September 2015
Melanie Jipping, Tokyo International University of America, Salem, Oregon, USA

Prezi: No More Death by PowerPoint

More often than not, final projects in speaking classes include student presentations. Listening to 30+ students read off their PowerPoint presentations is enough to induce any ESL/EFL instructor to death by PowerPoint. Although highly effective in aiding students in organizing and presenting their topics in a visual, linear manner, PowerPoint leaves much to be desired as the platform of choice for finals week. As listening and speaking teachers in the 21st century, we ought to seek innovative ways for students to complete presentation projects. Enter, Prezi.

Professionals in the field may use Prezi for their own presentations, so why not teach students how to use this wonderful tool? In a study on Prezi, Brock and Brodahl (2013) discovered that listeners found presentations given were highly engaging. Here are seven major reasons to teach students how to use Prezi:

  1. Prezi is technological and can engage next generation learners.
  2. It’s flexible, allowing students to seamlessly add YouTube videos, images, music, and hyperlinks to presentations.
  3. It’s creative, with endless possibilities for presentation canvases.
  4. It’s sharable, and students doing group presentations can access them in the cloud.
  5. Prezi is visually interesting, partially because it curbs the need for text-heavy slides common in PowerPoint.
  6. It’s easy to use, and once you get the hang of it, it’s fun!
  7. It’s confidence-building because students are learning an appealing platform that allows them to represent their individualism in a technologically current manner.

Although some opponents of Prezi cite the zooming feature (the ability to zoom into a frame of text/images) as detracting from presentations or even inducing nausea, I have yet to experience this with my students’ Prezis. The zooming feature could be likened to animation in PowerPoint. Once students realize that the overuse of animation and/or zooming features is annoying, they typically use them with moderation. Another stated drawback to the use of Prezi in the past was the user’s inability to print or save Prezis onto a computer. However, this is no longer the case; it’s now possible turn your Prezi frames into printable pdfs. After you have installed Prezi software onto your computer or tablet, it is easy to download a presentation to avoid being dependent on spotty WiFi. Conversely, having Prezi in the cloud means students can email their instructor links to their Prezis, making the presentation day student-search-for-USB-sticks obsolete.

Giving students the gift of Prezi can aid them in confidently presenting on a variety of topics. My low-intermediate international college students have successfully presented on topics ranging from family, their favorite artist, planning a road trip, and comparing and contrasting international Cinderella stories. From my experience guiding students in their Prezi projects, I recommend starting out small. Give students a quick tutorial by modeling a Prezi in class and set them off in a computer lab with a very doable, easy project, such as “share your favorite color.” Have volunteer students informally share their favorite color Prezis at the end of class. Then, follow up with a homework Prezi speaking assignment such as “introduce a family member or friend.”

Here is an example of one student’s Prezi on his spring break: and another student’s Prezi on her favorite artist, Banksy. By the end of the semester, my listening and speaking students were having fun creating Prezis like pros, and my final day of class projects was much more enjoyable for everyone.


Brock, S. & Brodahl, C. (2013). A Tale of Two Cultures: Cross Cultural Comparison in Learning the Prezi Presentation Software Tool in the US and Norway. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research. 12, 95-119.

Melanie Jipping is currently a senior instructor in the American Studies Program at Tokyo International University of America in Salem, Oregon, USA, and has taught at a variety of institutions including other liberal arts–based programs, intensive English programs, and community colleges since 2003. She is currently the TESOL HEIS Newsletter book review editor.