Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My Yearbook Curriculum

Here are some links to resources that I use for my own yearbook class:

PHOTOGRAPHY

PhotographyElements PowerPoint

PhotoElementsPresentationRubric

Photojournalism guide

PhotographyElements

WRITING

writing a sports story

What NOT to Say

Ten Quick Ways to an Award-Winning Publication

Interviewing Guide

Editorials – change the world a little

Coaching writers with exercise

300 Words examples – Ernie Pyle award

DESIGN

Yearbook design report card

NCState designwithflair

01 yearbook samples – Manfull

wolfpagesFINAL

Alternatives to text

101 swipeable ideas

The fate of yearbooks

In conclusion, I have learned that there is no one way to incorporate digital media in the yearbook. Despite the heavy reliance on technology in our day, there is no way to substitute fully for what the yearbook stands for or the meaning that it can carry. However, you can incorporate many technological forms such as a photo slide show, CDs and DVDs of photographs and movies from games and other events that aren’t in the book, all to accompany the print yearbook. I do think that students, parents, and the rest of the community would be interested in having this sort of digital component to the yearbook, but it would pale in comparison to the experiences that the  print yearbook carries, as well as the memories it holds: the receiving of the book, the signing of the book, flipping through it with friends and family now and years later.  All of these experiences cannot be enjoyed with a solely digital book. I have done a lot of thinking about this issue with this project, and have really reevaluated the importance of the yearbook–what it stands for and what yearbooks mean for the camaraderie and friendship, first loves, the dances, the sports games, the performances, all are shared within the pages of a yearbook and the feeling of flipping through these memories cannot be replaced or replicated by technology.

These items are captured in time and are permanent and static within the pages of the yearbook, unlike technology and its dynamic presence. Design can only be mastered through practice, patience, trial and error, a willingness to learn, and by frequently coming into contact with inspiring and cutting edge, and innovative writing and design. This is how yearbooks can bring the story of the year alive. So, what I have discovered is that yearbooks will last a lifetime because memories do as well. You can use technological elements to enhance the print version by adding a digital component with unused photos and/or movies that captured the school dance or sports games, and you can also use online spaces to help promote the yearbook and get students and staff excited about the content–but the yearbook cannot be replicated and carry with it the same feel in a digital world. However, the print yearbook is a time capsule from the lives of students to be remembered forever, and this format is how to best highlight the year and the history is carries. There is a lot of work, responsibility, and research into those great writers and designers, but the end product will be well worth it.

MaryKay Downes, Adviser, Chantilly High School, Chantilly, Virginia

If the yearbook staff has 13 dedicated students covering a school of almost 600 students in order to capture 10 months of high school life, how is it possible to accurately and thoroughly cover the entire student body?

“It is possible. There are many award winning yearbooks that do so. Arrowhead Christian Academy comes to mind. I would get a list of the Pacemaker and Crown books and pour over them,” Downes said. This is something that I know I need to make more time for in my own yearbook class. It’s easy to get busy in yearbooks, especially close to deadlines, but we have to make sure that our students are able to interact with yearbooks that do design, writing, and photography well. The best way to learn, especially in journalism classes, is to mimic the works that we are in awe of.

Digital Media

Downes said that her yearbook partnered with Lifepages.com and they make a digital book to accompany the print book. They then sold the digital book for $15 to only those who bought a hard copy. The digital book consisted of unused photographs that the yearbook took and short pieces of writing that the staff had written. The writing in the digital version was a way for yearbookers to focus in on subjects like–getting a more thorough look into the students who aren’t as involved in school activities, or to get to know the director of the school’s play, or highlight the winning basketball team.

What a great idea, if you can afford it!

Imitating the work that inspires us and provokes the kind of writing and design we yearn to see, is exactly what advisers should expect to see and hear in our own newsrooms. I also think it is possible include some form of digitization with the yearbook, as Downes suggests.

