Allison Upshaw uses Prezi to teach performing arts

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Learning a new language is a challenge. Learning how to sing in a new language is another story. 

Allison Upshaw, Assistant Professor of voice at Stillman College, a trained opera singer, and professional actress, uses Prezi Video to teach voice auditions and help her students pronounce foreign language words. Having the lyrics on screen as she talks through the pronunciation and allowing students to see her mouth as it moves, makes it easier for her to teach, and for them to learn. 

If we take a look back at her journey, Allison was first introduced to Prezi in 2014, when she began using Prezi Present for teacher training content.

As she’s not a “PowerPoint girl,” she was drawn back into Prezi when she started working on her second doctorate in instructional technology and had to create more formal presentations. 

“That fell right in with using Prezi for what I needed to submit, and I was able to keep all my work in one place, which is really important to me,” Allison said. 

But the one product that she uses the most is Prezi Video. She’s participated in the Voices from the Field webinar series with our education team on how video can deepen the impact of blended learning, she’s been listed as a Staff Pick (which is a list of our favorite videos of the year), and frequently shares her teachings with the public in all her videos

Additionally, educators have a list of accessibility standards that they must incorporate into all their teaching content. When it comes to Prezi’s template library, she appreciates those that are in high contrast because it quickly addresses some accessibility requirements.

How she streamlines her presentation structure with Prezi

Allison says that she’s not a linear thinker, jumps around a lot in her thought process, and struggles to go from A to Z. But when she uses Prezi Present, she likes to choose from our template library because it forces her “to think in a way people can follow” and easily structure her ideas. 

She’s always thinking about her process as a facilitator and how she can engage her audience, which is why she became a Prezi Certified Educator Trainer in 2022. For a long time, she was very reliant on face-to-face interactions. She liked getting back into Prezi because it was familiar enough, and she found that she was able to effectively use it to interface between her and her audience while using Prezi Video for video lessons.

Stay connected while you work remotely with Prezi Video

Given that her first doctorate was in arts-based research methods and critical auto-ethnography, Allison is committed to incorporating STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) into her teaching. This is something that she believes she can showcase by teaching with and having students use technology like Prezi. 

“All of this tech and science is important, but you also need the creativity of an artist,” Allison said. “The functional designs are great, but you want something that’s creative as well. If you can think creatively, then you can build new knowledge.” 

The challenge for Allison is that most of STEAM tends to center around visual arts, and she wants to understand how performing arts can fit into tech. 

“In the world of screens, there can be a flatness with technology,” Allison said. “It makes it more difficult  to have an energy circle between the presenter or performer and the audience, where the performer can understand exactly how the audience is feeling.” 

Using Prezi Video has enabled Allison to better tap into the energy of her audience even when she and her students are divided by the screen. 

Allison also considers herself an arts-based storyteller, and she works to share stories of other black women who may not get the chance to tell themselves. She has just written a grant that will look at Black female landowners during slavery and Jim Crow. She’s planning to share the stories of these women and what it means to be a female landowner in a time when women weren’t allowed to own property and had fewer rights. 

“So what are their stories? I want to find out and share these stories and summarize what they went through,” Allison said. “I’ll be sharing them in conference presentations, and using Prezi has helped me focus my ideas. I will use it to sum up their stories and share them in a concise way.” 

That’s just another way that Prezi’s engaging tools can help bring meaningful stories to life.

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