Sunday, March 25, 2012

Make a Virtual Fieldwork Experience Using a Simple Template

UPDATE: Since this tutorial was created in March of 2012, Prezi has substantially revised their interface. The Graphic Organizer within the Prezi has also been updated so that the text within it may be edited, and arrows and boxes containing the questions can be deleted or added. A new set of tutorials will be created to reflect these changes, but the basic procedures are largely unchanged, and the tutorials below are still useful.

There is a new version of the Template, now linked below and here. This link was added February, 2013.


How can I engage learners in the close study of the local environment, even when I can't practically take them outside? When I can take them out to do fieldwork, how can we document that fieldwork and share it with others?

This post is a how-to that leads you through making a Virtual Fieldwork Experience (VFE) using a Prezi-based template. The template is centered around our most recent version of the VFE graphic organizer, and uses Prezi, a free, web-based presentation software package.

The length of the post may lead one to think that this isn't so simple, but the series of steps described below can be done in stops and starts and you may choose to complete only pieces of it and then delete the remaining parts of the presentation you don't wish to use.

If you're a beginner at using these technologies, you may want to work through the whole tutorial. If you're familiar with all or some of the technologies, you'll likely want to skim through to see what's unfamiliar.

If this is your introduction to Prezi, you may want to look at the introductory tutorials from the makers of Prezi before looking at what follows. This is especially useful since the interface has changed since these tutorials were written.

If you've not explored our VFEs before, it's a good idea to take a look at what kind of thing you'll be making before you start, so we'll start with an example of a VFE created using the Prezi Template.

The Prezi embedded below was collaboratively authored by project staff and the 2011-2012 cohort of educators from the Southwestern US.

At this writing, a few other VFEs use the Prezi Template as a basis. Here are two:
Other VFEs are in development, and another VFE based on the Prezi Template was created in the process of writing this tutorial. The example uses the Niagara River's Whirlpool Gorge, just downstream from Niagara Falls.

The most recent version of the Whirlpool Gorge VFE is found here and embedded below. The Prezi is also embedded in the Google Earth file here. Note that this is a large file.

While this tutorial is largely written for educators, readers should note that any part of the work described here can be done by students in classrooms or learners in informal venues. The experience for the learners you work with will likely be less messy if you go through the process of creating your own first, but messy learning isn't necessarily bad. If you are creating a VFE for teaching, as you work through VFE creation consider not only how students will use the resource you make but also how you might engage them as co-creators in the process on your next VFE.

The template is just one way to create a VFE. Many more VFEs of different sorts are found in the VFE Database, which is accessible through the map below, and is also found here. Click on the placemarks to access descriptions of VFEs and links to the VFEs themselves. 

What follows in the remainder of this tutorial is written as though you've already done some fieldwork, and taken some photographs for your VFE. If you haven't done that, then the tutorial should give you some ideas about what pictures to take and ideas about other kinds of data to gather. As with many projects, it is helpful to read instructions carefully before beginning.

If you are looking for resources to get you started in VFE development, here's a packet (pdf; 2.1 MB) that provides a more complete view of the process. Note that it includes some helpful checklists on pages 6 - 8.

The videos below the numbered steps shows the process of taking your imagery and other resources and putting it into the Prezi Template. We suggest that you open the tutorial videos in one window or tab and the Prezi template in another. As you work through the tutorials you can switch back and forth between the two windows, pausing the video to allow your exploration and experimentation.

To use the Prezi VFE Template to create your own VFE, do the following:

