Prezi Educators Society Guest Column: Engaging Students During the Summer

Summer classes can be tough places to engage students, and even tougher online.

Students have so many other things to be doing and even more distractions than during the traditional school year. My job was to help them make their class a top priority.  Prezi helped me engage students in ways that surprised even them.

This summer, I taught Media & Society, an undergraduate general education course that serves as an introduction to our Communication department for majors and improves media literacy for all students.

We get to do fun things like watch Bollywood movies and analyze Old Spice commercials, but we also introduce terms such as media ubiquity and homophily.

The Prezi lectures for this class were first developed when I began teaching Media & Society as a face-to-face course, so Prezi was integral in the course development. I was still figuring out how to best use the technology and was able to make them a bit more coherent over time.

From that foundation, I became very conscious how information flowed. Students online are even more visually attuned than students in a standard classroom.  The material is up close and personal. I fine-tuned how images looked from all levels of zoom.

Beyond just the visual, students still needed the verbal explanation I give in the classroom. However, technology access in rural areas involves limited bandwidth. Students obviously have to have decent Internet access to take an online course, and the course already includes a high volume of YouTube clips, images, and links. But, I chose not to add audio lectures to prevent uploading problems in remote parts of the state. Instead of audio, I added short text blocks in between images throughout the Prezi, preferably no longer than three sentences each. More frequent, shorter text blocks worked much better than long passages.

Eastern Kentucky University uses Blackboard as the base for online courses. I divided my six-week course into six units, each with a link to a Prezi “lecture,” a Discussion Board, and a unit test. The student’s interactivity with Prezi led to more lively Discussion Boards, and I believe, more student engagement. 

This summer, all students who started the course, finished it. I follow an achievement model of grading rather than a bell curve, meaning students have to reach high benchmarks to earn an A rather than earning grades based on the performance of their peers. Half my class earned As, and none failed.

Here’s what my students had to say: 

“I've had teachers that just use PowerPoint which is so boring compared to Prezi. I like having visuals, videos, and audio examples while I'm shuffling through the slides.”
“I want to extend my thanks for all the work you put into making this a very engaging and enjoyable class. I’m actually a little disappointed it is over already.”
“I liked using Prezi because it is easier to engage in and retain the material. Prezi breaks the information down into different sections. Seeing all information in a PowerPoint can be overwhelming and hard to remember. All the mass information when you feel like you are just reading for a long time. Prezi being interactive helps you be more interested in the information and gives you a better overall view for everything you need to learn.”

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Ginny Whitehouse is an associate professor of Journalism at Eastern Kentucky University and a Cases and Commentaries editor for the Journal of Media Ethics. She teaches and researches in the fields of social media ethics and online privacy. If you want to see more on how she uses Prezi, you can check out her profile: http://prezi.com/user/ginnywhitehouse/ You’ll find her summer online course prezis and prezis for her face-to-face class. 

Five Ways to Present with Confidence

Whether a student or a professor, your ability to engage your audience is crucial. It may determine your grade, what your end of semester evaluations look like, or whether or not your startup, well…starts.

Engaging your audience begins before you speak, and then transitions to the opening of your presentation. Your opening often determines just how much of your presentation the audience will “tune in” for.  

If the first impression the audience has is “B-O-R-I-N-G” there is little chance of the presentation being a success.  

Other students are not your competition, and it's not other professors. It is smartphones, social media, websites, and every other distraction out there.   

Drawing your audience into your presentation is not important – it is crucial. Doing it before the perfunctory “thank you for having me” and “Hi, my name is” will work wonders, and there are a number of effective ways you can do this.  

Try one of these five openings prior to your next presentation:

Silence Yes, silence. A pause, whether two seconds or twenty seconds, allows your audience to sit, and quiet down. Most audiences expect a speaker to begin immediately – an extra pause brings all attention right where you should want it – on you.

Ask a questionrhetorical or literal. When someone is posed with a question – whether or not an answer is required – that person intuitively answers. Be careful – if you are asking a literal question of your audience, make it non-threatening and basic. The idea is to draw your audience in, not to alienate anyone.  

A Statistic –  Not a boring statistic. When presenting your case, look for surprising statistics, a powerful statistic, or a personalized one. Then focus on using this statistic to answer the following question, “Why should my classmate/professor care?”

“Look to your left. Now look to your right. One of your classmates will ___________.”  

“In this room, after graduation over 90% of us are going to choose to work in _________. And that decision won’t just matter today, it will matter when we retire, because it means that  ______% of us will ______.”

A simple image reflecting the statistic, just sitting on the screen as you begin to address the statistic, can also generate a reaction.

