Archive for February, 2012

Preziphile

If you are searching for presentation software that goes beyond the basics, Prezi may be just what you are looking for.  I am so drawn to both its visual appeal and its organizational features.  It is less linear than PowerPoint or Keynote, and my first attempt at using Prezi reminded me of concept mapping.  I felt forced (in a good way) to consider how my ideas were related, rather than marching through my thoughts in a typical straightforward progression.

Prezi was created by an architect, who found a zoomable interface useful for his work since it enabled him to look at both “the big picture overview of a floorplan and then zoom into the details of individual rooms.”  Now, this zoom feature is available to us all. It is possible to visualize the overall organization of your presentation and then to zoom into more detailed points.  It is simply genius!

After seeing Prezi for the first time, I became a bit of a Prezi evangelist, telling anyone who would listen about this internet treasure.  My students bore the brunt of my excitement.  Apparently, I made enough of an impression that a few of them were willing to try it for their 1st semester presentations.  I am delighted to highlight some of their work below.

The first Prezi is titled “Odd Ways of Reproducing.”  This student not only took full advantage of Prezi’s ability to help presenters create artistically stunning visual aids, but she also picked and thoroughly researched a fascinating topic, parthenogenesis. Her research of parthenogenesis prompted her to consider how scientists have tinkered with mammalian reproduction.  Thus, she ended by detailing how scientists generated mice with two fathers.  It generated an interesting discussion, with students realizing how further technological advancements could someday allow same-sex couples to have biological children.

The next Prezi is on Alzheimer’s disease.  This student did a nice job of challenging herself to explore the cellular changes associated with Alzheimer’s.  Her drive to understand the disease originated from her own family’s experience, so she also emphasized the personal nature of the disease.  An interesting YouTube clip featuring an elderly couple’s experience with Alzheimer’s enhanced her own discussion.

The potential for neural implants to address the needs of patients with spinal cord injuries is the topic explored in the next Prezi, created by one of my students with a strong interest in technology.  I enjoyed his presentation because, as a biologist, I have long been intrigued by the potential for stem cells to replace damaged tissues.  However, I had never explored this entirely different approach to spinal cord injury.  His presentation looks very clean, and I like how he organized it in a way that shows the progression of research in this field.

The next Prezi focuses on bioethics, exploring fetal reduction.  This student used Prezi to make a nice flow chart to describe the procedure.  She also created a simple illustration of a balance that neatly displays the common reasons why women explore fetal reduction as an option and where they are weighted in her opinion in an ethical hierarchy.

Finally, this last selection is a Prezi designed by a true artist.  She organized her main ideas onto different branches of a tree.  She is an animated student who verbally presented a vivid description of what it is like to experience sleep paralysis as a hook to capture her audience’s attention.  Coupled with the stunning visual aid she generated in Prezi, it was certainly effective!  Each year, I have at least one student who wants to learn more about sleep patterns, a topic that is relevant and intriguing to high school students.

I give these students a lot of credit, because Prezi does take some getting used to.  Intrigued enough to make a presentation of your own?  The Prezi site’s tutorial was enough to get me and my students started:

Admittedly, it took some fiddling with the actual software to become proficient.  Fortunately, it is fun!  I couldn’t stop playing with it for nearly a week, at which point my sleep deprivation finally slowed me down.   I plan on using Prezi to present at an upcoming faculty meeting, and I am excited to have another software option in my teacher’s toolbox to create engaging presentations.  If you haven’t gotten enough, you can also view my own Prezi below.