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).

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