Donna Manfull, Retired Adviser from Washington High School & Jostens Associate, Washington, Iowa

Photography, Design, Graphics

“I think it’s very important for anyone who is advising high school newspapers and/or yearbooks to take a basic class in design or a course that addresses design elements. It’s the best investment you can make if you are going to deal with all that comes up in layout design,” Manfull said. Very true. I also think that practice is essential. In order to teach anything, you must have experience using it. Right now we do our book online through Josten’s Yearbook Avenue. It is incredibly user friendly, and thankfully I have very talented editorial staff that I learn from every day, but I still have to experiment with layouts and putting together spreads so I can better help and advise my students. You have to learn the technology first before you can effectively teach it–that’s my philosophy. I also took a couple courses over the summer with Jack Kennedy which was incredibly helpful with design, not to mention the wealth of information I am getting from this project. Truth be told, design is an area that I want to improve upon, and thus, I am planning to take a workshop course this summer to help improve my skills in this area.

“Once you have the basics (and they don’t change: good design is good design), you have a zillion resources out there from magazines to Hallmark cards to advertisements to college handbooks to movie posters, etc. with great (and awful) visual examples to choose from. You then take those that you like, borrow a concept, adapt it for your needs and go from there. The importance of the design class come when the kids come in with something that is terrible for a variety of reasons,” she said. “You usually can’t just say, ‘That is terrible,’ and get them to say, ‘Oh, yes, you are right.’ But if you say, ‘What is it you really like about this? Let’s look at this from a good design standpoint. Is it really good design? Could we take the concept that you like and revamp it so it better fits with our theme and style?’ Without knowing basic design rules and teaching them to our students, it’s hard to do that. Everything becomes a battle,” she said. I agree with this wholeheartedly. How can any adviser critique, provide suggestions for improvement, or see the positive in a student’s spread without having a firm understanding of the design rule.

Design Principles

by Idea File Staff from Walsworth
Posted in: Design

Balance

  • all elements need to be balanced
  • each page element has its own weight
  • horizontal vs. vertical
  • formal vs. informal
  • modules are your friends

Contrast

  • contrasting element weights, type form
  • avoid too much gray

Emphasis

  • place the most important elements in the most prominent positions
  • be sure to have a dominant photo-center of visual interest

Unity

  • stick with rectangles-no squares
  • all pages should be unified through type, design style
  • form always follows function

Simplicity

  • your computer is a tool-not a toy. Remember, the motivation behind strong design is readability

Design Checklist

  • The spread contains photos, captions for all photos, copy and a headline
  • Elements are placed within a column format, observing column lines
  • The two facing pages are linked into a single unit by an eyeline
  • The reader is guided across the spread by real or implied lines
  • There is a dominant photo that is 2 to 2 1/2 times larger than others on the page
  • The other photos in a variety of sizes repeat and contrast the shape of the dominant
  • Photos are bled with purpose and direction, no more than one on each margin
  • Consistent external margins are maintained and are defined with at least one element touching
  • Consistent internal spacing of 1 pica is used with larger amounts of white space to the outside
  • Copy blocks and accompanying headlines are planned as solid rectangular units
  • Captions touch the photos to which they refer and are placed to the outside
  • No more than two captions are stacked or grouped together
  • Any graphic technique enhances the content and does not merely call attention to itself       What I look for in a spread:

Design

Spread follows columns/grids

Spread has a dominant and secondary element

Spread uses elements of design well

Spread has an eyeline and/or unifying elements

Color is meaningful and used appropriately

Space is used effectively; no trapped white space

Photography

Spread uses technically superior photographs

Subjects in the photos face gutter (middle)

Photos are cropped to reflect the subject

No posed photos are used

All photographs have captions and photo credits

All necessary photos are indexed

Writing

Captions/stories are anecdotal in nature

Captions/stories use strong, interesting quotes

Captions/stories use inviting leads

Captions/stories use descriptive nouns and action verbs

Captions/stories use active voice and present tense

All copy contains correctly spelled names

All copy is edited for grammar errors & misspellings

Copy follows font size and type guidelines

“You definitely want a balance[design, writing, photography]. Our whole aim is to tell the story of the year. You can do that somewhat in photos, but photos alone raise as many questions as they answer. You can do that somewhat in writing, but no one is going read a full book of body copy without visuals. Remember: A photo without a caption is like watching TV with no sound. A book without photos would be like having the TV on with your eyes closed,” Manfull said. I spend a lot of time working on writing with my students, I introduce them to the famed 300-word feature writer Brady Dennis, and have them practice writing anecdotal captions. We know that time is of the essence for any reader, so short pieces are better and when you can provide alternatives to text in the form of infographs, stat boxes, and captions, the better. But words are the only items in yearbook that tell a story, so does the photography, which is equally as important. You want to capture the moment, and the emotion in that moment to accurately tell the story, and this is how I teach photography.

