Waiting for Superman…….Spiderman, Batman and the whole Justice League
How many superheroes will it take to fix our nation’s public education system? 3,500,000. This is roughly the number of teachers we need to educate the 50M children in K-12 public education. The task of every teacher – create engaging lessons that speak to the diversity of learners in a given class of say 20 students --- is a heroic one. We don’t have enough of these superheroes. So the real question is how do we create a scalable superhero making machine?
We can’t. Davis Guggenheim’s education documentary “Waiting for Superman” offers in convincing clarity we do not have enough superheroes to leap over the excessively tall buildings of education mediocrity and speeding bullets of international competition our children face daily. Our struggle right now is not for global competitiveness but global relevancy. No human capital strategy in any sphere of society can rapidly scale excellence, the kind of excellence our children deserve to the level of 3,500,000 people across the country. Think about how hard it would be for any business in America to recruit, retain and reward 3,500,000 leaders who could manage a different set of 25 individuals every year and deliver the same consistent results regardless of whether they lived in a large city or a small rural town?
There is hope. The DNA of any great teacher is their ability to personally engage each student where they are and move them through a learning trajectory that taps into the student’s intrinsic motivation, learning style and capacity. This kind of x-ray vision into the unique learning strengths of a student gets infinitely harder to manage and track as you add more students into a classroom and virtually impossible for a single teacher over a class of 20+ students. However, we can bring the powerful attributes of learning management systems that engage learning online, one student at a time, while simultaneously arming teachers with data on how their students best learn so that they can focus more on the magic that only their physical presence can provide. We can leverage technology in the classroom to finally realize the ideals of our egalitarian system wherein every student excels because every teacher is powerfully equipped to connect with each and every student’s learning.
This technology when placed in the hands of teachers willing to facilitate students’ learning by moving solely from up-front lecturing to include more side-by-side facilitation, can stimulate the kinds of exponential leaps in student achievement that we have longed believed possible but have not been able to achieve in our country. The country that incubated Apple, Google and Facebook must now turn those same scaling talents and technology to the classroom. It is time to help the 3,500,000 Clark Kents already out there with technology we are already using to make other industries from commerce to news to hopefully now education, fly.