Organisms and Interactions: 6th Gr Sci (3 of 3)

Figure 3. The Export Movie option will let me send the movie straight to the Camera ROll.

Step 3: Assemble the Project

A challenge came from Quynh Tu, our 6th Grade Science teacher. She has a great organisms and ecosystems project that she wants to move from a poster-based product to an iPad-based one. As she describes it, the students have to create two organisms and describe them individually. Part of the description is the ecosystem in which they live and how they are adapted to it. The second level is that the organisms have to interact in some way (e.g. symbiotic, cooperative, parasitic). In the past, students have drawn their organisms out and labeled things on a poster. She’d like two main things to come out of “iPad-izing” the project:

  • Students can narrate the project, making them verbalize and expand their answers past the simpler poster labels, and
  • Students draw the ecosystem as well as the creatures, so that they have to describe more about the ecosystem’s effect on the creatures. She felt like this has gotten short shrift in the past.

I’ve broken this project down into three distinct stages, each with their own goals and tools:

  1. Build the Ecosystem
  2. Build the Organisms
  3. Assemble the Presentation/Movie

I covered both Step 1 and Step 2 in previous posts. Here, we’ll explore Step 3. To the lab!

Through the first two steps, we have the two key ingredients of our project: our backdrop, which is a picture of the ecosystem, and our organisms, which we’ll load into the foreground. Assembling the presentation will be pretty straight-forward using Explain Everything ($2.99).

Create the Stage (Brushes to E.E.)

Once I had my ecosystem picture how I wanted it for my backdrop, I exported it to the Camera Roll. Using the universal share icon in the upper-right, I selected “Add to Photos.” This put it in the Camera Roll so that I can access it from other apps. Opening a new project in Explain Everything, I selected “Existing Photo/Video” and chose the picture from the Camera Roll. Inserting pictures into Explain Everything requires a bit of forethought, since it’s hard to manipulate the picture once it’s on the stage. I have the option before inserting of doing any editing that I need, particularly cropping. Since this is a full-frame backdrop, I hit “Done” and the backdrop filled the stage.

Students may want to introduce different (or no) backdrops for a title page or organism information, but I’m assuming that this image will be in the background of most of their slides. Rather than have them import the backdrop for each slide, they should use the duplicate feature (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Duplicate slide. Open the slide navigation menu, and press and hold on the slide to duplicate. Choose "2x" to duplicate.

Figure 1: Duplicate slide. Open the slide navigation menu, and press and hold on the slide to duplicate. Choose “2x” to duplicate.

Add the Organisms (123d Creature to E.E.)

In the last stage (“Render”) of 123d Creature, I can choose background, lighting, and a variety of effects. As I talked about in the Organisms post, I want to use a transparent background so that my creature can go into my ecosystem without any weird borders or cropping. Again, use of the universal share icon allows me to export the image to the Camera Roll for easy importing.

Figure 2. Transparent Background and Share icons in 123d Creature.

Figure 2. Transparent Background and Share icons in 123d Creature.


Here is where a little pre-editing comes in handy. By default, the size of the imported creature will be a full-screen image. While that’s not a terrible inconvenience since the excess is transparent, it will be harder to select and manipulate individual images if there are multiple ones on the screen with big overlaps. I recommend cropping the image down to include the creature only (and shadow, if desired). Once cropped, “Done” inserts the character onto the stage.

Building the Final Product (E.E. to Submission)

Now that my backdrop and character(s) are imported, it’s time to record the project! Recording in Explain Everything allows you manipulate objects in real-time as you speak, so students can make the characters move or change size as they’re explaining their presentation. They can also draw arrows or add labels in real-time as well to correspond with their narration.

Finally, students can navigate the slides while the presentation is recording. In this way, it resembles PowerPoint, Keynote, or any other standard slideware, particularly as it allows students to layout a presentation in accordance with an outline. Using a two-column script format or storyboard will help students think about what will be displayed or what the video action will be, along with what the narration will be.

Once the project is assembled, it’s time to get it out of Explain Everything and into a submission dropbox. At U Prep, we use Schoology as our Learning Management System, so we’ll want to send the movie from Explain Everything into an assignment there. Using the “Export Movie” option gives me several choices for where I’d like to send the video file, including Camera Roll, Google Drive, Dropbox, WebDAV or publishing directly to video sites like YouTube for Vimeo. While Google Drive would certainly be an option for us, it’s probably cleaner to write directly to the Camera Roll and share to Schoology from there.

Figure 3. The Export Movie option will let me send the movie straight to the Camera ROll.

Figure 3. The Export Movie option will let me send the movie straight to the Camera Roll.



When you export the movie from Explain Everything, a process box comes up showing the exporting process. This box warns that the app must stay active otherwise the video will not process. You cannot close or move away from Explain Everything during this process: put the iPad on the table and walk away until it’s done– doing anything else on the device will stop the export.


Project Goals

There is much more that could be done with this basic project format– adding a Tellagami character to narrate in front of the backdrop and organisms (green screen effect), or adding a soundtrack using Garage Band and iMovie, for example. In its current form, though, this project doesn’t have a huge app learning curve. Only 123d Creature will require some “in advance” instruction, and even that can be done largely in the context of the project skills. Quynh and I have talked about having students practice building different animal features within 123d Creature as practice before turning them loose to build their own organisms.

Quynh’s original goals were to make the presentations more verbal so that students had to explain their creatures in more depth, as well as to make the ecosystem more of an integral part of the project. Both of these can be accomplished through this new method, but the rubrics and instructions will also go along way to supporting those goals. Building the rubric with those two goals in mind and setting this up so that the students understand the importance of those elements to their overall presentation will help make these products rigorous and deep quality learning.

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