“As for white space, it is always your friend — if used properly. The thing is a page with too much on it is just as bad as one without enough on it. Balance is very important. Trapped white space is bad. The eye, however, is drawn to white; so used effectively it can be a powerful tool. Even increasing leading in body copy will insure stories get read more often and easier,” she said.

What do we want people to know about yearbook that should come through with each and every page:

a) this is hard work

b) we have lots of fun

c) we won awards

d) we met all our deadlines

e) we set a new record for ad AND book sales

f) six of our staff have been on three years.

Using online spaces for yearbook

“…With kids posting everything on Facebook today and seemingly have no regard for what it means to have something ‘out there’ forever, I think it’s harder for yearbook advisers to be the voice of reason to say, ‘This isn’t really appropriate for a high school yearbook.’ It becomes a real teaching moment. And, I’m sure another stress point,” she said. Manfull raises a good point, and this is something that I am struggling with, with my staff right now. Deciding what to use on our Facebook fan and group page has been a real dilemma, one that we are still hashing out the details to. Students want to do a preview of the yearbook and its content, especially to help build excitement about our theme, but we are having a hard time deciding what is appropriate to use to help promote our book without giving anything away.

“I think it’s hard sometimes in the ‘heat of battle’ of creating the book and meeting deadlines and getting work done to remember always our lofty goals when we first set out in the fall to create something wonderful for our school. How we succeed in our isn’t always evaluated — we hear more about misspelled names, someone left out, someone in too much, unfortunate photo choice that somehow got by us, “humor” that went bad with the general public, etc. All the complaints,” she said. I remember coming into this position, as we are a spring delivery book, just as the new book arrived. It was almost every day once that book hit the hallways, that one of my students came up to me extremely upset because another student had approached them about a misspelling, or some other inaccuracy. I tried to be as positive as possible, but it was heartbreaking to watch this happen. Being a journalist myself, I know how quick the audience is to point out mistakes and so I told them that we are all human, and that we all make mistakes and now we knew what we were going to work on this year, but I know that next year once this book comes out I will hold my breath while the scrutiny of each and every page begins.

How do all the best sellers get their products sold?

“They let people know what they are getting. Look at all the infomercials on TV. They tell you EVERYTHING. You don’t have to tell kids EVERYTHING, but I think it’s great when you have all kind of organized ‘leaks’ to the public so they can say, ‘Wow. I really want a yearbook this year. They’ve got some cool things going in it,'” Manfull said. I couldn’t agree more, and right now my staff and I are trying to tease the entire student body by giving them glimpses of the yearbook. Our theme this year INSIDE THE STRIP, a comic book theme, and we have been promoting this theme through Facebook and fundraising. Just last Friday we had our Superhero Day, where students and staff had the opportunity to dress up like their favorite superheroes to promote the yearbook and staff. It was a great turn out that got a lot of attention. Now, my staff is using Facebook to highlight some of the photos they took of students in their superhero costumes, and the staff will vote on the best picture. The winner will get $10 off their yearbook. I thought this was a great cross promotional idea that went over quite nicely.

Manfull says it best when she says: “Yearbook is not for the faint-hearted, irresponsible, or disorganized — although we seem to get our share of them on our staffs. The key word is ‘dedicated.'”

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.

Ann Visser, Adviser, Pella Community High School, Pella, Iowa

Digital Media

Visser agrees that we can use Facebook to ‘tease’ the reader … including parts of spreads, pictures that will be in the book, and the names that will be in the book. “We can utilize the opportunity to do DVD’s that accompany our books, media that will enhance the coverage on the printed page,” she said. The main way in today’s world would be to enhance the coverage with some sort of DVD that gives the reader more in terms of live performances, live interviews, more of an up close and personal approach, she says.

Visual Literacy

“Advisers who want to stay on top of trends have to be involved in state and national organizations that will help them realize what the trends are. Attending a national convention is one of the best ways an adviser can stay in touch with what is happening in this ever-changing world of advising,” she said.

“White space is definitely a friend in terms of design, but staffs need to realize that they need more than pictures to tell the stories of the year. They need well-written captions; they need quick reads; they need infographs. They have to stay in touch with the ways stories are being told today, and, sometimes, a longer story is the way that happens,” Visser continues.

