Monday, October 23, 2017

Organize Parent Conference Notes With Google Forms

Have you ever had that moment, days or even weeks after a parent conference, when you remember that someone asked you about something specific, but you can't remember which parent it was. You go searching through all your student files, digging for the one paper that has the note you know you wrote? I’ve been there a time or two for sure. In my 9 years of classroom teaching, I tried every way I could think of to take and organize parent conference notes, and trust me, some of them were a little on the crazy side. I was determined to find a way to keep all my notes about each child in a central document, but still maintain the privacy needed so parents couldn’t see what I'd written about other students while I was typing. None of them worked well - until I discovered Google Forms. Google Forms allows me to make parent conference notes that end up in a sortable and searchable Google Sheet. I can look things up by date, by student, or search for a keyword (because I know someone asked about tutoring, but I can't remember who). My notes are never left lying around for someone to catch a glimpse. Google Forms makes things so quick, easy, and clean - I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner.

If you are new to Google Forms, you might want to check out my Google Forms 101 post, which gives you all you need to know to create and handle a Google Form. (*Note - Google has recently added a few more options which are not covered in my 101 post - yet.)

My form is very simple. I ask for student name, meeting date, and who was there - these are all required questions. I then have optional questions for behavior notes, academic notes, additional comments, and necessary follow-up. I love the follow-up box, because then I never forget to do something I told a parent I would do.

Here is an example of what my Parent Conference Notes form looks like:
Google Form to write down parent conference notes
Parent Conference Notes

I just bookmark this form on my iPad, Chromebook, or laptop, and make sure I select the option to "Show link to submit another response" in the settings. I fill out the form while we are talking, finish it up once the family leaves, and then hit submit. I can click the link to submit another response and I am ready for the next parent who walks in the door. Once conferences are done, I have a Google Sheet with all my data that I can sort to my heart’s content. I can hit control-F (Command-F on Mac) to open up a search window and seek out those keywords to help me find the note I’m searching for. It’s a beautiful thing!

If you'd like to make a Parent Conference Notes form of your own, you can click here to make a copy of my form and tweak it for your own needs.

Happy conferencing!

Cynthia Nixon

Cynthia was an elementary school teacher for 9 years, teaching both 5th and 3rd grades. She worked her way through college as a computer technician and brought her love of technology into the classroom. She is now serving her school as an Ed Tech Coach and enjoys empowering other teachers to integrate technology. She is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator, a Google for Education Certified Trainer, and two time CUE Rock Star Faculty. You can find her on the TeachingTechNix blog or on Twitter - @TeachingTechNix.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Mindful Look at Classroom Management

As a new-ish teacher in the early fall of last year, I experienced a moment (well actually, more like an entire day) of helplessness. I fretted that my students weren’t learning to read quickly enough. More alarming, the presence of kindness in our bungalow (AKA my super duper fancy double-wide portable) had deteriorated significantly. If one of my adorable students poked, prodded or aimed another verbal insult at another student again (did I mention I teach Kindergarten?), that was going to be the end of my tenure as the CEO of my classroom! I was going to hand over my classroom keys and go right back to waiting on tables!

You know what I did instead? I complained, I mean I consulted, with my amazing team of coworkers and then I burned rubber to a yoga class. I promise, while tempting, I did not leave tire tracks in the school parking lot and I strictly abided by the 25 mile an hour school zone traffic rule.

While I tried to get my just-returned-from-summer-break and actually-had-time-to-go-to-yoga mind to focus, I couldn’t stop thinking that most of my at-risk students were not meeting the current trimester reading goal. And, man, did I have a few really mean kids this year! Some children were coming to school with negative energy that they just did not seem to know how to expel. I saw some students as restless and challenged to stay focused, mindful, and in the moment. And, then my mind stopped. Just like that, close to an hour had passed. Aha!

Cue fancy, overpriced University teacher credential program lesson number one: Reflect, reflect reflect.

