Print Yearbooks Are Relics

For most teachers, the holiday season is a time of relaxation, kicking-back with friends and family, and not worrying about grading or preparation for two whole weeks.

As a yearbook advisor, I rarely get to enjoy this same opportunity.

No matter how hard my class works or how far we get, I still have plenty of work to do over the break. Between submitting pages online, helping frantic parents create advertisements, and figuring out how to stay on budget, I’m always kept very busy. I’m also thinking how to meet the following deadline, which comes up just a month or so after school resumes.

I don’t mean to complain. I love what I do, and I’m so fortunate to work with Jostens, the nation’s largest and very best yearbook publisher. I have the pleasure of collaborating with some of the most amazing layout artists, and they eagerly assist my students.

I would never imagine signing with another company, but printed yearbooks are antiquated relics of a bygone era. Anybody who disagrees is simply living in denial.

Selfishly, I’ll admit that going to an online format would drastically decrease my workload. I wouldn’t have to worry about meeting specific deadlines throughout the year, necessary to afford any publisher sufficient time to prepare and print thousands of pages.

My students could simply add content (or not) as the year progresses, and without deadline constraints, nobody would worry about financial penalties or late delivery dates. True, I would like to make my job more manageable and less stressful. But with the utmost sincerity, students stand to benefit (or lose) more than anybody.

More and more publications are going to an all-online format. Newsweek printed its final edition last week, placing another nail into the industry coffin. No matter how strongly anybody feels about maintaining tradition, it’s a matter of when, not if, all yearbooks will go entirely online.

I’m growing increasingly fed-up with naysayers who bemoan that they like the feel of printed material, and that going online cheapens tradition. Sure, parents will complain and some might even raise some serious hell. But as educators, we can’t let this stop us from teaching our students the most up-to-date skills to succeed in the 21st century.

I also find it highly hypocritical that as schools and communities try to raise awareness for going green, so few seem to support this growing online trend.

On a more practical level, why are we still teaching students production skills that they will never utilize? Instead, kids should be learning about web design and site management using Word Press, the same software that runs The New York Times. This would also allow them to experiment with podcasts, video productions, and yes, even social networking.

Even Jostens sees the writing on the wall. This year, the forward thinking company released incredible online yearbook software, ReplayIt Time Capsule. A simple app allows community members to share photos and videos via Facebook, and content is organized and aggregated on an attractive, intuitive interface.

Currently, schools need to purchase an actual physical yearbook to also utilize the amazing software. But here again, it’s only a matter of time before a premium option is offered to schools only interested in an all-online format.

As a coach, history and journalism teacher at Brimmer and May, a wonderful independent school in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, I have the absolute best job in the world. I am thrilled to get up every morning to engage with interesting young people, and I'm equally fortunate to have such amazing colleagues and mentors. As the founder of Spin Education, I encourage you to check-in frequently and submit posts and lessons—all in an effort to better our practice as teachers.

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