Choosing the very best photos that capture the essence of the event is imperative. Using graphics and design to help enhance those photos is second, Visser says. “Photos can’t just be thrown on the spread and do their jobs. They have to be organized in a logical manner,” she said.  They have to help tell the story. Photos that evoke emotion are essential; photos that capture the essence of the event are important; photos that show participants in their settings are vital.

Using social networks to promote yearbooks

Facebook can be used to promote the book. “It could be used to remind students to buy books … remind them that the price goes up if they wait … remind them that there might not be books to buy if they don’t pre-order,” Visser said. What a great idea, I hadn’t considered using Facebook to help remind students and the community about yearbook deadlines i.e senior photo deadlines, pre-order reminders, fundraising announcements, etc. Visser also suggests that we could use these online spaces to tease them with parts of spreads from the book. Give them a look at what they might find in the book or ask them to answer questions that will be used as quick reads in the book.

Yearbooks as viable candidates for digital formats

“In our world here,” Visser stated, “yearbooks seem to still have a place. As yearbook advisers, we are going to have to offer more in terms of DVDs, something that shows the live aspect of the year. Another challenge.”
Visser also stated: “I don’t think the print yearbook can be totally replaced by the digital book. There’s something about holding the book in your hands, something about being able to go to the bookshelf and pulling out the yearbook,” she said. “I would say DVDs are going to become an integral part of the package. However, that means people pay more. That means yearbook students do even more. I don’t believe that this can happen. One of the best parts of seeing the yearbook distributed is watching students share photos/memories from certain pages. I don’t believe everything can be replaced. We don’t carry computers with us; books can be carried. I just don’t envision students sitting in front of the computer looking at the book in the same manner as they look at it in print,” she says. I agree, the reminiscing does not occur in the same fashion, and if a replacement were to occur, something crucial to what a yearbook stands for, would be completely lost.
A 21st Century Yearbook, Visser states, is a combination of print and digital media. It’s live shots from concerts, games, and dances, everyday life. “It’s more work for the already crazed staff,” Visser said.

Jack Kennedy, (Recently Retired) Long Time Secondary Journalism Adviser, Colorado and Iowa

How can a traditional print publication thrive or even survive in an increasingly digital age?

“My sense is that print yearbooks will be the last of the traditional high school print media to disappear. There is a sense of community in a school on yearbook distribution day, and students seem to really enjoy writing in each other’s books. Yearbooks, in nearly every way, are more meaningful than a diploma in encapsulating what it means to be a student at a particular high school during a particular year,” Kennedy said. Ah, Kennedy says it so beautifully. There is nothing that comes even close to the experience of yearbook distribution day! Students are excited to see their faces and friends, all the while reminiscing about the year that just past by so quickly. It is also the time when students get to pour their little hearts out to each other, to be remembered forever in one another’s books. It is an experience that no one should have to lose, and one that cannot be duplicated through a digital means. It’s been just over 10 years since I graduated from high school, and I still go back to read the messages that friends and acquaintances wrote to me in my yearbook.

“Facebook, Twitter, etc., appeal to an immediate story-telling style, one in which analysis and perspective are minimized. A yearbook, on the other hand, actually increases in value over time, standing as something permanent in an ever-morphing world. Those wanting a history of a school year are thankful for the ‘gatekeeper’ function of a yearbook, which emphasizes to yearbook journalists their duty to be thoughtful historians, and not just entertainers,” Kennedy states. What an incredible role to play in life, as a gatekeeper. When I first started this project, I was really torn about this whole idea of wanting to move in a more digital direction. Financially, it’s a great idea, but more importantly you would lose a lot if this was your sole option. I still believe that nothing comes close to the permanence of a print yearbook that documents the history of the entire year. A book that in 10 years down the line you can sit down with your family and flip through the pages of your distant past like it was yesterday.

“There has long been a movement to add a video (we did this in the early 1990s at City High, for instance) or a DVD (the current trend, with some sort of fastening for the DVD right inside the back cover of the book). The next step is to put photographs that don’t make the print book online in some accessible location (Pandora, Flicker, etc.) along with some brief identifying captions. A yearbook limited to 6 photos to cover an entire girls basketball season, for instance, could point readers to a website where they could browse hundreds of other basketball photos, if they were interested. I could imagine a yearbook that offered space online for students involved in the school musical, for instance, to post first person accounts of their experiences on stage or in the light booth or on set crew. Add in streaming videos of selected events and podcasts of newsmakers (so we can hear them for years), and we start to see yearbook websites looking a lot like any other online news site. The primary difference is that the website points back to the printed book,” he said.