I had wasted nearly an entire day being negative. As I became mindful I was able to reflect on my best teaching practices and my intentions (or desired outcomes). I was reminded of the mantra; find remedy, not fault. I had shifted my mindset. I had to find an alternative way to guide my students. I wanted them to discover healthy alternatives to training their tiny bodies and active minds to engage joyfully and successfully in the learning process. I wanted to become better at showing them how be kind. Children were not meant to sit still, conform, or naturally collaborate all of the time. I had to find a way to guide them into doing these things. The answer was focus.
I am going to get all researchy for a moment.

The United States Education Department recently allocated nearly $3 million to study mindfulness in 30 high-poverty Chicago schools (Deruy, 2016).

“Compassionate institutions are needed at every level so we can buffer, rather than cement, children's toxic stress.” (Erikson, 2016). And, boy are a lot of our children under unimaginable stress!
You see, this research and our government's willingness to make a financial investment into the idea of mindfulness reinforces the aha moment that I had as I reflected on my yoga mat that day. I began implementing the practice of mindfulness into my pedagogy each day following that epiphany.
Pump the breaks! What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness in the classroom is taking the time to create a sense of calm, community, and validation that teachers are allowing time for the curriculum of me despite what is happening in the students’ lives (Deruy, 2016). Mindfulness is simply taking a few minutes to be still and in the moment; a few moments to reflect and be grateful.

I noticed that as my students increased their skillset in the practice of mindfulness that they began to create their own set of expectations for classroom behavior. Using mantras, students began to remind unfocused to students to, “focus” and to use the, “focus muscle.” Children who were experiencing stress would sit cross-legged, close their eyes and re-focus themselves. The children seemed to like a few minutes each day that focused on their happiness, joy, and health. 

After implementing the mindfulness strategy for several weeks, I had noticed a marked increase in kindness. Daily student reading groups allowed me to analyze whether or not my students could read more fluently from the guided reading books following the use of the mindfulness strategy. Not only did their fluency increase, but their overall reading scores climbed! Those at-risk students I fretted about were reading at the benchmark! Some students increased their reading proficiency by two levels and a few by three levels! The practice of mindfulness in my classroom increased social emotional awareness and academic success. 
How did I find time to squeeze yet another strategy into our jam-packed world of common core curriculum?

All I did was show my entire class a mindfulness video each day and model, model, model (fancy college lesson two). I pointed out that the video was designed to help them be calm, focused, and happy. They were receptive immediately. In fact, the buy in was profound.

Who LOVES GoNoodle, raise your cyber hand?! GoNoodle is an online, interactive video tool that is FREE! They have three channels focused on mindfulness called Focus, Flow, and Think About It. They are appropriate for all ages. This is the platform that I used to deliver quick lessons in mindfulness. After a while, we did not require the videos as a guide. 

Many of my kiddos were having major behavioral issues that were distracting and hard to regulate. The practice of mindfulness increased their success and helped my tiny teachers to find calm and to focus and to give and receive positive affirmations. Mindfulness in the classroom improved self-regulation and confidence in all of my students. I encourage other teachers to strive to meet the academic and social emotional needs of their students by giving mindfulness a try! Your focus muscle will thank you for it.

ReferencesDeruy, E. (2016). Does Mindfulness Actually Work in Schools? Scholars want to know whether the practice helps young kids of color succeed academically. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Erikson. (2016). Amanda Moreno, Ph. D joins filmmaker James Redford to discuss toxic stress, learning. Erikson Institute. Retrieved from

Robin Dawson

Robin Dawson is a kindergarten teacher in the Santee School District. Robin is focused on fostering a love of learning through the building of relationships and by creating high interest learning activities that incorporate technology, accountability, kindness, and an emphasis on social emotional awareness and learning while striving to be tech-forward. You can reach Robin on Twitter @kindercollab or via email at

Monday, September 11, 2017

How Much Can One eBook Project Accomplish?

eBook cover page
The Story of Ishanga
Innovative teachers are always on the lookout for a great new idea, or a better way to do something we’ve always done. It can be easy to get excited about every new thing that comes our way. Before we know it, our students have long, unmanageable lists of usernames and passwords for a myriad of tools and sites. An alternative that allows us to innovate and simplify at the same time, is to dive deeply into something many of our districts already have--our Google Drives. Google Slides has powerful capabilities that many of us haven’t explored in depth. There are endless possibilities beyond the same old title, image, and bullet points that exhaust teachers and students alike.

