Prezi: Reinventing the Wheel
It’s a small world. And thanks to technology, it’s smaller than ever. Whether it’s connecting between campuses, cross-country, internationally, or simply outside of normal school hours, students are interacting and sharing information at an unparalleled rate. The classroom no longer has walls, and learning no longer only takes place between bells.
Social media is an amazing first step in cultivating the classroom without walls, and Prezi is a fantastic social media tool.
For years, I’ve searched for the perfect presentation program—one that allows me to quickly put together an introduction to a unit for my students, but also something that was, unlike PowerPoint, dynamic. I wanted a program that would allow me to connect with my students outside of our classroom.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate PowerPoint, I just find it strangely complicated and difficult to make interesting or interactive. For group projects, you are limited to one person working at a time, and often, the file is too big to email. And forget doing a project quickly; it sometimes takes hours to upload pictures, link videos, or create slide transitions.
Like many other educators, I’ve waited for something new to wow me, and finally, this summer, another teacher mentioned Prezi.
I even liked the name…Prezi. It sounds modern, hip, Apple-esque. And it is all of those things. I still remember the reaction I had the first time I viewed a prezi; my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe how incredibly visual and seamless it was! In fact, it’s the first presentation software I’ve used that caters to the visual / kinesthetic learner.
Not only does Prezi look amazing, but it is a cloud-based presentation tool! That means that you never have to email another file to your students; you can simply direct them to the website (if you make your Prezi public); in fact, you will be able to watch the file on any computer or tablet anywhere. Another perk of cloud-based presentations is that your prezi is saved somewhere other than your computer’s hard drive, clearing up much-needed space and protecting you against accidental deletion.
Perhaps the most valuable feature of Prezi is that it allows students to interact with lessons on their own time, in their own space, while fostering the collaboration that we all like to see. The “meeting” option allows up to ten people to login and work on the same presentation—even at the same time.
At the private college prep school where I teach, we currently have over a hundred boarding students who live in a dorm off campus. It is often difficult for these students to work on projects with our day students, and as I like to assign a variety of cooperative learning projects and assignments, I’ve been very frustrated with PowerPoint.
Our school, like many others, faces a new challenge—providing web-based networking tools to our students and instructors. Prezi is an answer to that challenge. For example, just last week, my juniors were working on literary criticism projects. Most of the groups were made up of both day and boarding students, and Prezi made it possible for them to all meet online and build their presentations without even being in the same building!
Key features of the software:
1. It’s free for educators, as long as you have an email address that includes your school or district name.
2. It’s free for your students to use (there is a free non-education version available as well).
3. It looks crisp and modern; it emphasizes the visual.
4. It uses a zooming tool (which awes your students).
5. There are no complicated menus, just one wheel of options (I call it the “Wheel of Awesome”).
6. Every single addition of text, picture, video, or object can be done in less than two or three clicks. (For the designers out there, you can go five or six clicks to specialize your prezi.)
7. You can import your old PowerPoint files.
8. You can change the path (order of “slides”) your prezi takes at any time.
9. You can make your prezi public and share it with the world or make it private for a select audience.
10. Youtube videos can be inserted by copying and pasting the address.
11. You never have to leave the prezi to open another window, unlike PowerPoint.
12. Your students can find your prezi by typing your name into the search bar of the website!
Before you race to type “prezi.com” into your browser, I have a few suggestions
1. Forget everything you learned using PowerPoint. (It only confused me when using the software.)
2. If you want to add text, just click anywhere on the screen.
3. Mac users zoom in and out using the two-finger scroll method. Click and drag to move the screen around. I had a rough first few minutes trying to learn this!
4. If you want to change, move, manipulate, rotate, or re-size text on the screen, click on it once until the Wheel of Awesome pops up and use the menu on the wheel.
As we begin to change our curriculum and delivery to meet our digital-native students’ needs, Prezi will impress where other presentation software falls short! It will promote differentiation, cooperative learning, lesson sharing, and social networking. Not only will students and teachers be able to build their own dynamic presentations, which they can share with the Prezi community, but they will also be able to use others’ prezis as teaching and learning tools.