Tool Review: Prezi, enhanced presentations.

When it comes to presenting a project to an audience, whether it be a sales pitch, a storybord, a research project, or any project at all for that matter, people tend to unanimously fall back to the regular presentation tools such as Powerpoint, to name the main one. These presentations tools, while very efficient, have become dull and formal to the point where creativity is at its’ limits within their parameters. More and more, people long for presentations that possess feature which help share ideas in a colorful, creative and stylish way. In 2009 by Peter Arvai, Péter Halácsy, and Adam Somlai-Fischer founded Prezi, a company that enables users from across the globe to use their online software. The software is fairly simple, it allows anyone to create an original presentations by providing a wide array of templates of different artistic themes.These templates can be filled with content like text, image, video and can be modified by the user to fit his or her own needs. People have used it for various reasons and one of them, which is relevant to our interest, is of course to make presentations for teaching!

Starting off with the basics, when registering with Prezi, the website offers you 4 different bundles; The first is free and allows user to create a number of Prezi that will amount to a total of 100 MB. Secondly, a 10$/month option allows for 4 GB of storage, control privacy setting by making your presentations unavailable to the public, add custom logo and premium support. The third option of 20$/month  will include all this with unlimited storage capacity and the ability to work offline with a desktop app as well as enhanced photo editing. The last bundle is a team-adapted pricing system that can be billed to teams or organizations which includes all of the above mentioned with account management features and custom branding options. Next up, how does it work? Prezi is an easy to use template-based customizable presentation building tool that will allow the user to create presentations with the shape and appearance he or she desires. To begin, create a Prezi by choosing an artistic theme or template, then you can start filling in the textbox and you’re on your way. The software works like pretty much any other presentation tool, with the insert feature that allows you to insert images, youtube videos, PDFs and much more. you can then enhance your inserted content with a variety of image filters, special effects, animations, movement, etc. This sofware requires a level of understanding that surpasses the casual users so familiarizing yourself with Youtube Tutorials  may be necessary in order to use Prezi at its’ full potential. Because this tool has a lot to offer. A fun fact about this online software is that it has an image search engine powered by none else than Google.

Prezi has been given great praise both by online comunities as well as teachers and even by the BBC itself. They describe the presentations as a cinematic epxerience, relating to the zooming in and out shape that a Prezi presentation uses to navigate through itself. They explain how it is classroom and interactive board friendly as it was created with touch navigation in mind. Making Prezi presentations accessible in the public domain is another plus, considering the fact that students can simply be given an online address and consult it or that it requires no portable storage device for teachers because of the online storage feature. Prezi can be used during interactive classroom sessions or for group projects, it can help students and teachers alike organize their thoughts and present them in an original and creative way. Another impressive feature can be used to remodel an already existing PowerPoint presentation by importing it directly into Prezi without having to start all over. Prezi is an efficient tool because it can serve both the minimalist and the perfectionist. The minimanlist will be able to focus on the content of his presentation without worrying about the format and get an amazing result whereas the perfectionist may take the time to enhance his Prezi and play with the different modifiable features to get a personal and unique result.

However, some out there like author and public speaker Scott Berkun have a rather negative view of prezi. In his opinion, all popular presentation tools focus on slides while the focus should be on thoughts. Tools like Prezi may appear nice and fancy but they take away the main pupose of a lecture or a presentation, says Mr. Berkun. In his words:

There is no point in making a single slide until you know some of what you want to say, and how best to say it.[…] You will spend all your time perfecting your slides, instead of perfecting your thoughts. You will likely talk to your slides when you present, and not your audience, as you will have spent more time on the slides than you did practicing giving the talk itself. Sadly, I don’t know of any tool that guides their users properly towards how good speakers prepare.

Obviously, Berkun takes Prezi through the perspective of a public speaker,  as he is one himself, which is not so far from a teacher if you think about it. So his words strike home when he mentions that although Prezi can be a great tool in the hands of a skilled communicator, it remains a potential distraction from the content.  In his mind, Prezi attracts people who are more interested in the style rather than the substance of a presentation.

Regardless of all Berkun’s opinions, I believe that as an ESL tool, Prezi could be of great use. Students, especially younger ones, need visual stimuli to keep their attention on what is going on at the front of the class.  Prezi may be taking the focus away from the speaker, but at times that’s exactly what students need. Zooming and moving from place to place on the presentation makes for an interesting feature for young learning minds. This allows for bright, colorful and stimulating presentations that differ from dull and repetitive PowerPoint slides. I could see myself use this with my class to make interesting presentations on various topics, whether it be grammar lessons or simply going into the depth of a subject or for organizing a whole unit or chapter from the textbook. With Prezi’s vast posibilities I could make lessons into themed visual adventures, making it more than just words and concepts on a slide but actual visual progression into the topic. I could aslo see this as a tool for collaborative research project for students. Say they have to create a timeline of historical events with information and images related to these events. With the use of Prezi, they could setup a fluid timeline that would jump from dates to dates and zoom into them for a closer look at the relevant information.

Presentations are all in a day’s work for a teacher, this much goes without saying, and let’s face it, one does not have all the time nor the skill in the world to create the most dynamics of presentations. I believe that with a tool like Prezi, any adept of technology can play with the tool without too much trouble and leave the format to the software and concentrate more on the content to make visually stunning presentations in less time. I recommend the tool for teachers as their personal presentation building tool as well as a good way to introduce students to creative ways to present ideas.

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