Templates in Explain Everything and Book Creator

Templates.  The 21st Century Learning Team at HWDSB has spent a lot of time talking, testing, thinking, and building templates.

These “templates” are activities, prompts, manipulatives, organizers, collections, lessons and frameworks that are created in Book Creator or Explain Everything.  To create a template, simply add content to a Book Creator or Explain Everything project and share that file with students.

Why templates?

Remember the slogan “There’s an app for that”?  While a great marketing ploy, this can cause roadblocks to developing and sharing learning materials with other educators.

Consider the following situation:

A teacher needs to support early literacy in their classroom, so they search for a phonemic awareness app.  Here are some common pitfalls:

  • The app they find will either cost $5 or be a trial with limited features and in-app purchases.  
  • The material may or may not be 100% applicable to students in the class.  The content is likely a mixture of useful content and content that is irrelevant to their student’s learning needs.
  • Any progress that is completed in the app cannot be exported as an artifact, so if the teacher tries to assess completed student work, they must have the student device in-hand.
  • The app may have a narrow way for students to show their understanding, such as typed responses or multiple choice selections.
  • If the teacher wants to use the same material with other students or share with another teacher, they need to purchase another copy of the app.
  • Sometimes there are menus or instructions in an app that students can’t access if they struggle with decoding.  Without the teacher beside them, they aren’t able to access the information to a complete extent.

Instead of thinking “There’s an app for that” when trying to support phonemic awareness, why not ask “can I build a template for that?”

If this same teacher creates a template instead of downloading an app, a lot of things become possible:

  • Since teachers know their students best, the material can be customized to support the actual needs presenting in the classroom.
  • Teachers do not have to keep buying new apps for each curriculum area. Templates can be created for all subjects.
  • Completed content can be exported in universal formats such as PDFs, JPEGs, EPUBS, MP4s, etc. and can be viewed on a variety of devices
  • Integration of Google Drive allows for easy sharing with students or colleagues
  • Students can express their ideas in a variety of ways including speech-to-text, voice recording, animation, etc.  Additionally, students can use assistive tech keyboards to help with word prediction, spelling, comprehension of writing, etc.
  • When a template is made digital, students can use the “Speak Selection” tool on an iPad to have the text read aloud.  In Book Creator, students can use the Read-to-Me function, which makes it even easier for students to access the content if they struggle with reading.
  • Digital instructions and organizers in a template can provide support for students with needs in executive functioning
  • Templates allow for students to create products that can be published.  The task automatically becomes more important if it will be shared with an authentic audience.
  • The use of templates doesn’t need to result in a “product”.  They can also serve as a great way to initiate conversations about the learning or to engage in observations of students to help with the Triangulation of Assessment.

How to Create a Template (easy as 1-2-3!)

  1. Identify the learning goal on which to base the template.
  2. Add materials and instructions to a Book Creator or Explain Everything file.
  3. Share file with students.

How to Share With Students

Templates can be shared in a variety of ways since Book Creator and Explain Everything allow for Google Drive integration.  When sharing a template from Book Creator, make sure the file is an ePub.  When sharing a template from Explain Everything, make sure it is exported as a “project” and not a video, PDF, or image. Some popular ways templates are shared in HWDSB are below:

  1. Uploading the file to the HUB for sharing with students
  2. Sharing the file in an accessible folder on Google Drive
  3. Posting the file to a blog on the HWDSB Commons
  4. Sharing via AirDrop

Where to Find Existing Templates

At the HWDSB, we’ve created a site where teachers can access templates that have been created by others and submit templates they’ve created.  Once navigating to the template that you want to download, you can open the file in either Explain Everything or Book Creator (depending on the area of the site that you’re in).  Once the template is downloaded, it’s yours to customize prior to sharing with your students.

Go to http://explain.commons.hwdsb.on.ca to access the collection of templates – and maybe submit one of your own!


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