I had the pleasure of working with Jamie Lora, a fifth grade teacher at Carrillo Elementary in the San Marcos Unified School District, to help her class create beautiful eBooks using Google Slides. Students had read about an elephant in Africa who was rescued after her mother was killed by poachers. The class then took on the task of writing narratives telling the story from the perspective of the baby elephant, named Ishanga by her rescuers. So far, this activity resembled what goes on in classrooms everywhere. Jamie Lora, however, is dedicated to innovation, and she asked me to come introduce her students to eBooks with Google Slides. By the end of the afternoon, classroom magic had occurred.  The students threw themselves into creating beautiful eBooks with incredible attention to detail. Even better, the volume of their writing increased by two and three-fold. Rather than just copying the narrative they had written into the eBook format, they added more rich content and beautiful images (which they properly searched and cited). Click here to scroll through a sample of one student’s work.  

I spent nearly three hours in her classroom, and many students were still planning to continue working on their eBooks from home, as they needed more time.  Even when the eBooks were complete, the students’ increased interest level in the topic persisted. They did more research on the plight of elephants and poaching, and they eventually launched a classroom service project to do what they could as a class to help save the lives of endangered elephants. Through their research and coin drive, Jamie’s class made contact with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and adopted their own baby elephant, Luggard. Storyworks, where Ishanga’s story was published, has even contacted Jamie to interview her class!

So. . . what can one eBook project accomplish? Big things! These fifth grade students created beautiful narratives from the perspective of Ishanga the baby elephant, produced fantastic eBooks with attention to style and detail, practiced searching for and using appropriate images and citing their sources, persisted and persisted and persisted, and grew to care about a cause. The technology was infused, not an add-on but an integral part of the process.  Finally, it doesn’t hurt that Jamie gets to read a class set of interesting and well-crafted narratives instead of a bunch of bullet points. eBooks can be used across the curriculum and in any grade level, and Google Slides is a free and available platform.

Laura Sugano

Laura Sugano is an Ed Tech TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) in the San Marcos Unified School District. Prior to becoming a resident of TOSAtown, Laura taught in 3rd and 5th grades. She is passionate about student use of technology, and committed to integrating technology into the ways we teach and learn. You can reach Laura on Twitter @LauraSugano or via email at

Monday, August 28, 2017

School Presence on Social Media

So, what’s your school’s social media presence like? Has your school just started to dip its toe into the social media landscape by starting a Facebook page? Or have you gone all in with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Zanzaboom?

You’re right, I made that last one up.

Building your school’s social media presence in today’s social media landscape might seem a little intimidating, maybe even a little risky. But I’d argue it’s worth the effort. Effective social media use isn’t something reserved for celebrities and multinational companies. I invite you to consider a few points on why your school should think about building a more robust social media presence.

Get the Word Out, Cheaply
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent ways to get information about your school out to a large portion of your school’s community. Social media doesn’t reach every single person out there, but there are probably quite a few students, parents, and teachers at your school who use social media apps each day. And, so far, social media services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are free to use. Free in that we are giving those companies our attention (and advertisers love our attention) in exchange for the ability to easily connect to content that matters to us. Still--it’s mostly free.

Control the Narrative
I remember requesting and getting permission from my vice principal back in 2011 to start a Facebook page for my high school. Now, the fact is that there was already a Facebook page about my school. But it was a parody page. If you Googled my school back in 2011, looking for our Facebook page, you would probably find the parody page instead.

