Embracing creativity and digital literacy with Adobe Express in New Mexico’s public schools

Adobe Express for Education.

At Adobe, we’re committed to improving learning outcomes and seek to empower all students across all disciplines with the essential creative and digital literacy skills needed both in the classroom and in future institutional coursework or careers.

We asked Kristina Kennedy, an Education Technology Resource teacher with Albuquerque Public Schools, to share her thoughts on how digital literacy is affecting New Mexico’s public school system and the opportunity for educators to help students prepare for their future careers.

How do you see digital literacy affecting students and educators today?

As an EdTech Resource teacher in the Albuquerque Public Schools, it’s my job to train educators and students on how to use a variety of technologies that support key curricular goals. Not only can technology help our students learn the fundamentals like math, science, and language arts, but digital literacy itself has become an essential skill in the 21st century. We want our students to be successful in school and in their future careers, and part of their success hinges on their ability to use technology to communicate, create, collaborate, think critically, and so much more.

I’m thrilled that New Mexico’s Public Education Department has partnered with Adobe to help our students develop digital literacy and all the soft skills that come with it. If you’re an educator, I want to encourage you to reach out to your own EdTech partner to get help integrating Adobe Express and other critical learning technologies into your lesson plans.

Any tips to help fellow educators get started with digital projects in the classroom?

To help our teachers enhance learning with technology, I meet with them regularly to find out what they’re working on in class and how we can use different software tools to achieve their objectives.

In one example, a teacher came to me with an idea at the beginning of the school year. She said she typically has her student’s complete data sheets and create other paper-based projects to reflect on what they’re learning throughout the year. She assembles this work into data binders that she can present to parents during conferences in the spring.

The teacher told me that the data binder preparation and assembly took up a lot of her time, pages often went missing, and she just didn’t feel that she and her students were getting enough out of the experience. She asked me if there was a way to replace the binders with digital portfolios.

I told her that Adobe Express was the perfect app for her project. With Express, students can quickly and easily make great-looking graphics, web pages, and short videos. By creating digital portfolios in the form of scrolling web pages, her students could showcase their learning experiences and express their ideas in personalized ways with text, photos, backgrounds, animations, video clips, and more.

How has Adobe Express been able to amplify student success?

First, Adobe Express is so easy to use that every student has been able to keep up. I always worry about teaching a new technology tool and having a few students fall behind and feel defeated. But with Express, every student (and teacher) could instantly understand how to dive in and start creating.

Second, the level of student engagement has gone through the roof. In the past, students might have created five-sentence summary paragraphs about a learning experience. They wrote them, the teacher put them in their data binders — it wasn’t terribly exciting. But now our students are turning their summaries into digital projects that include text, visuals, and recordings of their own voices. We can see the excitement on their faces the minute they start creating in Adobe Express.

Students have always loved working on their Chromebooks and iPads — anything digital just amps up the fun. And as they’ve continued to add to their digital portfolios and style them in the beautiful Adobe Express presentation format, they’ve developed a real pride in what they’ve created. At the end of the year, they’ll each have this amazing final product that they can’t wait to show off to their families.

What are some of the benefits you’re seeing in developing confident creators and communicators in the classroom?

Whether our students are creating digital portfolios, explainer videos for math problems, or illustrated haiku poems, they’re building important soft skills. They’re learning how to communicate persuasively, tell stories with maximum impact, and think critically about what they’re learning and how best to present their knowledge to others.

They’re also gaining technology skills that will serve them throughout their lives. They’re learning to use keyboard shortcuts to be more productive. They’re discovering how to integrate work from different platforms into one project. And they’re building skills like data analysis as they create graphs and charts with evidence to support their claims.

With tools like Adobe Express, it’s easy to scaffold learning to build students’ confidence. For example, with the digital portfolio project, we started by having students open up web page templates, add their names, and add backgrounds that expressed their personalities. Then they added text describing themselves and their families and hobbies. Next, we had them highlight academic work that they were proud of by taking pictures or screenshots and uploading them. And after that, they scripted, produced, and uploaded videos in which they rated themselves on different characteristics of successful learners.

As you can see, once we teach them the basics with a fun tool like Adobe Express, it’s easy to build on those skills. Year by year, students can learn to create more sophisticated digital images, digital projects, web page designs, and videos with professional-level tools like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Premiere Pro. That’s why it’s important for us to get them excited about digital creativity at a young age.

Any advice for helping teachers integrate technology and embrace new types of lessons?

While we all understand that digital literacy is essential to our students’ long-term success, it can be challenging for busy teachers to figure out how to integrate technology into their classrooms. As I often tell the teachers I work with, you don't have to do everything with paper and pencil because you're afraid of technology. And at the same time, you don’t have to reinvent your established lessons and curriculum in order to introduce digital tools.

If you’re struggling with how to begin, reach out to the EdTech staff at your school. We’re here to make the process easier and to spark the joy of digital creativity in the classroom. We can help you make just about any physical project digital to step it up, make it more fun and engaging for students, and layer in additional skills to make lessons more impactful.

And remember — don’t be afraid to try something new. Unleashing creativity in the classroom is really powerful. A technology-based lesson or project might not go perfectly the first time, but it’s wonderful to let your students follow their ideas and discover what they can do. And with tools like Adobe Express, both you and your students will likely create projects that go far beyond your expectations.

Want to see more lessons? Check out the Adobe Education Exchange to access hundreds of FREE lessons, templates, and self-paced professional development resources designed to help educators drive creativity and digital literacy in the classroom.

Quick help references

Access custom templates to suit the needs of any project and easily search libraries of Adobe Stock photos, design assets, Adobe Fonts, and more with Adobe Express for Education.

To support, inspire and empower educators, check out our Adobe for Education Social channels.