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Prezi: PowerPoint on Crack

posted Jan 21, 2013, 1:21 PM by Kate Petty

4. Out of the Comfort Zone: Prezi is like PowerPoint on Crack

WRITTEN BY: KATE PETTY - Originally published DEC• 15•11

Why Should You Try It?

Because I just experienced the most successful group presentations of my career.  The students giving the presentations were energetic, they knew what they were talking about without looking at the screen, they were organized!  The audience was listening!  The audience was engaged with what was on the screen and the presenters!  They offered valuable, constructive criticism!
All due to Prezi?
No, although Prezi did provide the all-important interest factor.  I asked students to use their first bout with Prezi to step outside their comfort zone for the entire presentation and give us something that wouldn’t make us yawn.  They stepped up and hit homerun after homerun.

It’s Happened to All of Us…

Most of us have been assigning PowerPoints for a long time now.  Students head down to the library, create the presentation and save it to a spot that takes longer loading it up in the classroom than it took to actually create it.  During the presentation, the students will stand awkwardly in front of the class and read their presentation directly from the projection screen.  Meanwhile, the audience is passing notes, passing texts, or passing out (yes, me too).

Why Did I Try It?

As a teacher, I love presentations!  I grade them right there – no papers to pile up.  It’s so easy! But this year I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I needed to find a way to allow the presentations but make them interesting.  I’d been introduced to Prezis during a district training over the summer, but I’d never found the time to explore them.  My interest was reignited when a student chose to use Prezi to present a project in class.  It was amazing to see the transformation in the class during the four, short minutes she was in front of the class.  The slumped students sat up, put their phones down, and actually asked her questions about the Prezi and her presentation.  I made a bold, underlined, italics mental note: Try This.

How?

It’s so easy.  Within the span of an hour: I signed up for a free educator account (the students will need to sign up for an account too- there is a free public account available to them); I watched the four tutorials (about 25 minutes total); and I created a simple, sample Prezi (about two minutes total).
The next day: I dedicated one period to showing students how to create Prezis.  I showed the tutorials; however, to reinforce each tutorial we created a quick Prezi with whatever the previous tutorial taught us.  By the end of the tutorials, each period and I had created a pretty cool and simple presentation and we’d also embedded the presentations into the class website for easy access when presenting.
Did I get into all the really cool bells and whistles that Prezi offers?  Nope.
Why not?  Because the students will do it.  They’re smart kids, and they love this stuff.  I’ve found that the only thing I have to do is introduce a new technology concept at the most basic level and the students will set bars for themselves higher than I ever would.
How did the creation of the presentations go?  Really well from what I hear.  Yes!  I wasn’t even there!  My trusted and non-technology-oriented former master teacher and now loved substitute was with them.  I dared the students to create their presentations and trouble-shoot on their own. If they ran into a problem, they could email me about it that evening.  Not one email came.

Suggestions:

As I mentioned above, I challenged the students to use this new software as a springboard for stepping outside their comfort zones and changing the way they present presentations.  I offered them these guidelines:

  1. As it was a project with 5-8 partners, I asked that only the people/person whose section it was to present be directly in front of the class while the rest of the group sat on the ground to the side.
  2. I suggested that they focus on energizing their presentation by projecting, inflecting, using gestures, and even walking around.  The word “energy” was key here- it put all of these things I’ve been begging students to do in a concept they finally understood.
  3. Another suggestion was to continue the energy by “passing the baton” to the next set of presenters with a jump and a high five- it kept the energy flowing and passed the energy on to the others in the group.
  4. I prohibited looking at the screen- they had to have their notes in front of them.  The group member who was manning the computer was required to know the presentation so well that there was to be no communication between him/her and those in the front of the class.
  5. My last challenge was that everyone in the group knew everything about the presentation.  I told them I would ask a question to the group’s weakest link and that person needed to be able to answer it without deflecting the question to someone else.

Go Further With The Rubrics:

Use your iPod, iPad, etc., to record each group- have them watch it in a small corner and ask them to fill out the same rubric you are using to evaluate themselves.
Another idea for class engagement that worked really well was to have the students use the rubrics to evaluate each group.  Not only did they need to check boxes but they also needed to provide one positive comment about the presentation and one area of improvement for the presentation. We discussed the comments for about two minutes immediately following each presentation so the groups just kept getting better and better. (I kept that in mind as I graded).

Links and Templates

Below is a list of links to sample Prezis, the website itself, and a template to the presentation rubric that I created using the grades 11-12 Common Core Standards.  Feel free to download it and change it to suit your own needs.
Sample Prezi: Beginning/Intermediate User
Prezi Website
Presentation Rubric

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