Instead of using Popplet, for the past month my 8th grade Social Studies classes have been using Prezi. Prezi is a (mostly) free presentation program that students are beginning to use across the country. You can find it at: www.Prezi.com. My 16 year old sister is using it at her high school in Connecticut. Given our new technology I decided to try it in my classroom. It really streamlines and provides more opportunities for presentations.
Here, at Bronx Green, students must complete an exit project. An exit project assess their abilities to complete research over a period of time, generate questions, answer the questions, read and write nonfiction and to speak and listen as they will be giving and participating in presentations. We started with content at the end of February for about 2 weeks. Then, students wrote a proposal, generated questions, researched, answered the questions, drafted a research paper, edited and revised the paper, reflected, created citations and generated a Prezi.
Students were given packets that organized all of these steps based on their readiness levels. They were also allowed to research any WWII topic that interested them. For example of the packets, please visit: https://sites.google.com/site/msgiblinsclass/the-exit-project
While Prezi is not available for editing on the iPad it will be soon (hopefully). One can still view and host presentations via iPad. The iPad was monumental in the conduction of research. Its way of organizing sites made it easier and faster for kids to pull different sources at once. Kids were excited to read these articles. They were excited to do the research, even though I put a ban on Wikipedia and Answers.com.
Prezi is free for the basic option but I wanted my students to have more options. So, we made them student emails. Having a Computer Lab & teacher that specialized in technology was monumental. Thanks, Mr. Little! It was also a great life skill to learn how to use email and access different websites.
We used a rotating schedule to get the Prezi’s done. The reality is, that not all of our kids have laptops or computers. I gave up lunch periods, after school, made Saturday appointment and communicated via email after hours to address all of their needs. So many kids were invested that it made it hard to pull myself away. Teachers were also very supportive. Everyone was on board and it made and 8th grade wide project well received by families, as well. Parents were calling and emailing to check on their students and ask questions. For some, this was the first time all year.
Prezi was definitely a success. However, there were plenty of lessons to be learned. Some kids are just more tech savvy than others. I had to differentiate for technology which is an incredible study in itself. Kids that normally do not function well in class, were invested. They are these computer/ mechanical thinkers whose needs were no being addressed. They held their own workshops on how to use the program. On another note, kids who excel in linguistic settings were incredibly challenged. It wasn’t just the writing they had to do but present, create visual support, audio or video support and design. It was painful but nice to see them step outside their comfort zone. Next year I would have an informational for parents to get familiar with the process. Also, now that I’ve been through this I will have the necessary documents ready such as policy use papers etc. I did a lot of last minute collecting of papers!
We start presentations this Thursday. Right now we are publishing our reflections and doing final touches.
Here are some Prezi presentations for your viewing pleasure: