California High School Students Publish Multimedia Yearbook

The yearbook, which once seemed an untouchable icon of the American high school experience, is undergoing an amazing face lift on at least one California campus. Students at Independent High School in Encinitas have created their second interactive yearbook on CD-ROM, complete with full-color video, animation and sound effects. Born in the decade that saw the introduction of the personal computer, these students ¬ many of whom have PCs at home ¬ are comfortable with new technologies and enthusiastic about the flexibility of a multimedia production.

Making the Transition

For years, those enrolled in a Video Arts course have created yearbooks on video cassette. Last fall, when students learned to edit videos on computer, someone suggested that they make the transition to CD-ROM format.

Students used camcorders to record classes and school activities. The resulting product included a directory (CyberCampus), and sections where one could revisit favorite classes (Classes in Action), view QuickTime movies created by classmates (Cyber Cineplex), or read short stories written by fellow students (Fiction Factory).

The multimedia yearbook was produced using Director, a powerful authoring package from Macromedia, of San Francisco, Calif. The program lets one import file formats from many Windows and Macintosh applications and control such external hardware as videodisc and CD-ROM players, VCRs and special effects cards.

A visual timeline provides precise control over sound and animation, and a menu bar offers convenient access to common operations. Thanks to step-by-step tutorials, sample movies and online help, Independent students didn't need to invest much time in training.

For the second edition, the Video Arts instructor decided to add pictures of all students and teachers, scanned in color into a Macintosh Quadra AV. Ten students are participating in the project this year. (The private high school has a total of only 35 students.)

Dr. Stuart Grauer, director of Independent High School, has closely monitored the evolution of the multimedia yearbook. He says officials selected Macromedia Director and Adobe Premiere, a video editing package from Adobe Systems, because they are considered the "industry standards" for this type of work.

Preparing Kids for Future

"We are preparing kids for the world of work and for college," adds Grauer, noting that some "student versions" of programs have limited functions that would not support sophisticated productions.

Grauer says the project allows students to better express their creativity. Already, they've filmed a segment on environmental skateboarders and composed a presentation on The Hobbit.

His observations have convinced the director to push for the introduction of the software into other courses besides Video Arts, where it could be applied to scientific presentations and more.

Thus far, the high school has not sold its CD-ROM yearbooks, but makes them accessible to students and parents for viewing. Grauer expects that will change soon: "Macromedia Director is going to make it possible for this to become the norm."

The community as a whole reacted favorably to Independent's first interactive yearbook. Perhaps more importantly, the experience prepared students to take advantage of multimedia technology ¬ skills they can apply later to develop educational materials, business presentations and more.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.