Earlier this month Prezi announced the winners of the First Annual Prezi Awards for best prezis of the year. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of Prezi, and I use it for almost all of my presentations. Unlike the slide-after-slide approach of PowerPoint, Prezi presents the user with a blank canvas. Once that canvas is filled, the user can pan and zoom around the canvas to show both details and big picture during a presentation. Prezi allows one to use spatial arrangements to convey meaning, something that’s much harder to do in PowerPoint or Keynote.
That’s why I was disappointed to see the winner of Prezi’s “Best Educational Prezi.” The winner, Animas da Amazônia by Guilherme Criscuolo, is certainly pretty, featuring beautiful images of animals of the Amazon and making use of Prezi’s 3D background effect, but it’s not much more than a PowerPoint slide show, one animal after another. Spatial arrangements aren’t used to convey meaning, except in a couple of small ways. Zooming out to see the entire prezi shows all the animals in one big scene — some in the river, some in the trees, some on the land — which gives a very rough sense of what the ecosystem look like. And there’s a nice zoom from a toucan to a tree frog that gives a good sense of the size difference between the two animals. Otherwise, the presentation is a really attractive example of style over substance.
Prezi can be used to much greater effect, using those pans and zooms (and the occasional rotation) to help the viewer understand concepts and the relationships among those concepts. See, for instance, the winner of the People’s Choice award, a company overview from the Polish Institute of Electrical Engineering, and its use of panning and zooming to explain the features of the hollow insulators the Institute manufactures. Or check out the prezi for Ian Beatty’s 2012 Lilly Conference keynote, which is structured as a giant concept map on the topic of physics education research. Or the prezi from my workshop on “Students as Producers” at the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching last year, in which a series of examples of teaching practice are plotted on a set of coordinate axes.
I believe that there are educational prezis out there that do a great job of using spatial arrangements to convey meaning. And I aim to find them.
Chris Clark at the University of Notre Dame’s Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning has proposed that the first week of February be Presentation Makeover Week, challenging readers to create a presentation with no text, incorporate new (to you) active learning strategies in a presentation, or try a new (to you) presentation tool, perhaps including Prezi. In honor of Presentation Makeover Week, I’m running the First Annual Agile Learning Educational Prezi Awards, with the goal of showing just how useful Prezi can be as a presentation tool.
Between now and January 31st, I’m accepting nominations via this Google Form, and I’ll announce the winners, chosen by me, the first week of February. I’m looking for educational prezis that leverage the visual thinking tools provided by Prezi — that wide-open canvas, the pan and zoom, maybe even the rotation — to convey meaning and aid understanding. Bonus points for the use of visually useful images, but the spatial arrangements are key here. Nominate yourself, a friend, a stranger, I don’t care. And the prezi doesn’t have to be one published in 2014; any prezi created before today, January 22, 2015, is eligible. The winner gets… a round of applause and bragging rights. I have no prizes to give away.
So submit your nominations for the First Annual Agile Learning Educational Prezi Awards, and spread the word about this completely unofficial competition on Twitter or your favorite social network. And check back here on the blog the first week of February to see the winners!