Picture day was this week and everyone came in making sure they looked their best. I know I spent an extra hour on my hair. As I sat back and watched the assembly line pump kids past the camera’s eye I reflected on my experiences with picture day when I was young. I remembered the same older gentleman coming back year after year with his camera. Positioning each one of us carefully, he took our photo. He had to adjust the background, the lights, the flash, to make sure each photo was special. Then his real work began, He would bring the film back to his studio and develop the pictures getting each one perfect and adjusting the colors if necessary so that a couple of months later we received photographs to bring home to our parents. My mom still has those pictures and they look exactly as they did when I first received them.
I noticed over the years that the photographers at our school all look like they just stepped out of high school or college and change each year. Being a school photographer is now an entry level job — nearly no experience necessary. Underneath each person getting their picture taken was a black mat with markings. Each marking told the photographer where to put the lights, set, background, etc. The “camera” was hooked up to a box of some sort that controlled each photo, and a laser came from each camera. The photographer positioned the laser on a certain spot and clicked. The photos are all digitalized. Did you know that a digital photo will not last more than 50-100 years?! Compare a digital photo to a photo from a negative made from film. No comparison. The negative photo has depth, color, and a beauty that cannot be had with a digital photo no matter how expensive the technology. The art of photography had been reduced to a job that anyone can do for minimum wages. So what happened to all of those old photographers? They are gone unless they were able to keep up with the new technology and create a photography business that was creative and innovative and could offer services that digital photographers could not offer. Or, they accepted the technology and added elements to their business that others were not. Many of the survivors now consult on a shot and then have a less expensive photographer come in with their didgital camera, take the pictures, go home and photoshop them, and print.
So what will happen if we continue to teach using the tools of the 20th Century — pen, paper, and textbook. Our students will be left behind just like the photographers who continued to use film cameras, and if they just become the worker bees implementing the new technology they will fade away just like the digital photos. They will not be able to learn, create, and innovate with the old tools and be able to stay a part of the creative class that will rule the economy of the 21st Century. They will become working slaves to all the others who stay ahead of the pack by turning up the right side of their brain and become entrepreneurs using new technology. Our kids must use learn to use the new technologies not as 21st Century pens and pencils with which to study history, but as tools to create and innovate, with which they can make history.