In 1977 Lee Majors was the Six Million Dollar Man – the star of one of the hottest shows on tv and a hero to 2nd grade boys across America. I wanted to be bionic just like him, run faster than any human alive, possess superhuman strength, and see things mere mortals could not through my computerized eye. So you can imagine my unbridled joy and awe when he walked into the restaurant bathroom I was in with my brother. We looked at each other, me 7 and him 9, as if we were in the presence of greatness and then found the courage to ask him THE burning question….
Five minutes later the Six Million Dollar Man… the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN… escorted US back to the table. He politely introduced himself to my parents while holding back obvious laughter . “I told the boys I can’t show them my powers at a restaurant.” he said. My father seemed all at once, amused, confused, and concerned. “I’m sorry did they bother you?” “No, no, not at all.” The SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN responded with a wink and a deadpan look, “but I can’t rip the urinal off the wall . . .not even for the five bucks they offered me. I am just not allowed to do that.”
Thirty-five years later I now know Lee Majors wasn’t really bionic, but I still have a thing for superheroes and I still think they exist. In fact, I know they do because I have spent nearly all of the last 20 years working alongside them.
I believe good, passionate, and committed teachers are superheroes. I have seen them save lives, defy daunting odds with an unbreakable and inspiring smile, and make light shine in places and moments when darkness should have prevailed. While others have waited for Superman, I have had the distinct pleasure of working alongside him and his female counterpart.
In this moment of enormous technology disruption in the world of education I believe the promise of technology will be squandered in our classrooms if the apex of its innovation rests at simply making things more efficient or attempting to make the art of teaching dummy-proof.
Technology for teachers should do what it did for the Six Million Dollar Man – it should allow them to do things that are the province of Superheroes, things you and I normally cannot.
Gobstopper, the new company I will launch as an EIR at New Schools Venture Fund, will endeavor to do just that – give superhero teachers additional superhero powers. Gobstopper will allow teachers to dynamically reach their students from inside the texts they teach and become truly omniscient and omnipresent by giving them the ability to publish and place a “curriculet” – a layer of questions and rich media – on top of any epub, Word, or pdf document. Our new learning platform will make them omniscient – able to know who did their homework and who didn’t and whether students mastered the standards they practiced at home before they arrive at school the next day. We will make them omnipresent by allowing them to virtually be at the kitchen table with their students while they do their homework – whether they teach 20 or 150 – and ask them the exact questions they need to be asked or provide an essential explanation at precisely the right moment for each individual student whether they are doing their work at 5pm or midnight. Gobstopper is going to help students engage more deeply in the process of reading and learning and help their teachers serve and reach them better than ever before.
After spending the past 10 years founding two KIPP schools (yes, I am a proud and passionate KIPPster) I look forward to immersing myself in a community of entrepreneurs I have long admired and respected from outside. I can think of no better place from which to launch Gobstopper than New Schools Venture Fund. In my humble estimation, no other organization or venture fund has done more to seed, catalyze and support the development of superheroes in education than NSVF. I look forward to supporting and contributing to that work as a member of the NSVF team.