Another dot in the blogosphere?

What is education’s Kodak moment?

Posted on: March 26, 2015

What do Kodak and Instagram have to do with schooling? Read on.

A Kodak moment used to be associated with a beautiful or meaningful event that one wished to immortalize on film. At the turn of the century, Kodak became synonymous with not changing quickly enough with the times.

To cite Godin in a recent blog entry:

Ubiquitous doesn’t mean forever, and popular isn’t permanent. Someone is going to fade, and someone is going to be next to take their place.

That someone else in Kodak’s context was digital photography. This NYT video paints a sad picture of a mountain of a company reduced to a pebble. (I cannot embed the video as blogs do not allow some HTML tags, but the video is worth your time.)

Video source

The irony is that the first digital camera was invented in 1975 by a Kodak engineer, Steven Sasson (see Vimeo video above), but Kodak only started selling digital cameras in 2001 [1] [2].

Now consider this tweeted perspective:

The core thing both Kodak and Instagram have in common is photographs. I do not think that it is logical to compare the diversity of products, company timelines, available technologies, and other circumstances.

But the the tweet brings up at least two important points on what it takes to produce and how to act when change knocks on your door.

Kodak operated on the traditional industrial model. It had to in order to provide high quality photography film worldwide. Operating under such a model, Kodak needed large and common campuses to house their people.

Instagram works with ones and zeros, and it does so in a mobile and app driven space. Their people could fit in a large apartment or work offshore and independently in holes-in-the-wall.

Kodak is not quite dead yet, but its main campus is now occupied by other companies, one of which bottles food. They serve as a warning to those that do not stay relevant or do not spot the next wave and prepare for it. Kodak suffered the consequences of reducing staff a hundredfold (30,000 to 300 according to the NYT interview), going bankrupt, and needing to reinvent themselves.

Instagram, however, was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for US$1 billion. Instagram was just two years old when that happened. But both Facebook and Instagram took the opportunity when they saw it.

Which world and what circumstances are we preparing our kids for in our schools and at home? Kodak’s or Instagram’s?

Are we teaching our kids how to do more with less? Are we unleashing their energy or nurturing their creativity? Or are we holding them back?

Schools have changed. The rank and file tables and chairs remain as do papers and writing surfaces, but some teachers have responded by aligning their philosophies and pedagogies to the times.

But not enough. Not MUCH enough and not FAST enough. Innovative teachers and daring principals are still the exception instead of the norm. Very few systems have the moral courage and political will to take measures like augmenting subjects with authentic phenomena like Finland.

Kodak might have justified its dithering by saying that the timing was not right because the technology or their consumers were not ready. But Kodak had at least one visionary in their midst. If only they had listened more carefully. If only he had spoken more loudly. If only they had been braver.

If only foresight was as clear as hindsight.

If only they had taken their Kodak moment and Instagrammed it in Facebook.

We cannot predict the future for certain, but we can learn from the past. Better still, we can invent it.

We must decide our Kodak moment in education. When we look back at it, will it be a one of regret or one of joy? Decide now and do something positive about it.

Like Instagram, we do not have to wait to grow big or get permission to create. A few pockets of innovation will eventually be recognized and assimilated into the larger whole. This is the world we live in, so live it.

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