Bottom Line: Open-ended lesson recording app with infinite possibilities whose usefulness is determined largely by the motivation and creativity of those working with it.
The eponymously named Educreations Interactive Whiteboard, was anointed with Holy Crud This is Free status in January. This iPad-only app is currently sitting at No. 1 on the Top 100 Good Free App of the Day list and has been viewed by 17,000 SAFK readers.
Designing lessons with the app is fairly simple and straightforward. There is a Getting Started menu which identifies the controls and explains saving and sharing creations. The toolbar across the top of the whiteboard includes a palette of ten colors, an image import button, a text tool, undo and redo arrows and the big red record button.
Images can be taken directly from the device camera, the photo library, or from the user’s Dropbox account. Once a picture is selected, an editing suite pops up that gives the option to rotate, resize, move or lock the image in place. Multiple images can be included on a single page or multiple pages can be used for each creation. This aspect of the app works flawlessly.
The digital ink can be erased and recording paused, but if you have a bunch of hmmms and uhhs or tend to punctuate your thoughts with a four letter word, you have to go back to the beginning. There is also no ability to edit a tutorial once it’s saved if you realize a step is missing or something is unclear after finishing.
Once saved, lessons can be shared via email, twitter, or Facebook. I’m not sure if I'll ever feel the need to tweet but having the option is remarkable in a free app. My $299 AAC app doesn’t even offer this level of connectivity. Users also have the option to upload creations to the educreations.com community by opening a free account. Submitted videos can be viewed on the web site.
In the app, access is only granted to "featured videos." Right now those lessons are loosely grouped by subject area, but there currently is no search function to find content on a particular subject.
Perusing the featured videos gives a good idea of just how much can be done with this app: Lewis and Clark, Acids and Bases, How to Play The Cmajor Scale and others. Most of what is available in terms of submitted apps is for middle/high school students or later. It would be nice to see more contributions from teachers of younger students and therapists.
The app store description names many things one can do with the whiteboard; however, in many instances there are dedicated apps that probably do it better. You can illustrate and explain the butterfly life cycle, but in that case there is an app for $1.99 doing that does the same.
There is also a danger of lessons being created and shared which you don’t want your kids to learn. There are clearly filters being used to weed out inappropriate content, but there could be lessons that are factually untrue or poorly taught.
Content can be viewed on a PC which makes it accessible to those without an iPad. On the web site, teachers can set up a class and share selected video with their students via an online course page. The app could be used by a home-school cooperative with other parents. Also, links to contributions can be embedded on a blog or other site for later reference.
Wade Roberts, creator of Educreations, responded to my support question in record time (on a holiday weekend no less) and let me know that recordings are 20x smaller than mp4 format video, and an average lesson would take up mere kilobytes. For those struggling to fit a growing library of apps, pictures and movies on a 16g device, this is welcome news.
I'm most intrigued with how children could use the app. They could record a story or illustration, explain some photos/art, or just be given some basic instruction and see what they come up with. Ron gave it to his seven-year old son and he recorded and narrated why Pokemon are cool. (video below) Again, the issue here might be not being able to fix an error without going back to the beginning so kids will have to be instructed on how to pause, remove their last step or erase. Ethan handles it with aplomb, with 10 seconds of training.
There's even a medical use. Therapists rely on art therapy with traumatized or abused kids. This app presents an interesting canvas to see if the child can talk about the incident to himself as he draws it. The same thing might be of use to police trying to get a reliable witness statement from a child. An iPad is a lot less intimidating and might result in useful details that wouldn't otherwise become known. I’m not sure Educreations had these ideas in mind when they created the app and website, but the best apps are those you make your own.
Jill Goodman likes art especially David Hockney but is not an artist and can't illustrate lessons very well. Ron Engel contributed to this review.