By Dave Forrester


June 6, 2010

Waiting for Superman
Schools across our nation are facing a dropout crisis. The cost to our nation both in loss of potential for learning, unemployment, government assistance, and becoming incarcerated is high. Creative student driven projects using technology tools provides them with a platform to develop their own voice, a self-concept, a reason to learn and grow and find personal success. The student may get an “A” out of the class he or she has a connection and passion for and carry this momentum of personal enlightenment all the way to graduation. However, many of these same students who find a spark buckle under the load of graduation requirements, academic, career/college, and personal/social challenges while in school. These same students may be identified as students at risk of dropping out, they may need additional school/community interventions to make it through school, and continued monitoring of their progress towards graduation. These vulnerable students may find a strong connection with a gifted teacher in real-time while in the classroom, helping them not fall through the cracks. However, the school system they may be connected with does not have the technological infrastructure and software products to help the whole school staff and the community to identify them at an early age, recommend interventions based in research, and monitor their progress towards graduation. A Superman and/or Superwomen (RIA) developer could be out there to bring real time information to the school system, develop an early warning system, provide a display system to monitor the whole student while in school, and link interventions to research. The idea is to put new innovative RIA applications in the hands of students, school practitioners, teachers, administrators, superintendents, and school board members. Most of our schools are using student information systems that display or report student data as an autopsy. Online standardized grades books may be the closest example of real-time data, but academic student monitoring is only one layer to a complex set of analytics needed to carry out and monitor a school improvement plan. Is the idea of mining data and exporting it into an excel spreadsheet to be real-time monitoring of student progress (graduation requirements, test scores, attendance, behavior, GPA)? By the time someone mines the data and exports it into a spreadsheet and gives it to a school principal, superintendent, or school board member, the data has become outdated. The students may have already dropped out. The frameworks of Ajax and Flex and tools of Flex Builder and CS5 may be the superpowers needed for the next superman and/or superwomen educator. I will keep looking up into the clouds, waiting for an education superhero to bring us a new set of applications that can run, monitor, and alert us in real-time.


  • By Lee Graham - 12:11 PM on June 7, 2010  

    I think this is a great concept, and I’ve been dreaming along the same lines for a while now. I think this would be fairly easy to do, BUT no one seems to want to put up the cash that it would take to accomplish this.

  • By Joseph Labrecque - 2:53 PM on June 8, 2010  

    As inherently creative beings, if we do not find an outlet to create, we will instead destroy. When enough of us begin down this path; Chaos.

  • By Dave Forrester - 7:56 PM on June 8, 2010  

    Joseph, I appreciate your comment. I believe we must find new ways to develop and support Professional Development, Training, Coaching, School Improvement, Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling, Partnerships, and Strong Leadership in the K12 Education System. (RIA) Developers can support all of these components. They can create new environments in the form of products that can display, monitor, alert, interpret report, connect, and bring clarity to large education systems that create a lot of data chaos on the ground for administrators and practitioners. The creativity and high skills of a developer can change the blurry ground view for a leader into a high altitude experience of clear scope and vision for a school or district. I also hope the creativity and skill that lies inside of us can come forth in ways to help and support all students.

  • By Atlanta Movers - 11:17 PM on June 9, 2010  

    I fully agree with you, I think that this is the better idea but we have to makes this true……………

  • By Linda McNair - 11:25 AM on June 10, 2010  

    We just had a private screening of Waiting for Superman here at Adobe San Francisco on Tuesday, so Dave, this is an incredibly timely topic.
    I wanted to point out the great work Universal Mind did for the Colorado Department of Education. This RIA application won an award at MAX a few years go. What do you think?

  • By Dave Forrester - 5:35 PM on June 10, 2010  

    In the state I am from, we had 20,000.00 students who dropped out in 2008, basically, most teachers teach five classes at around thirty kids on average. In our state, this means that out of five classes at least one in the five classes of students in all of the schools in our state will drop out. They also figured out it costs our state 10,000.00 per student in tax payer money and if you multiply, 20,000.00 (Students Who Dropped Out) X 10,000.00 (Dollars) = 200,000,000.00. This could be a tremendous amount of money which could be used for proactive develop of (RIA) applications (products) that could support the prevention of students from dropping out by helping the school and community monitor real time data and make informed decisions and connections around this information.
    At the same time, we need to support our CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs. The teachers who teach and use Adobe’s products are making a tremendous difference in the overall K12 system. As a School Counselor, I am constantly referring 9th and 10th graders to CTE programs like Commercial Graphic Design, Web Development, Media Productions, etc. I find every time I make a referral to one of our skill centers, these kids turn around and find their voice and tend not to drop out of school. I would challenge you make a case that your skills and innovations, using money that would normally go for incarceration or unemployment could go for proactive solutions for prevention, intervention and re-engagement of all students. Yes, we must be realistic about how much development may cost, but the real savings comes for the students who can further move forward with learning and growing. I believe (RIA) developers can join forces with our talented CTE teachers and make a bigger difference in the overall K12 system for our vulnerable youth.

  • By Dave Forrester - 6:00 PM on June 10, 2010  

    I believe the way we make this true is by leadership, collaboration, and building partnerships. Our Adobe Education Leadership Program is an example of how educators can come together across the globe from Higher Education to K12 and join forces to tackle real educational challenges. I would encourage you to get involved with one of the many Adobe Educational Communities, bringing your energy, talents, and skills into a place of action for us.

  • By Dave Forrester - 6:40 PM on June 10, 2010  

    I think it is serendipity! One of Adobe’s Skilled Education Mangers gave me a lead to Universal Mind earlier in the year. I have a conference call set-up with them on Monday, Go Figure!….I want to explore the project they did with Colorado Department of Education and see if we can expand the scope of it to my State of Washington. I could see several states joining forces, building prototypes that could be real solutions that could be scalable in the K12 system in the near future. I believe there is an incredible opportunity for (RIA) developers to become real heroes for school managers, teachers, practitioners and most important, the kids.