(Finally) Playing with Prezi

People have been talking about Prezi for a while now, and I’m finally giving it a try. (I’m pretty sure Matt and Harriet used it over a year ago at TxDLA, so I’m definitely behind on this one. Oh well.) Below is my first whack at prezi for my eLearning Online Course Design workshop.

In the workshop, we basically we cover three main areas in this workshop: instructional design (the basics), learning objectives (and using the Goals tool in Bb Vista), and structuring your content (and using Learning Modules, Folders, and Selective Release in Vista). We spent a full hour (out of the two-hour session) on learning objectives, and I knew I’d made an impression when one of the participants came up to me afterwards and said, “This really goes against the ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ mentality that we’re all tempted to take, where we don’t work on our class until a week before we meet.”

Click to view prezi.

Lessons learned after using Prezi:

  • Limited design options (fonts, shapes, colors), but this keeps it simply and easy to use
  • I zoomed/focused a bit too much on each individual point. Useful sometimes, but other times it’s too much.
  • I like the ability to easily zoom out and focus on a topic discussed earlier, rather than having to find it in my sequence of slides then later trying to find where I am.
  • Definitely a time suck. Not on the scale of the Sims or Second Life, but set aside a couple of hours for you to explore.
  • This “non-traditional” presentation is definitely impressive. … At least to those who are not overly-tech-savvy.

Microlectures: A Constructivist’s Dream Come True

Here’s another emerging trend for you: Microlectures.  The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article on microlectures called “These Lectures Are Gone in 60 Seconds.”  Basically, one would create a microlecture in this fashion:

Take a 60-minute lecture. Cut the excess verbiage, do away with most of the details, and pare it down to key concepts and themes.

What always makes me laugh about these articles is that some expert always comes in at some point and enlightens us about the short comings of some trend.  Trends are not perfect?  Really?  I think the pedagogical limitations of a microlecture are obvious.  They are obviously not great for more complex subjects that need detailed explanations (but where you need a more detailed explanation of complex subject… why not still chunk that complex subject into smaller steps…  you know, to help people grasp them easier?).

The important thing is that by considering a microlecture, some instructors might actually see the bad pedagogy they have been using all along.  Because while it is true that some concepts are too complex for a microlecture, I would be willing to bet that there at least a thousand percent or more concepts that are not complex enough for a full lecture and get that treatment anyways.  I’m also an instructor from time to time, and let’s face it – we tend to have a habit of loving the sound of our own voice.

The article link above is also a great resource in that (at the end) it teaches how to create a microlecture.  The important thing to note is that a microlecture can be more than 60 seconds.  Also note point number 4 on the list  – this step is very important in helping students actively construct the knowledge they need.  The important part to remember is that the microlecture does not communicate everything the students need to learn… they still have to construct that later on their own.

What You Need to Know About Excellence in Web-Based Teaching

The Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology published an excellent article at the end of last year titled “An absolutely riveting online course: Nine principles for excellence in web-based teaching.”  My short time as an instructional designer has taught me that all of these principles are true.  Also of interest is how this article includes many research citations that support connectivism, social networking, and active learning.

I think I like the second paragraph of the conclusion better as a summary than the abstract:

It is not sufficient to be a content expert. Nor is it sufficient to be “tech-savvy”. It is not even sufficient to be an excellent traditional classroom teacher. Because the online world is a categorically different environment a particular blend of skills and knowledge is necessary if success is to be found in this domain.

This article a great way to introduce research-based facts for training on how to have a better online class.  I would show this article to anyone involved in the process, not just the instructional designer.