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How to lecture like Steve Jobs (or Ashton Kutcher)

Jsteve-jobsobs, the new film documenting the life of Steve Jobs and Apple, will likely be one of the most talked about summer movies.

Perhaps best known for making personal computers popular with the Macintosh, “Jobs technology” has also enhanced animated films with Pixar, simplified music sharing with the iPod and iTunes, revolutionized communication with the iPhone, and modernized how we access information on the iPad.

Though Steve Jobs wasn’t at Apple’s helm during the 12 years the company established itself as the leader in educational technology in the 1980s and 90s, it was his vision that brought computing into the education mainstream, ed-tech leaders say.

(Next page: More on Jobs technology—and its impact on ed tech)

“For those of us who began our careers in education in the mid-70s, Steve Jobs, along with Steve Wozniak, brought to life the first glimpses of what would become educational technology,” said Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for academic and technology services at the Plano Independent School District in Texas.

Some ed-tech enthusiasts have accused Jobs of turning his back on education in favor of the much more lucrative consumer market. But Apple’s mobile devices are used by millions of students and have helped spark a mobile learning revolution.

For instance, iBooks was recently launched as a virtual bookstore where viewers can download and read more than 1.8 million books on their mobile devices. Some schools have begun implementing iBooks to cut costs on outdated textbooks and to meet the requirements for the Common Core State Standards–a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn.

While there is little doubt that Jobs technology has profoundly impacted sharing and receiving information, how does this technology improve the way teachers teach and students learn?

How can teachers better engage their students by using Jobs presentation strategies?

The Hungarian-founded website Prezi ( may offer a solution.

Prezi is free cloud-based presentation software described as having “the biggest impact on business presentation tools since Microsoft’s PowerPoint.” Prezi resembles a virtual blackboard used by millions of educators and students worldwide, with more than 27 million users in more than 190 countries, including millions of teachers and students. The site’s achievements have been featured in prestigious publications including TIME, Forbes, and The New York Times.

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“Rather than being stuck in a static slide, you can literally show the big picture, zoom in on the details, and then zoom back out again,” said Ashley Whitlatch, Prezi’s Education Evangelist and Student Ambassador Director. “The Prezi editor employs a common tool palette, allowing users to pan and zoom, and to size, rotate, or edit an object. The user places objects on a canvas and navigates between videos, images, texts and other presentation media. The beauty of Prezi is that it’s harder to explain it than to actually do it!”

Classrooms are increasingly using Prezi as an educational tool. Whitlatch shared its impact with a quote from Leticia Cavagnaro of Stanford University: “Prezi truly embodies what creativity is about: changing your perspective, connecting and combining ideas, thinking in non-linear ways, and creating in collaboration with others.” Whitlatch added: “Prezi isn’t just about making presentations; it’s about helping students, teachers, and parents become better thinkers and learners.”

Prezi seeks to revolutionize the educator-student learning experience through the following:

Engaging students through storytelling

Steve Jobs was a master storyteller who used stories to connect emotionally with his audience.

2D conventional classroom presentations are often outdated and difficult to retain students’ attention. Prezi’s zooming canvas offers interactive storytelling because it naturally shows the connections between all of the details–teachers can more easily tell the story of “how” in addition to just describing the “what” and the “why.”

Prezi has already received positive feedback from students. “All of the animations included in Prezi look really cool,” says Ashley. “Kids love it.”

Explaining both the big picture and fine details

Steve Jobs was famous for presenting the big picture vision of his ideas without neglecting the fine details.

Teachers have a big task of conveying complex ideas in a short amount of time, which is challenging to fit enough information into each slide. Often, teachers are forced to fragment data, charts, and diagrams by breaking them up over several slides, where the connection between them is lost. Using Prezi, rather than being stuck in a static slide, teachers can literally show the big picture, zoom in on the details, and then zoom back out again.

Making presentations more collaborative

Steve Jobs devoted a lot of time to ensure his presentations reached a wide audience. With Prezi’s shared virtual canvas, educators can solicit feedback from other teachers, collaborate in real time with 10 others, and even get students to visually contribute during class discussions.

Prezi can be a valuable tool for class projects. Students can collaborate in real time with as many as 10 peers–in the classroom or at home–to strategize and build presentations on one shared virtual whiteboard.

As Whitlatch noted: “Students can work on presentations in groups without having to pass an electronic file around. And teachers can have students contribute to the visuals of a presentation during class discussion time. Some teachers have even told us that students who won’t normally participate in a class discussion verbally will do so electronically through Prezi.”

Building more portable and accessible presentations

Steve Jobs wanted his presentations to reach the widest possible audience. So does Prezi.

Presentations are stored in the cloud and can be accessed anywhere. Students and educators can view and edit projects on a desktop computer and a mobile device. “We’ve found that teachers love it because if a student misses a presentation in class he or she can still view the presentation from home with no extra effort on the teacher’s part,” says Ashley and students enjoy it because they can “check out Prezi presentations wherever they happen to be on whatever device they happen to be carrying without having to lug extra stuff around in their backpacks.”

The Prezi team highlighted the simplicity yet ingenuity of their virtual sharing education tool: “Using Prezi, you don’t need the fame or charisma of Steve Jobs (or Ashton Kutcher in the recent movie) to deliver presentations like him.”

For more on Prezi for educators, please visit this link:

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