Digital tools for yearbook advisers

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As many staffs meet virtually, advisers are scrambling for curriculum and lessons they can use remotely. Here are several resources to make planning easier.

The Journalism Education Association provides a wealth of resources for advisers. For members, they have a robust curriculum with lesson plans and slideshows across several content areas, including design, news gathering, law and ethics, photography and broadcast.

The Journalism Curriculum Initiative team, in coordination with the anywhereJEA initiative, is also providing free resources to support journalism educators. They’ve made available Zoom discussions on creating publication game plans, team building and adjusting staff and safety policies. They’ve also developed self-directed lessons for learning in a virtual or hybrid environment. Yearbook-related lessons include feature lead writing, interview basics, quote formatting, photo composition and caption writing.

In addition, they’ve built curriculum maps to walk advisers through what they should cover when. The yearbook curriculum map includes suggestions for high school, middle school, club program and leadership teams. They plan to add instructional videos to the free access page. As part of their anywhereJEA initiative, they are also sharing additional resources for digital learning. The first one focuses on conducting remote interviews. They’ll continue to add new materials throughout the year.

Anywhere JEA initiative logo

JEA Digital Media

The JEA Digital Media site focuses on web, photography, multimedia, broadcast and video. They have tips, videos and guides, including our favorite resource, Penn State’s Understanding Digital Photography website. This interactive site explains apertures, shutter speeds, exposures and ISOs in a visually effective way.

Their Adobe Program Tutorials page has several posts and videos on multimedia programs, including Adobe After Effects and Adobe Spark, which many staffs used last spring to make yearbook reveal videos. Staffs looking to improve their social media presence may benefit from tips and posts on that type of media.

Adobe for Education

StudioWorks+® or Encore® users, don’t let the Adobe name fool you into thinking this can’t help you. The Adobe for Education YouTube channel has a wealth of tutorials and courses for educators and students. Even if you’re not using InDesign, the Adobe Design Principles Course, features relevant design content, with videos on color, visual balance, proportion and more. There are also helpful courses on social media, teaching online and digital creativity. And there’s an entire channel for Adobe Photoshop videos.

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Understanding Color is one of the short, but informative videos part of the Adobe for Education YouTube channel.


At their main website, Adobe provides a robust resource center with tutorials for their software products. Combined, the Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign pages have almost 200 tutorials, provide overviews, tips and techniques for using the programs. Each page has numerous starter activities, and then dives deeper into aspects of the respective program and offers multiple projects to learn more.

Journalist's Toolbox

Presented by The Society of Professional Journalists, the Journalist’s Toolbox provides a wealth of resources to help with news gathering, design, editing and coverage. Journalism professor Mike Reilley founded the site and updates is regularly. Of particular interest to yearbook advisers will be their COVID-19 resources, including data on the 1918 Spanish Flu, fact-checking and journalism organization resources. Staffs may also find useful their resources on covering protests, the election, copy editing, design and mobile journalism.

Journalism + Design Resources

Created by journalism professors, this self-proclaimed “hub for journalism’s vanguard,” provides tools for educators to create meaningful learning. The Journalism + Design Resources site provides exercises and assignments that explore journalism processes in a playful manner. Students will enjoy the fairy tale leads assignment as well as the deck of activity cards with thought-provoking prompts. The site also includes sample syllabi and evaluation rubrics.

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The Journalism + Design team’s fairy tale assignment takes a creative approach to writing effective leads.

Student Press Law Center

The SPLC is an independent organization that supports and promotes the rights of student journalists. Resources for educators include guides, lesson plans, handouts, webinars and links related to press freedom, libel and privacy, and copyright and fair use.

In the spring, the SPLC established a Virtual Speakers Bureau, which brings a SPLC expert virtually to your classroom. Advisers can request a Zoom videoconference on a number of press law topics, including of interest to yearbook advisers: copyright, covering the coronavirus and covering protests. They’ve also added a new offering: virtual newsroom chats. Instead of a presentation, an SPLC attorney will have a 30-minute Q&A session on any media law topic.

Balfour Resources

Hopefully, you know about all the resources Balfour has to offer. But, just in case, here’s a quick round-up. On StudioBalfour, you can find a digital version of the Balfour Curriculum which has lesson plans, slideshows, handouts and worksheets. Also, in the Education section, there are more than 30 presentations on design, theme, photography, writing, coverage and more. For theme alone, there are five slideshows, including one specifically for middle school staffs.

For video resources, we recommend using any of the 18 Jumpstart sessions, which included lessons on design, writing and photography. Also, Amplify attendees have access to every session from the summer workshop. With more than 60 videos, advisers can share with their staffs a host of topics, including crowdsourcing photography and conducting interviews.

Didn’t get to attend? You can still register and receive access to all the video presentations. For software help, the Balfour Quick Clips YouTube channel features tutorials for Encore®, StudioWorks+® and InDesign users.

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Jumpstart, our virtual journalism festival, includes 18 video sessions available for watching.

Still need more?

Hopefully, you’re happily overwhelmed checking out all these resources. But if you still need a few more, see our Tech Tips page in StudioBalfour. It has about 20 more design, type, photo and tech resources that might help in your virtual classrooms. Let’s start clicking.

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