Beyond PowerPoint: Prezi in Education

Even though it came to life five years ago, Prezi still manages to wow audiences — especially those who encounter it for the first time. A welcome disruption to the ubiquity of PowerPoint slides, with their overused bullet point lists and mundane clip art, Prezi is a dynamic presentation tool that by its nature makes all presentations become more heavily reliant on the visual. Reminiscent of the extremely popular RSA Animate videos that illustrate talks given at the UK non-profit Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Prezi offers the opportunity to orient your audience within the context of your entire presentation. Relying on panning and zooming instead of sequential “slides,” Prezi opens up a more cinematic feel to presentations. While fellow Academic Technology blogger John Drummond has quipped, “Ah, yes, PowerPoint with motion sickness,” Prezi — when used appropriately and without excessive zooming and twisting — is an amazingly effective tool.Prezi for education

Prezi Handles Rich Media Well

Prezi is also a far more robust tool for handling multiple forms of media within presentations. One of the most consistent questions posed to us in the Technology Integration Center in the School of Education is how to embed video into powerpoint. Inevitably we find ourselves embedding a link to YouTube, a solution that works but disrupts the continuity of presentations. Prezi makes inserting video much easier and it supports a number of formats including YouTube clips. What a relief!

This past fall semester served as my introduction to Prezi, and it I found it to be a simple and approachable tool. While it appears to be ever-expanding its features and nuances, I want to draw attention to three especially relevant aspects to readers of this blog.

1. Free License with a .edu Email Address

As students and faculty at William & Mary, we have access to an enhanced Prezi account at no charge. The regular free account from Prezi offers a fairly stripped down set of options, limiting your storage to 100 Mb (“enough for a few prezis”), requiring all of your presentations to be public, and embedding a Prezi logo in the bottom left corner of your presentations. However, in an apparent attempt to gain further traction into the education market, Prezi offers all users with “.edu” email addresses a few perks: more storage, privacy and sharing settings to your presentations, and no Prezi logo. This allows students, faculty, and staff a lot more room to explore and utilize Prezi at no cost.

2. Online Collaboration

My introduction to Prezi this past semester started from its capability to host online collaboration. In a graduate course on educational leadership, I was assigned a topic and asked to work with a colleague in guiding a discussion on that topic. My classmate lives in Richmond while I live in Williamsburg — which are about an hour’s drive apart, and we both have hectic schedules — so she suggested we try Prezi for its capacity to collaborate online. We were both able to work on our parts of the presentation at the same time, and the program would even show me where she was clicking and editing as I worked.

It was a seamless and helpful tool for our project. The results are not fancy, but it was successful in guiding a rich discussion in class.  See our finished presentation below as an example of what a Prezi can do.

3. Flexible Presentation Options

By default all of your Prezi presentations are stored in the cloud and accessed through your account. This opens up some helpful presentation options that Prezi mobilizes in a couple of different ways. First, you can open a Prezi from any flash-enabled Web browser. No more need to fumble with a jump drive or worry about downloading drivers. From within the browser you can initiate your presentation and take it to full-screen mode for polished presenting. Second, you can present remotely. That is, you can simultaneously present on up to thirty other computers as long as they have an Internet connection, and they don’t even need to have a Prezi account. Prezi provides you with a link to send to others.

However, if you will be without an Internet connection, there is the option to download a “portable Prezi.” This option packages a small install file with your content, so you can physically transport your presentation or keep it on hand as a backup. You can run your Prezi on Windows or Mac OS, or upload the file to a conference proceedings webpage.