Monday, February 4, 2013

Using Prezi Without Losing Your Mind

We had a great series of workshops prior to the start of the Spring 2013 semester, including one on Prezi.  Since it is a great tool for learning inside and outside the classroom, we thought we'd follow up with this blog post for those that couldn't make the workshop.  You will also find the Prezi that we created for this presentation and here is access to the handout that we provided.

So what is Prezi?  It's most basic description is that it is 3-dimensional presentation tool that can used to align and present information in a more meaningful way.

BENEFITS: As a web-based program, Prezi has a lot to offer.
  • Free:  A free account is available to anyone.  If you register for their education license with your school email address, you will have an enhanced account with more space and usages rights. 
  • Easy to Use:  After checking out some introductory and how-to material, you can easily begin work on a Prezi using mostly pointing and clicking.  No programming skills needed and no software to download.
  • Single or Collaborative Use:  Like other Web 2.0 tools, users have the option of working on it together or singularly at the same time (and at different computers).  Additionally, one can present a Prezi online to another audience that is not present. 
  • Visual Appeal:  In lieu of the standard PowerPoint, the ability to move from slide to slide on screen adds a bit more visual stimulation for presentations (so long as the tool isn't overused). 
  • PowerPoint Integration:  If you already have created PowerPoints, you can upload and integrate them into a Prezi very easily.  You can also integrate PDF files as well.

CHALLENGES:  Though Prezis are enjoyable to use for education, there are certain challenges to contend with when considering using them.
  • Limited Space:  Even with an education license, you're limited to 500 megabytes.  That amount may be more than enough, but if you're teaching several different classes and plan to use one for each class, you might fill up that space quickly.
  • Clunkiness: Because of the nature of Prezi working within a browser, occasionally the program can get a bit clunky and you'll be unable to drag or move around the way you want.  Typically when this happens, you will need to save the Prezi, exit the Prezi, and close the browser and/or clear the cache and then return to it.
  • Getting to Advance:  Prezi can be easy to learn but it takes planning and practice to develop a rich presentation that fully utilizes the tools that Prezi has available.  We recommend looking at a lot of the examples made available on the site in order to get a stronger sense of what can be done.
  • Movement Overload:  Because of the movement feature in Prezi and how it can draw attention, early users often use too much motion.  They mistake the availability of movement for the relevance of movement.  Movement should be selective and relevant--otherwise it becomes a gimmick that doesn't help keep focus (as well as occasionally induces nausea).

USES:  Keeping those things in mind, we turn now to consider what are some of the best ways that you can use Prezi for education.
  • Standard Presentation:  There certainly isn't anything keeping you from uploading your PowerPoints and using Prezi as a straightforward presentation tool.
  • Conveying linear-based ideas:  Prezi works great when trying to convey information that is formulaic or process-oriented.  Telling a story, explaining a pattern, or moving through a routine all lend themselves well to being displayed in a Prezi.
  • Conveying nonlinear ideas:  Prezi also works great for grouping related information communicating differences according to space and alignment. If you want to identify features of a culture or elements of a story, you can use Prezi to differentiate the different pieces. It's also useful for honing in on elements of a contained piece.  For instance, you can move about to focus in on different aspects of an image (a cell, painting, landscape, etc.). 
  • Visualizing Integrated Concepts:  When working with a complex system, Prezi really shines.  This is where layering your information and using the depth of a Prezi can help communicate the "big picture" as well as the smaller pieces (that is, see the "Forest" and the "trees").
  • Brainstorming & Mindmapping:  Finally, Prezi can also be used to help students or even the instructor to bridge connects and ideas.  This could work well in groups of students working on a project as they could all be in a Prezi (by collaborating) at the same time and connecting their ideas.

Do you use Prezi?  How useful have you found it?  What are your students reactions to using Prezi? 

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