Can we be all that far from a time when you go to the yearbook website, click on a person’s mug shot, and hear a personal statement, along with some video (and perhaps a few links to other sites of relevance — blogs, personal websites, YouTube videos, etc.)? “I note that, already, yearbook publishers are offering (for relatively low prices) a personal magazine of 8-16 pages of student-generated material, sewn right into the book. Without digital photography and the ability to upload PDFs, etc., this sort of on-demand printing would not be possible,” he said.

I am really hoping for my own yearbook production class, that we will begin using this digital formats as the resources they are destined to become. My goal is that we are able to use our Facebook fan and group pages (http://www.facebook.com/ClipperYearbook) for people to preview content and pictures, but also as a space for contests, surveys, and to help build excitement about the upcoming book. We can also use it to help advertise what we are doing in yearbook, updates on sports and events, and yearbook fundraisers.

Coverage

A minor point about coverage: “Printed yearbooks need to provide creative, thorough coverage of social media, ubiquitous texting, etc. Those things too shall pass. I assume that there will be something beyond Facebook within 5-10 years, and yearbooks should be there to document ‘the way we were,'” he said.

Visual Literacy

Kennedy said that: “Yearbook publishers are great resources for advisers, and I would always recommend attending state and national conferences where advisers can find cutting edge sessions on all aspects of visual journalism. The most important thing is to put away past yearbooks and past templates, in favor of the ‘look’ of the present. I normally ask students if their publications look as hip as the magazines they subscribe to (or that their parents subscribe to!). If the answer is no, then it is time to do some work.” I must admit that as a first year teacher and adviser that I would not know what I would do if it weren’t for our Josten’s representative. From coverage, to design tips, to to an extra pair of eyes to help look over spreads, my Josten’s representative is extremely helpful and resourceful. Like I had said before, you can never be prepared for a position like this, but you do have to take the initiative to learn from more experienced advisers, from other resources like JEA and design and journalism magazines, and most importantly, your students. I learn from my yearbook staffers each and everyday, and I was lucky enough in my first year to get an incredible set of editors who have paved the path to a beautiful advisership.

“Content should drive design, not vice versa. For the same reason that I don’t really trust rubrics when grading a piece of writing, I am skeptical of templates, unless the staff has a large variety of template choices. I am as frustrated with yearbooks simply doing away with traditional text as I was with yearbooks including an 8-inch story on each spread. Both are simply self-limiting choices. What is wrong with a great narrative that takes readers behind the scenes of the volleyball team and gives us insight into the ties that hold the team together? And what is wrong with the next spread of the book, on the cross country team, consisting of only short alternatives to text along with brilliant photos? Yearbooks that simply repeat the same 4-6 templates throughout the book indicate to me that they are more for the convenience of the staff than of the reader. Stories can be told in any number of ways, from text-heavy to photo heavy, with any number of variations between. Yearbook journalists need to THINK through how to tell all those stories of the year — not just plug and play,” stated Kennedy. This is exactly what I try to promote with my own students. I want my students to see the beauty and importance of getting interviews and talking with EVERYONE, because everyone has a story. As war reporter Ernie Pyle once said, “If you want to tell the story of a war, tell the story of one soldier.” I try to emphasize these sentiments in yearbook as well, if you want to tell the story of your high school, tell the story of one student.

Just as Kennedy states, great captions = great writing. “They should be thought of as mini-news stories, and they advance the story of the photos, etc., by letting us know what happened before and after the image was captured,” he said.

“Readers want stories, above all. Oh, they want the quotes, the stats, the amusing anecdotes, but without actual stories, complete with setting, characters, conflict and resolution, I don’t see how the overwhelming deluge of facts makes us any the wiser. Therefore, all the basics of good reporting seem appropriate for yearbook journalists: curiosity, willingness to conduct interviews longer than 2 minutes, an attention to basic themes of story telling (overcoming obstacles, voyage and return) and basic devices of literature, from love and romance to victory and despair, seem important to understand. Great journalists can ‘hear’ the themes emerging from their interview subjects. Once you identify the theme, it becomes easier to determine exactly how to share that theme. Are we writing a sonnet or an epic?” he said.

