Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

New tool: Prezi.Com

A success story for you.

I wanted to give my students an opportunity to use their laptops to synthesise information from a brainstorm and wanted to get them to learn a new skill for something relatively easy so that we could utilise the tool for something more difficult later. I chose Prezi as the tool that we would learn. Prezi.Com creates a presentation that is very different to the linear nature of PowerPoint and gives students the opportunity to think more about visual techniques including reading paths and hierarchies of importance.

The lesson went very well and being such a positive experience, I decided that it was a tool that was going on my list of good ideas and useful tools. Here is the process we followed:

  1. I created a Prezi (prior to the lesson) and showed it to the students so that they had a demonstration of a possible end product.
  2. On the Interactive White Board (IWB) we went to the Prezi.Com website and I showed the students the first two YouTube videos available under the Learn tab on the website.
  3. Students then signed up and created an account of their own and began creating Prezis – it took only a few minutes to sign up.
  4. Students worked on their prezis and once satisfied with the finished product, gave the link to me and it was posted on our Moodle page so that everyone could look at each other’s work.

Here are two examples of the students’ finished products:

Some tips for the new user:

  1. Students will have to sign up and create an account before they can use it. The good news is that there is no requirement to activate the account through the email address prior to being able to use Prezi, which means they create their account and can then start creating a Prezi immediately, and they don’t need to worry about using their DET email account or being able to access their email at school.
  2. The first two YouTube videos under the Learn tab on the website are very useful to show to the class. The first one you may even want to show twice, depending on the age of the class and their overall “savvy” factor.
  3. When they begin to create their first prezi, the first YouTube video begins to play and it needs to be closed (with the big red X in the top right corner of the video) before students can start creating their prezi. On the DERNSW laptops getting to that big red X can be difficult.  You will need to close two or three of the toolbars at the top – look for a little “x” on the far left of the toolbar and click on it, then when the dialogue box comes up, click on”Disable”. That may be enough for some laptops, but for others I had to autohide the toolbar at the bottom of the screen as well in order to see the X so that we could close the video and students could start working on their prezi. To autohide the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, right click on the toolbar, choose Properties and from the options tick Autohide.
  4. Getting the URL from the students for their prezi was a little tricky as they were wanting to copy and paste the URL from the top of the page. This is the WRONG one! The student should go into My Account and click on their presentation. On the bottom right hand side of the dialogue box that opens there is a URL written there with the words COPY LINK written next to it. If you click on the copy link button it acts like you have highlighted the link and clicked copy, now you can choose paste in either an email, onto a word page, etc and the link will be pasted there. I had students paste the link into Edmodo and I copied it into our Moodle page from there.

Following my experience I would also make the following recommendations:

  1. Take the time to either create a model or find one on Prezi.Com to show the students. It helps them to understand what it can do and what you want.
  2. Allow plenty of time to show the YouTube videos, have them sign up, deal with any difficulties such as the toolbars needing to be closed, etc before they actually start creating the prezi. I allowed two lessons in total (50 minutes each lesson) and there were still some students that didn’t quite finish and will be completing them for homework across this week. I have a fairly savvy class and the prezi was only simple that they were required to make, so you may need to allow more time than this.

Prezi.Com was a success with my Year 10 English class and I shall be using it again with other classes I am sure.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning, Web 2.0 tools | , , | Leave a comment

Learning from Failure

I had a reminder again today about how important it is to be flexible as a teacher. I would like to add to that and mention how important it is to be flexible when planning to use technology in your lessons. Let me tell you a tale.

As you can see from my previous post, I had an idea and sought advice as to how to implement my idea. It was simple.

The Idea:

My class would collaborate, discussing themes from a text they had just studied (Twelfth Night), looking at key ideas and which of these could be seen as Universal Themes, relevant to a modern audience, brainstorming to create an entire list to work with.  They would then look at the idea of appropriation, defining the term, and exploring how they could utilise the universal themes to create an appropriation of Twelfth Night.

The Plan:

The brainstorming process would take place digitally, to save time. Usually I would have everyone grab eight or so different textas and write all over the whiteboard with the students then copying down the results in their books afterwards. Considering this is a Year 10 class and they all have DER laptops I decided to find a way to brainstorm and record results digitally, saving time and utilising their laptops.

First idea was to use Google Docs – blocked. Wallwisher – blocked, but you can have it unblocked for a specific closed version but I did not have time to set that up. I looked at a few other programs and then found one called PrimaryPad through a blog called Free Technology for Teachers. Primary Pad did exactly what I wanted and it wasn’t blocked. I set one up, tested it, everything worked, so I put the link for our PrimaryPad discussion onto our Moodle page ready for the students. Then, knowing how things sometimes don’t go as planned, I created a wiki on our Moodle as a backup in case the Primary Pad thingy didn’t work, and placed that on their moodle page too.

Next step in the plan was to have students create a presentation with Prezi.Com to synthesise their ideas. I created a quick prezi myself as a demonstration and then placed the link for the demonstration and Prezi.com on their moodle page.

The Reality:

One student didn’t have her laptop as it was in for repair and there were none left in the pool to replace it, one student’s laptop just would NOT connect to the internet, one student’s trackpad/mouse wouldn’t work. Well, only 3 not working right out of 28 ain’t bad.

Primary Pad kept disconnecting from their server with a “server synchronisation” error. After five minutes or so of countless attempts by all in the class, I figured this was a compatibility issue with the DET server and all its numerous layers of permissions. So we went to Plan B. We opened the moodle wiki, only to discover that only one person could have the edit page function open at a time. Kind of defeats the purpose of a wiki in my mind and definitely did not meet our needs, but nothing I could do about it at the time. Plan C – we got textas and brainstormed on the whiteboard and then the students copied the information into their OneNote notebooks. They have a section for Appropriation in their OneNote notebooks for English so I told them to just use that – please take note that thinking on one’s feet does not always allow one to be creative (they had mindmapping software on their laptop for goodness’ sake and I didn’t get them to use it!).

Part two went well! My prezi loaded and played for them. I played the YouTube demonstration/instruction videos to the class, they went to the Prezi.com site, signed up and started creating! I did have to go around to at least half the class and close tool bars and autohide tool bars in order for students to be able to see the X at the top right hand of the movie that kept trying to play over top of their first prezi. Once we had taken care of that though, we were all systems go.

Lessons learned:

  1. Just because the DET internet filter says that something is “allow” doesn’t mean it will work. Check it first. At school.
  2. Your definition of a wiki and someone else’s definition of a wiki may not be the same thing. Also known as “one wiki is not always the same as another”. Now I couldn’t really check this one by myself because it needed more than one person logged in to check it, but I could have checked it utilising another member of staff, had I done this preparation at school and not at home. So, check it first and start preparation earlier.
  3. Have a backup plan for your backup plan.

In future:

  • I am going to try to create a shared OneNote page for a “brainstorm and record” activity. As you can’t set one up from a DER laptop, this means setting one up from the staffroom ahead of time, ready for the class to use.
  • I would also like to have a go with Wallwisher so will try setting one of those up in advance and having it unblocked.
  • The students have Freemind on their laptops so I could get them to create a mindmap rather than just typing results of verbal brainstorm into OneNote.

On the bright side, the students REALLY enjoyed using Prezi.com and overwhelmingly said it was more interesting than using PowerPoint, was fun to use, made them think about more elements of visual literacy than using PowerPoint and they learned how to use it quickly and with little fuss or teacher instruction required.

Moral to the story? Learn from everything, failure included, and above all – be flexible!

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning, Moodle | , , , | 7 Comments