Leslie Shipp, Adviser, Johnston High School, Des Moines, Iowa

On Digital Media

“We focus on one thing,” Shipp stated, “making the best yearbook possible.”

“Making DVDs and online stuff is a distraction. Yes, it is possible to multitask, but it’s overrated. Sometimes you have to go after one thing. Eventually, some student will probably come along and be obsessed with making the book online, and this student will convince others online is the way to go. And then we will go online. It happened this way with digital cameras. A guy named Spencer (a student) talked us into buying a digital camera. Four years later we never thought about film again. Keep in mind transition is different than multitasking,” she said. Shipp brings up a really good point: focus on one thing at a time. I am beginning to learn just how important this is as a first-year teacher and adviser.

Visual Literacy

Shipp states that the best way to teach students how to make a quality book is to incorporate professional journalism work into the curriculum. “Johnston students read features from the NY Times, the St. Petersburg Times, and Rolling Stone. They view Pulitzer-prize-winning photos. They continually check npd.snd.org for the latest design posts. “This type of work inspires people,” she said.

Visuals and text are BFFs, she says. “To tell a great story, you can’t have one without the other. Whitespace should be like Jeff Bridges’ wife of 33 years (story in Rolling Stone). You are aware that she is always around, but you never notice her,” Shipp said. What Shipp says it true, students need multiple examples of good professional and student work. People who are good at something started by emulating someone else.

Shipp states that visual literacy is “jargon for telling a good story with pictures and design. So, make photos that tell stories and design layouts that make spreads inviting to read,” she says.

Using online spaces to promote yearbooks

“A history book,” she said, “which is what a yearbook is, does not record every moment in time. It records bits.” Shipp’s advice is to cover what interests people, and with a book that carries this much history and meaning to everyone in it (and their families), you have to be knowledgeable about what is going to interest the audience that you are promoting the book to.

Using social networks to promote yearbooks

Social networking sites are a good way to contact people to get information for a caption or to set up an interview. “It is a good tracking device,” she said.

“I am convinced that if yearbooks tell good stories through photos, stories, infographs and good design, they will sell. People will always like a good story. Word will spread if the audience likes the book. It somewhat markets itself,” Shipp said.

As technology improves, graphics get better, it becomes easier to manipulate pages on various devices, the Internet gets faster, and people become more accustomed to reading on a screen, therefor, “yearbooks could go digital,” she said. “We worry more about the product than the technology. When we want to do something, we go find the technology to it. We don’t find technology then try to figure out how to use it,” she said. As I have researched the possibilities of going digital, my discoveries and own experiences have made me realize just how important the print yearbook is to people, to memories, to history–yearbooks are truly high school’s time capsule, and not form of technology could duplicate this aspect.


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