What’s the problem with having inaccurate or incomplete information about your school online? It’s about having honest, fair representation for your school in the online world.

I’ve been working at El Cajon Valley High School since 2007. I love our students, and I love how hard the educators at my school work to help our students. I’m proud to work in such a supportive, creative, intelligent learning community. But back in 2011, our web presence didn’t reflect the amazing things that I knew were happening at my school. Building our social media presence has helped my school’s character get more accurately portrayed online. We have heart. We care for our community. We celebrate our diversity. It’s tough to get to know what we are about by driving past the front of our school or reviewing our test scores. Our social media use helps us share who we really are.

High school students holding flags from around the world.
Each year ECVHS celebrates Multicultural Week.
A week in which we express our Unity Through Diversity!

Tables filled with donations to refugees: clothing, diapers, etc.
Mr. Trammell sent ECVHS a call to action when he heard about the living conditions of
some refugees in our community. The ECVHS community responded with amazing generosity.

Share Ideas
A couple of years ago I was preparing part of a presentation on using Google Hangouts in the classroom. As luck would have it, I happened to be scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across this post by Franz Ruiz, who was teaching science at ECVHS at the time. He was having his students Skype with a classroom on the other side of the planet, and I had no idea. We worked at the same school, but we were in different departments. We didn’t get to talk shop much. Many of you know it can be challenging to find time to collaborate with fellow educators. But after seeing Franz’ post, I made sure to ask him about his project and how he got connected to educators in other countries. What other cool educational experiments are our fellow educators conducting just a few doors down the hall from us? Sharing those ideas on social media can help to cultivate innovation and collaboration.

Screenshot of a Twitter post showing students seated in desks with their laptops open, facing a video screen.
Mr. Ruiz was having his students Skype with students from another country,
and I probably wouldn't have found out about his cool educational
experiment if he wasn't sharing his ideas on Twitter.

Acknowledge the Hard Work of Colleagues
Some of my favorite posts are those that I get to make when I peek into a classroom and see students engaged in a fantastic learning activity. I don’t plan most of these classroom visits--I just happen to be walking by. And, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to visit all the classrooms on campus during classroom time (librarians lose their librarian powers if they spend too much time outside of the library--away from their books). It’s rewarding to be in a position where I get to notice more of what goes on in my school. I don’t get to see everything cool on campus, but I love sharing the cool things I do see with a wider audience.

 Screenshot of a Tweet that shows high school students working together on a poster project.
I walked into Mrs. Ward's class to help her with a Google Slides question,
and I couldn't help but notice her students deeply engaged in a collaborative poster project. 

Imagine the power of someone who does get to visit each class getting to share the positive things they see on social media. Perhaps an administrator. They visit each class, right? As a teacher, would you be okay with your administrator making a brief post online about what she saw in your classroom? I know my district has rules and procedures around official evaluations from administrators, but there has to be a way to make such posts. It would go a long way to acknowledge the great work of a school’s staff for administrators to share the positive things they see happening.

So, what’s your school’s social media presence like? Can it be better?

Anthony Devine

Anthony is the Teacher Librarian at El Cajon Valley High School (@ECVHS). You can find him on Twitter at @anthonyrdevine and @ecvhslibrary.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Electrify Explanations with Piktochart

Do you want to save time, money, and classroom wall space while addressing important common core standards? Of course you do! You can make this a reality with Piktochart, free web-based infographic creation tool.

Sample Piktochart Using Piktochart to Explain

An infographic describing the synthesis phase of the research process.
The Research Process as Synthesis,
created using Piktochart.
Most teachers are practiced and insightful explainers. Part of our job is to make things make sense when they don’t. We need to show relationships, bridge connections, and fill in the gaps, all in record amounts of time. By creating your own infographics with Piktochart, you can make difficult content more accessible and visually stimulating. Infographics can be shared on a class website, in Google Classroom, or on a blog for students to access at any time. Piktochart's “presentation mode” even allows you to view an infographic piece by piece, making Piktochart a souped up presentation tool to replace Google Slides or Microsoft Powerpoint. Want to see what we mean? Check out the Piktochart class syllabi featured on Piktochart's Education blog or this representation of the synthesis phase of the research process featured to the right.

Student Infographics and Common Core

Common Core literacy standards call for students to integrate visual and textual information in digital formats to express their understanding of relationships between complex ideas. Standards also suggest that digital media should be produced and published on the internet. So much more than just posters, infographics require the creator to find, interpret, and evaluate information. Infographics can come alive with images, icons, links, charts, maps, and videos that immerse the viewer in the content.
"Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words." CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7
Common Core Language Arts
Anchor Standard for Reading,
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. 

Getting Started with Piktochart

If you are already convinced this web tool is worthwhile, head over to and get started. With one-step signup, you can use Google credentials to quickly create a free account. Students at least thirteen years of age can sign up in the same fashion, without any additional permissions. Scroll down and select one of the free templates, and click create. Don’t worry if the template is largely unrelated to your content. All templates are fully customizable!
Save the progress you are making on your infographic as you go, and come back at any time to continue working. Once you are finished, you have the option to download your work as a JPEG or PNG, publish it and share with a link, share it to social media like Twitter or Google+, or even secure the embed code to insert it into a website. For step-by-step video tutorials, visit the Piktochart YouTube channel.

Resources and Examples

Still need ideas? Check out some of the sample Piktocharts I’ve rounded up below, or visit the Featured Piktochart Gallery to see infographics created by users around the world.

Imagine your students are collecting data related to your content. The data could be observations and calculations from an experiment, dates from a historical event, or even evidence from a text. Students painstakingly collect information, draw insightful conclusions, and identify relationships. The problem is, these relationships and conclusions are stuck inside their heads. We want them to share, we want other students in the class to understand what they are sharing, and we want to be able to read it. Here's where Piktochart comes in. The easy (and did we mention FREE) interface makes creating and sharing professional quality explanatory masterpieces a breeze.

Lisha Brunache

Lisha Brunache currently serves as Ed Tech Specialist, on special assignment from her high school humanities teaching position at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos, CA. She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and a Leading Edge Digital Educator. Lisha Brunache, an Educational Technology Specialist (TOSA) at San Marcos Unified School District, is a former high school English and Social Science teacher with a passion for technology and creativity. Lisha is a Google for Education Certified Trainer, a Leading Edge Digital Educator, and holds an M.A. from San Diego State University in Learning Design and Technology. Find her on Twitter @LishaBrunache.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Seesaw: A Teacher’s Best Friend

You’re probably thinking, “She’s exaggerating! How can an app by my best friend?” I got your attention, right? But trust me on this one, you are going to want to read about this AMAZING app called Seesaw.

What is Seesaw?
Seesaw is a FREE app (yes, I did say FREE) that you can use with your students. The Seesaw app works on all devices; ipads, Kindles, Chromebooks, desktops and tablets. Seesaw is a digital portfolio app that collects all your students’ digital work in one place. It can also be thought of as a learning journal for your students. If you are a visual  learners, think “whiteboard app” + “Facebook”. And when I say “Facebook” I do not mean your students are on Facebook and interacting with the public. It reminds me of Facebook because of the set up; the use of a feed and the ability for students to interact with each other. Another bonus- it has a way to connect with parents!   

So, how do my students use it?
Once your students sign in to your class, they can post an item. They have a choice of six items to choose from. They can add a drawing, take a picture, select a picture from their camera roll, post a note, select an item from their google drive or add a link.

This is the menu for posting items in Seesaw for both students and teachers.
This is the menu for posting items in Seesaw for both students and teachers.  Photo Credit:
Once they choose one, they can interact with it different ways; they can record over it, add labels or a caption. One example of the powerful use of Seesaw is using it as a tool to capture communicating reasoning. At my school, teachers love using the drawing tool with their students during math number talks. A teacher will post a number talk or a problem of the day. The students will then use the drawing tool to work out their math problem. Once completed, the students can label their math work and record their thinking and how they came to their answer.   When the student is finished with their work, their item will wait approval by you and will post to the class feed once it’s approved. But wait, it gets better...the students can then respond to each other’s work on the feed (think Facebook). Students learning and responding to each other about their thinking.  

