Sputnik Moment 2.0

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.

Find Your Tribe: A Powerful PLN

This post is written by Amy Heavin. She is the principal/lead learner at Ryan Park Elementary School, MSD of Steuben County in Angola, Indiana

Find Your Tribe.

Three simple words, but profound in their call to action. Three words that 6 months ago would not have meant anything to me, but today, are three words I tell other educators that they must fulfill. So what do these three words mean?

For a few years, I have been a connected educator. I have formed my professional learning network (PLN) and continue to let it grow. My PLN is predominantly on Twitter, comprising of a network of passionate educators around the globe, who share ideas and resources. For those educators on Twitter, whether they are active or lurking, they know the power found in this social media platform, and continually build and share within their own network. My PLN is continuous, personalized professional learning, anytime and anywhere I want it. I carve the time daily because it is important to always grow and connect, in addition to soaking in the daily inspiration and positivity.

My goal has always been to grow my PLN, as there are so many amazing educators out there to connect with. During professional conferences, I share my connected journey, the power found within my PLN, and how I continue to build it. I always follow at least 10 new educators each week and participate in at least one education Twitter chat, but many weeks it is more than that. Using the hashtags that interest me, I jump into these weekly chats to meet new people, share ideas, and learn. No matter what chat topic, I always find inspiring educators to learn from and grow with. This pattern of weekly inspiration has made me a better educator.

But, then something changed.

Through my exploration of different hashtags, I found a group of educators who pushed me more than before. It was a weekly chat, like most others, but the questions were different, and the conversation was philosophically profound for me. I had not followed most of the educators in this group very long. In fact, I met most of the for the first time in this Twitter chat. Once I joined the Voxer chat, I knew I had found a group that would be with me for quite some time. This group, the #leadupchat tribe, has transformed my thinking of not just leadership, but also of the power of connectedness. It is within this hashtag and chat that I have found my tribe.

A connected tribe is my PLN on steroids. Everybody’s tribe will be different. Your tribe will be your go-to group of educators, based on your interests, passions, and areas you would like to grow.

Your connected tribe will:

  • push your thinking
  • share resources and ideas
  • support and uplift your ideas
  • be your daily dose of inspiration, positivity, and humor
  • take you outside your comfort zone in order to grow professionally
  • ask questions that push you to dig deep into your philosophy of education, and
  • share not just professional dialogue, but build relationships on a personal level.

My connected tribe is on Twitter and Voxer. On Twitter, we share resources, blog posts, #CelebrateMonday and #FF shout-outs, and chat during the weekly chat time. We tag each other in photos and share our thinking. We welcome each other into other state Twitter chats we often moderate, adding new dimensions of thinking to the answers that stream through the chat.

Through Voxer, a walkie-talkie app, the #leadupchat tribe has conversations, listening to each other’s voice, sharing pictures of our school and our families, and discussing topics of leadership and instruction. We support one another in all our endeavors, and lean on each other when we need each other’s support. I listen to their ideas and inspiration every morning as I get ready for the day. We validate each other’s thinking, but I also glean new insight from them. Many times, the tribe shares great books they have read, inspiring videos, or other resources that contribute to our growth and learning. More than that, we reach out to each other individually through Voxer as well, having side conversations on related topics, offering support or ideas on a personal level.

All of these educators have transformed my career, making me better than I was the day before, all the while accepting my view points as well. We push each other to become better.

While we have never met face-to-face, I have found educators with whom I have a profound connection with philosophically. When we do finally have the opportunity to meet, there will be no hand-shaking in this group; we will embrace as if we connected as long-lost friends.

A tribe sticks together through thick and thin, supporting one another through it all.

Every educator must have a PLN today. There is no excuse not to anymore. But once you have your PLN, it is time to take it to a new level and find your tribe. Be a part of many Twitter and Voxer chats, learning and growing with the amazing educators in the world. When you find the group that pushes your thinking, supports you personally and professionally, and transforms your philosophy, you have found your tribe. Find the connected tribe that will not just be a dose of inspiration and ideas, but a group of people that will embrace your passion and take it to new heights.
Find your tribe. You will know it when you find it.