When I was a fifth grader, I remember the day when our teacher taught us, step by step, how to use Adobe Photoshop for the first time. No joke: it took literally 80 minutes to teach a class of 22 how to open the program, import a photo, and crop it.

Now, nearly two decades later, we’ve designed a new digital media website with classrooms in mind. Kapwing enables students much younger than 5th grade to make and edit videos, GIFs, and images from the browser. Launched in 2017, Kapwing already has thousands of students and teachers that use it every week to create.

Kapwing makes digital media more accessible to elementary school students. The Kapwing creative suite is immediately available on the website; users – or “Kapwinglings” – don’t have to install any software or sign in. Kapwing works on every kind of device, including Chromebooks and tablets. It’s cloud-based, which means students’ work is saved as they go and they can easily share and access their projects from home. Most importantly, the interface is so simple that even second graders can explore it themselves.

In this article, I’ll describe why the Kapwing Studio is a great platform for elementary school students to learn digital media skills. I’ll also give some tips for bringing Kapwing and digital media into the classroom.

The Importance of Digital Media Literacy

Even at a young age, today’s students are bombarded by multimedia. Most people know how to use YouTube and Snapchat before they know how to read. Signs and online graphics blend text, images, and animations, meaning it’s important that students are able to synthesize and evaluate new media as they build literacy skills.

Learning how to create digital media is an essential college and career readiness skill. Students are expected to “[m]ake strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5). The ability to complete basic media editing tasks means students are better prepared for middle school and for a job later on.

Lastly, images, GIFs, and videos are just fun! Digital media is stimulating, engaging, and creative. Anyone who has been in a classroom before knows that there are some students who won’t engage with books but come alive when they start creating videos. Tap into students’ skills as storytellers, comedians, and entertainers to make lessons more memorable.

Teaching Young Students With Kapwing

The Adobe Suite – Photoshop and Premiere – is unwieldy for elementary school students. The interface is dense, powerful, and complex, often requiring step-by-step instruction for students to learn each of the tools. Plus, it’s expensive and only compatible with certain machines. Students who don’t have Adobe products on their home computers or tablets can only work on digital media during school hours.

The Kapwing Studio, alternatively, is a great way for elementary schools students to get an introduction to digital media. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Setup is simple: There’s no installation, software updates, or registration process.
  • Tools are limited to certain tasks: Instead of including hundreds of powerful tools, Kapwing’s toolbar has a limited number of options. These constraints make it easier to accomplish tasks, explore, and create things immediately.
  • Works well with YouTube: Kids love YouTube, and Kapwing lets creators import directly from YouTube. Rather than needing to download videos using spammy websites, students can paste the URL of a YouTube video or song to import it directly into the Studio.
  • Optimized for smartphone photos and video: Kids can take photos and video clips using their phones rather than needing fancy cameras. Unlike Adobe or iMovie, Kapwing has options for vertical video shot on a smartphone.
  • Free: Students don’t need a paid account to use Kapwing, which makes it more accessible for students at home/outside the classroom.
  • Award winning: Kapwing has “outstanding” reviews from several ed-tech bloggers and won Best Website for Teaching and Learning 2018 from the American Association of School Librarians.
  • Private: All of Kapwing’s tools are available to signed-out users, meaning that students do not have to submit any PII to use it.
  • Age appropriate: Kapwing has no ads or distracting content that takes students off track during class.
  • Collaborative: Students can work on video projects in groups because, unlike offline video editors like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, they can simultaneously edit the same project from different computers on Kapwing.
Teachers learning to use Kapwing

To get your students started with Kapwing, ask them to head to the Studio home page: www.kapwing.com/studio. Click “Get started” to open a blank canvas.

Blank Studio Canvas

Digital Media Lesson Ideas

Making digital media is both a technical and creative activity; it can exercise every letter of the S.T.E.A.M. acronym. Kapwing has a library of lesson plan ideas for teachers who want to introduce their students to digital media. Here are some ideas for digital media lessons appropriate for elementary school students:

“About me” collage: Have students make a collage with photos and images that represent them or some aspect of their identity.

Digital Valentines or holiday cards: Show students how to create a digital card for an upcoming holiday, like Mother’s Day or Valentines Day. They can print these cards to share with friends and family or can make GIF/video cards for an animated version.

A dancing Santa GIF uploaded into the Studio

Verb vocabulary flashcards: In a group, students record themselves acting out the meaning of new vocabulary words like “stumble” or “shutter.” Then, add the word itself to the video clip so that people can use it to study new vocabulary like a flashcard.

Photo montage: Students collect images that represent a lesson, theme, or topic they’re learning about in class, like Caves or Chinese New Year. Then, create a short montage out of the photos to show to the class. If students add a voiceover track, the slideshow can turn into a video essay.

Reversed: Show students how to play a video backwards, then challenge them to think of thinks that would look interesting when played in reverse.

Family, class, or team roster: Students make a collage with headshots/photos of people in their family, class, or team side by side then share the photo with the class. Students can also label each person with their name.

Movie Poster: Design a digital “movie poster” for a book you’re reading in class by using text, images, and color. Students could create a summary collage for any lesson or topic you’re covering in class.

Lyric video: Using a Subtitle Maker, transcribe the lyrics of a song that you love and embed them in the music video. This is an engaging exercise in close listening and literacy.

Claymation: Show your students the basics of stop motion animation and how to set up a scene with clay figures. Then, let them make a claymation video using their phone, a DIY tripod, and Kapwing’s Video Maker.

Make a Meme: Kids love memes, and it’s great to get on their level. Ask your students to make a meme that represents something in their life or a concept, idea, or value they’ve studied in class. Students can browse through Kapwing's meme templates library to get ideas; all of our meme templates are G-rated, so they're safe for young students.

Using the Pelosi Rips Trump's Speech Meme Maker to represent a chemistry concept


If you’re an elementary school educator, I hope that this article convinces you to consider introducing your students to digital media skills. Kapwing’s Studio is a safe, accessible first step into the world of graphic design and video creation for young students.

Do you love Kapwing? We’re piloting Kapwing in schools across the United States this year and always looking for feedback from teachers. Get involved on the ground floor of innovation by becoming a brand ambassador for Kapwing in your district! Please reach out over email or Twitter to get involved.