Canva for Education

How Canva helps bring Kansas' biggest, most diverse school district together

Background

Wichita Public Schools(opens in a new tab or window) is the largest and most diverse school district in Kansas, America. With 96 schools, over 5,000 teachers, and 47,000 students who speak over 100 languages, that’s a lot of ground to cover before opening a single textbook. Canva for Education empowers teachers and students to connect, create, and collaborate in the classroom and beyond through creative visual communication.

The Challenge

Communication is everything in education. But when no two students share the same educational needs in the classroom, the same cultural background, or goals for the future, a one-message-fits-all approach doesn’t always give staff and students their best shot at success.

Dyane Smokorowski, Wichita Public Schools’ Coordinator of Digital Literacy, oversees the educational technology team and learning programs that support both teachers and students across the district.

She says the scope of learning in classrooms covers a variety of different learning abilities.

“We have a beautifully diverse population of students with varying learning differences,” she says.

Across Wichita Public Schools, teachers and school support staff recognized the need to engage and communicate with students on every level. But in a busy district where every hour of the school day counts, finding new, fast, and accessible ways to empower their students was a daunting task.

Before Canva, creating polished and engaging teaching resources, presentations, newsletters, and other materials could be a frustrating time-sink.

According to Tia Jones, EdTech coach at Wichita Public Schools, the district’s staff had to grapple with multiple software platforms and dated graphics that were often difficult to adapt, evolve and update.

“Beforehand you had to train teachers up on all the different tools, and sometimes teachers were overwhelmed. They would spend hours and hours on a single low engaging presentation,” she says.

The Solution

Wichita Public Schools began rolling out Canva for Education in 2021, and the design tool quickly made a big impression in the classroom and behind the scenes. Canva’s simple design interface and drag-and-drop technology was easily adopted by staff and students at all levels.

Dyane and Tia say Canva offered Wichita’s staff a “one-stop shop” for content creation.

From clerical staff drafting social media posts to teachers looking to move beyond the old slideshows they’d been using for years, Canva has saved hours of time, reshaped workflows, and added a spark of creativity to classrooms.

“Once teachers start digging in, and they realize that Canva makes their life easier, that it saves them time, then they're all in,” Tia says.

Working from a centralized design tool and set of templates helped break down the barriers to entry across the district, giving the teaching community an opportunity to communicate in more visually engaging ways.

With Canva, teachers could focus less on technical processes and more on the message.

And the most exciting work is in the classroom, where teachers are using Canva to deliver lessons in new and fun ways. Students between grades 6 and 12 are embracing Canva too, creating and collaborating on educational projects.

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“What I’m excited about with Canva is it’s finally giving agency to students. I am thrilled with what we can do with this tool to help students to become better communicators and collaborators."

Dyane Smokorowski

Coordinator of Digital Literacy, Wichita Public Schools

Saving teachers time and energy

Canva makes it faster and easier for Wichita Public School staff to create materials more efficiently, from newsletters, and social media posts to digital training materials.

Making the leap to Canva for Education saved staff “hours and hours” of navigating multiple software tools and technical challenges. With Canva, teachers can quickly create and update lessons, and share classroom information within one platform.

“Canva allows the creation process to happen at a faster pace,” says Tia.

“Teachers feel more comfortable, so that they’re able to produce and create a lot faster.”

To save teachers time sifting through intranets, folders, and emails for information, Tia used Canva to create a centralized website so staff could access the same clean templates and up-to-date branding.

“That is my number one communication tool for staff members," Tia says.

"They know everything we do is at this website, and it's a couple of clicks away."

The adoption of Canva has caught on quickly across the teaching body — even in unexpected places.

“I was working with a retiring teacher the other day. She's low-tech and would use paper and pencil for the rest of her life if she could. I didn't know how far she would dip her toe, but she jumped right in. It was like magic,” Tia says.

Leveling up creativity in the classroom

Canva for Education has also helped teachers dream up new ways to deliver their lessons and engage with students visually.

Moving beyond text-only formats that not all students can grasp, Canva enables teachers to create and deliver richer, more visual learning formats, including video, talking presentations, and whiteboards for brainstorming projects. These have seen creativity and confidence spike in Wichita’s classrooms.

“Teachers really feel like they are producing like movie-level content in Canva. Even if it's just a slide show. They were joking at the beginning of the year that they could work for Pixar because they were using Canva,” Tia says.

Teachers can maximize their own time, and presence in the classroom by easily creating a QR code in Canva to direct students to a classroom project within the platform, or safely embedding video into presentations.

“Students aren’t taken to YouTube where they can get lost in the world of commercials and Internet,” Tia says. “They can watch that video right within Canva. So it has leveled up teacher instruction because they are adding instructional videos in their Canva lessons, all within one spot.”

Talking presentations, Dyane explains, is another successful example of how teachers are using Canva to deliver educational content in visual, engaging ways, for students of varying abilities to understand.

“Recording myself within a video on the page, I can provide instruction in a small group asynchronous experience while letting the students stop and reflect and learn in their own time,” she says.

Making information accessible to Wichita’s diverse community

Having consistent, clear and professional messaging is important for a school district, but so is being able to tailor that message to make sure everyone is included.

As a centralized design platform, Canva’s templates and editing tools mean designs can be smoothly customized and shared across a broader team that includes teachers, translators, and administrators.

Dyane explains, Canva enables staff to easily translate information, such as newsletters, that can be adapted into multiple languages and communicated with ease to Wichita's diverse community.

"There's over one hundred languages spoken in our community, but primarily it is Spanish and Vietnamese,” she says. “I can create a collaborative Canva document in English, send it to our translations services team where they can transcribe it easily, and then share end product with all three languages with our school community."

“That's been huge for our teachers, especially with parent-teacher conferences,” adds Tia.

“It’s a huge advantage for our communication to staff and to students.”

Canva also enables Wichita to shift focus from black-and-white, text-based communications to a more adaptable, visual medium, helping to break down cultural and language barriers in an unobtrusive way.

“When you're talking about the diverse population and the different languages that are spoken across the district, sometimes visual directions or representations are a lot easier and simpler when communicating with those families,” Tia says.

Helping students design their future

Most importantly, Canva gives students a fun and engaging tool to express themselves and demonstrate their learning through design. Rather than lengthy essays, students use Canva to create and showcase their knowledge with infographics, websites, flyers, and videos in the classroom.

More senior grade 6 students at Wichita are also using Canva to prepare themselves for the future, learning how to create their own resumes or digital portfolios for potential college or job placements.

“It’s not that simple to create a resume, and Canva changed everything when they could make a very clean, professional-looking design with ease,” Dyane says.

Looking ahead, Dyane predicts students will be advancing to use Canva to visually communicate data-led learning, such as creating charts or reports in mathematics or science projects.

According to Dyane and Tia, Canva doesn’t just give students a hands-on role in creating beautiful, engaging designs; it sets them up with the skills and confidence to communicate with clarity and flexibility in the future.

“I truly believe that Canva has changed the way I teach, and it has so much potential for student creativity."
Tia Jones
EdTech coach, Wichita Public Schools
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