Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prezi: A new presentation tool that let's you see the big picture and the nitty gritty details

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 Sneetches:

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!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Computer Instructions in Mickey Mouse Language

A few months ago, a relative of mine asked me to send him instructions in "Mickey Mouse" language on how to handle email, attachments, and photos. I wrote him some basic instructions which I think would be worth sharing since some teachers still feel like they are still technology immigrants who struggle to keep up with their students who are native users. The questions are in black while my answers are in blue.

1. Would it be possible to write the steps in Mickey Mouse language how to transfer Email, attachments to E mail and documents to a CD-write disk?

It would be better NOT to use a CD-write disk. They are expensive, take up a lot of space, take a long time to create, and usually can only be used once. You should buy a Flash USB drive instead. It can hold more than 2 or 4 times the data as a CD. You plug it into the USB port on your computer (the one that looks like a thin rectangle) and acts as a separate hard drive. This means you can add or erase files or photos to it and use it over and over again. You can get a 2GB or 4GB one for less than $20 and can be used over and over again. Here is a link to one from Best Buy for $14.99 that I found online:

The good thing about getting from Best Buy is that they have a "Geek Squad" who you can call and they will walk you through how to use it.

Here are my instructions:

To transfer email attachments to your USB Flash Drive:

1. Put the USB drive into a USB port on your computer. Wait until your computer recognizes the drive. It might ask to open this drive. Click "Cancel".

2. Open the email message that has the attachment.

3. Right-click with your mouse on the attachment and select "Save Target As".

4. This will open a window which will say "Save As". You need to tell the computer where to save the file. At the top of the Window it should say, "Save In". Left click on the down arrow next to this dialog box.
5. You now have a drop down list of locations to save your attachment. Select your USB drive which should have a name (Geek Squad if you get it from Best Buy) and a letter (usually E or F). After your USB flash drive is selected press "Save". You have now saved the file onto your USB Flash Drive!!!
6. To open these files, select "My Computer" from your desktop or Start Menu (when your USB Flash drive is plugged in).

7. You will see your USB Flash drives as one of the drives. Double click on it with your left mouse click and you can open it and navigate to the file you want. Double click the file to open it.

To save files from your computer to the USB Flash drive:

1. Open the file you want to transfer.
2. From the "File" menu select "Save As".

3. Click on the down arrow to get the drop down list of locations on your computer.

4. Left click on your USB Flash Drive (the E or F drive) and click Save.

You can also select a group of files to save:
1. Click once with the left click on the file you want to transfer. Hold down the "Ctrl" key on your keyboard to select more than one file. Each selected file should be highlighted in blue.

2. On you keyboard hold down the "Ctrl" key with your left hand. While holding this, press the "C" key with your right hand. "Ctrl" "C" is a keyboard shortcut to copy files.

3. Select "My Computer" from your desktop or Start Menu (when your USB Flash drive is plugged in).

4. You will see your USB Flash drives as one of the drives. Double click on it with your left mouse click and you can open it.

5. On you keyboard hold down the "Ctrl" key with your left hand. While holding this, press the "V" key with your right hand. "Ctrl" "V" is a keyboard shortcut to paste files. You have now copied and pasted files from your computer to your USB Flash drive!!!

2. Would it be possible to also write how I can take my digital photos and one enter them in the computer and transfer to a disk?

Your digital camera should come with a little wire that on one side has an attachment for your camera and on the other side has an attachment for your computer's USB port.
1. Look at your digital camera and see where there is something you can open to get a camera port. (Look at the manual to help you with this.) Plug the camera wire to this port.

2. Plug the other side of this wire to your computer's USB port.
3. Turn the camera on and select review pictures from the camera (this is the round dial on the top of the camera that let's you select to take a picture or video.
4. Wait.
5. The computer should automatically recognize the camera and ask you if you want to transfer pictures from the Camera using a Digital Transfer Wizard. Select yes and follow the step by step instructions. You can select Delete during this process to delete the pcitures from your camera after they are transferred to the computer.

6. The pictures should wind up in your "My Pictures folder" which is in "My Documents".
7. From here you should be able to copy and paste the pictures or save them onto your USB Flash Drive by using the instructions above.

8. You can also upload your pictures to a web service which you can use to order prints to be delivered to your house or to make calendars, mugs, or other items with your pictures. We use the following web service: They are cheap, fast, and reliable.

3. I am planning to buy 50 or 100 write disks and am wondering which company I should buy? ( Staples, HP, etc)
I am also planning to buy covers for the disk as they come in a big box. Don't get the CDs. Get a USB Flash drive from Best Buy (link above).

Recently, I found a website that offers 180 tech tip lessons a year (for 180 school days). They are given in useful 5 minute segments that are so easy that they are almost written in "Mickey Mouse" language. Here is the link: