Tech for Teach

Digital Bassho: The Haiku Deck

Clean and beautiful
Presentation made simple
iPad poetry

If you’re up on your poetic forms you know that’s a haiku.  The Japanese characters literally mean, “cutting a passage of text” and that is where Haiku Deck, one of the latest presentation tools available, is more articulate than the competition.

Haiku Deck

As teachers we all have to create and deliver presentations to our classes.  The big three platforms, PowerPoint, Keynote and Prezi all have their merits and meet the job requirements but what if you have a lot to say and you simply want bullet points coupled with powerful images to drive the message home? What if you want something “cleaner”, without all the bells and whistles of most presentation applications? Well, brevity, message and imagery being paramount, I have two words for you: Haiku Deck.

Similar to the major presentation tools and applications mentioned above, the creator of a Haiku Deck is given a choice of presentation themes to choose from.  A dozen or so of the themes are free by default but it is also possible to add to your theme collection thru in-app purchases. Once a theme is chosen, the application suggests a range of colour schemes to go along with it. So far so good and nothing surprising, however, what caught my attention was the way the application treats the actual text you plan to use use and how it is arranged on the slides. Once again, the creator is given a set number of textual layouts or templates to use (i.e. Title: subtitle; Title, bullet points; Title on left-side of slide; Title centred, etc.) yet thru a clever design, the app forces the creator to be both brief and to carefully consider the selection of words. The more text you try to “squeeze” into the Title: subtitle layout, for example, the smaller the font becomes. The creator can not alter font size thru a pull-down menu and so must truly distill the written language and consider exactly what imagery or message they want to convey to their audience. Voila: the essence of Haiku!

After selecting your layout and deciding on the text you will use, the app automatically treats the words in your text as tags and scours a massive database of photos that correspond to the associations. The photo collection is huge, diverse and gorgeous. I would guess about 75% (if not more) of the photos available are free by default but again, there are pictures you can purchase thru an in-app function. The Deck creator then simply chooses a photo which best illustrates their spoken message and pairs it with the text on the slide. The result is visual, captivating, sleek, professional and persuasive. The last step is to upload/save it to the Haiku Deck cloud where a URL is provided and the creator can easily share via email or embed in a social networking post or blog site.

While it is possible to view a Haiku Deck on any device with a web browser, at the moment the iPad is the only place you can create and edit a Haiku Deck. According to the Haiku Deck supporting website, the engineering team is working on making the app available on other platforms and have committed themselves to emailing users when the app becomes more widely available.

A colleague first recommended this app to me since he knows I have an iPad mini and he knows I’m fond of using Prezi in my classes. I downloaded the app and later that evening sank into my couch at home and began playing around with the application by putting together a presentation suggesting ways my students could practice English over the summer holiday. It’s a very intuitive application and in about 1 hour I had 15 slides created. At first I didn’t think it was all too impressive; a single (yet high quality) photo for each slide and very sparse bulleted text. I emailed the draft to my colleague in within minutes he replied with resounding excitement. “Very cool! Looks professional and slick. I love it!” Honestly I was a bit surprised by his praise, after all it didn’t take long to make, I considered the slides unfinished and I felt the individual slides lacked “textual meat”. So I showed it to my wife. Same reaction. “Wow, that’s cool! What is it?”


I tightened the slides up a bit more the following day and polished the look, colours and photo choices before uploading it to my LMS. As my class was wrapping up that afternoon and I was bidding them good bye for the summer break, I opened my Deck presentation and walked them thru my suggestions on how they could continue studying over the holiday. Immediately 3 students raised their hands and asked for the website link to the presentation. When I told them that I had made it and it was on our class LMS their mouths dropped slightly. “Really?!  You made that? Wow, what is it?”

True to the poetic form, Haiku Deck distills text into an engaging presentation medium using brevity and powerful images to tell your story.

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