A  Statement A powerful statement, left to hang with a pause, is very, very effective. Inspirational locker room speeches often start this way, as do inspirational political speeches (when they occur). It can work as an opening for a startup or for a business presentation as well.

Again, a clean, clear image supporting the statement, or even a path point with nothing but the statement, can powerfully accentuate your message. I have seen this done very effectively using the tools available from Prezi.

A Quote  Name a topic, and more often than not there is a quote that suits your subject matter perfectly. There are countless apps that can provide a quote in a tight timeframe, and again, there are many tools available via Prezi that help to accentuate (and not overtake) your quote.

These are only five of countless ways to begin your presentation without saying, “Thank you so much for having me, and today I will be talking about ABCDEF….”  

Which one will you try?


About the Author: Matt Eventoff, owner of Princeton Public Speaking, is a communication and messaging strategist. He works/has worked with leading multinational organizations, the U.S. Department of State, YPO-WPO (Young Presidents’ Organization - World Presidents' Organization) and has trained clients throughout the United States, Central America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Five Characteristics of the Modern Lecture

At SXSWedu, educators and edu-preneurs convened to discover and discuss edtech’s most promising technology. During the two-day LAUNCHedu competition, early-stage startup founders took to the stage to pitch their companies. Presenters used Prezi for memorable, engaging presentations, and audience members used Top Hat to submit feedback. The room resembled a 21st century lecture hall.

The modern lecture is defined by five characteristics:

1. Active:

Top Hat was built on the knowledge that the most effective learning model is an active one.

John Dewey, an educational philosopher, supported this vision long ago, “[Teachers] give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, or the intentional noting of connections; learning naturally results.

Because active learning is one of the most effective ways to maintain student engagement, modern educators are turning to technology to create engaging, experiential lecture classes. In addition, educators are using student devices to administer frequent student assessments, which has proven to boost performance in large classes.

2. BYOD:

The ubiquity of mobile devices, coupled with the growing standardization of bring your own device (BYOD) policies on college campuses, makes active learning possible regardless of class size. 89% of universities have implemented BYOD models, and one survey at Ball State University showed that 99.5% of students report owning a mobile phone. The Top Hat platform allows educators to take attendance, ask questions, collect feedback, start discussions, launch quizzes, and more. Students are able to participate in Top Hat activities using any mobile device.

As University of Maryland professor Jason Farman stated in his blog post A Manifesto for Active Learning, “Finding a way to incorporate this common technology can expand the possible ways students connect both in and out of the classroom.” He says that having found a way to leverage technology in his classroom has resulted in students far more engaged with course material than Facebook or Snapchat.

3. Has Feedback:

Deborah Murray, a professor at Ohio University, uses Top Hat for what she calls “check your understanding” moments. Professor Murray asks application questions and uses Top Hat’s Reports function to follow her students’ logic. As a result, she can see how students are thinking, what they are retaining, and can amend or revise any issues along the way.

Dr. Derek Bruff, a thought leader in classroom engagement and response, created an awesome Prezi that outlines the ways that technology supports student learning. He presented “More Than Just Shiny Objects” at Boise State’s Great Ideas for Teaching and Learning Symposium.  The feedback element is important, he explains, so that students can refine their activities. Watch the video to hear examples of how technology enhances the feedback process. One of these is formative assessments, which makes student learning more visible for the educators.

4. Democratic:

In today’s entry-level courses, enrollment can be several hundred students. Educators will encounter a mixed bag of introverted and extroverted students. Technology gives every student a voice and allows introverts to participate through a channel in which they feel comfortable.

Celine Mondry, an educator at Wilfrid Laurier University, uses student mobile phones to create an equal playing field in her classroom. Shes uses Top Hat tournaments as a gamified way for students to demonstrate their understanding. Students were able to show their knowledge of course material without having to raise their hands. Ms. Mondry often noticed that her introverted students had the highest marks on exams but would not earn the 10% participation mark. Now, she says, they are proud to see their names on the leaderboards!

5. Inspiring:

Lectures have evolved beyond the transfer of knowledge. The internet has transformed content delivery and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) threaten to replace the traditional lecture model. This is not to say that lectures will no longer exist, rather they will be one piece of an educator’s focus on collaboration, conversation, and mentorship. At a time when some question the value of a college education, in fact, it may be more valuable than ever before.

In a WIRED article on using technology to empower people, its author Margaret Stewart recalls a quote from “Godmother of Silicon Alley” and NYU’s Telecommunications Program (ITP) founder Red Burns, “Software changes. Technology changes. You are here to learn how to learn.

