To Prezi or Not to Prezi...

Presentations are synonymous with teaching, especially during the NCLB era when I got my teaching credential. Without question, PowerPoint was an unspoken tool that every teacher needed to be competent in. So naturally I used PowerPoint all the time for my direct instruction. During my student teaching, however, I began to get bored with PowerPoint. My presentations seemed repetitive and boring to me, which  would mean it was incredibly boring for my students. I started desperately looking around for new templates, themes, backgrounds, anything that would jazz up my PowerPoints.

Around that time, I had a classmate use this interesting presentation tool that was so fascinating. It would zoom in and out then flow from slide to slide. In all honesty, the information itself wasn't that interesting, but I was engaged because I wanted to see what would happen next. At the end of class, I found that it was Prezi. I forced myself to learn how to use it and tried using it a few times for lectures, like for Mexico or Inflation, or credential classes. It really didn't become a habit until my first year of teaching.

One of my main struggles, just like any other teacher, was and is engaging my students. My first year the focus was Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) with some Common Core mixed in. Since there were content benchmarks every three weeks, it was necessary to use lectures to deliver content and information to students. After about a week, naturally students grew tired of the repetition of lectures done on PowerPoint. On top of that, I had a large amount of ELs (English Learners) and RFEP (Redesigned EL students) who did not benefit from the lectures since English was a struggle for them. At the time deviating from the expectation of EDI was not possible so I needed to modify and decided to implement Prezis.

Like me in college, my students were immediately engaged with Prezi because of how visually different it was. As they watched, mesmerized by the movement, they began to absorb some of the information I was discussing. I didn't want them to become bored with Prezi so I constantly used different templates, which thankfully were updated every so often. As a result, students were eager to see what I had in store each day. To ensure they were actually enjoying it, I had students write a short answer on a quiz explaining whether they preferred Prezi or PowerPoint and why. Without a doubt, every student preferred Prezi, mostly because it was new and something different.

My hope was that the 'exciting' style of presentation would engage a few of my struggling ELs, simply for it being colorful and something different. I didn't expect the predesigned layouts to help my ELs understand the concepts much more. I defaulted to using these layouts mostly to save myself time and students began to take notice and ask questions about why I chose that layout.  Once I started doing it on purpose, I observed that my ELs, and other students, started to have an easier time understanding the information when they saw it organized in a logical order. For example:
This layout helped my students see that this 'radical' Reconstruction of the South helped African Americans break through the surface and start to get rights. 

One important aspect of Pearl Harbor was the use of radar, which if it had been of a higher quality could have changed the course of history.

With putting aggression of totalitarians on the left hand side and appeasement on the right, students were able to see how these two ideas differed and how they interacted together during the 20th century. 

One key point of the Arms Race in the Cold War was the significant growth in the amount of nuclear weapons, which is perfectly demonstrated in this layout. 
The success of my students, especially ELs, was noticed and my principal asked me to show the other teachers Prezi and how I was using it in the classroom. Unfortunately, not many tried using it because it seemed complicated and hard to use. Thankfully, Prezi has come a long way in the last few years and is now easier to use than ever.

So if you are asking yourself whether to prezi or not to prezi, then I'm here to tell you...PREZI! It takes an adjustment at first to get accustomed to the new controls and tools, but Prezi has an awesome Support Page. but I ensure you that it is well worth it, for both you and your students. Besides, the best way to learn is to jump in and just to do it :)


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