Dean Shareski — a friend and mentor who has done more to challenge my thinking than most anyone I know — has been arguing for years that one of the new literacies that schools need to develop in students is the ability to communicate messages through influential visuals.  While we spend a TON of time teaching kids how to use text to push ideas, Dean argues, we are living in a world where pictures and videos are becoming the primary vehicle for capturing attention and driving change.

Makes a lot of sense, right?

If we really are committed to the notion that the role of school is to prepare students to do work that matters and to make a difference in the world around them, we can’t ignore the role that engaging visuals — still shots, PowerPoint slides, infographics, videos — can play in spreading messages.

That’s why Canva caught my attention this week.

Committed to making remarkable visual design easy for anyone, Canva provides access to a library containing thousands of engaging graphics that can be dragged and dropped into place on beautiful templates and layouts customized for everything from blog graphics and Facebook headers to flyers, posters, and PowerPoint Presentations.

Here’s how Canva describes themselves:

Design shouldn’t be hard but somewhere along the way we became bogged down with expensive, complicated software that put design out of reach for most people. Canva is here to change that, with a tool that makes design simple for everyone.

Wanting to test the claim that Canva can make design simple for everyone, I sat four of my sixth grade students down behind the tool during our 10 minute homeroom period on Wednesday.

The design challenge:  Create an infographic that we could use as a part of our Speak Up Salem anti-bullying project.  Using just the free content — images, backgrounds, fonts — available in Canva and working with almost no help from me, here’s what they came up with:

(click image to enlarge)

Reporting Bullying

Not bad for 10 minutes of work from four 12 year old kids, huh?  Any design tool that can provide enough scaffolding to make it possible for middle schoolers to produce a memorable image in minutes is definitely worth embracing.

Six Details about Canva Worth Noting:

Canva is currently in Beta testing — which means that you can reserve your username right now, but you will have to wait for an invitation from the company before gaining access and starting to experiment.

Canva runs on a freemium pricing model — which means that there are TONS of free layouts, images, backgrounds and fonts to choose from, but there are premium content bits too.  Each piece of premium content that you choose for an image will set you back a buck.  Premium content is all clearly labeled, though — so it’s easy to steer away from if you have decided to let students work under your username and password.

Canva makes it easy to upload your own images — which means you aren’t limited to just the Canva library when creating final products.  For a guy like me that has learned to mine the Creative Commons collections in Flickr, that’s an incredibly important feature that I’m thankful for.

Canva makes it possible to share final products a bunch of different ways.  You can download a PNG or PDF of anything that you create in Canva, but you can also publish straight to the web and share direct links to anything that you create too.

Canva makes it possible for multiple users to work together on images — which means that students can easily collaborate with one another on final products without having to send files back and forth via email.

Canva doesn’t have student accounts yet — my kids used my account to create the graphic that you see above — but they are really excited about the initial reactions that the teachers who are taking part in beta testing have towards their product.  My hope is that they will recognize schools as a valuable marketplace worth serving and customize a product and pricing line that will meet the needs of teachers and students.


Related Radical Reads:

Resources for Teaching Kids about Visual Influence [Handouts]

Anti-Bullying PSA Project [Lesson]

Check Out This Anti-Bullying PSA [Project Sample]

Creative Commons Resources for Classroom Teachers

Five Tips for Creating PowerPoint Slides that WON’T Bore Your Audience

Share this post: