Everything You Need to Know about Creativity in the Classroom with Adobe Creative Cloud

The biggest game changer in education.

Do you want your students to be more creative? Educators who use Adobe Creative Cloud products already know this not-so-secret secret: when paired with intentional, student-directed learning and project-based learning, Adobe Creative Cloud products can push students creatively, deepen thinking, and solidify learning, not to mention, prepare students for college and careers. It’s true. Adobe Creative Cloud is a game-changer for classrooms.

Recently, a 2019 Gallup “Creativity in Learning” study found that the “transformative use of technology” paired with creative project-based learning improved student outcomes. Specifically, the outcomes of “building self-confidence, utilizing their unique strengths, and developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills” as well as critical thinking, connections between subjects, and deeper learning and retention of the subject matter.

What teacher doesn’t want all of those outcomes?

To clarify further, the Gallup poll defined transformative use of technology as activities where students “express their learning in ways that they couldn’t without the technology.”

Education and Marketing Strategist, Jennifer Stringer explains, “Students need a toolbox that allows them to express their ideas in a variety of different mediums. The technology that we have access to today allows students to express themselves through videos, images, graphics, social media and more.”

Valor Christian High School Graphic and Web Design teacher, James Gonzales says that when you allow technology to enhance and push children into creativity, you’re breathing life into their learning. He adds, “Kids push themselves because they’re enjoying it. They retain the learning better if they’re interested.”

This is where the Adobe Creative Cloud products come into play. If you’re looking for transformative technology, Adobe Creative Cloud’s wide portfolio of products is the top choice for K-12 educators as well as the industry standard for creative careers.

“Adobe changed my game,” says High School English and Theater teacher Mike Kelba. “Honestly, I could do poster child stuff for Adobe because it changed how I interact with my students….I didn’t immediately think that these programs and this platform could be a different way for me to look at language itself but it changed how I teach language.”

“These are rich, inspiring programs that grow creative kids,” says Gonzales.

Across all grade levels and subjects, Adobe Creative Cloud is a transformative tool that encourages student creativity and positive learning outcomes in the classroom.

All students (and teachers) are creative

First, it’s vital to believe that everyone is creative and that all of us have creative potential. (You, included.)

It’s a mistake to think that creativity is artistic talent only. In fact, the research on creativity shows that creativity is a way of thinking and doing in order to generate new ideas and solutions. Comedian John Cleese believes, “It’s a way of operating.”

But it’s likely that you’ll need to educate students, parents, and colleagues about this. Claudio Zavala, an Instructional Tech Coordinator at Duncanville ISD shows the teachers he works with that they’re creative by reminding them that “we’re creative problem solvers in staff meetings when we’re limited by funds.” Likewise, with your students, you might start where Kelba does when he tells his students that the music they listen to is a creative choice.

Once you set the classroom expectation that we all have untapped creative potential, you’ll be able to better use the Adobe Creative Cloud programs to exceed the educational standards and cultivate more creativity.

Image via La Salle College High School.

Must-haves for a creative learning environment

Building on the foundational belief that we’re all creative, it’s important to create a community of learners who feel safe to take creative risks. In other words, the goal is for students to feel comfortable enough to ask questions, take risks, fail, reflect, and grow.

Reggio-Emilia inquiry-based Anastasis Academy is a K-8 school where you’ll see this kind of nurturing, safe community of creative learners. Executive Director and Founder, Kelly Tenkely explains their intent, “We are here to empower students to make meaningful choices, apply experiences and knowledge, and struggle.”

How do you intentionally create this kind of learning environment? Consider the following…

1. Time

Students need time. Kelba believes that time is the hardest part of facilitating the creative process. Teachers, he says, need to provide ”time for kids to be confused, blocked, and not to know how to do it…to make room for discomfort and room for people to be uninspired…All of these things are welcome.”

“It used to be only about the end product,” Zavala remembers, “That whole middle chunk — we failed our students — there was a whole lot between start and finish that was valuable that we didn’t value.”

“When we value the way you think and the way you create, it’s valuable for all careers, not just creative careers,” adds Gonzales.

Plan for process time.

Plan for the messy middle.

****2. Failure

Just like time, failure is an essential part of cultivating creativity in your learning environment. “We grow and learn by trying, failing, and reflecting; asking what did I learn? That has so much value,” Gonzales says adding, “Failure isn’t the opposite of success but a better path to success.”

“To prepare students for college and for the workplace, teachers need to give them a supportive environment to think creatively, make mistakes, and take risks,” says Stringer.

As educators, we can embrace the failures by making sure those steps aren’t tossed away but saved as part of the process. Encourage learners to save their failures, because they are valuable for reflection and growth. And just as importantly, model your own creative failures and struggles. Modeling is a powerful instructional strategy at any grade level.

You might even consider including the process of trial and error as part of your assessment. If we can show students that we value the process and the effort, we’ll help retrain them not to be so focused on the end product.

Finally, embrace a growth mindset in your classroom. Remind students that talent and creative ability are not set in stone, that to improve in our abilities, we work hard, take risks, fail, and reflect–all which grow our creativity and talent.

