Sparking Creativity in Classrooms Around the World

Artwork by Monica Acedo.

Sometimes the best experiences are completely spontaneous. I saw this during my sabbatical from Adobe when I went to India to volunteer with the nonprofit Teach for India, to teach technology and creativity to seventh- and eighth-graders. Going to Mumbai, I was prepared for the unknown. But once there, I encountered an immediate challenge — the monsoons.

I had great ambitions of teaching the students at Dawood Baug Municipal School in Andheri to use Adobe Spark, our app for easy and quick creation of videos, web stories, and graphics. But imperfect infrastructure and equipment tested us at every turn, with the torrents of rain frequently closing schools and causing major electrical issues.

This, compounded with spotty internet service and limited software equipment, meant embracing that spontaneous mentality even more than I’d expected. Amazingly, though, one constant remained no matter how bad the weather or how slow the internet connection — my students’ tremendous resilience and commitment to learn.

Mala Sharma with 7th grade students and their teacher from Teach for India.

India’s digital divide

While still significant, India has taken meaningful steps to bridge the digital divide.

Last year, for example, the government of India and the World Bank signed a $250 million loan agreement to help India’s workforce, including youth, acquire the necessary skills for today’s highly competitive job market.

According to the World Bank, more than 12 million youth between 15 and 29 years of age are expected to enter India’s labor force every year for the next two decades. The government’s recent skill gap analysis concludes that by 2022, another 109 million or so skilled workers will be needed in the 24 key sectors of the economy.

While there’s currently an understandable focus on industries like technology, manufacturing, and services, this is also the perfect moment for India to build its creative economy. A reskilled workforce can be perfectly positioned to respond to the growing content needs of businesses, startups, entrepreneurs, and midmarket companies. As we at Adobe know, creative content for standout experiences has never been more critical.

Telling stories on their terms

While I experienced numerous inspiring moments in the classroom, one stood out in particular. Vicky, a seventh-grader, told us how he’d recently seen an old man hit by a motorcyclist. The motorcyclist fled the scene, and no one stopped to help. Not knowing what to do, Vicky asked a stranger with a cellphone to call for help. “The value I used was empathy,” Vicky said. “I would have liked someone to help me if I was hit, so I could not leave the old man unattended.”

The next day, I’d planned to have students use Adobe Spark to create visual stories illustrating impactful moments like Vicky’s, but none of the computer lab equipment was working. As a last resort — and much to my students’ delight — I pulled out my own laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot to give them a sneak peek at the technology and how they could use Spark. I would soon discover this hotspot was the best internet connection I’d have.

Mala Sharma guides 7th graders on how to create an Adobe Spark video in the computer lab.

Unleashing a spark of creativity

A few more speed bumps were in our future but, within a few days, we were up and running — and ready to tell our stories. As we prepared to tell Vicky’s story among others, I was peppered with questions about choosing images, selecting music, and overall best creative practices. After the students had fully invested in their own creative storytelling, it was time for them to hit “play” and see their creations come to life. It was a moment I suspect these students won’t soon forget.

Over time, I visited homes and saw the conditions that surrounded my students’ day-to-day lives. Most had little or no supervision at home because their parents were working. Their environment is anything but conducive to learning but, despite these challenges, they come to school ready to learn, grow, and thrive.

The value of resilience

While in Mumbai I learned many lessons — including the challenges associated with kicking off a tech-based class during the rainy season. But I also learned that even students who’ve tackled incredible challenges often still possess an incredible grit — they were excited to get up and go to school each day and unleash their creative potential.

I believe that every child has a story to tell and that every human being has a right to self-expression. As industry leaders and innovators, we at Adobe have the tools to help them achieve that.

You can read more about my experience in a blog that chronicles my time with the students.

We recently recently announced the Adobe Digital Disha program in India, which will help vocational institutes leverage Adobe Spark to integrate creativity and digital literacy into classrooms.

Get free Adobe Spark licenses for education, and see how creative problem-solving is powering the future of education in our Back to School collection.