Saturday, May 24, 2014

Prezi - Please, Please Fix the Image Search Feature!

Please Prezi, Fix Your Image Search!
Image created using
I have been thinking about this posting for quite a while now, and, frankly, kept expecting that Prezi would soon add enhancements that would make what I am writing unnecessary. That hasn't happened, so, here goes ....

First, please understand that I really love Prezi, for live and online presentations as well as for online tutorials. I first discovered Prezi while remotely following the NECC conference in 2009. I watched Steve Dembo present about the "Top 10 Free Web 2.0 Tools for Educators." (This link is dated 2011, but I think it is the updated version of that presentation.) I was completely blown away by how Prezi allowed for flexible navigation, zooming in and out, and dynamic visuals. I decided I had to start using it. Since then, while I use Google Presentations, PowerPoint, and other presentation tools, it is definitely my first choice for presentations and lesson slides. I have also encouraged students to use it and showed them the various the ins and outs.

These days, though, I stay away from teaching Prezi to students and go instead for Google Presentations/Slides. Why? Because Prezi allows users to search from within a presentation file for images and import them without filtering to copyright-friendly and without giving credit to the source. Here's a recent video tutorial from Prezi showing how easy it is to find and insert an image in a Prezi file:

As a teacher librarian, one of the important messages I work to deliver both to students and teachers is respect for intellectual property. The gist of my message is that, as good digital citizens, they should always give credit where credit is due. I also explain that, when they publish, they should be looking for copyright friendly (Creative Commons or Public Domain) images that don't require permission from the creator. (And, keep in mind that all Prezi presentations created with free accounts are public.) I definitely don't ignore Fair Use as a possible argument for using copyrighted material, but I emphasize that Fair Use considerations are complicated and subject to debate. It's better and easier, I urge them, to use Creative Commons material and not have to worry about whether they might be violating copyright. Then, I share how to find and credit Creative Commons and Public Domain material. I am a strong believer that we should all be participating in the Creative Commons community with our own licensing, so encouraging my students and teachers to use of Creative Commons materials is part of building that community. Gwyneth Jones, a true Creative Commons Queen, shared an image at the recent CUE Conference I loved and am adding here to emphasize my passionate belief in the importance of participating in and helping people understand the Creative Commons movement:

Creative Commons - It's not just a license, It's a lifestyle! Slide 37
All that can certainly be done while using Prezi. I simply use Flickr Advanced Search, Google Advanced Image search, Creative Commons Search, or other tools to find an image, then import it to my Pezi presentation and add a hyperlink url back to the source as my credit. I try to curate as many good options for finding copyright friendly image sources as I can on my library website. My personal favorite is Flickr advanced search. Here's a screencast I created showing how to do that:

I have also been jazzed by Google's recent enhancement to image search that makes filtering by license so much easier. To encourage using that, I created this screencast:

Prezi, though, allows users to search using Google images from within a Prezi file, and then import the image without supplying any link back to the source. I did write to Prezi about this feature and the lack of the appropriate credit link back when it was introduced, but did not get an answer that satisfied me. So, for myself, I continue to do my own searches outside Prezi. For students and others not as well-versed in how and why to respect intellectual property, the availability of this tool is just too tempting. Let's face it, it's easier to just search from within Prezi than to do an independent search and add the appropriate credits.

I've been very pleased by the recent enhancements to Google Presentations that allow users to easily search from within a presentation file or Google Doc for copyright friendly material and automatically supply a credit, and have started "marketing" that option to teachers and students. Here's a simple screencast I did a while back on that feature:

VoiceThread, another favorite tool I share for digital storytelling projects, deserves a lot of credit for the fact that it has always offered the equivalent of this newish Google Presentations feature. In fact, its internal search options including Flickr and the New York Public Library, search only copyright friendly images. So, I think it's time for Prezi to step up its features also!

Until Prezi provides that same credit link for an imported image, I am staying away from sharing Prezi as a tool I recommend for student use. So, Prezi, please, please follow the model of VoiceThread and Google Presentations; add a copyright-friendly filter and an automatically-supplied hyperlink credit for images found with your internal image search option. Thanks in advance for listening. :-)  And ... if I got something wrong, I'd be delighted to find that out and correct this!