. It is nice to have a shared space so everyone involved, both teachers to parents, have access to our students’ work.
Students created great projects and seemed more excited and engaged when they had access to interesting interactive tools. A great indicator of the success we saw from Explain Everything was during a student led professional development on Explain Everything. Students taught the teachers how to use Explain Everything at Downers Grove North during a 1-hour professional development session. The same group of students presented this at the Student Leadership Summit at Maine East High School as well.
Chris Nauss, classroom teacher
I did not have to change my objectives or expectations for the lab/project. I simply replaced the report/live presentation in front of the class with an option to submit an Explain Everything production.
From a content delivery perspective, Explain Everything gave students the ability to smoothly incorporate video, pictures, voice overs, live writing, and static slides all in the same production. From a teacher’s perspective, I could rewatch presentations, review them with the lab group, and have students post them on our Google Community to garner peer feedback.
Example – from 2016-2017 – students creating lab reports and using Explain Everything.