Creativity + Software: The New Lesson Plan

Posted by Tacy Trowbridge, Lead, Worldwide Education Team

Computers and software are the pens and paper of the modern student, but getting these tools into the hands of students can be difficult. Programs and grants meant to bring new technology into the classroom have been underfunded for years and antiquated rules sometimes prevent schools from getting the software they need. While Adobe has tried to make a difference by committing more than $300 million in software and professional development to schools in the United States through the White House’s ConnectED initiative, it can’t fill the void left by years of underfunding. To ensure schools are getting the resources they need to cultivate the next generation of creative problem solvers, legislators need to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Provide consistent education funding from year to year

As more software companies turn to subscription-based models for their products, the need to consistently fund schools from year to year is crucial. Otherwise, schools may have the funding one year and not the next, making it difficult for administrators and teachers to maintain student access to basic digital tools.

Fortunately, thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress last year, schools have a new resource. The bill authorized more than $4 billion in Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants over the next three years to help schools purchase software, hardware, and other resources needed to prepare the workforce of the future. For FY 2017, Congress is authorized to appropriate as much as $1.65 billion in SSAE grants to local schools. However, President Barack Obama’s budget only provides $500 million for the grants in FY 2017, and the Senate Appropriations Committee appropriated even less ($300 million) when it reported its education funding bill out of committee earlier this month. Such a low level would set a dangerously low benchmark for future appropriations.

Adobe encourages House and Senate appropriators to fully fund the SSAE grants at their authorized level to give educators the resources they need. The SSAE grants allow schools to use up to 60 percent of the funds for technology purposes, and each school district should receive at least $10,000 – a potentially significant investment in smart boards, projectors, and software.

  1. Ensure students have access to subscription-based software

Most software companies have turned to subscription-based models because it is how customers want to purchase software. Creative professionals want to invest in software that will remain the industry standard for years to come rather than having to purchase updates every few years, and school administrators are no different. Legislators should not restrict how schools buy software. Putting limitations on subscription-based software or requiring schools to purchase particular formats is the quickest way to ensure school resources become dated.

Schools should be able to purchase software just like any business. As hard as it may be to believe, some states and districts still purchase software on CDs. Students should be using the same software in the classroom that they would be using in the workplace. If we want the next generation of students to develop the digital literacy and creative skills they need to succeed in the workforce, grants should make it easier for schools to buy the best, most current software – regardless of format.

  1. Enable students to access school software no matter where they are

Thanks to advances in technology, learning does not have to end when they leave the classroom. With the move to cloud-based software, students can now collaborate with classmates no matter where they are, adding a new dimension to the way students learn, interact, and communicate. Bringing this technology into the classroom better prepares students to develop the skills they will need in an increasingly digital and visual word.

Teachers should encourage students to be resourceful and use the tools at their disposal to tell stories in new, innovative ways. Rather than writing a term paper or filling out a worksheet, students learning a foreign language can demonstrate their competency by filming and editing a video that conveys a story in another language. Students today need to be able to do more than write a term paper, and creativity needs to be part of every class across the curriculum.

All of these recommendations are meant to help students become creative thinkers and doers who can take an idea and make it come to life, but accomplishing this requires significant investment. We encourage legislators at both the state and federal level to fully fund education programs and grants while removing archaic restrictions on how students purchase or use software.

At Adobe, we like to say “Creativity is not an elective; it’s our future.” Now the question is whether lawmakers share the same belief.