Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2017
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Canva - Photo Editor & Design

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Create snazzy designs in seconds with flexible, cloud-based tool

Subjects & skills
  • Arts

  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Teachers say (26 Reviews)
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Pros: Tons of free templates plus great guidance can transform budding artists into able designers.

Cons: Resource-intensive and can be prone to crashes. It can be easy to confuse "layouts" and "designs" and lose work in the process.

Bottom Line: A flexible, accessible way to get kids -- especially design novices -- creating digitally in your classroom if you have stable internet and time to get students set up to be successful.

For your students, use Canva as your go-to creation tool for class projects: consider having kids use the poster and presentation templates to create their own attractive, original art to enhance their in-class presentations. For your own purposes, use these design tools to bring extra verve and pizzazz to your course documents, class website, or social media presence. There are great graph templates built in, too, which could be great tools to help math and science classes display data; plus, students could use chart templates like the Venn diagram tool to help illustrate what they've learned in class. Check out Canva's teaching materials for more inspiration.

One word of caution on the social media front: This tool has great templates built in for social media posts (like templates sized for Facebook and Twitter profile images), and it's super-easy to use the tool to connect via social media. Keep that in mind and make sure you outline expectations before you dive in with your students. 

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Canva is a graphic design tool for the web (including Chrome) and for iOS. Users create an account (with an email address or by linking their Google or Facebook account) and then follow a tutorial, which orients them on how to get started and how to use the tool's many features. Users can upload their own images and create their own layouts or choose from a selection of thousands of built-in images and design templates (some of which are available for in-app purchase). Features abound: You can adjust brightness and contrast, resize images, overlay images with text and colors, and more. Once users have finished creating, their designs are automatically saved to the cloud (so it requires an internet connection) and are accessible from the user's home page in the app or on the website. Users can then export their creations via email, as Facebook posts, or via Twitter, and they can download their images in JPEG, PNG, or PDF format.

The opening tutorial, which claims it'll teach you design in 63 seconds, is a winning introduction to Canva. While tutorials are often skippable, make sure to see this one through: there are tons of details to know to use this tool, and it's easy to get overwhelmed with the number of features and all of their possibilities. It's also important for students to understand how "layouts" and "designs" work with each other, as well as how saving works. Without this valuable information, it can be easy to get going on a design only to lose that work.

While Canva is great for novices, advanced users might look elsewhere. Canva doesn't have as many tools or as much flexibility as Photoshop or Illustrator, and users won't get in-depth instruction about principles of what makes good design. For these reasons, Canva is less for the design-savvy and more for the rest of us. It's a great way to make something that looks good fast -- and it seems like the perfect tool for adding captions to images for simple sharing via social media. The flexible features for creation and for export make this an excellent tool for helping even the most novice designer create and share slick, simple graphic design. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The interface is gorgeous, and using the tool is fun and intuitive. Built-in designs are slick and attractive and should appeal to kids (and their teachers, too). 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Users won't dive deep into graphic design principles or the what or why of the choices they'll make as they work, but flexible features offer great opportunities to create, iterate, and share.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The opening tutorial is excellent, and lots of helpful hints along the way make it easy to create a design from scratch or from a template.

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 26 reviews) (26 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Julie Y. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
South Portland High School
South Portland, United States
Help students become graphic designers with their work with little hassle!
This takes the design away from students and allows them to really focus on what information they want to share. It can be tricky when they select a design with not enough space for text, but it has every option to add more. It offers students a way to make professional products without really having to know design concepts, which is (and should be) a class on its own.
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