****3. Collaboration

Using failure to inform work is even more powerful alongside collaboration. Collaboration is another of the four Cs of 21st-century skills which are creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication, valuable skills required for the ever-changing workplace. Collaboration helps students problem solve and see different perspectives.

Octavia Betz, Visual Arts Instructor at Aspen Academy, loves how the Adobe tools bring the class together as a community, especially in her Photoshop class. “The kids share, support, and work together. It’s great to see them solve problems in different ways.”

In fact, a community of collaboration often leads to more creativity. In his book, Lifelong Kindergarten, Mitchel Resnick writes, “Creativity is a social process, with people collaborating, sharing, and building on one another’s work.”

Robert Johnson, Director of Multimedia Technology at La Salle College High School explains how he uses collaborative work in his digital media and technology classes. “Sharing files is super easy in the Creative Cloud. If you have an iPhone, you have a 4K camera in your pocket. Kids can shoot a video of a soccer game or club and upload it to the Cloud. Rush is great for quick social content. The kids can make a 1-minute long video, get out and collaborate, add graphics and music, and easily share that to me.”

Johnson uses these student-made videos for his school’s social media accounts: YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. “It’s a great way to advertise what makes our school so great. It’s authentic student content…the Adobe tools make it easy.”

4. Student choice

Another important part of the learning environment is giving students ownership and choices. Indeed, the aforementioned Gallup study demonstrated a correlation between increased creativity and how much teachers allowed students to do the following:

Thus, this study reminds us that when teachers allow student ownership in terms of topics, processes, and products, creativity abounds.

With the diverse array of options in Adobe Creative Cloud, student choice is an easy addition to a teacher’s repertoire. For example, Zavala encourages teachers to give students options in how they show their learning using any of the Adobe Creative Cloud products. He likes how the Adobe tools give students so many choices–from visuals to movies.

5. Teacher as facilitator

When we give students the necessary ownership to make creative decisions, we become facilitators instead of all-knowing sages. Johnson says, “I’m there as a guide on the side to push them and keep them on the path, to give them the freedom to be creative and access to certain things.”

In this facilitator role, Gonzales likes to ask reflective questions to push his students such as, “How can you make this better?” and “Have you investigated every single idea?”

****6. Access to the Adobe Creative Cloud

Equally important, we must give students access to the Adobe tools. The more access a student has to the Adobe tools, the more opportunity there is for creative possibilities.

In elementary and middle schools like Anastasis Academy, the free Spark apps provide immediately accessible options for all ages of students as well as teachers to use technology for deeper thinking and creativity.

“Spark is pretty easy to just pick it up and use it. We think of it as a gateway to other programs,” says Tenkely. “Because it’s not as complex, it gives students an understanding of how layering works and how color palettes work so when they are ready and want to do more, they have that foundation.” Tenkley loves how the Adobe tools provides important scaffolding options, gradually starting out with beginning digital experiences to more advanced solutions. She explains that she often transitions her students from Spark to the more advanced Adobe tools, such as Photoshop and Premiere Rush, in about 7th and 8th grades.

Zavala does this with his teachers and students, too. “Once you get beyond Spark, you explore other tools like Photoshop and Premiere Rush when you want to manipulate more, which opens the door to more ways to do something, more ways for students to be more creative.”

La Salle College High School provides Adobe Creative Cloud for all students. Johnson explains that having access at home has been a game-changer for students because they can work outside the classroom to create content at the library, at home, or on the bus. “They’re being creative all the time,” he says, “because they have access to the tools all the time. For schools, it is $5 a person for a year, which is a no brainer for the price per school. It’s unbelievable.”

He adds, “What Adobe has done in terms of the pricing, bringing it down to a really affordable model, releasing on mobile, the amount of updates,…it’s awesome to have ability and access so quickly.”

Creative learning projects with Adobe

1. Plan for deep thinking

When you use the Adobe Creative Cloud tools to transform learning, you can expect to see creativity from students. “But it’s not just creativity for the sake of creativity; it’s how do you push kids to think and reflect about their learning and do it creatively,” explains Tenkely. It’s designing projects, she explains, “that require a depth of thinking that you don’t just get in a report which is more linear thinking. Our goal is to get kids to critically think and problem-solve, to delve into creating, analyzing,…those higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.”

Use Adobe Creative Cloud products to encourage what the book Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom by Amy Burvall and Dan Ryder calls “critical creativity” in the classroom. Critical creativity is when “students using creative expression to demonstrate deeper thinking and the nuances of understanding content.”

****2. Scaffold

Don’t worry. You don’t need to know or teach an advanced level class on how to use each Adobe program. You can simply teach the skills needed for each project.

James Gonzales says, “I teach to the project–the tools students need right then. Kids are never going to retain seminar-style instruction, they have to do it.” If the project needs lines, shape tools, and color, that’s what Gonzales teaches. “I teach them elements and principles a little bit at a time, you can’t teach them everything.”

Similarly, Tenkely explains, “We integrate the technology within the context and need. We treat it as part of the inquiry process and ask can we do that when we have an actual project they’re trying to solve.”

