I find more and more to love about the Prezi platform with each passing day. Like how its constrained design choices make it difficult to commit aesthetic sins in a presentation, or how it rewards good choices by making connections between concepts all the clearer. But until today, I had never really had opportunity to try the group editing feature. After today’s experience, I don’t really see me using any other presentation tool for student projects.
The details of the particular project that my students are using Prezi for can be found here. It’s a good idea for a project, if I do say so myself, one that I adapted from previous years to make use of a week of pre-break time (I’m about two weeks in front of all of the other chemistry teachers in terms of getting through the course), and various computer tools (a mobile macbook lab) that I have at my disposal these days. Last year, the kids worked on it in the library, and made a big poster and a small poster. So this year, it seemed the time to make things deeper was nigh.
I really only decided to have the kids use Prezi for the presentation design because of all of the time that I have spent with the platform recently for my own AP Biology work, and the degree of fluency that work has given me. I know how to make a Prezi like the back of my hand at this point, and it has been my experience that most kiddies have never even seen the tool in action, much less actually used it. Indeed, no student in Honors Chem knew about it today, until I had them sign up for free accounts. Very soon thereafter, they couldn’t get enough of it.
Like I said above, I really wanted to put the synchronous group editing feature through its paces, and I have to say that it surpassed my expectations for usability. Essentially, one student creates the presentation and then invites other editors. This generates a URL for the presentation that the other students can use to access, and edit the presentation. Each student’s cursor is represented on the Prezi as a cute little cartoon avatar, and the work they are doing is only seen when they are done writing, scaling, etc. It’s a very polished interface, that complements the very polished interface that Prezi is already providing in the design window. The ease of creating a presentation and inviting other editors alone makes the entire endeavor worth my time. It’s even easier to get kids going than a Google Doc. All they need to do is sign up for a free account, work through the tutorial, and they’re off. A maximum of ten synchronous editors are possible—though why more than four would ever be needed in a student group is a bit beyond my ken. The synchronous editing URL stays active for 10 days from the time of its creation.
Obviously, all groups had to send me their presentation URL, too. This way I can hop on to the shows at will an offer “constructive” feedback as I feel it is needed.
So, Prezi win’s again. There are certainly a few obvious features that I would like to see in the platform (image cropping, permanent grouping of elements, and more flexibility with media formats are obvious lacking features), but really I have a hard time understanding why anyone is still using slides for anything at this point. I like the platform so much, that I ponied up the $60 subscription fee for the educator pro account so that I can make mine offline, as well as online. And given the previously discussed response to my AP Biology Powerpoint translations, I don’t see me moving off the Prezi fanwagon any time soon.