How do I use it as a teacher?
Once you sign up, there are three ways to get your students to populate your class; one is to type each student’s name in or you can do a copy and paste from a class list. I make this suggestion for my primary teachers (kinder and first) because typing in a code can be a challenge with the littles. Another way is to have your student type in a code when they sign up for Seesaw. They do not have to keep putting in the code to join your class when they sign in, it’s a one time thing. Or, your students scan a QR code.  Seesaw has a built in QR code reader in their app and will generate a QR code for you when you select “QR code”. Once your students add items, you will need to approve these items just in case there is something not appropriate.  You will get notifications when students add items. It will be a red bubble at the top of your app or by your name on the desktop.

Alerts when students add items.
Alerts when students add items.
Seesaw will alert you when your students add items. 124! Whoa! I have this many because I’m added in two colleagues classes, which leads me to our next discussion.

What else does Seesaw do?
I’m so glad you asked! Through Seesaw, you can create a class blog. This is a great way to connect with other classrooms around the world; talk about your high level SAMR skills! According to Angela Gadtke, community lead at Seesaw, Seesaw is being used in 100 countries! This is a great and safe way to have your students and you connect with other classrooms in other countries. You can also join other classes as a teacher. You can also post announcements and as mentioned above, you can connect with parents. Parents will only see their student’s work and will get notifications when their students add items (only after you approve them of course!). Teachers also have the ability to send out private messages to parents.

One more thing - Seesaw Plus
Seesaw Plus is an assessment tool that is an added feature that is not free.  You do not need buy Seesaw Plus to use Seesaw.  With Seesaw Plus, teachers are able to identify student journal items by tagging them with a skill, very similar to report card grading. This allows you to see progress made in standards and goals. Other features include making private notes and posts. The good news is that when you sign up, you can try Seesaw Plus for a month! When you go to your account settings, scroll until you see Manage Seesaw Plus. Click on activate and you will have Seesaw Plus for a month.  

Seesaw is being used in 200,000 classrooms at 25,000 schools (; some districts have purchased Seesaw for Schools for their teachers. When a district purchases this for their teachers, all teachers have access to Seesaw Plus.  

See! I told you this was your new best friend! There are so many other cool things to learn about Seesaw but I had a word limit for this blog. It is very user-friendly and Seesaw has great tech support; you can do webinars if you’d like to learn more about Seesaw.  They have great ideas that teachers have used with Seesaw on Twitter @Seesaw and Facebook Seesaw Teachers.  So what are you waiting for?  Go check out Seesaw!

Melissa Monroe

Melissa Monroe is a Seesaw Ambassador and teaches second grade in Oceanside, California.  She was previously an Educational Technology TOSA for two years providing support for teachers with implementing technology.  Melissa has taught 11 years, working with all grades K-8th.  Her passion for helping teachers with technology has extended to district-level professional learning opportunities as well as the National CUE and SDCUE.  You can follow Melissa on Twitter @MelissaMonroeNT.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

Using Canva in Your Classroom and Beyond

Screenshot of the Canva homescreen
Canva can be accessed via the web or apps. This is the
homescreen once you log into your account. 
As educators, our messages are in constant competition with the world around us. From inboxes to social media feeds, how do we stand out in the barrage of information and images that our stakeholders receive? A 2012 UC San Diego study found that the average person processes 34 gigabytes of information a day! So if our minds were laptops, that would be enough for us to overload within a week. As the Director of Communications for the Poway Unified School District, my job is to cut through the clutter, convey important messages on behalf of the District, and make sure they stick. I wanted to share my favorite tool for accomplishing that, and show you how you can use it in your classroom and beyond.

