Explainers Explained

What is an explainer? This is the first question my group and I had to tackle as began working on our project at the beginning of the semester. The answer: An explainer provides a succinct, lively overview of a concept, issue, situation, event, principle, process, rule, procedure, or the like. It’s typically aimed at a broad audience. It can take the form of a written explanation or audio and visual media. As we began work, we looked at a variety of explainers to get a general understanding of how explainers were typically presented and decide how we wanted to present our own explainers.

One of the challenges we faced when creating our explainers was completely understanding the material in order to condense it into a concise explainer. This ended up working out in our advantage as we learned more about Thoreau and his life and his writing of Walden. Our final explainer focused on the Gettysburg Address and the five copies that Lincoln wrote. The explainer includes a brief story about each of the copies while also numbering them in the order Lincoln presumably wrote them in.

Another challenge we faced when creating explainers was the programs used to create them. Moviemaker was an integral tool in making the video explainer. I used both PowerPoint and Inkscape to make two different explainers. Inkscape is essentially a free version of Adobe Illustrator. It’s much easier to use this program than it is to use PowerPoint because it allows for free manipulation of text and graphics. Inkscape is built for designing graphics like explainers whereas PowerPoint is built for designing presentations.

The other half of our project was creating an explainer contest. Before the contest was opened, we created a rubric to judge the entries with and we created an email address to accept submissions. We also reconfigured the website to explain the contest and what an explainer is, wrote an announcement and sent it out. Unfortunately, the contest was unsuccessful, as we received two entries that were not what we were looking for. Despite the lack of success of the contest, the groundwork has been laid for the contest to run next year, hopefully with more success.


Group Members: Julie Eckert, Brodie Guinan, Kimberly Owen, and Jonathan Pepperman.

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