Column: Talking Tech

In this issue’s tech column, we’ll be talking about two new content creation tools that can be used for both library promotion and for student work: Canva and Adobe Voice.

At Newton South High School we started using both of these internally this year to create promotional products and as teaching tools. But as we worked with them, we realized they would be great additions to students’ toolboxes as well.

In our district, the library and IT departments have been exploring the SAMR model developed by Ruben Puentedura for transforming learning using technology. This model examines whether a technology use substitutes, augments, modifies, or replaces an existing lesson or assignment. With Canva, a design tool, the  technology may simply be replacing the  traditional method of creating a poster, or augmenting to add collaboration. With Adobe Voice, students can create presentations that combine images, text, music and voice narration, which can be shared and saved for later review. This moves  even further down the line into modification of a traditional poster and speech assignment.


Adobe Voice is an iPad only app that allows users to create “explainer videos” – short slide-show recordings that combine images, icons, text, music, and voiceovers. The tool has a built-in search feature for Creative Commons licensed images, icons, and music, and also allows users to upload their own pictures. With voiceover recording, the tool easily allows you to create guides and presentations that can be replayed as needed. Adobe hosts the final product online, so the videos can be shared with a link, or embedded in a web site.

We tried the video out first to produce our freshman orientation. Typically, this included a long speech by the library staff going over all of the rules and regulations about the library. It was tiring for us to do repeatedly, and not that interesting for the students. Our Adobe Voice video seemed to keep their attention a bit longer, and because we’ve saved it online, we can use it again for new students or to remind students about the rules.

Once we saw how easy it was, we realized this would be a perfect tool to promote the library. We recently underwent a major renovation, and wanted to show the all that work off to the PTO and the district administration. Adobe Voice allowed us to create an easily shareable video that could be played for a variety of audiences without needing special software or someone to run a slideshow.

While we were working on this, one of our foreign language teachers approached us about a project where students record themselves giving a presentation in Spanish. We’d used other iPad apps in the past for this project, or just recorded a presentation using a videocamera. Adobe Voice seemed like a natural fit. Students were already familiar with the slideshow format, and adding the voice language recording would solve the language teacher’s need. The tool’s simplicity meant that students could focus on the point of the assignment – writing and speaking in a foreign language – instead of getting caught up in technology. The teacher then had the ability to review and assess the project on his or her own time, and the final work could be shown off as evidence for evaluation. The student also had a final project that can be saved, shared with parents or peers, or used in a digital portfolio of their schoolwork.

We’ve tried it out now with a few classes, and it’s been a big hit with students and teachers. After some revisions, we realized the most effective way to do this project is to have students plan their presentations in advance – creating a storyboard, finding images they want to use, and writing scripts. We used Google Drive to have students store their images, so they could simply be downloaded to the iPads on the day they came to produce their final project. Our blocks are about 50 minutes long, which has been sufficient to get the projects recorded, produced and uploaded.


Canva is a digital design tool that allows users to easily create digital graphics in a variety of layouts and formats. Again, we first started using this tool internally, to create posters and web graphics for our library.

For non-artistic types (like me!), the tool is a godsend. It has pre-made layouts that you can adjust, or create free form designs. The site is basically free – some design elements or images have a fee, but there are dozens of free choices. Once you’ve created an image you can share it via a link, or download it as an image file to display online or as a PDF for printing.

Canva has become our go-to tool for image presentation. We’ve used it to create graphic elements


for our web site and digital posters promoting our book club


and NaNoWriMo.


It’s great for printables as well: we used BlockPoster to turn small image files into large displays. We also combined a digital image with a QR code  and old DVD and cassette cases to create physical “books”


for our eBook collection, so we could include them in promotions and display them on shelves.


Once we started using this tool, we realized this would also be a natural for students. Several projects were going on where students were  being asked to create display posters. We shared the tool with students as an option, and created a page demonstrating Canva, and a short screencast showing students how to create larger posters from their finished project.

While Canva at first seemed like a simple substitution tool on the SAMR model, we realized it does offer some augmentation. Canva creations can be shared and edited by multiple students, aiding in collaboration. While students can collaborate on traditional posters, using the digital tool makes it easier for them to find time to do so, something the students appreciated.

Works Cited

Puentedura, Ruben R., Ph. D. SAMR: First Steps (n.d.): n. pag. Ruben R. Puentedura’s Weblog. Ruben R. Puentedura, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <;.

Margaret Schoen is a librarian at Newton South High School


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