Saturday, March 19, 2011

Prezi-vangelist

Anyone who has had a chance to talk to me about technology for any length of time has probably gotten a glimpse of my distaste for PowerPoint. It's not that I don't like it as a tool, but I have some fundamental difficulties with how it has permeated our academic society.

I'm not alone in this opinion. Seems that PowerPoint has become an industry standard in many different disciplines, but it's not being used effectively. I have always railed against any type of visual that duplicates content or distracts viewers from the message of the speaker. To me, a slide showing what the speaker is saying is an invitation to read instead of listen. And if I'm going to read, I'd rather read a book, an article, or even the closed-captions on a television program (they're all designed to be read, rather than just looked at).

Even a well-done PowerPoint can muddle the message of an otherwise great presentation. What's the most important part of what's being said? What is the unified message? How do I remember the core concept that links everything together? After a while, every PowerPoint turns into a never-ending stream of bullet points, background themes, and images. I've spent hours putting together a non-linear audio-visual PowerPoint (for a school assignment), which would have been easier, faster, and more effective with a tool like Flash.

But I don't have time to learn Flash, or the money to drop on an application that I might never use frequently.

Enter Prezi. It's a presentation software, but that's where the similarity to PowerPoint ends. It's flash-based, but much simpler to use. How is it different? Take a look below, or browse around their site to look at some of the presentations published there.

The pros? Here's a short list:
1. It's free (and an upgraded account is free for educators & students).
2. It's easy to learn. Only a handful of commands can create amazing results.
3. It's web-based. You can't lose a copy, you can share easily, and you can even collaborate online.

The cons?
1. It is limited in some ways (e.g. you can embed videos, but you can't put background music)
2. The desktop editor is not free, so you've got to have web access to use it.
3. You can download the presentation to run without web access, but it is in a proprietary format. If it were available as a flash format, you would be able to embed it into your Smart Board notebook files.

Enjoy!
James.