Prezi in my Classroom
In the last couple of years, I’ve become increasingly fond of the (largely) online presentation platform, Prezi – though what makes it most appealing for the Philosophy classroom has little to do with its most familiar presentation characteristics. Instead of all the zooming and panning, which is what most people know about the program, think of Prezi, for the person constructing a presentation, as a kind of super-intuitive substitute for HTML. It gives you an infinite Cartesian space in which you can easily put and arrange . . . almost anything – texts, markup, images, movies, music; you name it! When you put that flexibility and ease of use with the internet-based presentation capacity of the software, you’ve got a really powerful tool for teaching philosophy.
In fact, this combination of capacities has led me to use it for three different functions of my philosophical pedagogy; the equivalent of “idea lectures”, where I introduce a big idea through videos but also with supporting texts, still-images and links; introductions to specific thinkers, in which I do a better job of providing my students with historical context for their reading than I could when pressed for time in the classroom; and, finally, “annotated Prezis.”
These last are my pride and joy: they take on the function of actually “going through the text” — what college-level humanities profs find themselves engaged in for an ever-increasing percentage of classroom time. And they do this better than could the primitive and thoughtless technology we employ in sitting in a room and explaining a text! Really this last is not such a surprise, since Prezi allows me to capture and comment upon the text (inserted in PDF form) and add to that multiple short explanatory videos, audio and other material. Students can study material that goes by too quickly in the class. They can “listen to” difficult passages read aloud. And they can also actively participate in annotation, making their own marginal notes and highlights additional to my own. Indeed, in my courses, I’ve constructed a whole sequence in which I get students making ever more of their OWN annotation of our texts, either individually or in teams.