In today’s society skills like teamwork, problem solving and time management are crucial for students.
In this way, Project Based Learning encourages them to become independent workers, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners. Can you think of a project that requires working in a team, gathering information, budgeting and utilising high tech tools while working towards a deadline? A yearbook project of course!
In this interview with David A., who managed the yearbook project of South Fremantle Senior High School in 2015, you’ll discover what a yearbook project can bring to the table. Starting from interesting tips and examples, you’ll learn how to set up your own project and how to make it the ultimate success your students will get credit for. Ready? Let’s go!
First things first: congratulations for all the efforts you’ve put into this beautiful project. Both your content and design are very impressive, and it deserves to be said. This leads to my first question: Did you have any previous experience in publishing design?
Thank you. I’m not professionally trained as a designer but I have been teaching Media Studies to senior secondary level for almost 30 years. Beginning in 1988 on a small 9-inch screen Mac (Class or LCII?) with numerous 1.4mb disks for saving I supervised yearbook productions but this yearbook is my first in nearly 20 years. I had used Pagemaker way back then… and, more recently, InDesign in concert with other Adobe software.
My return was motivated by 2 points about which I hold strong views:
> It is our school community’s story of a particular year. It should look good now and in 20 years when students are reminiscing, perhaps with their own children.
> Students should be involved in the design and production as an educative experience. If it doesn’t have this layer, as educators we should not be involved.
Thirdly, but less importantly for a school’s decision, it should be ‘doable’. By this I mean no teacher should be burned out with the time and effort it takes to complete.
“Students should be involved in the design and production as an educative experience.”
The second point took care of itself. We set up a vertical flexible class of interested students. Some of these students took care of photography, some were writers and some editors.
The first and third points were where Fusion was very useful. We knew that we wanted a lively, bright yearbook that captured the year in a fun kind of way. Fusions templates gave me a concrete way of showing students possibilities for design. Its flexibility meant that as students’ skill and confidence grew they were able to ‘tweak’ some design elements and pages: also very useful.
I treated this as a project management exercise. Under supervision editorial students were required to control workflows, deadlines, budget, etc. and each student had responsibility for a specific section or group of pages. Student photographers were provided with a guide to good photos kit, had to provide contact sheets and were given feedback on each shoot. Writing students were provided with research and writing frameworks (including word counts and quotes) and were also provided feedback. We posted articles and photos on our blog so they could see how their work was edited. These activities were a critical tool in the educative part of the exercise.
Let’s talk about design! Apart from looking exceptional, your book is also very consistent and clear. What was the initial concept when you started creating your book and how did you come up with this nice and consistent piece of art?
There were a few requirements that had to be met. Some were from the school and some were broad, general design considerations that I insisted on.
The school brand was a compliance matter. To address this, we used the school colours as a basis, hence the repetition of the colour red and the watermark segment of the logo on the front cover. More importantly though we wanted to communicate a sense of an inclusive, caring, fun community school. We wanted students to see themselves having fun at school. We wanted them to feel a sense of pride in their published work samples. And we wanted our community to get a glimpse inside its local high school and see it the way we see it.
“We wanted them to feel a sense of pride in their published work samples. “
I insisted that students had to feature, not just their pictures but their work and their voices. Our students editors met once a week after school for their flexi-class (and yes they got credit for it). We spent the first 3-4 weeks discussing, arguing, making mood boards that exemplified what we wanted in our ‘look’. At the end of this process we had a simple colour palette, style decisions re text, graphics, layouts, etc, as well as an idea of the structure we wanted.
At this point the students pitched it to the principal who agreed to sign it off.
As far as recommendations to beginners go. Whilst the production side was not new to me the idea of setting up a structure that gave students ownership, control and quality learning AND ensured a technical standard was new. I suppose recommendation 1 would be make sure your school supports it – there is a budget, there is time (and if TOIL is offered make sure the agreement is in writing) and that the school admin and staff have a practical understanding of what they will need to do to make your job manageable.
Secondly, know explicitly what you want to achieve. You are leading people who have no idea of what they are doing or how to achieve the look they know they want. I talked to a lot of students, asking the same question. What do you like? What don’t you like? I showed them the last 10-15 years of our yearbooks. I had sample yearbooks from other schools and I prepared mood boards of cover pages, contents pages and sample internal pages.
“Recommendation: know explicitly what you want to achieve. “
Thirdly, be gracious. You will get tired (I logged just under 200 hours of my personal time over the year). If you don’t think you can sustain your sense of humour or your enjoyment of the task, don’t start. I think there is huge value, seriously good quality learning and a strong record of the school community’s year, all of these important. But you will be the only person who appreciates the sacrifices you have made… along with the other people reading this.
Your yearbook is well structured. Anyone can easily understand the editorial logic. Could you please briefly explain how your book is organised in terms of content?
