Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Learn a Lot from Photographers

I feel a pull and based on things I see, like the 365 photo projects (of which I just suck at) and those in my PLN who get involved, I think a lot of you do as well. I continually feel my self pulled or sucked into the world of photography. I am a horrible photographer, but I love taking pictures. So I keep trying to learn in fits and stops how to do it better.

To that end, yesterday I attended Photocamp Utah 2010. I follow a few local photographers on Twitter and when I saw the announcement of the event in January I signed up immediately. A good thing because they ended up with hundreds on the waiting list. Many times over the past couple of weeks I thought about just bailing or selling my ticket to someone on the waiting list. I knew I would be way in over my head and didn't know how much I would enjoy it. I should have known better, and yes I was in way over my head. The audience was probably 99% professional photographers as were the speakers for the day.

I did learn a lot and have already forgotten much of what I learned. However,I think the reason I like to hang out around photographers is because their craft comes from their heart. Just like I believe a teacher's craft does. In fact I see a lot of corollary between photography and teaching.

Before yesterday, I had never heard of Zack Arias. He is a new hero of mine. Zack was the closing keynote for Photocamp and he was inspiring to me. Zack is a music photographer in Atlanta, GA. He failed in the photography business once, but came back and has done very well in this iteration of himself as a photographer. Besides the beautiful images in his presentation, he gave a few great words of wisdom and encouragement. I think the advice he gave is very appropriate to education and educational technology as well with just a few word substitutions. His presentation is available here. I will also embed it at the end of this post.

1) Know Your Camera - In educational terms, know your tools. He talked about being so knowledgeable about the equipment that when you are actually using it you don't have to think about it. I think this is an area in which we have not done well recently. We throw a lot of stuff into classrooms and never give teachers the opportunity or they never take the opportunity to master using it. When I talk about stuff, I am not just talking about technology, but curriculum, texts, management strategies and on and on. Teachers have to know the tools they are working with before they can use them effectively to teach.

2) Know Your Glass - In photography this means your lens, how you focus. In education I think it means pretty much the same. It is important to know which tool will achieve the desired effect in your classroom. To a photographer, that means knowing which lens is going to give the desired effect in a photo. In education right now a lot of the focus is on testing, particularly this time of year. But I am pretty sure this is not giving us the effect we want.

3) Knowing Light Gives You Options and Control - A huge part of photography is about lighting. How does that apply to education? I see it as a lot of the external forces that impact what happens in our classrooms. If a photographer tries to use only natural light achieving success in a photo can be difficult. So they bring in other light to enhance or diffuse what they are given naturally. In knowing what the deficiencies are in lighting they again can select the correct tools to make adjustments. In the classroom there are a lot of external things that impact what goes on. But the more we understand those forces we can use the tools we have to grant us more options and controls.

4) Nothing Matters More Than Trust - For someone to feel comfortable with a photographer they have to trust them. It is the same in our classrooms. Teachers have to develop trust for many different people. The must develop the trust of their administrators, their peers, their parents, but mostly their students. We have to earn the trust of our students so that they know we are there for them, collectively and individually. If we can build and maintain that trust the students will learn and succeed.

5) Fear Nothing: Gear, Locations, People - This comes back to some of the previous points about knowing and if we know, we shouldn't fear. We need to be fearless in the education of our students. We need to let them know that the should fear nothing as well. That stumbling blocks are just that, they don't need to fear them, face them, conquer them and move on.

6) Ask for Help, Grow Your Network - Those who are reading this already understand it. I see so many requests on Twitter every day from teachers and technology specialists and principals and many others. I never see those requests go unfulfilled. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Others are waiting. As you seek help and provide help for other teachers, your network will grow tremendously. Don't just grow it outside of your immediate confines though. Reach out and develop the network around you as well.

and finally...

7) Know Your Craft, Know Your Clients, Serve Them Both - Sage advice for anyone who wants to make a living at photography. Critical for us in education. We need to know our students and serve them continually. We also have to know our craft, and contrary to the belief of some that craft is constantly changing. We may not want it to, but it is and if we can't or won't keep up we can't serve our clients.

I want to finish with a couple of other quotes from Zach, but I think you can see how they relate to education as well.

I don't want my clients to say I'm good at Photoshop. I want them to say, I'm a good photographer.

Photography has great rules to break!

Zack also did a video about a year ago that is pretty incredible. Here it is followed by his presentation from yesterday.

Zach Arias - Transform Zack Arias - Photocamp Utah 2010 Keynote

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