Using Prezi, you can create a visual classroom without succumbing to death by PowerPoint. Its interactive features, zooming display, and creative options will enable your visual lessons to engage students without distracting them from lesson objectives. With all those bells and whistles, Prezi might sound complicated, but it’s actually quite simple to use. Read on, and I’ll show you how to use this innovative tool.
Before we look at how to get started with Prezi, let me explain what exactly it is. Like PowerPoint and Keynote, Prezi is presentational software — but that’s where the similarities end. Prezi is Flash-based and enables you to “fly” through content, meaning you can zoom directly to the topic you wish to cover without flipping through several unrelated slides. With Prezi, you can embed articles, videos, images, and other multimedia without worrying about poor Internet connections or bad links.
Photo credit: Leif Bryne
The first step is to visit the Prezi website and click the “get started button”. Next, choose your desired plan. Prezi is educator-friendly, offering teachers a free option if you sign up under an email address associated with our institution. I always choose the free option, but you’re welcome to select a pricing plan depending on your technological needs and budget.
Once your account is set up, you will be able to start a new Prezi. Prezi offers an array of templates, or you can create a blank Prezi and start from scratch. Unless you are design-savvy, I recommend using one of the templates in order to keep your focus more on the content and less on the design. You’ll find that Prezi templates show relationships between items metaphorically, either as part of a map, a pyramid, or even as breaking news. No matter what subject you teach, you’ll find a themed template to match.
As you can see in the image of my Prezi below, I tried to show how distance education has progressed through the years. I used a stepping stone metaphor, with each stone being a point in distance education history.
After you’ve selected a template, the Prezi website will take you to the editing page. If the template isn’t exactly what you need, you can click on the “customize” option at the top of the page to tweak colors and fonts. You also can select the frames you want for your text on the upper left side of the page. Choices include circles, rectangles, brackets, or no frame at all. Your decisions at this stage will depend on how you’d like your Prezi to look.
The left-hand side of the page resembles PowerPoint’s slide sorter, and it’s where you’ll begin when customizing the flow and content of your Prezi. On the bottom left, you can click on the “edit path” function to see how the Prezi will fly through each point — called “path points” — on the presentation.
If the path isn’t quite what you’re after, select a path point and move it to your desired location. Pick any line along the path of your Prezi to add another stopping point or an additional stopping point on a single path point. You can also delete a path point by highlighting its associated slide, then clicking the red X in the upper right-hand corner of that slide. Click anywhere within the Prezi canvas to add a bracket or text box.
If you’re familiar with PowerPoint, these functions won’t be too terribly difficult to master. In fact, I find them easier to use than PowerPoint.
When you arrive at your template, you’ll notice that Prezi directs you to the overall view of your presentation. This helps you see the big picture view of your topic. Now it’s time to think about path points.
From the slide sorter on the left-hand side of the page, click on the path point you wish to edit, then click on the “insert” option at the top of the page. From here, the possibilities are endless. You can keep it simple and just start typing some text. Embed an image from a file or from a collection of stock photography. You can also insert shapes, YouTube videos, content from your other Prezis, arrows, highlighting, music, voiceovers, PowerPoints, or even a document.
I like that I can borrow from my own Prezis and other lesson materials, because it gives me a single space to keep all my lesson materials together. Again, if you’re familiar with other presentational software, you’ll find this step is rather easy to accomplish. Once you’ve completed one path point, you can move on to the next in the same manner.
Now that you have completed your Prezi, it’s time to preview it. Click on the “preview” button at the upper left to examine how the Prezi will look to your students. When you’re satisfied with the result, you can share it with others, much like you would in Google Docs, by generating a link to the Prezi that you can access directly from any location. This is ideal if, like me, you do a lot of planning from your home computer. You can also download it to your computer as a PDF, or even share it on Facebook.
Like much of the information on the Internet, the content you’ve created on a Prezi isn’t permanent. If you plan to update your Prezis each year, you can click on the “edit” function and walk through the same editing process as before.
As you can see, Prezi isn’t terribly difficult, and if you already know presentational software, you’ll find the transition to Prezi to be quite smooth. The differences are really in the outcome of the presentation, not in the creation of it. If you’re looking for a simple, creative alternative to PowerPoint, you should check out Prezi. Used effectively, Prezi can reach visual learners in a creative, interesting way.