Today I had a wonderful, long conversation with the yearbook teacher and webmaster for one of our schools. Mostly it was polite complaining about how the people in charge just don't "get it" about marketing, customer service, and technology. Well, and leadership, if you ask me.
In our conversations about wanting to buy a content management system for her school's website, she decided to show me the website that her class uses to design their yearbook. Yes, they design their entire yearbook within a web-based application. So long, InDesign, these kids are designing in 100% dee-licious Web 2.0.
The site is called Yearbook Avenue and is a service of Jostens (who probably published my yearbooks, too, way back in the day). Unfortunately there isn't a demo login you can get access to unless you give them a call. So instead I've taken a few screencaps:
(Click for full size)
The site is much more powerful than I thought a web-based print layout application could be. The yearbook teacher gives each student in the class their own login account and from any computer on campus or at home they can work on the pages to which they are assigned. A number of students can work on it at the same time. The teacher has the ability to lock and unlock pages to specific users. She can even add virtual sticky notes on a page to tell a student what they need to edit!
One might think, "Yeah, but InDesign really will always be better." Sure, it might be. But this comes pretty darn close to the functionality of InDesign and Quark. And the built-in content/photo management system can't be beat, especially since the teacher and students can work on the book from any computer and at any time. The teacher told me she used to stay in her classroom until 10 pm working on grading students' layouts in InDesign. Not anymore. She now does that from the comfort of her home.
Photos can be uploaded and managed by students from any computer. There is also an area for community members to upload school-related photos if they like. This school has nearly 5,000 images uploaded. Even better, when placing an image into a layout, the application will automatically tell you if the photo does not have a high-enough resolution for print. No worries about crappy cellphone camera photos at 72 dpi.
Printing and Previewing
For proofing purposes, students can easily make a PDF of the layout with the click of a button. They can also view a "virtual" book and literally flip through the pages to get a feel for how it will look when printed and bound.
All-in-all this is a fantastic application. It is a great example of how technology, and Web 2.0 in particular, can be used in the classroom. And while I'm on the subject, why do I call this Web 2.0? Honestly, I'm not quite sure what Web 2.0 really is. I'll look it up tonight perhaps. But its starting to crystalize in my mind that Web 2.0 is the trend of web-based applications replacing software applications: Google documents replacing Microsoft Word, Flickr replacing iPhoto, and Yearbook Avenue replacing InDesign (at least for yearbooks).
Maybe I'm wrong, but this is certainly an exciting trend!