The Prezicast was a challenge for
some. For example, most students
wanted absolutely no verbal mistakes
in their recording, and for some it
took a dozen tries to get it right.
Make sure you let kids know that
a few “ums” and “ahs” in the
narration is not a big deal.
Still, the Prezicast is an effective tool
for student learning. I noticed higher
levels of engagement compared to an
essay assignment earlier in the year.
This impression was borne out
in student feedback. One student
wrote: “It was not the old long essay,
but a new way to learn things, and I
had fun while I made it.”
Another added that it was much
more “creative and interesting” com-
pared to typical assignments. A few
students highlighted the fact that
Prezi is so visual that it helped them
understand the material and convey
it to the audience.
Seth Blodgett, my teaching partner,
agreed that the students were enthusiastic about the project and achieved
greater understanding of the material
compared to years past. Finally, students seemed to have a sense of ownership with their Prezis that they rarely
felt with essays: “A Prezicast can show
more understanding of the topic because you are explaining it with your
own voice and words,” a student said.
Prezi was especially effective at helping students organize the material, both
in the prewriting stage and the creation
stage. Typically, students can have difficulty organizing their wide-ranging
notes into a streamlined essay, but using
Prezi at the early stages to collect the
notes, assemble them as evidence, and
even manipulate their location on the
Prezi made this task easier. One student
wrote that the Prezi allowed him “to see
the visual relationship between different
objects and topics,” and that it helped
him organize his “paragraphs” better.
Students often struggle to wrangle large
amounts of notes into a tightly structured essay, but the screencast made it
a smoother transition between notes,
ideas, and expression.
Prezicasting now has a place in my
toolbox to help students develop their
perspectives on an issue; craft a persuasive, supported argument; and convey
it to others. In this case, thinking about
the essay in a new way increased student
engagement in the process and helped
with their organizational abilities. I will
not abandon the essay, but I see the
Prezicast as a complementary tool that
approaches the same goal from a different angle: advancing students’ abilities
to get their points across.
The author would like to thank his middle school
colleagues, Seth Blodgett, Mark Burpee, and Pete
Dohrenwend, for their help with this article.
— Justin P. Jacobson teaches eighth grade social
studies in Tokyo at the American School in Japan.
Read his class blog at blogs.asij.ac.jp/ss8jacobson.
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