Through a Different Lens


Photo taken and edited by my daughter

An article in today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press talks about the author’s success in getting her son to go on hikes by giving him a digital camera. In the article, Maja Beckstrom talks about a program run by the State Parks which teaches kids about digital photography, as well as her experience taking her son out hiking.

Key quote:

Adults read manuals. Kids treat a camera like a toy and try different things until they like what they see.

We’ve had the exact same experience with our kids. It’s fascinating to see what they’ll photograph, and how they see the hike much differently than you do. Where do they see art? What do they find interesting to document? How do they organize the images? How would they present them, if asked? Give them an online photo tool, like Picasa or Picnic, and they’ll spend hours with the images after we’re back, and they end up with a gorgeous, visual interpretation of the hike.

Yet, like much of the digital world, this is all done outside of school. What would happen if we encouraged kids to take pictures of things in school? On a field trip? As a school assignment? Yet, kids aren’t allowed to have devices that would empower them to take pictures. There are all sorts of rules about privacy, etc., that keep schools from using these tools.

Isn’t it time to move beyond these short-sighted, limiting policies? Sure, kids shouldn’t be taking/making pictures that would hurt another child. Sure, it’s easier to distribute these online. BUT – how are kids going to learn responsible use of these tools if they’re never allowed to use them in a school setting? Let’s see what the kids can do with these tools – it’ll surprise us all.


“How dare anyone think you can transform a child if you are unwilling to transform yourself.”
Chris Lehmann

More from Chris Lehmann, but why not?

This statement strikes me as key. As I’ve spent the last six months talking to teachers, administrators, etc., and have spent the last 9 years observing at my kids’ schools, it is amazing how much stays the same in education. Yes, they teach math somewhat differently (this spiral concept), yet it’s still MATH and still taught, for the most part, out of context of real life. Spelling tests — the same as when I was a kid. Subjects are largely taught in a silo, removed from each other.

One principal I spoke with is working hard to change things up. She said very clearly that the classroom shouldn’t look exactly like it did when she was a kid, and that’s what she still sees.

The transformation is difficult, of course. How do we break out of the mold of how we were taught? How do we recreate classrooms in an era of greatly reduced budgets, of incredible pressure from a faction of politicians who want TEST results?

I don’t have the answers, except to relate how I feel I’ve transformed: I’ve watched the kids. I’ve watched my kids, kids in their classes, and examples I can see from people like Chris Lehmann. We need to listen to the kids – it’s about them, it’s not about the adults.


I’ve been watching various talks from leaders in the 21st Century Learning/education reform /education technology field over the last few months.  They are fascinating, motivating, and very thought provoking. Not being a teacher (anymore) or involved in education on a day-to-day basis makes it easy for me to think that we can make these reforms and changes. Do I really have the authority to ask for change from schools, in particular the schools that my kids attend?

One finally pushed me “to the other side.” Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, is a leader in the educational reform and technology communities. In his TEDxNYED talk from March 2010, Lehmann closes by asking,  “How do we change the world?” A big question. How do we start?

“It’s time to organize.  I mean all of us together – administrators, teachers, parents, students. If not me, then who. If not now, then when.”  —Chris Lehmann

So, that’s what I’m doing. I’ll blog. I’ll talk. I’ll push. Watch this video and join me.