Prezi is cloud-based presentation software for exploring and sharing ideas on a virtual canvas. It is a powerful plaform for bridging linear and non-linear information, and as a tool for both free-form brainstorming and structured presentation. As such is is a powerful tool for allowing our students to formatively develop their understanding of the Science Process.
Traditionally students would have tracked and recorded their investigations using paper, which while being a very powerful medium, is not dynamic and it does not provide animation, real-time feedback that facilitates a capacity for continuous expansion. If a student 'messes up' on paper, they either have to try and 'fix' it without ruining it, or ... start again... with ICTs this process is not only painless, but actually helpful, as it facilitates the feedback process of using assessment for learning.
In the Grade 4 'In the Mix' unit students gradually developed their own Prezi over the course of the unit.
So, after the initial weeks of guided enquiry, we wanted to find a way for the students to be able to effectively present their understanding of the Science Process as a result of their class investigations.
For this unit I also wanted the teachers to free from the 'tech' and focus on the Science, so I utilised a model of teaching the students to teach each other.
We used what we call the 'Techsperts' model, I ran one sessions per week at lunch time, and invited 3 to 4 students from each class to attend. These students in tun become the 'experts' in their respective classes, effectively coming the 'teachers' for the specific tool.
Integration of ICTs into this process allowed for more dynamic teaching, and more importantly, they allow students to show what they know in non-traditional and non-linear ways that more closely approximate the actual steps that are critical to a Scientific investigation, and the reasons why they have to happen in a rigorous sequence.
Prezi was an ideal choice to allow the students to formatively record and ultimately present their understanding of the scientific process, and easily incorporate images to document their inquiries, something which would be far more difficult on paper.
In addition, the fact the Prezi is 'cloud based' allows the students more:
flexibility - not tied to one platform/machine
real time collaboration
ease of sharing (eg, emailing a keynote/PowerPoint is fraught with complications)
Finally often the fully featured programs like Keynote are usually overly complex for what we need as educators, the problem with these programs is they are so feature full that kids get lost - distracted/confused by the 90% of what it can do but they don't need. Prezi (and other cloud based presentation tools) focus on doing the 10% of what we actually need/use.
An especially powerful aspect of the work in this unit was teaching the students to take advantage of a feature known as 'Embedding'. This is a technique whereby a student can copy some HTML code and 'embed' it into a post on their class site.
This facilitates a powerful process of peer sharing, as it is now a relatively simple matter to view, reflect and formatively assess all the class Prezis in one place.