Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Education is about helping students see the big picture, overarching theme, or enduring understanding while at the same time focusing in on the details that make a particular subject area fascinating and unique. When it comes to presentation programs, teachers have struggled with these two opposing viewpoints. PowerPoint is often used incorrectly to focus on so many details and so much text that students become lost in the learning process. You can watch a hilariously funny video about common PowerPoint mistakes here.
Smart Board Notebook software solves many of these problems by allowing the presentation to be more interactive using the Smart Board's touch screen. Teachers can shine a spotlight on an important part of a painting or map or can magnify a few lines of text. They can also leave out much of the text from a presentation and write them in using digital ink as students make discoveries during the ebb and flow of the classroom discussion. However, Smart Notebook still forces teachers to choose between the big idea and the details when framing each slide.
A new online program called Prezi helps solve this dichotomy. It allows the teacher and student to focus on both the big picture and the little details in the same presentation. It does this by rethinking the medium of technology based presentations. Most presentation programs are based on slides that are set up in a linear progression. One can link to different slides in the presentation to give it a bit of unpredictability but these links still all have to be set up in advance by the presenter. They are static rather than dynamically created by the presenter during the lesson. Rather than slides in a line, Prezi thinks in terms of frames on a large canvass. When one opens Prezi one immediately sees a big view of all the frames in the presentation. These frames can contain text, pictures, or video and they can be any size. One then sets up a motion path between the slides but this is not essential. Through the presentation controls (pictured in the screenshot below) one can jump to any slide one desires and focus in on any detail and then pan out to the entire presentation.
This can be a little daunting at first and its full potential has yet to be explored since this type of software is like no other presentation program you have seen before. My suggestion is to explore Prezi yourself by looking at the following student created presentations all hosted online. Our students as digital natives take to this new type of program naturally and very quickly learn the program and create educational applications for it.
Here are 2 presentations created by some of our 9th grade students about the Dr. Seuss and the lessons he can teach us about identity:
The Cat in the Hat:
The first tells the story and message of Cat in the Hat as an idea in Theodore Guessel's mind. (I won't give away how this is done. Just keep clicking the forward arrow to the far right of the controls and you will see.) The second simultaneously focuses on a number of Dr. Seuss stories.
Here is presentation created by another of our students on The Evolution of Governments:
This presentation is done in the form of a timeline with supporting images and involved the student going beyond the historical material covered in class to research forms of governments in more recent time periods.
Here is a Prezi created by a British student on the Middle Ages contrasting the good and bad aspects of the this time period in a giant multimedia Venn Diagram. Here is another which is a Timeline of the British Empire. It illustrates how Prezi can be used to show a large chain of events in a timeline with supporting pictures for many events and then focus in on each individual event within the timeline.
Once you have explored Prezi and perhaps given it as an option for student created assignments, you might want to learn how to create your own Prezis. Here is a Prezi tutorial, a QuickStart Guide for using Prezi by Russel Tarr, and Four Interesting Ways* and Tips to Use Prezi in the Classroom by Tom Barrett. Learning to create your first Prezi would be a great summer project so get started today!!!