Flyer for our new Foreign Language Program in Mandarin.
Flyer for our new Foreign Language Program
in Mandarin.
Invitation for our LCAP Community Forum.

Invitation for our LCAP Community Forum.
I was introduced to Canva at the CalSPRA conference for school public relations professionals. (Yes, we get our very own association!) Canva is a FREE online program that allows users to create beautiful graphic designs using templates in an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop platform. It is web-based with apps for iPads and Chromebooks. Canva is one of the most powerful visual communication and teaching tools I’ve come across due to its simplicity, accessibility, and did I mention it’s free?

Canva can be accessed via the web or apps, with templates on the left and your working project on the right.

I had no previous design experience. (Unless you count being the yearbook editor in high school.) Luckily for me, Canva works much like a digital scrapbook does: you pick a layout, upload photos, and customize the fonts and colors. Once you select a template, you can create a project in minutes. Not sure how to get started? No problem! Canva provides tutorials even for the total novice.

With Canva, there are no more boring newsletters, flyers, posters, invitations, brochures, presentations, or social media posts. Everything I create comes with eye-popping and modern colors, fonts, images, and designs. Once your project is complete, you can download the finished design as an image or a PDF.

The result? My communications now have a much more polished, professional look. This, in turns, attracts my audience to click, engage, or share. A visual representation of information is more likely to grab readers’ attention than text alone. In fact, Facebook reports an 87% engagement for photos and graphics on Facebook as opposed to the 13% engagement for all other types of shared information.

I knew I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm for Canva. In fact, I had a Canva addict living right in my own home! My 10-year-old daughter surprised me one day by showing me an infographic she was creating on the water cycle as part of her report on climatology.

Part of my daughter’s water cycle infographic
Part of my daughter's water cycle infographic.
The possibilities are endless. In my son’s class, students created brochures to market their products for a “Shark Tank” competition. In yet another, ASB officers made invitations to their graduation ceremony. I truly believe that teaching our students how to be effective visual communicators is essential to preparing them for their future careers. Yet it’s one of those “soft skills” that will often get overlooked or taken for granted. And teachers need not be experts in order to incorporate this into their curriculum. Trust me: the students will take to it intuitively. Need some inspiration? Check out 13 Ways to Use Canva in Your Classroom or 7 Creative Student Design Projects to Try with Canva.

You can also click this link to check out some of Canva’s teaching materials. What makes it even more classroom friendly is that Canva is a cloud-based collaborative tool that you can use with others. You have the ability to create a design and send an editable design for feedback or approval. You can also send a design for viewing on the Canva site without the ability to edit.

I’ve also shown principals, PTA groups, and foundations how to use Canva to create attractive flyers and invitations for their meetings and fundraisers, which they can distribute electronically via Peachjar. The response is always the same: “Wow, I can’t believe how easy this is. And it looks SO good!” So I encourage you to give it a try, you’ll soon be wondering what took you so long.
An example of the tri-fold brochures we made for each of our schools, using Canva.
An example of a tri-fold brochure we made for each of
our schools, using Canva.

 An example of the tri-fold brochures we made for each of our schools, using Canva.
An example of a tri-fold brochure we made for each of
our schools, using Canva.

Christine Paik

Christine Headshot.JPGChristine Paik is the Director of Communications for the Poway Unified School District. She joined #TeamPUSD in January 2016 where she has taken on the role of “Storyteller in Chief.” Since her arrival, she has overseen and implemented multiple projects to increase employee morale and District pride, including a new newsletter, redesigned website, marketing videos, as well as positive social media and news coverage of students, schools, and staff. As a former college lecturer, Christine enjoys working with young broadcast students within PUSD; she recently started an internship for high school digital media students in partnership with the Career Technical Education department. Christine has two young children who attend PUSD schools. She moved to San Diego from Fresno, where she was an Emmy-winning news anchor and reporter for 15 years for ABC. You can follow Christine on Instagram (@SchoolPRMom) or Twitter (@ChristinePaik).