Review by Emily Major, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2017

Adobe Spark

Super-flexible design tool for crafting fabulous images, videos, and sites

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
8–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (4 Reviews)

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5 images

Pros: Lots of inspiring examples with ongoing updates, plus it's easy to select and cite Creative Commons-licensed images.

Cons: Terms of use specify age 13 and up, and teachers should be aware of sharing settings.

Bottom Line: This free, one-stop shop for creating sleek graphics, web stories, and animated videos is incredibly easy to use and challenges students to think critically about visual presentation.

An amazing creation suite for both teachers and students, Adobe Spark is easy to use and offers plenty of inspiring templates to get started. You can browse the Education section of the Inspiration Gallery and filter by project type (Pages, Posts, Videos) to get ideas. The Post tool is great for creating flyers or posters, which can be printed and displayed in your classroom. Students can create collages and graphic images to accompany lessons on any subject. Use the Page tool to design a scrolling, interactive lesson plan or have students create web stories to present their research or bring a narrative to life. The third creation tool, Video, allows teachers and students to select music and record their voices over slides that tell a story, argue a position, or describe a research project. For students, the key is figuring out how to organize and visualize their ideas. These tools offer rich opportunities to demonstrate learning while getting creative with design elements.

The search integration for Creative Commons-licensed photos is a great opportunity for teachers to explain best practices around copyright and fair use. Check out Adobe's webpage for using Adobe Spark in the Classroom to get more ideas from teachers using the tool.

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Adobe Spark is a design and media-creation platform that's best used on the web but is also available on iOS and Android (soon). The platform features three project types: Post (social graphics), Page (web stories), and Video (animated videos). Each of these features used to exist as a separate app -- Adobe Post, Adobe Slate, and Adobe Voice -- but now they all exist within Spark. Work is automatically synced across the web and iOS apps; published Page and Video projects are hosted on Adobe servers. If your school has an Adobe Enterprise ID, students can use that to access Spark. Otherwise they'll each need to create an account and -- because of the social sharing function -- enter their birth dates to verify they're at least 13. You can start a Post or Video by choosing a template or starting from scratch. There's a selection of school-specific templates for Posts such as flyer, explainer/how to, and report; several Video templates also are great for the classroom. Page templates aren't built into the creation flow (but you can find examples in the Gallery). 

Pop-up prompts are used strategically to guide users through the features -- for example, suggesting that you apply a design filter, use the microphone button to record your voice, or try adding a Glideshow. A how-to tutorial pops up automatically before a user begins a Video project. While creating, you can upload photos, add Creative Commons images, or sync your Creative Cloud, Dropbox, or Google Photos accounts. Videos can be uploaded or embedded from YouTube, Vimeo, or Spark Video. All projects are automatically collected in the My Projects gallery for easy access. Published creations can be shared via social media, email, or shareable link. Post and Video projects can be downloaded, while Pages and Videos have the option to embed. 

Spark projects can be highly personalized and empowering: Students can choose photos from their own collections, upload their own videos and music, and record their voices over slide presentations. Across the three project types, there's plenty of choice to keep students engaged. The design interface is intuitive and easy to use -- it's the creative choices and finished project satisfaction that'll continue to engross students project after project. Many will be pleasantly surprised by how polished their creations turn out to be. The numerous choices for best displaying information drive learning in Spark: Students exercise creative, critical, and strategic thinking in concert as they decide how a thesis statement, research report, or story should unfold. The Video templates in particular provide helpful guidance for structuring information across the slides.

Sharing published work is another draw for students, but teachers should protect students' privacy. Students can choose not to display their names and not to allow their published links to be discoverable on search engines. There's a social aspect, too: Classmates can "appreciate" each others' published projects and share each others' work on social media. Accessibility is an issue, since support is only offered in English, but Adobe acknowledges this and hopes to add more languages in future updates. Advanced design students likely will need more functionality, but this platform isn't really designed for them (they'll want to check out the Adobe Creative Suite, Sketchbook Pro, or Procreate).

Overall Rating

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

A beautiful interface and plenty of creative inspiration reel students in, and the personalization options foster a sense of ownership. Students make compelling design choices and craft polished products.

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

Students experiment, iterate, and think critically about the content they're presenting and learn visual communication skills that will help with other projects and classes.

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 support section answers a range of questions but only in English. Pop-up guidance and how-to videos streamline the user experience. Teachers can download the Spark Guide for Schools and Educators.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Michelle G. , Other
Other
Model Being a Creative Communicator Using Adobe Spark
Like so many tools available to us as educators, Adobe Spark may seem a bit daunting the first time you use it. Once you select the type of project you want to create (Post, Page, or Video), you are directed to a template that will guide you in creating the product. You will find prompts to guide your text and dozens of suggested themes. If you are like me, you may spend a little extra time clicking through options and playing with design. On the other hand, our students will appreciate being able to clear the slate and start with an empty canvas that they can personalize. Since most of the schools I work with are Google Apps for Education, students and teachers can get started by logging in with their GAFE account. If your school is using the Adobe Suite and students have existing accounts, those can be used instead. Since Adobe Spark is on the cloud, the one login works across all devices and browsers. In schools without 1:1, this means students aren't tethered to the computer lab. One of the biggest advantages of Adobe Spark is that is compatible with most devices including Chromebooks (love BYOD-friendly tools). The only conflict is that it is not currently in the Google Apps Store (sorry Android phone/tablet users). iOS users can download the suite of apps (Post, Page, and Video). To answer all your user start-up questions, check out the Guide for Educators and Schools: https://adobespark.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/article_attachments/207228927/Adobe_Spark_Edu_Guide.pdf
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