Recently, I watched my son demonstrate a Prezi he created in collaboration with classmates on the topic of Greece for a college course on international studies. In his presentation, the Greek flag became the Parthenon, then took the viewer on a tour of the politics, legal system, agriculture, financial system, and culture of Greece. Finally it transitioned into a map showing comparisons for exports throughout the world. I was fascinated not just by the contextual connections and richness of the presentation, but by how the tool motivated him and brought enthusiasm and creativity to his project.
Created about two years ago, Prezi is a flash-based, online software alternative to PowerPoint. Think of it as a large whiteboard on which you lay out your ideas, media, and connections, linking them through non-linear transitions from one concept to the next.
LAYERLAYERLAYER ZOOM OUT! ZOOM IN!
The above graphically illustrates the difference between PowerPoint and Prezi software. Which catches your attention faster and longer? ProfHacker (also known as Ethan Watrall, columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education) in Challenging the Presentation Paradigm: Prezi, discusses how it’s still possible to get stuck in the paradigm of traditional lecturing – even with careful avoidance of what he terms “Crappy PowerPoint Syndrome.”
Prezi vs. PowerPoint
The differences are:
- Web-based vs. installed application
- Canvas-style presentation vs. sequential slides
- Embed objects vs. just text and pictures
- Allows group collaboration (see: Prezi just got even cooler for videos on Prezi Meeting).
Until now, Keynote for Mac users was a strong contender for former PowerPoint users. In Prezi: Shaking off the PowerPoint Death Grip, author Connie Crosby suggests that the mind map-like feature that allows users to create a path from one concept to the next or to waver off the path of jumping from one concept to another, frees the user to be more creative.
Death by PowerPoint is the infamous 2001 article largely responsible for highlighting the flaws in PowerPoint. Power to Prezi warns users to beware of similar issues using Prezi, such as going “gaga with dizzying ‘jump cuts’ from topic to topic, disrupting their presentation and confusing the audience” and being overwhelmed by information overload.
Prezi: the compromise breaker from The Extreme Presentation ™ Method describes presentation styles as either ballroom style (for large audiences) or conference room style (for smaller audiences) and shows how you can transform either into a Prezi presentation. In Is Prezi a PowerPoint Killer? Self-proclaimed “PowerUser” Michael Troiano declares that PowerPoint has a tendency to encourage the mindless, bullet-driven slide presentation while Prezi promotes storytelling.
Prezi: Just Plain Good Content from Teacher Tech contends that students using PowerPoint put a lot more attention on animation and transition than actual content. “This layout is great for kids who need to brainstorm, move things around, figure out the order, move it again, and have flexibility in their design.”
Powerpoint --> Prezi (PrometisDesign.com) shows how you can take a presentation that was formerly in PowerPoint and convert it to a Prezi. Use the arrow at the bottom of the screen to view each slide or click on “more.” Click on autoplay to advance the slides automatically, and/or to watch the presentation in full screen mode.
For more on the subject of “PowerPointlessness” see the Wired article PowerPoint is Evil and I Watched in Dumb Horror from guardian.co.uk.
Unless you’re a middle school student, the learning curve may be a little steep. Prezi uses a totally new format called “vector based” illustration and text, using an object manipulation wheel (called a zebra) to place images, frames, and text. Prezi: Presentations for Digital Natives calls it “a storytelling tool for creating dynamic multimedia.” All objects can be moved, rotated, or scaled. Trending Education has grouped three quick Prezi tutorials at Use Prezi as and alternative to PowerPoint presentations:
- Lesson1: Step-by-Step Tutorial on Prezi Basics
- Lesson 2: Why the Best Prezis use Grouping and Layering
- Lesson 3: Quick Tips on Presenting and Publishing.
