Because our middle level learners are ready for more independence, age-appropriate challenges, and they crave mastery of skills, we need to teach them differently. Middle level learners need to spend less time memorizing content and more time developing skills. They need to imagine more, choose more, produce more so that they like school more. A skill-centered curriculum, using content as a vehicle for skill development, is the future of middle level education.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Prezi and Skill Development

If you want your students to be excited about planning and creating well-organized and effective summative assessments, all the while developing deep thinking and communication skills, teach them Prezi. This “power point on steroids” presentation platform does more for student skill development than anything I have ever seen. Everything a student produces with Prezi has the potential to be poetry, essay, and painting; the process of building a Prezi exercises all the organizing, writing, and symbol creation abilities we want our young thinkers to develop. When they construct their presentations in Prezi, you get to watch them show their knowledge, their creativity, their independence, and their command of metaphor with enthusiasm.

Prezi should be in every classroom because of the skill development it affords students. The organizational components are similar to those in essay or Powerpoint planning; every lesson a teacher has ever given in outlining is applicable to Prezi construction. So as students are planning the progression of content delivery in a Prezi, they are developing their argument construction skills.

But Prezi’s innovative value is at the next layer of organization: at the visual representational level. The use of color, proportion, spatial relationships, and narrowing and expanding frame of reference (Zooming!) all cultivate abstract thinking skills and reinforce the idea of the visual power of message delivery.  A teacher who wants to develop expository writing skills in students can work on the fundamentals of creative writing (metaphor) and rhetoric (persuasion) at the same time. As I have played with it, the metaphorical possibilities in message creation with Prezi reminds me of free verse poetry or abstract painting.

Helping students cultivate their ability to understand the effectiveness of message delivery on multiple levels fosters communication and expression skills we want in our kids. The kicker, however, is that these are skills that students love to exercise when they have technological and visual components. Because choice and detail are such important elements of student ownership of project, offering that in the midst of an exercise in organization is brilliant. PPT brought us a ways from the essay, but Prezi “Zooms” kids to a whole new level of engagement in their own skill development.

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