  1. We recommend using either the Firefox or Google Chrome browsers. These browsers are available for both the Mac and PC, making support issues simpler. Internet Explorer behaves differently for certain actions used in this tutorial and it is limited to PC users, so it is not recommended. We will point out the differences we know about.
  2. Click here for the VFE Template to open in a new window. 
  3. Steps 3 - 6 are shown in the video: Introduction to the Prezi VFE Template below. 
  4. Before editing the Template, explore it. You can view it full screen by scrolling your cursor over "More" in the lower right and clicking on the appropriate link. To return to the initial view, hit the escape button on your keyboard. 
  5. After exploration, click the button below the presentation labeled, "Make a copy". When you click, you will be prompted to either log in to Prezi or create an account.
  6. If you already have a Prezi educator account, log in and skip to step 7. If you do not yet have a Prezi educator account, set one up. Here are the steps to set up an account:
    • If you have a regular Prezi account, but wish to upgrade to an educator account, sign into your existing account and  choose Upgrade on the Settings and License page.
    • If you have no Prezi account, click on "sign up now." If you are an educator or student, be sure to click on the button in the upper right for educational use.
    • Follow the on screen directions to create your account, using an email address that clearly belongs to your educational institution.
    • You will receive an email which provides a link to verify the account.
  7. Steps 7 - 13 are in the second video below, Making a Copy of the VFE Template and Changing Titles
  8. Once you are signed in, return to the Template page and make a copy, by clicking on the "Make a copy" button. I know you clicked this already, but now that you're signed in, it will actually make the copy.
  9. Change the name of the Prezi from "Copy of VFE Template" to something that highlights the name of your field site. Do this by moving the cursor over the title (Copy of VFE Template) and then selecting the "edit" option next to the title after it appears. The example we'll be using in the tutorial is "Niagara's Whirlpool Gorge VFE."
  10. You can add a description if you wish, but I suggest doing that after you have done more work on the VFE. 
  11. Click "Edit Prezi".
  12. Explore the editing tools. 
  13. Change the title and author information to correspond to you and your field site.
  14. Steps 14 - 18 are shown in the third video below, Inserting Images into the Graphic Organizer
  15. Images may be inserted into the Prezi in a few different ways. Each way begins with clicking the "Insert" and then the "image" circular tabs from the controller in the upper left corner when working in Prezi's edit mode. Using images from the Internet can be done by first finding the images (for the most part, we use our own images that we post to Picasa Web Albums) and identify the image's URL. The image of the URL is typically different from the web page that hosts the URL. Appropriate URLs will end with an image suffix, like .jpg, .png, or .tif, for three examples. PDF files will also work, though that is not shown in this video. To get the URL of an image in Chrome, Firefox, or Safari browsers, right click (or control-click) on the image and a menu will pop up that includes "save image URL," or something similar to that. The exact wording varies slightly by browser. Internet Explorer will show "properties" as an option in the menu that pops up, and clicking on that will show the image URL, which then may be copied. 
  16. After copying the image URL, paste it into the space for it in the window within Prezi that appears after selecting, "Insert" and then, "image."
  17. Images may also be uploaded from your computer by following the onscreen prompts.
  18. The third way to add images is through the Google Image Search option that is embedded within Prezi's insert image option. Type into the box what you wish to find and appropriately licensed photographs will appear. If you scroll through the images using your track pad or scroll ball, you may find it hard to scroll slowly enough to really look at the pictures, but using the up and down arrow keys moves through them one at a time. This is not shown in the video, but it is a helpful hint if you searched for something that resulted in many images. 
  19. Steps 19 - 22 are shown in the fourth video below, Embedding Pictures within Pictures in the Prezi VFE Template.
  20. This process requires two pictures taken from different distances from the object of interest, and allows users to zoom in to explore in greater detail. Before beginning the video, I uploaded two such pictures, that show cross-bedding within the Whirlpool Sandstone. These were uploaded in the same way as in steps 14 - 18.
  21. Resize the pictures, so that the picture within the picture is about the right size to align with the image and drag it on top of the larger image. If it ends up behind the larger picture, right click (or control-click) on one or the other of the pictures and reorder so that the small picture is in front of the large picture. 
