PREZI SYNTHESIS PROJECT
Type of technology: Online presentation software
SAMR Model Rating: Redefinition
Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: English
Description of the lesson taught:
- Background and Enhancements
In the 9th Grade PLC recently, we decided after having students learn to write summary and critique, we’d have them take the next step: synthesis, where writers incorporate two or more articles into their argument/critique.
The unit was based around the “Homework Issue” raised so powerfully by the movie “Race to Nowhere.” Students read a variety of articles supporting and contesting the “no homework” movement, and watched a selected clip from the movie. I decided that rather than craft another essay, students instead would use an innovative new presentation tool called Prezi to marshal resources and make their case. Another tech integrator, Brittany Rosenberg, piqued my interest in this new cloud-based presentation software. Rather than present material in a linear sequential fashion, Prezi allows for more visual variety and verve. Prezi, it turns out, is snazzy.
Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:
Prezi “employ[s] a common tool palette, allowing users to pan and zoom, and to size, rotate, or edit an object. The user places objects on a canvas and navigates between videos, images, texts and other presentation media. Frames allow grouping of presentation media together as a single presentation object.
Think of an educational poster, say, of a riparian ecosystem. Information about all the zones and wildlife is represented as a tableau on the plain of the poster. Prezi works like that. Rather than presenting discrete slides one-after-the-other in Power Point fashion, Prezi allows an overall picture with zoom-in layering, so the final product has depth rather than length.
I was initially hesitant to assign a big project without knowing all of its capabilities. But I wanted to go ahead feet first and seize the opportunity, because our current unit lent itself so well to this platform.
- The Assignment
I sought the guidance of my colleague and fellow tech integrator Brittany Rosenberg, who walked me through the basics of Prezi. Armed with a rudimentary understanding of Prezi’s navigation system, I crafted an assignment. Groups would need to come up with a thesis, create an introduction and several clusters—each presenting a separate aspect of the thesis, much like body paragraphs do—and a conclusion. Students would be responsible for incorporating a variety of visual materials into their presentations, such as charts or graphs, videos, text boxes, and photos. All students would be responsible for the intro and conclusion, and each student would take charge of a specific cluster.
I carefully chose student groups of 4 to work together. I wanted to include a “techie” in each group, as well as a student I knew I could count on to keep things rolling and get things done. A few students would have trouble focusing on an extended project, and I wanted to place them carefully with students I felt could encourage them without sacrificing their own time and quality. (In fact, I solicited and spoke to the “mentor” students individually to request their services.)
I handed out the assignment:
III. The Process
RESERVING THE LAB: Unfortunately, making a Prezi on an iPad is very limited compared to making one on the computer, so I reserved the computer lab. I scheduled a week, which seems like a long time, but I wasn’t sure what the project would entail and wanted to give us enough time. As it turned out, we needed it.
PREP: Before heading to the lab, I took a few days in the classroom for prep. Groups had to determine a thesis and assign roles to each student. I also checked out the iPad cart for a day so students could at least familiarize themselves with Prezi. I showed them a presentation created by Brittany Rosenberg, and I also showed a Ted Talk to demonstrate how animated and coherent they needed to be while presenting.
MILESTONE CHECK: I required each group to submit an outline stating their thesis, the subtopics each student would cover, and the SPECIFIC media each student would include in his or her own cluster. I asked that this outline be submitted on GoogleDocs halfway through the project dates, so they could first search around to get an idea of the kinds of media that would support their claims. The outlines were all over the place in terms of information and specificity. In retrospect, I would create the outline as a Google Doc with categories and specific criteria, and have students fill in answers, for a more uniform milestone check.
SUPERVISION AND ASSISTANCE: This was a labor-intensive process. I had to be available to answer questions, help students troubleshoot, connect groups that had answers other groups were seeking, etc. I also had to constantly oversee quality control issues…students needed to access reliable data and materials from reliable sources.
WORKS CITED: Students were responsible for including a Works Cited page in their Prezis, so they had to remember to keep close track of sources.
- The Product
PRACTICE: I offered groups a chance to perform in front of the class as a dry run, with feedback offered by both teacher and peers. This worked exceptionally well:
The presentations were surprisingly good. Some were outstanding. Even the most basic presentations looked fresh and informative. Students used my computer (could use iPads) to present, so they faced the audience while the Prezi was on the big screen. Here are some examples:
- The Rubric
I’m a fan of rubrics that describe the ideal in the criteria box, then simply grade along a continuum from poor to excellent, rather than including a descriptor for each score. I find the more detailed rubrics too limiting, and they never quite fit exactly what’s going on in the paper or presentation. Additionally, using EDU rubrics precludes being able to highlight different boxes for the same criteria, so this simplifies the process.
Students were graded on content, quality and substance, variety, and presentation style.
- The Feedback
When the project was completed, I asked students for feedback. Here’s their advice and commentary:
- Have students “share” the Prezi with the teacher immediately, so the teacher can supervise and monitor from the get-go.
- Have definitive checkpoints and deadlines for certain tasks. (I hesitate on this, because sometimes process is recursive. However, I could give a range of checkpoints and require that a certain number be completed by deadlines, rather than dictating what is due.)
- 5 days in the lab is enough, but no additional homework should be assigned during the project so students can work on it at home.
- As a platform, Prezi was frustrating at first, but students figured it out quickly and liked it better than Power Point, on the whole.
- Students suggested we use Prezi on a very small project earlier in the year, for practice, before jumping into a large, complex project.
- Try to have students present with real-world applications, to make it more meaningful and real. This could be as simple as presenting to another class.