12 Tips for Getting Started with FigJam in the Classroom

12 Tips for Getting Started with FigJam in the Classroom

Author’s Note: I have been compensated by Figma to write this post but it reflects my actual views about FigJam.

At The Anywhere School event in June 2022, Google for Education announced a partnership with Figma. This partnership includes making Figma’s tools, Figma (described as “Google Docs for Design”), and FigJam, a collaborative whiteboard app, free for all education users.

As someone who loves collaborative whiteboarding and all it does to empower student creativity and collaboration, I was stunned when I dove into FigJam. This app is a must-have for any collaborative group, especially in middle and high school classrooms.

Give FigJam a try with your students if you are a middle or high school teacher who:

  • Has used collaborative whiteboard apps but wants advanced features such as templates, moveable ink, comments, hyperlinks, YouTube videos, and embedding in websites as well as “If you can dream it, you can do it” features such as audio recording and virtual high fives.
  • Wants a collaborative whiteboard app that supports whole-group collaboration with large groups of students. I have witnessed FigJam hold up with hundreds of simultaneous collaborators. FigJam won’t skip a beat with your class of 32 students simultaneously editing.
  • Needs a collaborative whiteboard app that is simple to use, but with exciting features that engage students while adding fun to academic collaborations.

Here are 12 tips for successfully getting started with FigJam in the classroom.

Tip 1: Get Verified for a free EDU Account NOW.

Go to Figma’s Education page to get verified to unlock professional features and create teams for each class you teach. Alternatively, you can ask your district IT to enroll in Figma’s Chromebook/Workspace Beta to have class rostering completed for you.

Tip 2: Create FigJams in Projects.

Each team has projects which are similar to Google Drive folders. Create projects for each instructional unit. Create new FigJams in projects to stay organized.

A project on the Figma website. Click "New FigJam file" to create a FigJam in the project.
Create a FigJam in a Project.

Tip 3: Keep an Untouched Original Copy of Your FigJam.

Once students edit FigJams, they will get messy. Always make copies for student use and keep an untouched original. Duplicate a FigJam by right-clicking it in a project and selecting “Duplicate” or by clicking its title in the FigJam editor and selecting “Duplicate.”

A FigJam in a Figma project. Right click and select "Duplicate" to duplicate.
Right-click a FigJam in a project to duplicate it.
Click the down arrow next to the title in the FigJam editor. Select “Duplicate” to duplicate the FigJam.
Click the down arrow next to the title in the FigJam editor. Select “Duplicate” to duplicate the FigJam.

Tip 4: The First FigJam Task is Independent.

Introduce FigJam to students with an independent task. Let students get familiar with the many FigJam features before they collaborate. One ready-to-go independent activity for students is FigJam’s Essay Planner template.

Tip 5: Use a Force Copy Link to Create a FigJam for Individual Students in Your LMS

FigJams have a Force Copy link, just like Google Drive files do. Use the Share button to set a FigJam to “Anyone with the link can view.” Delete everything from the “?” at the end of the FigJam URL. Replace it with “/duplicate” to generate a force copy link. Drop the link in your LMS. Students can then attach their FigJam to the assignment.

Tip 6: Be Explicit About CTRL + Z.

One of the best features of digital tools is perfect erasure. In the case of FigJam, press CTRL + Z to undo the last action. When students collaborate, they often need to fix mistakes. When demoing FigJam features, purposefully make mistakes and address them with CTRL + Z so students know what to do when they inevitably happen.

Tip 7: The First Student Collaboration is in Pairs.

The next step is collaboration in pairs. Give pairs a task in a FigJam. Starting collaboration in pairs sets students up for success in larger collaborations. Create a list of paired students with an A Partner and a B Partner. The A Partner can create and use the Share button to invite the B Parter as an editor. Later, have the pairs do a second task where the B Partner starts the process.

Tip 8: Let Figma Do the Work for You: Templates.

The essay planning template mentioned earlier is just one of many ready-to-go FigJam templates teachers can use with students. Figma prompts adding templates when users first create FigJams.  You can also use the button on the right of the toolbar to add templates while editing an existing FigJam.

Go to the Figma Community or Figma Education Community to browse templates. Some of my favorite templates for education include:

Tip 9: Whole Class Collaboration.

Use the Share button to set a FigJam to “anyone with the link can edit” or open the FigJam to editing for 24 hours with “Open Sessions”.

FigJam Sharing Settings. There are options to invite collaborators or publish to the community. 

Invite collaborators options include:
- Enter email address and send email invitation.
- Anyone with the link can view.
- Start a 24 hour open session.
- Copy link.
- Get embed code.
One sharing setting is a 24-open session. Anyone can edit for 24 hours. Then the FigJam reverts to its previous sharing settings.

Either way, drop the link in your LMS for whole class collaboration. Students can use sticky notes to share ideas or answer each other’s questions in a backchannel, sort themselves into preferences using Stamps (such as a 4-corners activity), vote on different options, and much more.

Stamps can be accessed with the collaboration button at the top of the FigJam editor or in the second button from the right on the bottom toolbar.
Press the Collaborate button at the top or the Stamps button in the toolbar to access Stamps.

Tip 10: Focus Energy and Attention With the Timer.

FigJam has a built-in timer in the upper right corner of the editor. Use this to give students a set amount of time to add their contribution to a FigJam.

The timer in the upper right of the FigJam screen. Options include:
- Start and stop buttons
- New timer button
- Type the minutes and seconds desired
- Mute the timer
- Close the timer
The FigJam Timer is visible to all collaborators.

Tip 11: Give Your Students Feedback.

Use comments, cursor chat, and audio conversation features to give students lasting or instantaneous real-time feedback.

A FigJam sticky note that says, "What happens to our wastewater?" There is a comment that says, "Excellent question. I'm so excited for the class to learn more about this."
Comments are one of the ways to give students feedback in FigJams.

Tip 12: Have Fun!

FigJam has so much potential to engage students because of its many fun features. Take advantage of features such as Bitmoji and GIPHY widgets, the PhotoBooth widget, and Stickers to make FigJams a fun creative experience for students.

A FigJam with components from the Photobooth widget, Bitmoji widget, GIPHY widget, and stickers.
A FigJam with components from the Photobooth widget, Bitmoji widget, GIPHY widget, and stickers.

For more help getting started with FigJam, please watch this YouTube playlist.

What do you think? What activities will you create for students using FigJam? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney.

Does your school need remote professional development to make the most of FigJam? Peruse my professional development offerings and connect with me on Twitter.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.


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