There is an amazing scene in the Space Flight Epic film, “The Right Stuff.” Actor Jeff Goldblum, in the role of a slightly hapless government official, is rushing down the corridor of a federal building and breaks into a some sort of top secret meeting and yells, “It’s called Sputnik!” This scene depicting America’s entry into the Space Race due to the launch of the Soviet Union’s first satellite has always stayed with me in an amusing manner.
Flash forward to several years later and I am sitting in one of my classes for “Principal School.” (a.k.a. Graduate School for School Administration.) I was in reverie of sorts when the word “Sputnik” jolted me back to reality. I anticipated Jeff Goldblum to burst into the classroom followed by a fleet of NASA engineers and the Original Project Mercury Astronauts. What followed was my edification into the meaning of the “Sputnik Moment.” I knew that the Soviet Union’s launch of this puny satellite was the equivalent of some type of foreboding Death Star attack on the United States. This satellite launch compelled the United States to enter the Space Race and led to Manned Space Flight and beyond for our country. What I did not know was that Sputnik led to the a radical re-structuring of the American Educational System. Officials noticed a glaring omission of an emphasis on Math and Science in the Schoolhouse. A paradigm shift occurred in how instruction was delivered in Math and Science for students. Education in this country was flipped all due to the fear of a Soviet-created tin can. A “Sputnik Moment” is seen as any kind of “A-Ha!” Moment or epiphany that leads to monumental action or change.
Upon learning of how a “Sputnik Moment” applies to Education, I find myself wondering what other events have served in a similar capacity. I look to the skies and ponder what global event has compelled our noble profession of education to shift to a more positive and meaningful ethos for our students, families and educators. Arguments can be made for events such as the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall or 9/11. One can also make an assertion that innovations from the iPhone to Augmented Reality serve as the ignition for Sputnik Moments in Education. Innovators from Steve Jobs to Marva Collins to the myriad of voices in TED Talks may serve as catalysts for “Sputnik Moments.”
I find myself in my humble reflection not coming up with a definitive historical moment to stand as Sputnik Moment 2.0.
Perhaps, there are a myriad of Sputnik Moments hiding in plain sight in Education. These are the postings on Twitter by a 4th Grade Teacher in Baltimore sharing how her students are promoting compassion in the schoolhouse. It is the reflective blog posted by an instructional coach in Iowa. It is an Assistant Superintendent shadowing a student in Ohio in order to model the importance of empathy. Maybe, it is a couple of educators sharing their love of music and celebrating educators with random messages of support and acknowledgement. It might even be the wise reflections of a band of educators in a Voxer Group sharing and supporting each other in a sincere way.
All of these moments do serve as sparks to create and ignite change in the schoolhouse. We have the potential to be Sputnik Moment in avenues such as Twitter and Voxer. These vehicles create a pathway to conversation, collaboration and change in a level that is still hard to fathom within its magnitude. The sharing that is embedded within connections from EdCamps to Voxer Group ultimately serve, support and empower our students and educators.
Why wait for Sputnik when a paradigm shift for Education is a Tweet, Vox or Conversation away with the press of a click or the movement of a footstep?
Sean Gaillard is Principal/Lead Learner at John F. Kennedy HighSchool in Winston-Salem, NC. He is the co-host/founder of #EdBeat, a weekly positive chat for educators. Sean is also the founder of #CelebrateMonday. At the center of his life is his wife and their three daughters.
Tags: Change, connection, Education