Prezi Zen for Open House Harmony

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The only thing I love more than Japanese food and standup comedy is a good presentation, so you can imagine my delight at Course 3’s videos on Presentation Zen and Death by Powerpoint. Actually, I may have just now overstated my preference for the aforementioned foods and performances. Nonetheless, I’ve always been a Harvard Outline Notes kind of guy. They’re neat, sequential, and got me through six years of undergrad and graduate school at Northwestern. As a teacher, I constructed my Powerpoints from Harvard Outline Notes, pasting a few bullets (only two or three, honest!) onto a slide. My only homage to design was a plain black background and single image per slide, both inspired by Steve Jobs’ product announcement Keynotes. Thanks to Matt Helmke and Garr Reynolds, though, I’m now a Powerpoint ex-con – someone no longer dealing death by Powerpoint.

I took several of Reynold’s Presentation Zen principles to make a Prezi for last week’s Open House, in an effort that has set the tone for all of my future lectures and workshops.

  1. Planning unplugged: I work out a lot – powerlifting, swimming, and rowing – and I used that time to organize my thoughts and come up with a layout.
  2. Focusing on relevance: I came up with topics that I felt were important to teachers, like the behaviors and skills that students need to succeed in my class and the specific, everyday indicators that would demonstrate that success.
  3. Sticky ideas: my ideas were very concrete, especially my examples of how we would know that students were being successful in history class.
  4. Noise reduction: I didn’t include number, figures, or specific evidence that parents could find in the syllabus. Instead, I expanded on those cold prescriptions and made a relatable document.
  5. Simplification: I’m a kludgy, inelegant writer, so it’s a minor miracle my ratio of images to text

Take a look at the Prezis – embedded after the break.

What would I do differently next time? I ignored three principles of Presentation Zen.

  • No handouts: I didn’t make anything for the parents to take home, although I suppose the syllabus sufficed for this
  • Edit and restrain: One draft, plus a few minor tweaks to fix the path, layout, and subtopic sizes, was all the revision I did. I could probably combine/remove at least one major topic in the presentations.
  • Be completely there: I feel like I was pretty hyper during open house, in that I was unabashedly enthusiastic, chatty, and casual. Yet while the kids definitely warm to this approach, I think some parents prefer a more reserved, traditionally professional teacher. I’ve got to learn to tailor my demeanor for different audiences.
Ancient World History Open House Presentation

Modern World History Open House Presentation


3 thoughts on “Prezi Zen for Open House Harmony”

  1. Matt, my Prezi and Google presentation were a lot less complex (not that yours are too complex). Thanks for the kill-two-birds-with-one-stone idea. I will try to Prezi more often because it’s fun.

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