August 14, 2009

Prezi--Not Boring

Franki, over at A Year of Reading had an eye-opening experience with the online presentation tool, Prezi.

Prezi is awesome. I took a graduate-level educational research class this summer. We had two meetings at the beginning, were let loose with our questions for a few weeks, then came together on a Saturday at the end of the summer to present our findings. The only caveat from the instructor was to "not be boring." He also wanted us to try to fit in some on-screen references if possible.

When the day arrived, just out of curiosity he asked everyone to raise their hand if they were using a Powerpoint type show. Everyone raised their hand but a media specialist and I . She was using a movie-maker type program and I was using Prezi.

Now I've seem many crappy and boring slideshows and about half of them were plagued by technical difficulties. I was determined to have mine simple as possible--yet not boring.

I ended up with a spare image of three overlapping circles representing the three overlapping areas of my research. That way, if technical difficulties arose, I could simply draw it on the white board and be good to go.

I also had my presentation online, on my thumb drive and on my hard drive. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I've seen it all go wrong before.

It worked fine, and what's great about Prezi is that I embedded inline citations with photos of the researchers, so as we talked about them, it went zooming around and highlighted whoever we were discussing. You can plan a path for this, but are free to go back and move around as needed. Then in the end it zoomed out and all the clutter disappeared, leaving my original image as I answered questions.

If it sounds boring, I added a wrinkle. I hate big blocks of texts and bullets in slide shows, but wanted to quote some of my researchers. So I turned it into a reader's theater. I made name tags like "Dr. Richard Allington," "Dr. Stephen Krashen," and "Dr. Susan Neuman" and placed them in front of volunteers and gave them quotes to read. Then I did a think aloud of my research process, asking the "researchers" what they had found out about different aspects of their research and the volunteers read me their answers. It was fun, easy, and engaging. I think it also warmed up the class for their presentations. I also liked that I was mixing the high-tech Prezi with the low-tech, but equally engaging back and forth of the reading.

I highly recommend the Prezi tool. Like Franki points out, it's just fun to play with. I ended up making three or four versions of my presentation just to try out different ideas but ended up with the one that was the hardest one to make--the simplest most unadorned one. I think it worked.