It is up to educators to create engaging, valuable lectures that inspire students and instill a sense of curiosity, empowerment, and purpose among your students. From Burns’ opening remarks to new ITP students:

Appolinaire said: – Come to the edge, -It’s too high, – Come to the edge, – We might fall, – Come to the Edge, – And he pushed them and they flew

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Learn More About Top Hat and our guest blogger Suzanne Holloway.

Introducing Prezi’s Conference Presentation Guide, just in time for SXSWedu

South By Southwest is always one of the most exciting events of the year—for ten days, thousands flock to Austin, Texas to enjoy everything from pitches and parties, to education technology and brisket. As one of the premier edtech conferences of the year, SXSWedu is the place for the coolest companies of the moment to make a splash and set the tone for 2014.

This year, we are thrilled that Prezi is the official presentation platform of the SXSWedu Launch Competition. We know, however, that these startups aren’t the only ones with career-making presentations on the horizon. That’s why we’re sharing the resources we used to help the some of the best startups we know craft jaw-dropping prezi pitch decks with the world. We have compiled these training materials, along with some of our favorite presentation tips and Prezi tutorials, into a one-stop online resource that we’re calling the Prezi EdTech Conference Presentation Guide. We’ve even included a few tools and tips to help you survive the chaos that is SXSWedu. Take a look–you might just find something that’ll take your presentations to the next level and help you be a great presenter.


Click here to visit the Prezi EdTech Conference Presentation Guide.

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Learn From the EdTech Winner of SXSW V2Venture Competition

At SXSW V2Venture in Las Vegas, dozens of entrepreneurs went head to head in a fast-paced pitch competition where each company had two-minutes to showcase their product or service. These entrepreneurs presented their early-stage company to a live audience of judges, investors, and industry professionals.   

The pitches spanned several categories, including Health Technologies, Mobile and Tablet, Culture and Entertainment, Innovative World, and Best Bootstrap and Best Speed pitch.  

Below is the winner of the Education Technologies category. Watch the Founder pitch using Prezi—and get some ideas and inspiration for your own winning prezi pitch deck!

Education Technologies—LightSail

LightSail's educational experts, seasoned technologists, and successful software entrepreneurs work to develop and refine Common Core State Standard-aligned products that address critical educational challenges with measurably effective strategies.


Nail Your Next Pitch: 5 Tips From Recent Pitch Competition Winners

As an ed-tech entrepreneur, you likely have several versions of a pitch that introduces, explains, and hooks investors to your offering. But how can you refine that pitch to produce the results your business needs?  

We talked with two seasoned pros to get their top five tips for companies pitching at the SXSWedu Launch Competition (powered by Prezi!). Whether or not you are participating in LAUNCHedu pitch competition in Austin, here is their advice for executing a great pitch – wherever it may be.

1. Summon the Right Energy

Successful start-up founder Liz Bohannon explains that when pitching you have to nail the energy quotient, “Not cheese-ball, used car salesman energy, but true authentic, I-want-to-be-a-part-of-what-you're-doing energy.”

Bohannon knows all about harnessing her energy to make an impact on stage.  Last year, after launching her successful fashion company, Sseko, she pitched it to an audience of VCs and Angels at SXSW Eco Startup Pitch Competition and took home the winner's trophy. Her on-stage success has helped her not only to build a flourishing business, but also to empower and enrich the lives of Ugandan women with Sseko’s unique business model.

You can watch her pitch here:


2. Make the Problem You Are Solving Relevant and Memorable

Bohannon says that, “In defining your problem, your audience should feel the pain.  Even if they've never thought about it before that very moment, you should have them thinking, ‘Yeah! That is the worst!’” This is because, “A solution isn't a solution unless it is meeting a need people actually care about.”

4. Humor Is An Excellent Additive

“In a sea of pitches, humor will make yours more memorable,” advises Jessica Reid, Chief Academic Officer at LightSail Education, an innovative literacy platform for grades K-12.  When it comes to setting herself apart — whether it is in a formal pitch competition or simply bumping into a potential investor while out on her morning jog — Jessica swears by comedy.  “I've made people laugh both times I've done pitch competitions,” she says, “and I truly believe this is the secret sauce, because I won both times—despite running out of time during each pitch.”

Watch Reid’s winning pitch at SxSW V2V’s Start Up Pitch Competition here: 


5. Do NOT Fade Out

“The last few seconds are arguably the most important,” Bohannon says, “as it will be what sticks with them when they walk away (and start thinking about actually cutting you that check),” Bohannan warns.  She suggests a simple trick: “Figure out what your overall voice is (inspiring, motivational, clever, powerful?) and make sure your last statement is a consistent and strong echo of that sentiment.”

For more tips on how to give pitches that will wow your audience, and for free, reusable Prezi pitch deck designs, take a look at ourConference Season Success Hub.