Prezi is a Flash based presentation tool that is a cross between concept map and slideshow. You can create the map of your topic and then set up the presentation by establishing a path, the order of viewing different parts of your map. I like Prezi because it’s very kinetic in the way it moves around from one part to another. You can change size and orientation of different elements to make Prezi zoom and tilt. I think this is stimulating to the audience and helps hold attention.
You create Prezi online or with an application with a paid account. Prezi has a free limited service that is online only and your work is publicly viewable. You can also get an educator account that will give you more storage and privacy. The main feature of the $59 per year Edu Pro account is the Prezi Desktop application allowing you to work offline.
Prezi is different in a lot of ways and this is most noticable when you create your first Prezi. The user interface is very different from every other application I have ever used and it takes some time to learn. However, once you get the hang of it, you will work a lot faster. There is Learn tab on Prezi.com, use that to get started, learning this on your own will be difficult.
When it comes to presentations, pictures are a must, video clips are better. I use both. Video is nice because it can give you a break from speaking to take a drink or check in with your students. You can upload pictures and video to Prezi with the insert tool. Prezi will allow JPG, GIF and PNG picture formats and now most common video files as well. (FLV, F4V, AVI, MOV, WMV, F4V, MPG, MPEG, MP4, M4V, 3GP) This expanded support for video files other than Flash (FLV) is a relatively recent development. You’ll want to be careful about the size of your videos since Prezi limits storage. Also, the larger the files in your Prezi, the longer it will take to pack up and download for offline viewing.
You can also paste in the url of a YouTube video and Prezi will automatically embed the video into your presentation. Although, this can be problematic if you download your Prezi for offline viewing. No Internet connection, no YouTube video!
Capturing Online Video
If you are like me, you don’t always have Internet connectivity. When I use my laptop for a presentation I need hook up an Ethernet cable. That is one extra thing to do and a great way to have your students break your laptop by tripping on the cord. So, I download my Prezi for offline viewing. As I noted above, this will break YouTube embeds you might have in your presentation.
To get around this, you can download videos that you want to use in your Prezi. Insert the video file into your Prezi and it will be available offline. Below are some examples of tools you can use to capture video that is embedded on a webpage.
PwnYouTube – This site offers a few easy ways to download video including a Bookmarklet. I’ve used this a few times and it works pretty good.
Savevideo.me – Advertises support for lots of video sites.
Tips & Tricks
I have a few suggestions for using Prezi in the classroom. The biggest tip I’d want everyone to know is that you can download your Prezi for offline viewing, even in the free version. You never know when the Internet will cut out on you, so having the whole thing on the local drive can be a life saver.
Create a concept map with structure. I need to do more of this. In fact I’m going to spend my summer rearranging my presentations so they have better structure.
I always hated being tied to the front of my classroom next to my computer when giving presentations. I bought a presentation remote and I love the thing. I have had to do without my remote on a few occasions and I didn’t like being without it. Try using one and tell me you don’t like it or that it isn’t worth the $40 or $50 you spend. I really like my Kensington remote, it is simple and reliable.
When giving presentations from a laptop, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t go to sleep on you in the middle of you show. That’s where Caffeine comes in. Caffeine is an application that prevents computer from sleeping: get it, Caffeine? Anyway, there is a version of Caffeine for Mac and PC. The Mac and PC versions are published by different developers, while I can vouch for the Mac product, the PC version sounds like it does the same thing.
Prezi has an iPad app for viewing Prezi, ’nuff said?
If Prezi just isn’t cutting it for you, please please please don’t go back to PowerPoint. Howard Rheingold has a big list of alternative presentation tools. Check it out.