This week I have been exploring the quality of Adobe Spark programs as a multimedia tool to create instructional materials and showcase student learning. In this blog post, I will discuss the need for a modern multimedia tool for my prototype, provide a brief description of each Adobe Spark program including an example of what I have created within it and, finally, conclude with a discussion of its strengths and limitations.
The need for a modern multimedia tool
I am using the concept of the flipped classroom for my prototype blended learning course, Organizational Behaviour. In the flipped classroom environment, the students are required to review the course content in Brightspace to prepare for class in which they will apply their learning with an interactive activity.
As mentioned, I am using Brightspace as a learning management system to house content and facilitate student interaction with other learners and the learning materials. According to Bates’ extensive review of educational technology literature, sound instructional design is a quality indicator of online learning, which includes the following four key principles:
- Consistent layout and design;
- Clear organisation and presentation of information;
- Consistent and easy-to-use navigation; and
- Aesthetically pleasing design and graphics.
While I believe that Brightspace can be utilized in such a way as to achieve the first three principles, I personally do not believe learning content can be presented with an aesthetically pleasing design and/or graphics using the tools within this LMS. However, course content can be designed and developed with more modern platforms elsewhere and uploaded or linked within Brightspace. This week I was investigating other digital media to accomplish this.
Review of Adobe Spark programs
I reviewed Adobe Spark which is a free app and web platform that enables users to create and publish images, webpages, and videos with Adobe’s three programs called Spark Post, Spark Page, and Spark Video. Here is a brief explanation of each program:
Spark Spark Post
Spark Post allows users to create images with text to convey meaningful messages. Posts can be custom designed or users have access to templates. Posts can be sized for use in Spark Video and social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook. Below is an image I created with Spark Post to accompany a recent tweet.
Adobe Spark Page
Adobe Page is a web-based method for storytelling that accommodates images, links to outside sources, videos, and text. There are creative alternative layouts within this product including a glideshow, which puts content into fluid motion as the user scrolls through the page. As an educator, I found this to be a more visually appealing method to present content than what comes standard within BrightSpace. This past week I have been experimenting with creating content for my prototype module. I invite you to click on the Team Building Skills image below to view what I have so far.
Adobe Spark Video
Through Spark Video users can incorporate photos, icons or other video clips to create a compelling or engaging message. Users can easily add voiceovers and free or personal music. Although the video maker itself does not allow for animated slides or frames, users can upload their own videos clips to offset this limitation.
I envision my students using video makers like Adobe Spark Video to demonstrate and showcase their learning to other groups of learners and practitioners via social media. This way, students have the opportunity to move beyond the closed spaces and institutional barriers of the LMS (Bates, 2015).
To motivate students to be creative in their learning, Stephen Brookfield (2015) in his book The Skillful Teacher argues that educators must build a case for such creativity. This can be done, in part, by the educator modeling such qualities. To demonstrate my own creativity, I produced the following short video explaining what students can expect in a flipped classroom.
Discussion of strengths and limitations
As I worked with Adobe Spark products this week I noted several strengths they can offer educators and learners along with a few limitations.
- User-Friendly: These programs allow users to create quality audio and visual digital products without prior experience in digital media design. These programs are adaptable for viewing on mobile devices.
- Free! With a username and login, users can create digital content with access to quality images and fonts facilitated by creative commons. Alternatively, users can upload their own photos.
- Community of Learning and Practice: Adobe Spark has created a community of learning specifically for educators through Education Exchange. Here, educators can access and share educational ideas and lesson plans, discuss sound pedagogical methods using digital media, and can access several digital media tutorials relating to the Adobe suite of products.
- Inspiration: Users can be inspired by existing digital media products and have access to templates customizable for their own purposes.
- How-To: Adobe Spark provides webinars, tutorials, and text instructions to support users when creating digital products.
- Sharing on Social: Collaborative and networked learning can be facilitated by the ease in which completed Adobe Spark projects can be shared via popular social media platforms and embedded within other web platforms including LMSs.
- Accessibility: If a student can only access technology and/or an internet connection on campus this restricts their mobility in terms of accessing instructor-created materials or creating digital media using Adobe Spark.
- Linear: While Adobe Page can present a modern web-based design of instructional content, it is very linear and does not provide a visual big picture of where student learning is headed within the presentation. See Prezi as an example of a concept map type approach.
- Searchability: Creators of multimedia instructional or learning projects can share their work through social media platforms or by providing links. However, these same projects are not easily found when using search engines. This limits the ability for those outside of our social media networks to access our digital media and educational artifacts.
- Time: Adobe Spark programs are user-friendly, but still take time to learn and use. Educators may view this as a limitation and not venture into using such multimedia platforms.
- Quality Content: Adobe Spark may be user-friendly with aesthetically pleasing images and design, but this does not guarantee high-quality educational content.
Overall, I am very pleased with the potential that Adobe Spark programs have for educators and students to create meaningful content and demonstration of learning. I have decided to continue using these programs to develop my instructional materials for my prototype.
I am interested in your feedback with respect to the Adobe Spark Page I created to deliver student content. In addition, do you see any other potential strengths or weaknesses with using multimedia programs such as Adobe Spark?