- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2006

Seniors who attend prom or participate in spring sports or the school musical at Thomas S. Wootton High School traditionally had to go back and buy the next year’s yearbook to see those events immortalized in print.

Traditions like that have no place in the digital age. This year’s class of 486 seniors will have a videodisc supplement to their print yearbooks that will include their last day of high school in Rockville.

“Being a senior, that’s why we’re doing it so we can have our graduation, our prom and spring sports,” said Bridgett Duarte, an 18-year-old senior and editor in chief of the yearbook.

Although signature seekers still can fill dozens of pages with personal memories of ink on paper, Wootton is one of thousands of schools nationwide offering a digital yearbook supplement that can include video, graphics, music and narration.

“We live in a multimedia age. Why wouldn’t [students] want their memories in the same format?” said Sharlene Hawkes, a former Miss America and ESPN broadcaster who is now executive vice president of StoryRock Electronic Publishing, one of a few companies that offer digital yearbook products.

StoryRock this year will make yearbooks on compact discs and digital video discs for more than 1,200 schools, including Wootton and about 60 other schools in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

The Salt Lake City company’s software enables students and teachers to create interactive CDs of up to 1,800 pages. Schools also can create their own DVDs or send in photos, video, text and art, and StoryRock will compile the disc for them. The products cost $9 per copy.

StoryRock’s customer base has doubled every year since 2001, when it partnered with print yearbook leader Jostens Inc. A spokesman for Minneapolis-based Jostens said about 10 percent of its 16,000 client schools now offer some kind of digital supplement, and the number is expected to rise.

By the time teachers finish reading the page of print instructions, students have created five or more digital pages, said Ms. Hawkes, the mother of four children in elementary school and junior high.

“It’s good; that’s where things get done. It would take me forever to learn the technology,” Theresa Duarte, an English teacher and yearbook adviser at Wootton, said last week as her students were exploring the software for the first time.

Mrs. Duarte, no relation to Bridgett, is in her first year as yearbook adviser, but a background in desktop publishing caused her to rethink the paper-based processes.

“It didn’t make sense for yearbooks to go March to March when the school year is August to June,” she said.

Traditionalists need not worry: The DVDs and CDs are simply supplements to the print yearbooks.

“I don’t think the print yearbook is going anywhere. It has the physical touch and feel aspect going for it,” said Christopher Reid, co-founder of Booksoft Inc., which partners with four print yearbook providers and views its CD and DVD offerings as a complement to the paper books.

The Canadian company worked with its first school in 1998 and now sells digital supplements for between $5 and $10 per CD or DVD.

The lights were turned down at a parent-teacher organization meeting last month at Crossfield Elementary School in Herndon to show sample StoryRock DVD, and the 60 attendees erupted in an ovation when it concluded, said PTO President Marylee Querolo.

“Parents are wanting more media to keep up with the times,” said Mrs. Querolo, who has a second-grader and a sixth-grader at the school. “It’s like having your own home movies, except somebody else does it.”

Parents and teachers at Washington’s LaSalle Elementary School will be taking pictures and videos for a StoryRock-produced DVD that will be available for students later this year, said Sharon Cook, an administrative assistant.

The students will produce the DVD at Wootton.

“It’s our first year doing it. Who knows how it might turn out?” Bridgett said.

The DVD should arrive at students’ homes by August at no additional cost to the $70 price for the 430-page, color print edition.

“The students are very excited, and word has spread,” Mrs. Duarte said. “So many kids are signing up for next year, including many [technology enthusiasts] who want to play on the computer.”

They remain practical: “Their first question is always, ‘Do I have to pay extra for it?’” Bridgett said.

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