Adobe Updates Encourage Use in K-12 Classrooms

By Charley Locke

Can creating animation help students better understand the laws of Newton?

Adobe thinks so. The company, certainly no stranger to professional design, hopes to enable younger students to learn by creating their own digital learning materials. “The classroom is a place that should be empowering students to be creators and not consumers of content,” says Melissa Jones, World Wide Program Manager for Adobe Education.

Pricing Challenges in the K-12 Education Market

For Adobe, selling to schools has been a challenge, especially when it transitioned from offering its Creative Suite (CS) package as CD-ROMs to an online subscription service in May 2013. Professional users and design students were able to make the switch from perpetual to subscription licensing with relative ease. But schools, where technology is largely funded through grants, often preferred the old licensing method over monthly subscriptions. As Johann Zimmern, Adobe’s Head of Institutional Business and World Wide Education, explains, “In a lab with 50 computers and 500 students, schools did not want to go from paying for 50 copies of Adobe CS, to having to pay for 500 user licenses.”

Adobe hopes to ease that transition through its new per-device subscription licensing for schools. Under this model, schools will only need to pay the yearly subscription for each machine that runs the offline Creative Suite desktop applications, which any student can access through his or her free Creative Profile. Zimmern hopes this change will encourage more schools to purchase Adobe products for shared technology use.

Creative Cloud services, and connection to online content, isn’t available through this offer, which Zimmern said is a plus when selling to K-12 schools. “They were actually happy to hear that we came up with a solution for the software in classroom and lab environments that also restricts access to services,” he says, because that means schools (and Adobe) can avoid dealing with FERPA or COPPA regulations.

Updates to Creative Cloud, New Hardware

This morning, Adobe released new versions of fourteen Creative Cloud desktop applications, including Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro. These updates include a Creative Cloud app for iPhone and iPad, enabling users to access custom content from anywhere through their Creative Profile. Two new mobile apps, Adobe Sketch and Adobe Line, fully compatible with the updated Creative Profile, will allow for sketching and precision drawing on the go.

Adobe also announced two new hardware products, to be used with the iPad versions of its applications: Adobe Ink, a stylus which enables users to write and draw directly onto the iPad, as well as copy and paste across devices, and Adobe Slide, an easy-to-use ruler that lets users draw straight lines and precise shapes on a tablet. (Although Adobe Ink and Adobe Slide work on some other tablets, they’ve only been optimized for iPad so far.) By providing a way to sketch and measure directly onto the iPad surface, Ink and Slide aim to enable more innovative, less traditional uses of Adobe applications.

What Do These Changes Mean for Students and Educators?

Adobe hopes that these updates will help students continue to develop digital literacy skills. Through its new iPad versions of desktop applications, Adobe aims to reach more schools that currently have tech labs or iPad carts.

Zimmern sees the transition towards creative use of digital tools as largely up to students. “One third of all students are publishing content on YouTube and Pinterest and other sites, and they want to get better in using intermediate tools and showing digital literacy skills,” he explains. Zimmern believes that when given a choice of medium, “the majority of students are choosing video, because that’s the form of narration and storytelling that they’re familiar with.”

Zimmern sees the role of teachers as shifting alongside rapidly changing technology. Now, “teachers have to become mentors in the process of teaching, rather than [a] know-it-all,” he says, pointing to the Adobe Education Exchange as a resource. The online community, which numbers nearly 140,000 educators, offers free lesson plans, professional development, MOOCs, webinars, and online content.

Jones sees these contributors as “educators struggling with the same question: How can I most effectively empower my students to be creators and not consumers?” She envisions the site as a destination where teachers exchange ideas for how to “expose students to opportunities to create digital media” across a diversity of subjects, from arts and humanities to math and science.

Zimmern and Jones hope these offerings will stimulate students’ interest beyond the classroom walls. For students of all ages interested in developing their design skills independently, Adobe offers a variety of tutorials and learning tools, through Adobe TV and within a user’s Creative Cloud account. Adobe also has begun to offer Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) and Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) certifications for many of its materials. While the certifications are available to all learners, Adobe offers a 50% discount on the exam fees for educators and students. “It’s an opportunity to demonstrate that from a testing certification perspective, we know that students have proficiency,” Jones explains.

These certifications recognize widespread use of Adobe products as part of digital literacy, well beyond the world of professional design. Indeed, Adobe believes creative design skills will soon become ubiquitous. “You wouldn’t put Microsoft Word on your resume,” remarks Zimmern. Soon, he hopes, employers will assume the same proficiency with the Adobe Creative Suite.

For more information on the Adobe Education Exchange, check it out on EdSurge’s product index.

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