Author: Dr. Dana Wessell Lightfoot (History)
Defined by its creators as a “zooming presentation editor”, Prezi (www.prezi.com) is a web-based presentation tool that allows you to bring your ideas, images, and videos into one space and see how they relate. In many ways, Prezi acts as a virtual blackboard/whiteboard, providing users with a multi-dimensional space on which to connect concepts in a variety of different forms. I find Prezi particularly useful for teaching because it allows me to present concepts visually through mind maps, images, videos, quotations and more. It not only helps me create a visual representation of both the “big picture” of my classes, but also to focus on the specific details. The zooming feature of Prezi therefore aids students in connecting broad concepts with particular ideas in both linear and non-linear fashions, with visuals, text, audio and video.
Prezi vs. Powerpoint
The most common presentation platform used by educators right now is Powerpoint. It also has the ability to include text, image, video, and audio in your presentations. Powerpoint provides a large number of templates from which to work from, allows users to personalize their presentations, and includes many different features that can make presentations as fancy or as basic as users would like.
So why not just use Powerpoint?
I made the switch from Powerpoint to Prezi a few years ago because I felt that Powerpoint was very confining. It only allowed me to present my material in a linear fashion and it was hard to connect ideas presented on different slides together. While I am not a visual thinker, many of my students are and they found that Powerpoint didn’t help them in trying to understand the concepts we were exploring.
That is the advantage of Prezi.
By providing a platform on which users can map out ideas on a big canvas, Prezi helps students visualize key concepts and their relationship to one another in ways that Powerpoint cannot.
For a brief overview of Prezi versus Powerpoint, check out this Prezi:
Let me use an example from my own teaching. In my first year World History course, we do a class on Buddhism beyond India. Using Powerpoint, I presented the material for that class like this:
INSERT POWERPOINT LINK HERE
Moving in a linear fashion, we traced the various ways that Buddhism expanded out of India to reach across Central, South and East Asia.
But Prezi allowed me to provide an overview of the similarities between Buddhism as it developed in different regions and link the ideas together in a broad fashion and then by considering them more specifically:
As evidenced by this Prezi, I’m still a linear and non-visual thinker myself so working with Prezi pushes me to figure out how best to represent my course content in a visual fashion.
1. Sign-up for an account: For educational users, Prezi provides both free and paid accounts. Start out with the free account and then see if Prezi works for you (if you decide on a paid account, make sure that you do it through the educators section and get an EDUPRO account as it’s significantly less expensive!).
2. Click on “+New Prezi”
3. From here, you can choose a template already created by Prezi or you can choose “start a blank prezi”. To see how Prezi works, choose “start a blank Prezi.
5. To add text, click anywhere on the page and start typing. When you click on the page, a menu will appear allowing you to change the font, the colour, use bold or italics. Prezi is somewhat limited in the types of font you can use in a single presentation. They only have three different types (listed as title, subtitle and body). To adjust the font, go to the customize button at the top-middle. You can then choose a theme, which will dictate the font, the background colours and the frame colours OR you can choose Advanced at the bottom-right and customize the colours/fonts you would like to use.
6. To insert a frame (similar to a slide on Powerpoint), click on the dropdown menu in the top-left corner.
You can choose the style of frame and then click on the + to add it to your canvas. You can move the frame around the canvas by dragging and dropping. To increase/decrease the size of the frame, click on the +/- buttons. You can also change the frame style.
7. To insert an image, video, add in music, symbols or shape, draw arrows and lines or highlight, click on “Insert”.
Then choose your content. You can insert images/pdfs/video from your own files, search for images via google or videos via YouTube. Once added, you can move them around however you’d like!
8. Prezi automatically organizes the path of your presentation (i.e. the order in which the sections of your presentation are presented) by frame. To ADD something to your path, click on the “Edit Path” button in the bottom-left of your screen and then click on what you’d like added to your path. If you want to rearrange your path, you can drop and drag each frame/image in the left hand menu. If you’re done editing your path, simply click the “DONE” button in the top-right corner.
9. To present your Prezi from the Editing page, just click on “Present” in the top-right corner. You can also download your Prezi as a pdf or as a portable Prezi. If you’re concerned about wifi/internet access in your classroom, I recommend downloading your Prezis either to your laptop or a flash drive. If you insert You Tube videos, however, you will need internet access.
These are just the basics of Prezi, for more info on creating Prezi presentations, check out their tip pages:
Prezi Best Practices
Just like using Powerpoint, there are some “best practices” to follow to get the most out of using Prezi. I’ve included my own tips and links to Prezis by others with more suggestions.
- Plan it out! Before I start a Prezi, I draw out how I want it to look and what material I want to include in my presentation. You can also do this by simply using the Prezi canvas as your drawing board and then input your material into a template or create your own. But key to a good Prezi is spending some time thinking about HOW you want to visually represent your ideas.
- Do not overuse the Zoom feature! While zooming is fun and might keep your sleepy students awake, it will cause others to have motion sickness. Use the Zoom feature to emphasis particular points but do so judiciously.
- Try not to move back and forth across the canvas too often. Just like the Zoom feature, jumping back and forth across the canvas from point to point can make your audience queasy. Plot your path points close together. For Prezi’s top transition tips see: http://prezi.com/-oebfwip4irw/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share
- Set aside time to learn Prezi and all its features. Unlike Powerpoint, which is pretty easy to figure out for a first time user, it takes some time to get to know Prezi. Spend a few hours playing around with it to see if it is the type of presentation platform for you. Also, set aside time to make your Prezis once you’ve decided to use it for teaching. Putting together a Prezi presentation takes a bit more thought than Powerpoint, but that thought is incredibly useful pedagogically. I’ve found using Prezi has made me more reflective of my teaching. Having to convey concepts visually has helped me see if my lectures are, in fact, cohesive and clear.
- Use the import Powerpoint function (if you want to). Prezi allows you to import a Powerpoint presentation and then rearrange those slides in any way that you’d like. You can also use some slides, delete others, use some aspects of slides (images or text that you particularly like) rather than the whole slide itself. If you’re running short on time and have some decent Powerpoint presentations, this is a great tool.
- Share your Prezis with your students on learn.unbc.ca or any other course management system. Prezi allows you to share your Prezis by embedding them, saving them as pdfs (and then uploading those pdfs), providing direct links to your presentations or as downloadable Prezis. I tend to embed my Prezis in the wikis that I use for most of my courses, or share the direct link. All of these methods allow students to go through the presentation at their own pace and look over material again.
There are many more things about Prezi that I could discuss but it’s better to try it out for yourself! The Prezi website has many resources to help you figure out the platform, as well as examples of Prezis shared by other Prezi users. Some of these are “recyclable” and so you can use the template and add in your own material.
NOTE: Right now, unlike Powerpoint, Prezi is not accessible to screen readers for visually impaired students. I was unaware of this fact until a student using a screen reader pointed it out to me. My plan moving forward is to create a Powerpoint alongside the Prezi for students to access if they need to. Doing so allows me to continue using Prezi for those students who benefit from it, while providing accessibility to course materials for all students.
“Five Simple Steps to a Great Prezi”
“Simple Steps to a Great Prezi”
“Your Very First Prezi”
Ryan Cordell, “My Prezi Conversion”, Chronicle of Higher Education (May, 2013)