Our guest blogger is Daniel Wade Jones, a Professor of Spanish in the Department of Hispanic Studies.  Professor Jones attended the 2014 Summer Faculty Technology Institute (FTI).  This post is about the app, Haiku Deck, which he was introduced to at the FTI.

Spanish 202 has always been a challenging class for all Hispanic Studies faculty, due to the variety in students, some of whom are starting their language requirement and others are finishing it with 202. The course is designed as an intermediate level course within the Basic Language Program, meaning that we try to expand upon and further develop the structures obtained in prior Spanish classes, including assigning their first written compositions beyond a paragraph in length, and also focusing on more genuine communication activities in class, under the assumptions the students now have the skills to have more complex conversations. Of course, this is not always the case when we teach to the entire student body, as Spanish 202 is a gen-ed requirement and not only taken by students seeking to improve their Spanish. The majority of my sections of 202 most semesters are full, capped at twenty-two students, which creates the challenge of creating meaningful conversation and discussion based activities with a large group of students.

In Spanish 202 we review a lot of grammatical structures previously taught, and ideally the instructor is able to spend less time covering meticulous rules and able to take a more inductive approach to the delivery of grammar, providing the students with language samples and allowing them to recall the rule based on the retained knowledge and the sample being analyzed. Taking a more inductive approach can be challenging, even if it is proven to be a better technique for language acquisition, because students often expect the instructor to provide them with cut and dried rules, and also frequently they do not retain information from one semester to the next as well as we would like.

Previously I have used Power points to deliver grammar, but have never found them very engaging and also permit too much text in each slide for the outcome I am expecting from my students. After attending the Summer 2014 Faculty Technology Institute, I learned of many alternative presentation options available, and I walked away particularly intrigued by Haiku Deck. Haiku Deck is an app that I have on the Ipad provided by Teaching Learning and Technology department that generates very modern, minimalist slideshow presentations. Using Haiku Deck, which allows very little text in each slide, is beneficial for the inductive approach I was intending to take, because instead of me outlining a list of rules, I now provide very little text, but provide a simple piece of text imposed over an image, and encourage the students to use the image and text to determine what is being addressed in the slide. This is closer to the strategy they would employ if they were abroad and needing to communicate, so it creates a more genuine language experience in the classroom.

The students have greatly enjoyed the sleek look of the slides and in multiple classes I have been asked what program I am using and also received compliments for my “cute presentations.” I am still able to post them to OAKS, as I previously did with my Power points, and if necessary, I can also post the Haiku Deck presentation within a larger Power Point, which I have done from time to time as well. Visually the presentations feel drastically more engaging and they also help me to achieve my goal of inductively covering grammar, especially previously taught grammar like what is commonly examined in 202. The presentations can be posted as a link, and I am able to track how many times the presentation has been viewed, which is beneficial for having an idea as to how many students are preparing before each class, as I ask them to do. The app is intended to be a “creative community” and you can view other people’s decks (their name for a slideshow presentation). There is also a paid subscription option with even more images available, however I have been satisfied with the images in the free service. The app is incredibly easy to use as well, because it does have such a minimalist feel to it.

I have used the Haiku Deck presentations usually by projecting the slide and having the students work in pairs or small groups to analyze it, or other times analyzing it as a class discussion, but either way the decks allow for it to not be a monotonous lecture delivery of grammar. The decks promote minimal text and bold images, both of which better captivate students. I have noticed students more engaged than when I post a slide with lots of rules and text that we go through without any genuine context or communication occurring. I am pleased with how Haiku Deck has assisted me in transitioning to an inductive style of content delivery, even with the challenge of a required language class with a vast difference in level and interest of the students in the course. I think Haiku Deck could help professors in other subjects apart from foreign languages, because we all struggle with maintaining the attention of our technologically saturated students, and the app works especially well for anyone hoping to transition from a lecture style class to a more discussion based class. Haiku Deck proves the adage “less is more” and has improved the quality of student engagement in my Spanish courses with its fun, user-friendly format.