Sunday, April 17, 2011

Prezi: Presentations that make you think outside the slide

What is Prezi? 

      Prezi is a presentation software which is unlike any other presentation software I have seen. Unlike programs like Powerpoint or Keynote which have you create slides, Prezi  gives you a blank canvas to work with and your presentations work by zooming in and out around this canvas. The flash based site allows users to be creative in the layout and flow of the presentation. This creativity, however, forces people to think beyond the slide and this can be frustrating for some (usually the teacher more than the student).

     The key to the Prezi is the fairly simple design wheel which allows the user to control everything, from text size and position (write), to adding content (insert), to grouping it together (frame), to adjusting fonts and colors (Colors) and to determining the flow of the presentation (path).


Why Use Prezi 

     Creating presentations  using Prezi is quite non-linear and requires you to throw away everything you know about making presentations. For someone like myself who has gotten used to traditional software, the experience can be somewhat frustrating at first because the tools are not where you expect them to be and don't work the way you are used to having them work. Students on the other hand, seem to love the freedom of Prezi and are able to put together stunning presentations quickly. I introduced to program to my grade 4 class and without any training, they were able to create a presentation in about thirty minutes. It is the creative nature of Prezi and the simplicity that make it a good choice for students. As a teacher, you don't really need to know more than the basics to get your students started. Play the introduction video and let them do the rest.

How do I create and Manage my account? 

Signing up for Prezi is simple and they have special accounts for teachers and students which offer more memory for free. You can choose to create one class account for your students to share or let them create their own individual accounts if they have a school Email account. You can view all prezis created within a single account and edit a presentation at any time as well.


     Prezi gives a few options for sharing presentations, including the ability to download, embed, email or share a link. Privacy options can also be set to private, public or public with the ability to copy.

     Although Prezi is Flash based, you can still view and control them on devices like the Ipad. Unfortunately, however, you can't actually create a Prezi on these devices.

Is it worth getting? 

     Given that you can get an educational account for free, I think it is certainly worth trying. Don't worry if you are not comfortable using it yourself. Put it into your students' hands and give them the freedom to create. 
I had my students create their first presentation about themselves. Before starting, I asked them to brainstorm what they wanted to communicate and to gather any media they needed (photos, video, etc). They just threw all their ideas onto the canvas and then decided how they wanted to link them together in the presentation.
One thing about Prezi that you may start to get tired of is the zooming in and out around the screen. It can sometimes make you dizzy to see so much movement. Students can minimize this by placing objects in the path close together so that there isn't a lot of jumping around the screen. Sign up for an educator account and give it a try. Your students will love it and it the novelty of it will be refreshing.

     Prezi has some examples of what you can do on their website to give  you an idea of what a Prezi looks like and how it can be used. They also have tutorials to get you started.