To build up students’ background knowledge, La Salle College High School requires the freshman class to take a year-long introduction to ISTE (Information Sciences and Technology) which includes modules in Photoshop and Premiere Pro as foundations for other electives in the following years. Using these introductory foundations, students can move on to 23 other electives in the technology strand alone.

3. Set parameters

Research shows that a good technology-infused project with creative possibilities isn’t just a free-for-all, but is one that gives students parameters and allows for creative freedom. “Projects need content and framework,” agrees Betz.

Zavala likens this balance of structure and freedom to the recess game, Capture the Shark. “When you’re playing the game, kids can do whatever they want as long as they stay within the boundary lines. It’s in that sweet spot that they’ll be creative.”

In other words, the best projects give students choices within limitations.

“The way out of the “box” is via shackles. Creativity works best with prompts, parameters, and limitations. Too much freedom is daunting and inhibiting. We flourish with conditions, rules, and challenges,” Amy Burvall and Dan Ryder write in their book Intention.

Examples of creative Adobe project ideas

What kind of projects can you do that lead students into creativity and critical thinking? Here are some examples from the educators mentioned in this article.


1. Theme in a novel study

Anastasis Academy middle school students design a custom color palette to represent one of the themes in the book Of Mice and Men.

****2. Minimalist Art + Cornerstones of Culture

After also studying minimalism while in an inquiry block of how language, art, and religion are cornerstones of culture, students at Anastasis Academy create a minimalist-style poster to show both their understanding of minimalism as well as a synthesis of their understanding of the complexities of the three cornerstones of culture.

3. Become a graphic designer for your school

When Aspen Academy needed a yearbook cover in 2019, the administration looked to the middle school students in the Photoshop Design class. After the students met with their clients in administration, they designed and submitted their designs for a student vote. The winning design became the yearbook cover.

Aspen Academy Yearbook design winner, Jemma Taylor, with the final product.

4. School marketing materials

The Aspen Academy administration loved another contender for the yearbook design so much, they dubbed it the “Be Kind Bear” and made it into a school ball cap and stickers. The cap is for sale in the student store and teachers give out the stickers when they notice students being kind. As you might imagine, these stickers adorn student water bottles and laptops all over the school.

Aspen Academy’s Be Kind Bear sticker and cap.

5. Modern art + animated GIFs

In the level one Valor Christian High School graphic design class, students choose a piece of art and add a modern twist to it using Photoshop. Next, they animate their visual into a .gif with After Effects. For example, one student chose the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware and changed the boat to a BMW for his modern twist.

Carlie Charp, Class of 2018 - Animated GIF Picaso, “The Old Guitarist” - Photoshop and After Effects

6. Ancient mythology memes

North Shore High School English teacher Michael Kleba gives students an Ancient Mythology Myth as Memes assignment. Students visit the Museum of Art and take pictures, or use images online. Then, students manipulate the images with Photoshop to create new meanings or/and ideas.

“Washington Crossing the Delaware wit Da Boyz.” John P., Jack K., Liam N, Eddie M., and Attius B. based on “Washington Crossing the Delaware” Emanuel Leutze, 1851. Created using Photosho

7. Negative space poetry

Also in Kleba’s North Shore High School English class, students bring in images without any humans. They use Photoshop to layer text on these images — any text. This teaches kids about negative space because they need to find a spot for the text. Next, they move into writing a poem about negative space with considerations about what isn’t said and the way the lines look on the page.

8. Vocabulary visual representation

In a Duncanville High School Psychology classroom, Zavala helps the class learn vocabulary words in a new way. Instead of writing the definition of the word or using the word in a sentence, this Adobe-infused creative project asks students to find things in the real world to represent their vocabulary words then take photos of those representations. The students create graphics using Spark or Photoshop to be visual representations of their vocabulary words.


1. Social Media Marketing

At La Salle College High School, the media students are the school’s de facto marketing department. The students create authentic user-generated content using Premiere Rush, filming sports events, clubs, and various learning activities to create short films for the school’s social media.

2. Weekly television broadcast

Students at La Salle College High School use Premiere Pro to create a weekly online, feature-based broadcast using higher-level editing, effects, and multitrack audio. The broadcast consists of interviews, stories, promo videos, football games, and more. Watch examples on their channel: youtube.com/wexptv.

La Salle College High School students prepare for their weekly WEXPTV broadcast.


1. Real world film festival marketing

When Valor Christian High School hosted the Kalos Film Festival, graphic design students in James Gonzales’s advanced class worked collaboratively to create a poster, social media visuals, a multi-media presentation, and their choice of something else such as t-shirts. The teams then pitched their concepts to the festival organizers.

Preparation for careers and beyond

It’s clear that as the world changes, so must our classrooms and learning activities. Businesses, all types of businesses, want creative thinkers. “The jobs that students will have… will require that they are able to find creative solutions to problems,” says Stringer.

We benefit our kids when we allow them to be divergent, creative thinkers in our classrooms. Using Adobe Creative Cloud to do this not only engages students and makes learning more impactful, but it also prepares them to be successful in today’s complex world and workplace.

We partnered with Melissa Taylor to create this blog post. As such, this should be considered sponsored content.