Multimedia and presentation tools

In this post, I hope to explore, learn and consider the implications for teaching and learning of online presentations tools.  While the list includes such web services such as Google Earth, Animoto, and Voicethread, the focus for this blog will be on Vuvox,  Slideshare, and Prezi.   Before this assignment, I didn’t know anything about these last three tools and had only seen a Prezi created by another student and one created by a colleague.  At the time, I still clung closely to Power Point as my preferred format for making presentations but after rolling up my sleeves to watch how-to videos and demos at each of the sites, I now see some of the limitations of choosing only stills or only videos.  I’m not suggesting that these forms of presentation don’t have a place, because they do.  The issue, I’ve learned, is that for those participating in Web 2.0 content creation, the demand for ever more dynamic tools has grown.  This idea is articulated by the CEO of Vuvox in the following You Tube clip:

Getting Started:

I began my learning by trying to understand what is meant by a mashup.  I’d heard the term used in the context of popular radio and video but didn’t really fully understand it.  I turned to Ellyssa Kroski’s, Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals.  She explains that. “One of the primary principles being espoused by the new Web is the notion of developing technology and content in a manner that can be reused by others.” (2008, p. 183)   She continues, “A mashup is a hybrid Web application that combines two or more distinct sets of data and functionality from separate sources, blending them to form something new.” (2008, p. 183)  Questions immediately came to mind about content creation and copyright.   For now, I want to share my exploration of these multimedia tools in an effort to understand how I may use them, how my students may create with them and what they may do for professional development.

The first step:

My exploration of these tools began with Vuvox.  I went to the site and looked at several samples in an effort to understand what this tool did.  I have to confess that I didn’t like it at first and was frustrated by my inability to control the speed of the slides.  I also found clicking on the little plus sign to open another box, frustrating, but I persevered.  Eventually, I got the hang of it and created a free account which was easy to do.  Click here to see a simple slideshow I created.  The creators of Vovox have a demonstration video on You Tube which explains the purpose of the program, how it came to be and how creations can be shared.

There are three options for creating content in Vuvox and I started with the “express” option as it was recommended in a how-to video about this tool.  I chose to use flickr for my photos and uploaded images for viewing in the public domain.  I created a flickr account earlier in the fall when we began exploring photo sharing.  Again, I used mostly landscapes and shots where kids were not identifiable.

This software is not difficult to work with as long as you follow the steps and are patient.  Once I saw the end product of the creation process, I had to try another right away.  For the second product, I chose photos of the flooding that devastated our area.  Once I had them uploaded, I went back to look at the steps required for the express creation and saw that I needed to create a “collage” in order to embed audio and video.  I would have liked to have added commentary to the slideshow of the flooding and am learning the collage process now.  There is much to learn to reach the mastery level of these web applications and while I’m not there yet, I’m on my way and enjoying the journey.

At first, I didn’t see a use for a tool like Vuvox on a personal level.  As I mentioned near the beginning of this post, there were little things that frustrated me.  However, after spending time playing with it, I found myself wanting to do more, try other options for creating, and sharing aspects of our life here with a wider audience.  The flood in June of this year, for example, was a significant event for our community and to have been  part of the conversation about people’s experiences, would have been very moving.

My kids are quick learners of online applications and have taken to playing with them like true naturals.  As an aside, my daughter told me how frustrated she was that I wasn’t “getting” Prezi, but more about that later.  A tool like Vuvox has huge potential for their creative minds whether for sharing with friends on Facebook or school work.  I see how it appeals to their creative side.

In my teaching, Vuvox can be used to summarize learning, be taught to students so they can showcase their learning, as well as be that hook at the start of new unit.  Inquiry can be ignited with a rich, multi layered visual that reflect the personality of the creator.  With the increasing presence of Smart Boards, web tools such as Vuvox can be embedded into Notebook lessons further enriching 21st century learning experiences.

In our PLC, I will be part of a group sharing our experiences with Web 2.0.  I will be make a presentation on Vuvox (as well as the other web 2.0 presentation tools), sharing my learning of it and demonstrating it and encouraging my colleagues to try it.  With the majority of us teaching part time in classrooms and being part time library designates, there are a lot of choices in the curriculum for applying a tool like Vuvox.  Sharing our learning about technoloy in small group sessions, keeping it low key and reminding people to take small steps as they try these tools is, in my opinion, an ideal way to share, collaborate and encourage integration of technology.

This is another interesting presentation tool with potential for teaching, learning and expression of ideas on a personal level.   When I began exploring presentation tools, this one was completely new to me and I have to say, after viewing some of the presentations on the Slideshare homepage, I wondered how this tool improved on power point or keynote presentation software.  I was very glad to view the You Tube clip featuring Charles Ansorge, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Nebraska who shed a lot of light on this particular tool.  His presentation can be viewed here:

Professor Ansorge filled in several gaps in my learning and answered questions that the site didn’t seem to have answers for.   Generally, when an application is new to me, I seek out the demo videos and the how-to clips on the site’s home page.  While I found some of the slideshare presentations thought provoking, they left me wondering about the creation side of the equation.  Here is an example for sparking inquiry:

What Michelangelo can teach us about innovation

Professor Ansorge explained that the features of that make it interesting for businesses and educators is the ability to archive presentations.  Since it is a public service (no privacy settings), it can be easily shared and accessed with an internet connection.  Like the traditional power point, the slidehshare product can be a mixture of text and images.

As a collaborative tool, teachers can upload presentations and students can comment on them.  Academic discussion can take place on the site thereby being shared by all who participate.  This improvement takes the static slideshow style presentation and makes it dynamic and engaging.  As educators, we want to engage our students and improve student learning.  This tool has the potential for doing just that.

