Editor’s Note: The SXSWedu conference wrapped up on Thursday, March 12th. We had Amanda write this update for us mid-way through the conference, and she is currently wrapping up her thoughts for a piece to appear later next week. Stay posted!
There’s a saying about Texas weather, “If you don’t like it, wait a minute.” In fact that saying may be true of most places, but in Austin, it’s no joke.
The first day of SXSWedu saw rain all day. For those of us locals who took public transportation to get to the conference (shout out to Cap Metro!), that also meant trudging across downtown, only to stand in the registration line with wet shoes, wet jeans, a wet coat, and fingers crossed that the laptop stowed away in the wet backpack stayed dry.
But, things looked up quickly. The registration line was quick. The press lounge is quiet and stocked with caffeinated beverages, and the Opening Keynote with Charles Best, founded of Donor’s Choose, was witty and engaging.
The theme of Best’s talk was “No More Gatekeeper.” He spoke to the idea that Donor’s Choose, and new edtech apps in general, are allowing teachers to get what they need without having to ask permission, without having to fill out forms in triplicate, and without having to wait forever for people to respond to the request.
After the Keynote I headed over to the beautiful new J.W. Marriott. A lawyer, a superintendent, and students’ rights activists discussed the first amendment rights of students at the Student Voice Summit panel, “The Right to Be Heard.” An enormously important idea was put forth—that rights’ revolutions for every other demographic group, except for students, have occurred in the last few decades. And despite legislation named to the contrary, students have indeed been left behind. In fact, students’ legally protected rights have gotten worse in the last three decades.
I spent the rest of the Monday afternoon attending Future 15 sessions. These rapid-fire, 15-minute, solo presentations allow speakers to explain their business or mission to the audience. The sessions I saw were thoughtful and informative—the speakers rose to the challenge of boiling down their ideas into just 15 minutes while also using graphics and interactive videos. These sessions were easily the most engaging I’ve attended to this point. The topics for the Future 15 sessions are all over the place, so you could sit in the audience all day and not get tired of the content.
Tuesday morning I spent time in the Data and Privacy summit. A few years ago, the announcement of the InBloom database at SXSWedu sent parents into a tailspin. No one clearly outlined what would happen with all of the student data collected in the database. The Ed Tech world is still trying to recover from that announcement. A panel that included representatives from Data Quality Matters and the Office of Educational Technology discussed the need for transparency around what student data is used for, as well as policies about what to do with data that is no longer useful.
As I wrap this article up on Tuesday afternoon, I’ve summarized a few takeaways:
For more specifics, follow Leah Levy and me on Twitter @LeahAnneLevy and @amanda_ronan. And be on the lookout for my SXSWedu wrap-up article here at Edudemic.