The book has 4 main sections: events, learning area pages, middle school and senior school. This book marks the beginning of a more concerted push for students work to be included. There was not enough of this for a section of its own so instead it was interspersed in pages we thought appropriate. Our ANZAC ceremony in the events pages for example, carries 4 extra pages of students work from a year 9 English research/writing assignment.
I’m not sure how the student work pages will evolve because I’ve moved on to another school but I think they showed promise; a way in essence for the students to ‘hear’ their teenage voices as well as see themselves.
The events section, in the most part, contained photos and articles by students and was ordered chronologically. Whole school or big events got a whole page, sometimes facing pages. Smaller events got half a page. This also showed a good start but was far from complete.
You’ve included a lot of students’ work in the yearbook. A personal favourite of mine are the sculptures and it’s also amazing to see some novels. What’s the idea behind that and how did you do to collect high quality content like this?
From the outset there were a couple of non-negotiables for me. Students (happy, smiling, active students) had to be visible. Student work and student voices had to be represented. And it had to be credited. Getting access to student Art was relatively easy. I’m the Head of Arts and Technologies. As part of that role I insisted that staff provided photographic evidence of student work for their own classrooms, for student portfolios and for newsletters.
This meant we had an image bank ready and it was just a matter of taking what we needed. Student writing was a different story. Event articles were easy. We had a School News Group (under which the yearbook editors worked). This group photographed and reported most school events through the year so, again, content was pretty easy to access. We had an e-library, a blog and newsletters.
Other student work was a bit more difficult to get. I attended English department meetings requesting student writing. What I got after much hassling was the ANZAC stories (these are my personal favourite pages). The Gatsby and Tell-tale Heart stories were year 11 English Lit assignments which I got directly from the students. Articles were heavily sub-edited. The ANZAC and Lit stories were left as is. This is an area that needs some work but, as a first foray, I was reasonably happy with it.
I was pretty iron-fisted about deadlines. As the students were getting extra credit I expected extra work. There were some students who moaned their way out of a job. That’s normal and we parted ways amicably and early to avoid the mindset contaminating others. There were two year 12s involved. I insisted they not be there at the end because of the obvious conflict with their exam preparations. This caused no disruption because it was planned for. The ‘moaners’ work was re-distributed over the group and, whilst irritating the remaining students, it was a good lesson on inter-dependence.
There’s a huge amount of images in your book, from scuba diving pics to profile photos. How did you organise your photo collection?
We built an image bank in our share drive (I kept it backed up on a portable HD). The School News group I mentioned earlier took the photos and wrote the articles. We built these pages as they progressed. Our image library was organised chronologically by event with a tagline that identified the program/subject then the event. For example a music term2 showcase on June 28, 2015 would read, “150628_Mus_T2_Shwcs”. A marine diving excursion on March 3, 2015 would read “150303_Mar_DivExc”.
It takes a little while but it develops its own logic. I liked this one because the system automatically listed things by date and it gave the students practice at working in a collaborative system.
“It gave the students practice at working in a collaborative system”
Regarding single use of photos: we did have some issues in this area. But we did 2 proofs (when we thought we were ready) before we handed it over for independent proof reading. We did find repetitions and edited those. The repetitions were caused by a mistake (part of the learning) made when we were assembling our image libraries in Fusion. The plan was to build image libraries for sections. However, when one student had responsibility for one section and a different student had responsibility for another we found, for example that photos selected for the athletics carnival pages were also selected for the HPE pages. It wasn’t a massive inconvenience and was easily corrected.
I suppose this could be prevented by tighter control around the front end – sections, pages, building image libraries in Fusion. It certainly wouldn’t happen the second time but I suppose when it’s the first time a new production model is being used we have to expect these little bumps.
So it appears that your project is the result of some nice teamwork. Could you tell us a little more about your yearbook committee?
I set up a group called School News. This was populated with volunteer students from yr7-12. Students were provided with a portfolio, log sheets and paperwork for an Endorsed Program provided by SCSA (WA’s School Curriculum & Standards Authority). Students in year 10-12 get unit equivalence credit. Students in yrs7-9 were enrolled in a flex-class that was reported separately to their timetabled classes.
Year 10-12 students formed the yearbook editorial committee which was a sub-group of the School News group. School News students contributed photos and articles. These were banked. The editorial students had access to their pages or sections in Fusion and were responsible for compiling. They alerted me when sections/pages were finished and I checked against our style guide, gave them feedback from which they edited. Repeat cycle.
With regard to motivation or interest: this was never really a problem. I didn’t want too many people. The School News group consisted loosely of 20-25 students from yrs 7-12. From this 6 worked as yearbook editors (after we lost the moaners). They comfortably logged their 55 hours across the year to get their program achievement.
According to you, what are the 3 most important ingredients for a successful yearbook project?
- School support – time, practical, budgetary and moral (you will need to unload or vent at different times)
- A very clear (documented) vision, style guides, etc
- Really tight organisation with explicit deadlines (see GANTT chart)
- Because there is a 4th…and it’s important….space/time to collapse at the end. Its good, its fun, its valuable but it is tiring, especially when you have a day job.
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