From the point of view of professional development, Slideshare can be used in a professional development session and be accessed after the session is over.  Dialogue among educators can take place on the site, supporting and expanding the learning of the participants.  In our upcoming PLC session, I will present this tool as well and share my experience of working with it.   It is my hope that conversation will result and colleagues at all levels will want to explore the potential of this tool.

Creating a free account was easy to do a  Once you’re in, you click on “upload” to bring your powerpoint or keynote presentation into the Slideshare service for conversion.  This took a few minutes and the first time I tried to upload a keynote presentation I made with my freestyle skiing son, it didn’t convert.  We wondered if it was because we had embedded six video clips into the presentation.  By involving my son in the process, I was hoping to spark his interest in creating with this tool (I think he will have a go with it again).  He is an avid Flip video user and had many clips of his freestyle skiing.  It was fun to work with his content but when the keynote presentation was uploaded, the video clips on the last slide didn’t work.

How to get started freestyle skiing

I was disappointed when I tried to edit the uploaded version of the presentation, but couldn’t.  This means that whatever you create, you need to be absolutely sure that it’s the way you want it.  It’s quite unlike our blogs that can be edited and improved anytime.


Learning how to navigate in Prezi reminded me of driving.  You have to learn how to turn, zoom, and stop.  It took me quite awhile to figure out how to finesse my way on the Prezi canvas without become frustrated by apparent free will zooming and sliding of the software.  Of course, it wasn’t the application but the user responsible – sometimes it takes me a bit to figure things out.  This is where my daughter expressed her frustration with me.  Like an Italian Nona, she took my cheeks in her hands and told me what she thought.  We actually had a great time exploring this presentation tool, side by side on our computers.  Here’s how this came about:

I had been trying to work with Prezi for a few hours and wasn’t making headway when I showed her the tutorials on the site.   Like a duck to water, she started to create her own  Prezi related to a trip she is planning for her school.  Of course, she completed hers while I was still uploading images into mine.  I love watching her work intently and play with the options such as font, colour and directional arrows.  I’ll include both prezis here:

Prezi – welcome to our library

My daughter’s prezi

My impression is that she will create with Prezi again in the future and share this application with her teachers and classmates.  With clear directions provided in the tutorials these kids are effectively teaching themselves and then sharing with others.  How wonderful!  Learners who are self-starters!  A footnote here is that while she was creating her Prezi, she was communicating on Facebook with the girl who supporting her efforts to organize this trip.  Talk about 21st century learning, creating and collaborating!

One of the cool things about a Prezi presentation is how dynamic it is.  It has the ability to hold the viewers’ interest (hopefully mine will do that) and that the message of the Prezi will stick in memories better than a presentation made in another, less dynamic format.

Since this is an online tool, it can be displayed on an interactive white board.  It’s also possible to go back through the presentation and highlight areas for further discussion, zoom in and focus attention on particular parts.  In the case of a PD session, it can be accessed after the fact by participants who have the Prezi link and an internet connection.   There are frequently cartoons about the perils of power point presentations where the entire audience is asleep in their chairs and Prezi, I believe could be the solution that keeps people on the edge of their seats and engaged.  Again, we want to ensure that students are engaged experiencing improved achievement.

I think students would be engaged by this format of presentation, perhaps even more so than the others I’ve looked at.  Perhaps not all students, but if one of our goals is to differentiate instruction for our learners, then what better way than an online tool that appeals to those wishing to create in this medium.  One of the challenges though is not to make the viewer nauseous.   Prezi can also be uploaded to a web page or blog which, for our purposes is brilliant and for students blogging in their classes, is also perfect!  They are creating, mashing and continuing the cycle.

As I wind down my discussion of these tools, I want to insert a link to another professor whose presentation I watched and was thankful for having the chance to consider his expertise in digital learning and the culture of participation.

Raising the digital generation: What parents need to know about digital media and learning

He describes what participants in web 2.0 are doing:  sharing, mashing, recreating, and sharing again.  It’s a cycle that repeats constantly on three different levels.  Professor Jenkins explains that there are those who “hang around”, those who “mess around” and those who “geek out.”  These three levels he expresses in a pyramid structure with the geeks at the top.  They are the ones seeking information and others who share their interests.  He adds that kids today live in a “transmedia” environment where they are constantly making choices about where to navigate, what to share and what to create.  They need to learn how to be ethical and consider the bigger picture of their digital footprint.  This is powerful learning that is mostly taking place outside of classrooms, after school hours.  If we are going to be effective educators, we need to understand their communities and participate ourselves to fully understand how kids are learning outside of the four walls of the classroom.


Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom: teaching in the new media age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Kroski, E. (2008). Web 2.0 for librarians and information professionals. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc (Charles Ansorge, U of Nebraska)

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3 Responses to Multimedia and presentation tools

  1. tlkirsten says:

    Hi Anne,

    I’m glad you tried out Vuvox, as while I did look at it, I didn’t get a chance to explore it thoroughly.

    “sharing aspects of our life here with a wider audience.” – thanks for this!

    “I wondered how this tool improved on power point or keynote presentation software” – me too, but yes, it’s the sharing and commenting ability.

    Great prezi examples and uses from you and your daughter.

  2. Debbie Trees says:

    Anne – Loved your prezi for introducing the library, and I think the kids will enjoy it as well. Such a fun tool to use and create with too. Sure makes you think differently while creating – challenges us to think outside the box.

    “Academic discussion can take place on the site thereby being shared by all who participate. This improvement takes the static slideshow style presentation and makes it dynamic and engaging” – Definately appreciate this quote re: Slideshare. Why would we want anything other than dynamic and engaging in the classroom? Of course we want discussion and dialogue, so I guess we shouldn’t put the kids to sleep first, huh?! 🙂

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