When studying core subjects, students have many more options for learning beyond reading about events and figures in a textbook or putting together paper-based presentations.
They can create an online persona and digital presence for historic or literary figures, for example. Using tools such as Adobe Creative Cloud apps and service, they can collaborate on web page design and construction. They can arrange digital images into collages or record videos. Teachers can task students with creating infographics or recording podcasts instead of writing more traditional book reports.
While learning, students are also collaborating, thinking critically, communicating and being creative — all skills that, if successfully honed, better position them for future jobs.
“There’s no ceiling,” says Tacy Trowbridge, Adobe’s head of global education programs. “If you can imagine it, you can create it. Those tools are really powerful in helping students explore critical thinking.”
Globally, Trowbridge says, 12 million educators and students use Creative Cloud, which includes more than 20 desktop and mobile apps and services such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Lightroom. These tools are key to teaching the four C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity — soft skills that are in high demand among employers.
Creativity is the most highly sought-after of those — at least, according to LinkedIn, the career-focused social media platform.
About half of employed adults say skills such as patience, compassion and the ability to get along with other people are extremely important, a Pew Research Center study found. Another 40 percent say such skills are important.
Creativity and creative problem-solving are also among the most critical skills for success in the future workforce, according to a 2019 study from Adobe. Other important skills for tomorrow’s workers, the studies found, include people management, emotional intelligence and negotiation.
Yet, the Adobe study indicates, schools are not nurturing those skills. Sixty-eight percent of teachers reported a lack of emphasis on creative problem-solving. The study considered 2 million job postings, 2 million resumes and other data.
Tools Support Efforts to Boost Students’ Creativity
Those trends underscore why some K–12 educators are focusing on the four C’s and using tools such as Creative Cloud to ensure students are developing skills needed to help them achieve postsecondary success.
Creativity doesn’t require being artsy, Claudio Zavala Jr., instructional technology coordinator at the Duncanville (Texas) Independent School District, told EdTech at ISTE 2019. For example, students can find creative ways to solve problems.
“You really don’t have to have a graphic design background, a web design background, or even a cinematography background,” Zavala said. “Anybody can jump on the web, log in and create, or download it to a phone and create on the go.”
More than 18 million students worldwide use Adobe’s free, web-based tool Spark, Trowbridge says, to create web pages, graphics and video stories. Spark also supports collaboration, allowing students to work on projects together and enabling teachers to observe students’ work in progress and offer feedback.
These tools offer the added benefit of teaching technical skills and giving teachers greater insight into how students think.
There also are many ways educators can use Adobe’s Creative Cloud to teach soft skills across the curriculum, Trowbridge says. Educators share lesson plans on the Adobe Education Exchange. The platform, which is used by 750,000 teachers, allows educators to share and collect ideas — organized by grade level — for using Adobe tools in academic lessons.
Teachers looking for ways to incorporate soft skills into instruction may also get a boost from efforts outside of their classroom walls. Lawmakers in Texas are considering legislation that would establish a statewide, comprehensive, standards-based program to teach soft skills to middle and high school students.
Another challenge: How do students demonstrate their soft skills, particularly for potential employers? “Helping students learn how to demonstrate these skills isn’t easy,” Trowbridge says.
One option, she says, is for teachers to ask students to create digital work portfolios, which can be useful for college admissions or as they apply for jobs or internships.
“It’s a way to highlight those soft skills that are hard to quantify.”
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