#GoogleEI Spark Camp

Google Innovator Sparks inspire past and present certified innovators to create bigger and greater change. Sparks typically occur at Google Innovator Energizers held before events such as ISTE and BETT.

This year, however, is a different type of year. In September, the Google Innovator global community participated in a 24-hour non-stop energizer. In 20-minute segments, Google Innovators taught each other how to create quality YouTube videos, how to Texas Barbecue, and how to create a yearbook in Google Slides.

This my Spark.

Spark Camp 2020 presentation

Every May and at the beginning of the school year (in normal times), my junior high school students would gather a table and look through yearbooks. Sometimes, actually many times, students would ignore the lesson just to sneak a peek at their memories.

The reason why so many of our students have a yearbook is thanks to this local printing team. Our yearbooks cost $8-$12 to print depending on length.

All we have to do is design the yearbook.

Spark Camp - Capture History One Yearbook Photo at a Time

Like all Google Innovator Projects, the #MEX16 SlidesYearbook started with a How might we? or ¿Cómo podríamos? How might we remove barriers to students purchasing school yearbooks?

In normal times, school yearbooks are too expensive! Junior high school yearbooks are $40 if you purchase them in December. High School yearbooks can be $100 if they are purchased by Christmastime. The high school yearbook price pictured in this example was taken in Northern California, weeks after a devastating fire killed residents and destroyed homes.

In normal times, SlidesYearbook - teaching students graphic design in Google Slides - was important. In the historic year of 2020, the need to capture history one yearbook photo at a time is even more crucial.

Spark Camp - Capture History One Yearbook Photo at a Time (1)

In 2020, SlidesYearbook was a godsend. School stopped on March 17, 2020. The yearbook was almost done at that time. A small group of students and I continued to work on the yearbook from home. We could do that because we used Google Slides. When students participated in our walkthrough graduation COVID-style, they received a link to their free digital yearbook.

We used Google Forms to collect parent emails and to email them a pdf of the yearbook. Families who were interested in purchasing a physical yearbook (at cost) checked that question in the Google Form. We plan to print those yearbooks at the end of October or November for those families.

Spark Camp - Capture History One Yearbook Photo at a Time (2)

You may have noticed that I blurred the student faces in the yearbook in the previous image but did not blur the faces in the example to the right. These students represented our school at a national educational technology conference. Here is their story:

Compton Jr. High Students first attended Spring CUE in 2018. These 7th and 8th Graders not only taught teachers graphic design in Google Slides, but also created the first-ever yearbook for the largest west coast continuous edtech conference.

The four girls created a hardback yearbook for Spring CUE 2019.

The week schools shut down, three yearbook students were scheduled to teach teachers how to create a yearbook in Google Slides at Spring CUE 2020.

Hands-on Learning

I am not a lecturer. I LOVE hands-on learning and exploration. After a brief story, because everyone loves a good story, our group of Innovators jumped onto the same slide deck and learned some valuable SlidesYearbook skills. Click on the images below to read the directions without squinting. Then click on the links provided in the description for more tutorials.

First and foremost, schools must decide who will print their yearbooks. This will determine the size of the page. We print at our district office. We use 8.5 x 11" pages. Blossom yearbooks have a color bleed (definitely more professional), and Blurb has an entirely different size for the hardback trade books.

When Google added guides to Slides, I jumped with joy. We use the guides to mark margin and to align images on two different pages. The trick is to add the guides to the Edit master. The Master page has the print margins while the layouts (delete all other layouts) are used for even and odd margins.

Once you create the guides, you will want to see them. First, clear the top guides. Then turn on the guides we previously credited in the Edit master. You can insert images or you can take a camera image directly in Google Slides. I have students use this option as we learn how to format and align images.

Google Slides has design tools to resize an image, align images, and reuse format options. I like the images to be the same height or width for uniformity. Seriously, go play with the Arrange menu! If you have more than one format change, use the Format painter. I wish that the Format painter worked for resizing images. Fingers crossed for future updates, people!

A major obstacle to using Google Slides for anything other than a presentation is small font type. To fix this, turn off the Speaker notes and use the Zoom option. 150% is my preferred magnification percent.

Lastly, captions tell stories. Captions expand on the photographs with details with names and details that spark memories later down the road.

Coding the Solution

Creating a yearbook in Google Slides appears rather simple. Arrange images to share photographic stories with captions. However, inserting image after image can get repetitive and time-consuming. The solution is a SlidesYearbook add-on.

In Fall 2019, I pushed myself beyond my limits to participate in 59 Days of Code. The grand prize was $10,000. I did not win but I did create a workflow that will be used for the future SlidesYearbook add-on.

The add-on will probably have a different name because the tool can be used for yearbooks and other projects. The coder will be Clay Smith, a #LON19 Google Innovator. The graphic designer and teacher will be me. The add-on will be launched in January 2021 in time to create the 2020-2021 school yearbooks at a fraction of the cost. The resources on this website will remain free. Modified templates from Quintus from SlidesCarnival will remain free.


The 2020 #GoogleEI Spark Camp was a blast! I attended session after session to learn from fellow educators around the world. Sharing my 2016 project that continues to grow was an added bonus. I hope you enjoyed a peek into this Spark. I also hope this blog post has sparked you and your students' creativity.