Our guest blogger is Jeremy Clement, instructor and internship coordinator for Hospitality and Tourism Management. Jeremy was a participant in the 2014 Summer FTI and this post reports on his experience integrating new technology tools into his courses.
FTI Tools in Action: Classroom Engagement & Instructor Versatility Made Simple
I could write a book about all the tools and ideas I walked away with from the Summer, 2014 FTI. As many will attest, it was almost overwhelming. The trick seemed to be to approach the experience with some expectation of how you can utilize the tools and technology you’ll find. I had some notion at the time…but have found since that the skills and abilities I gained from TLT have far more applications than I could’ve ever imagined. So rather than try to report on them all, I’ll simply report on the combination that I’ve utilized, quite successfully, since.
Prior to the FTI, TLT had turned me on to AirSketch for classroom presentations. AirSketch is a free app that simply converts your static presentations – you actually convert your PowerPoint or other materials to PDF first – into an interactive whiteboard in the classroom. In addition to that (and my favorite part) is that it is linked to the classroom projection system via a URL address you call up in the Internet browser on the classroom computer, not via some physical media or content saved directly to the computer itself. Once you enter the URL, the students are exposed to a live version of your presentation.
Your presentation on your tablet or mobile device…not your presentation on the in-room system, wow. That means you can walk throughout the classroom, face whatever direction you’d like and still have access to advance your content or mark up the slide being displayed…all while using your own tablet from the palm of your hand. The freedom is incredible.
For someone who is a bit fidgety, like myself, this allows you to move freely about the class without being tethered to a console or station at the front of the room. I still generally stay in the front for most of my class…but I can’t say enough about the freedom and flexibility inherent in being able to move about and see where I’m at in a lecture, all without having to look back at the screen behind me or staying behind a podium. I find it is more engaging for the students and more natural to my presentation style.
AirSketch is an effective and impressive tool in and of itself. Outside the classroom, I’ve used this technology numerous times to give reports or lead discussions and meetings. Without exception, someone always asks ‘how did you do that?’ I honestly think I might’ve won over some of those audiences simply due to my practiced use of this simple, yet powerful tool.
Now here’s where the FTI really amped that up to another level. Haiku Deck was introduced during the FTI as an alternative to PowerPoint for creating engaging and dynamic presentations. I have to say, I was instantly hooked. The program or app (Haiku Deck is accessible via a website or can be downloaded as an app) essentially pairs your presentation content with an expansive database of beautiful, vibrant photographs via the use of its unique correlative categorization feature.
Essentially, you type in the main theme of the slide and they find a plethora of engaging and interesting photos and images that follow the same theme or concept. I don’t claim to know exactly how it works, only that it is both effective and fun to use. My only issue is I tend to get lost looking at all the cool images and trying to pick the one that is most appropriate and also the most engaging. It allows me to mix up a little left- and right-brain activity and really bring more of my personal style and creativity into what can sometimes be dull and emotionless presentation material.
Not only does Haiku Deck offer their own photo library, you can also include your own images. This feature allows you to integrate photos, diagrams, or other materials as the backdrop for the slide and details surrounding the subject. I’ve provided some examples to give you an idea of how this might be integrated.
The unique design function of Haiku Deck does have some limitations, but I developed a workaround that I think everyone can benefit from. Essentially, I usually need to include more data on a slide than what Haiku Deck’s presentation builder will allow. I found this frustrating at first and thought that would limit its usefulness for my particular course given the volume of information I need to display as a part of my presentation.
So, my solution was to use Haiku Deck to build the base slide – typically including a graphic and a slide title or subject line. Then I would download the presentation into PowerPoint, one of the various options they provide for exporting your content. I would then use the tools available in PowerPoint to add content over top of the Haiku Deck slide. The result was what I consider a beautiful balance of engaging graphics and pictures supplemented by the course materials I need to deliver in a more comprehensive format than what Haiku Deck had to offer.
Now, once I had the PowerPoint deck fully developed, I convert that presentation to a PDF. From there, it’s a simple matter of pulling it up via AirSketch and calling up the URL in the classroom. My course evaluations were the best in my department, certainly in part due to the use of this unique blend of tools and technology. Of course, I didn’t stop there – I also integrated other FTI-introduced tools like Poll Everywhere which can be seen in my examples here as well.
The versatility and level of engagement I was able to accomplish as a result of information I gathered in the FTI have surely improved my teaching style as well as my personal appetite for trying and implementing new tools and technology in the classroom. Honestly, even the fails are learning opportunities as the class has to work together to find a better way to tackle the challenge. My evaluations are one indicator but certainly not the only one I’ve received.
If you’ve gotten this far and still find this interesting, I would encourage you to check out Haiku Deck’s pending software launch – Haiku Deck Zuru. This new offering, not yet released but eligible for subscription as a charter member, promises to utilize artificial intelligence to essentially read and convert a preexisting presentation into a Haiku Deck in one fell swoop. I find that both fascinating and exciting.