Prezi, PowerPoints, and Shadow Puppets

BackgroundI am in graduate school 12 years ago and I’m rushing for a deadline. I was very new to using PowerPoint at that time. In the midst of preparing for a classroom presentation I was stumped about transitioning a few slides when my then second grade daughter breezed into the room and plopped down in the seat next to me and began to work on my PowerPoint. Problem fixed and she skipped away.

That’s what I love about PowerPoint. It is professional enough for an adult and easy enough for a 7 year old. I’m still a big fan of PowerPoint but in the twelve years since I have tried a few new presentation programs. A recent one I have used is Prezi. If you are wondering, Prezi is the Hungarian word for presentation. The original designers of the program are from Hungary. Imagine that!

Prezi is a cloud-based presentation and storytelling program. Here is the link to get you started. If you aren’t familiar with Prezi, it starts with a main page and you zoom into different features of the program with your mouse. But beware. It’s 3D and if you are one of the people who has to close your eyes during an IMAX movie then this style of presentation may cause you some dizziness. (Or if you are bothered by the Disney Soarin’ ride at Epcot, then you may want to stick to PowerPoint.  Yeah, I may be speaking from experience here. Sweaty palms, eyes closed, dizzy, and near panic attack.   Nooooo, not embarrassing at all.)

Here is a sample Prezi about the characteristics of gifted. Have fun with it. Zoom and Soar…. but come back. There is another program to see.

Powtoons is an animated presentation program for business and education. It makes animated presentations – not like cartoons – but with moving graphics. Check this out:

Both Prezi and Powtoons have tutorials and options for learning the program. If that fails, ask your seven-year-old because they will probably be able to troubleshoot for you like mine did. Or if ALL else fails, go old school low tech. I sometimes am reminded of the 1964 book by Marshall McLuhan called the Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. This book is where we get the phrase “The Medium is the Message.” He points out that the media is the focus of study, not the content. And, he says that the medium can alter the message we are trying to convey. I couldn’t agree more.

Are we losing the connection between teachers and students with our high tech emphasis? If I want students to connect with my message, how do I know if they have when everything is delivered via computers? I’m missing my feedback mechanisms of facial expressions and responses to questioning when I give up my personal interaction.  Am I not better with a bunch of shadow puppets on the wall to deliver my message if I have to forgo my opportunity interact with my students?

It’s a fine line to walk to enable our gifted students to be competitive with technology without losing the human interaction which they so desperately need. I implore teachers and parents to never forget how valuable they are as the medium. Using presentation programs are a wonderful part of instruction, but they should be used with you, the adult (or presenting student), up front facing the participants interacting and monitoring as the information is delivered. When used in this way, I believe it is a win-win. Students can then learn through an interesting presentation but with a caring adult there to support them. The perfect mix for students to soar!

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