At the top of the list of tutorials you should view is 10 Tips to Help Master Prezi. The author provides tips on sizing the palette, how to use shift and drag, using quick keys, how to use frames, frame of reference for zooming and spinning (which can tend to get over-used), overlapping elements, and more. If you plan on being on the west coast this spring, you can attend the two-day workshop by Drew Davis of Tipping Point Labs, The Official “Secrets of Prezi” Workshop . If travel is not an option, you can view his other video tutorials Using Prezi with a Smartboard or Prezi Paths: Linear Storytelling in an Infinite Landscape.
Beginners can use Prezi to learn Prezi from Tech Tutor Mark at Prezi: The Animated Presenation Creator. The eLearning Blog Don’t Waste Your Time Presentation: Prezi for advanced users is a 15-minute Prezi demonstrating tips on how to move around in Prezi, use frames, focus, create a path, and tell a story. For a quick look at an interesting example of editing a Prezi, see Prezi Editing: Ice Cream for Everyone!
You can peruse the entire Prezi manual, or download the streamlined East Syracuse-Minoa Schools version that walks you through the creation of a presentation step by step, with illustrations. Another resource is the Quickstart Guide from history teacher Russel Tarr. Be sure to check the Prezi Blog occasionally – you’ll find quick tips on customizing colors and fonts, using drag and drop, and other editor enhancements as well as news about updates and new features.
Prezi in the classroom
Prezi vs. Powerpoint from Classroom 201X provides some innovative suggestions for using Prezi such as building a bank of resources, taking cues from your audience, or having your students present a ready-made Prezi.
Purdue University has put together an extensive history of Prezi along with examples of practical applications and sample lesson plans.
Teaching in the 21st Century: Math Made Simple uses a Prezi to visualize math concepts. Subscribe to the video channel to see more Math Made Simple Prezis.
Terri Johnson complements her blog post on Questions…How to ask’em to get’em thinkin’ with a Prezi called Questions, Questions, Questions.
Prezi killed PowerPoint links to some inspirational Prezis and offers suggestions for integrating Prezi in the classroom. Examples include as a vocabulary builder, a biography timeline, a character map in literature class, to zoom from place to place on a geography map, to create an interesting online curriculum vitae, to teach directions to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, and to create storyboards. A good example of using Prezi for an ESOL classroom is Correct the Sentences for ESOL, ESL and EFL. An example for the geography classroom is Vector Maps in Prezi. You can also borrow templates from other inspirational Prezis. Prezi started its own education exchange for teachers to upload their own examples; however, the site wasn’t well used. As of this writing you can still find some of the Prezis for available for you to “reuse.”
Thoughts on using Prezi as a teaching tool is a presentation that explores how to use (and not use) some of the Prezi features. Consider using Screencast-O-Matic to record your presentations and load them on your website.
Cybrary Man links to articles on using PowerPoint, Prezi, and Pecha Kucha (another PowerPoint alternative). See Engaging Your Students with Prezi-Simple K-12; Prezi for the Win? Ten Top Tips To Make a Good One; Video: How To Use Apple Remote With Prezi; and Six Tips For A Great Prezi (The PPT Alternative).
Prezi Meeting was recently introduced allowing collaboration in the classroom. In-Class Collaborative Debate Mapping with Prezi Meeting author and assistant director at the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching Derek Bruff describes the creation of a collaborative Prezi and how he harnessed the power of Prezi Meeting that allows for multiple students editing at the same time, how to provide structure in the flexible environment of a Prezi, and how to undo accidental editing. Prezi Meeting – Collaboration within Prezi hits classrooms provides step-by-step directions for starting a Prezi Meeting. See Video: Prezi in the classroom for an example of students working collaboratively on an ecology lesson.
Thankfully, there is no longer The Problem with Prezi in the school environment. Prezi has made edu licenses available, which removes the watermark and allows you to make your online presentations private.
Patricia Bruder, president of Linchpin Solutions LLC, consults for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) located at the South Jersey Tech Park at Rowan University, Mullica Hill. EIRC is a public agency specializing in education-related programs and services for teachers, parents, schools, communities, and non-profit organizations throughout New Jersey. Learn more about EIRC at www.eirc.org or call 856-582-7000. Contact Patricia Bruder at email@example.com.