Photography

One beauty of digital photography is that there is no limit on the number of images that can be gathered. “Advisers should demand hundreds of images from each event. But merely gathering images isn’t the end: photographers must follow up by editing all those images, adding caption information for the very best, adjusting images, etc. Bridge is a photographer’s best friend in all this. Great yearbook adviser encourage students to study great photographs and to try to copy what produced them (but with unique coverage),” Kennedy said.

Skills for Yearbook Journalists

“Two important skills for yearbook journalists are summary and synthesis. Let’s just accept that we can never catch everything, include every moment. Actually, who would want that? Most of life is just one damn thing after another. We want the “magic moments” that take us away from the routine (whether positive or negative). Our job would be to note when these things are most likely to happen and be there (big events, stressful times of the year), and to not just breeze on by moments that are quite dramatic (the cast list going up, the cast prepping in the green room before opening night). Lastly, we should avoid ‘olds,’ or all the things readers expect to see (and have seen), in favor of ‘news,’ the things readers may have forgotten or not noticed,” he said.

Using social networks to promote yearbooks

Just like the ways that I want social networking sites, Kennedy agrees that Facebook seems like a must, from sharing coverage ideas to doing surveys to gathering content for infographics. Posting photos regularly (photos that are likely not going in the book, but that are of the content the book will include) should be a hit. “I also think students become more enthused if they have a chance to be part of the book, whether through surveys or quick comments or contributing their own photos,” he stated. I can’t agree more, if a yearbook’s main goal is inclusion, then the best way to do this is give students the opportunity to be involved and included in a variety of ways.

Yearbooks as viable candidates for digital formats

According to Kennedy, the yearbook will be the last print publication to disappear, and it may weather the whole digital era, at least in schools with strong traditions within families of buying yearbooks. “For vast immigrant populations, yearbooks seem less likely to persist,” he says. “The digital benefit should be to complement the print book, to provide supplementary coverage, additional photos of events, additional voices of students and teachers and community members. To simply create an online ‘book’ complete with turning pages, seems ‘a pale imitation’ of the original concept,” he said. “One of the beauties of a yearbook is the finality of it. A chapter is closed. A history is established. For the book to become some sort of ever-evolving document that can be updated for years and years means something new is created. A school website, with rich content and lots of student writing, photography, video, etc., can certainly be dynamic and informational and inspiring. But, by definition, the chapter never ends. The nature of the web calls for updates and new links and innovative means of sharing information… People like the idea of, from time to time, being able to close a chapter, put it on a shelf for occasional viewing,” Kennedy stated.

“I can certainly see some school going to an iPad yearbook in the near future, though I assume it will end up as a separate entity, much the same way school newspapers often have associated websites that provide extra coverage the print paper cannot,” he said. The issue with the iPad yearbook is the inability to sign it, to personalize it, to read it at a table along with your friends. “Just like newspaper distribution day is a time when the school community suspends other conversations, even for a few minutes, so yearbook distribution day acts as one of the few ‘community events’ that remain in the modern American school. Take that away, and add yearbook to the dizzying online options for students, and the connection is lost,” he said. One of my research questions was to uncover whether or not it was possible to retain the historical aspect, the memory book aspect of the yearbook while keeping up with technological trends and digital innovations. What am I am starting to discover is that you can never replace the permanence of a print yearbook, but you can add digital aspects to it. “In theory, you can have both permanence and personalization in the digital world, but replicating a print product as a digital entity just seems like a duplication of effort. Newspapers began their digital editions by simply dropping all their content onto their websites. No one cared. Now those websites are dynamic, functioning on their own. So it should go with yearbook sites,” Kennedy stated.

In summary, readers are always going to be hungry for stories that help them understand a wider world, that help them understand their own lives, that inspire them or amuse them or shock them. For a yearbook to survive, we must return to being the story-tellers of the school community, making a unique year come alive, he said. “If we tell great stories (whether through words, photos, video, etc.), yearbooks can remain timeless, since great stories transcend time. I worry that too much attention to all the technology and the cool apps, etc., may end up swapping flash for solid story telling. If that happens, losing yearbooks becomes merely sad, like losing the Homecoming Parade, and not all that sad after all,” Kennedy said.