  22. Rotate and resize until the images are aligned. When you rotate or resize, note that the top image becomes transparent, making alignment a fairly simple process. 
  23. Steps 23 - 25 are shown in the fifth video below, Adding Text and Links to the Prezi VFE Template
  24. When you are in edit mode, the bear paw shaped controller is in the upper left corner of your screen. Clicking on the Prezi canvas will make the text editor appear. To add text, simply click and start typing. You can also paste in text from the computer's clip board. 
  25. Text that is formatted as a link will automatically act as a link, once the presentation is closed and reopened. Note that in full screen presentation mode, clicked links will open windows or tabs that can't be seen while in full screen mode. Simply hit the escape key on your keyboard to see newly opened links. 
  26. Steps 26 - 30 are shown in the sixth video below, Highlighting Multiple VFE Elements and Copying them from Prezi to Prezi.
  27. Click shift and drag to highlight multiple elements simultaneously. You must hold down both the shift key and the mouse button until the elements you are targeting have all been enclosed by the box you are drawing. This process allows you to resize all the elements together and to copy them en-masse. 
  28. You can copy elements from one Prezi to another if you have editing privileges in both Prezis. Once highlighted, right click (or control-click) and a pop-up menu appears. Select 'copy.' Switch windows to the Prezi you wish to add the element to, or simply make a copy within the current Prezi. 
  29. Paste using either the keyboard shortcut or by selecting 'Paste' from the 'Edit' menu. 
  30. All of the collaboratively created Prezi-based VFEs created for the ReaL Earth Inquiry Project allow users to make copies of the VFEs, so if you see something you like, make a copy of the Prezi (step 8) and then from within your copied VFE, copy the element and then paste to your own VFE.
  31. Steps 31 - 34 are shown in the seventh video below, Adding Frames and Paths to Your VFE
  32. Frames are used to set the level of zoom for a group of elements. With a frame in place, clicking on an area will zoom to a specific area you determine. Without frames, users will zoom to individual elements.  
  33. Paths create a set order that users can be directed through the Prezi, though they can zoom to elements they choose as they move through the Prezi and then return to the path. 
  34. The tutorials here address both frames and paths briefly as Prezi's own tutorials do a fine job and will keep pace with changes in the software.
  35. Steps 35 - 47 are shown in the eighth (and final) video below, Embedding Your Prezi-based VFE into a Google Earth Placemark
  36. Anything that offers embed code can be placed into a Google Earth placemark -- at least everything I've tried can. This includes youtube videos, pictures from various photo-sharing websites, "Weather Stickers" from, (which provide current weather data for a location), and Prezis. The pictures that can be embedded within placemarks go beyond standard jpg digital images to include Photosynths and Gigapans. Gigapans can be embedded directly within Google Earth as well. The Google Earth file used in the example includes an embedded Photosynth and a Weather Sticker.
  37. To embed your Prezi into a Google Earth placemark, you must first exit edit mode. 
  38. You will now see the Prezi you have been working on in a smaller window -- where we started. Below the Prezi's window and to the right is a 'share' button. Click it.
  39. A new window with a link in the middle of it appears, and below that are four ways to share your Prezi. The last of these options is, "</> Embed". Click that and copy the embed code.
  40. Open Google Earth if it is not already open. 
  41. Go to your VFE field site within Google Earth. If you already have created a file for your VFE within Google Earth, you might embed the Prezi in the host folder, as is done in the video. If not, you might create a placemark. In either case, the process of embedding the Prezi is the same and is described in the last few steps below, steps 42 - 44.
  42. Select the folder or placemark.
  43. Go to the 'Edit' menu and either select "Get Info" on the Mac, or "Properties" on the PC. This will open the placemark or folder in edit mode.
  44. If there is other text or images within the folder, add some line breaks before pasting in the embed code. To add line breaks, insert the following text for each line: <br>. I usually have two line breaks between elements within a placemark. 
  45. Paste in the embed code.
  46. Exit edit mode by clicking 'ok'. 
  47. Reopen the placemark or folder to test your content.

1. Introduction to the Prezi VFE Template

2. Making a Copy of the VFE Template and Changing Titles

3. Inserting Images into the Graphic Organizer

4. Embedding Pictures Within Pictures in the Prezi VFE Template

5. Adding Text and Links to the Prezi VFE Template

6. Highlighting Multiple VFE Elements and Copying them from Prezi to Prezi.

7. Adding Frames and Paths to Your VFE

8. Embedding Your Prezi-based VFE into a Google Earth Placemark

1 comment:

  1. See Prezi keyboard shortcuts here: