There is a new presentation tool out there called Prezi in which two-dimensional space is used to organize and present information. In contrast PowerPoint can be thought of as a linear presenter – one slide after another. Here are two examples of presentations that might be useful to an educator – Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and Web 2 Tools and Mathematweets. To use a Prezi just pan to something of interest and then use the scroll wheel to zoom in. The Bloom Prezi has all kinds of links to cool thinking tools. It made me feel the same way I feel about mathematics. There is just so much I don’t know. This time about Web 2 tools.
The example Prezi’s were very impressive so I decided to try to create one that organizes the material in our Precalculus II course which I will be teaching next term. Here is what I came up with. This Prezi is fairly crude for several reasons. First, I am not a good draftsperson. A second and more important reason is that it is impossible to use the Prezi editor with a pen-enabled tablet PC in any natural way. (I am addicted to my Fujitsu Lifebook.) Another is that using and editing frames is not intuitive. I keep wanting to put a frame around a bunch of objects but apparently you move objects into frames. I also avoided dramatic pans and rotations just like I avoid most fancy animation tools in Powerpoint – too distracting. Hmm, I wonder if I am being old-fashioned. Our modern video-gaming students just might be attracted to such trimmings. Anyway the other reason things look so sloppy is that I just cut and pasted some of the images from my lecture notes which I produce with Microsoft OneNote. The upshot of all this is that Prezi’s do not have the sophistication I need and are hard to use in real time- at least given their tutorial help videos.
Speaking of OneNote, I use it for most of my coursework – lecture notes, in-class quizzes, tests and anything else I need. Here is a screenshoot of my current OneNote homepage.
In my classes I need a presentation tool that allows me to use the Socratic method since I want to create a narrative filled with questions that we explore together. I need to be able to cut and paste quickly and to write with my pen anywhere on the screen. For our Mathematical Perspectives class as an exercise I created two Powerpoint lectures and as I stepped through the slides I filled in various blank spaces with digital pen calculations . I could do this because I was giving a lecture as opposed to a teaching session. For a talk where one knows exactly where one is going, the linearity of Powerpoint is not much of a drawback. I can even imagine myself adding a blank slide in the middle of the talk if I needed to. Right now OneNote is meeting my needs fairly well. I can edit on the fly, prepare links and images beforehand and cut and paste easily. OneNote also records audio. As soon as I can get a mobile microphone, I will be producing complete lecture notes save my grimaces and gestures. Also I could probably pan and zoom in OneNote like a Prezi if I was coordinated enough to use gesture input. I intend to spend some time training my fingers to make correct screen navigation moves.