You’ve heard of SXSW Interactive, Film and Music, but did you know this year’s fest actually kicked off March 6 with SXSWedu? In its second year, SXSWedu brings educators, politicians, celebrities, businesses and non-profits from all over the country to Austin to discuss advancements in education through technology.
Here are just a few of the things you missed from 2012 conference:
“But you don’t have to take my word for it”
Levar Burton was the first keynote speaker of the festival. His talk centered on the importance of storytelling. Burton’s love of reading came from his mother Erma. “In Erma Jean’s house you either read a book or got hit in the head with one,” he told the crowd. The audience was pleased to learn his classic children’s show Reading Rainbow is being relaunched in app form.
Social media in schools
The “21 Ways to Integrate Social Media Your Classroom” panel not just presented, but brainstormed ways that social media can be used in the classroom. Teachers are using Twitter to communicate assignments with parents. Students are using Twitter to get help. Classes are using Twitter for collaborative storytelling. Let's face it, Twitter's not going away.
Google in the classroom
Google had students participate in their panel via Google hangout. A young high school student from Maine shared how his class researched the Arab Spring protests in real time. Using Google docs the class was able to work on the project with other schools across the country, as well as in the Middle East.
The Launchedu competition
The Launchedu competition takes place during SXSWedu. During Launchedu, entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas for educational based companies and products. Winners are the chosen in the K-12 and the Higher Education categories and win an assortment of helpful prizes and much needed press and support.
This year’s K-12 winner was Bloomboard (formerly Formative Learning). Bloomboard is a website that provides an easy-to-use interface for principals and districts to use for teacher evaluations. An evaluator can observe, give notes, set goals and objectives, set up conferences and track changes of teachers all with the same website.
The Higher Education winner for Launchedu was Learningjar. Learningjar is a tool for individuals to dive into informal learning easily. The website asks, “What skills do you want to build?” You can type in CPR, public speaking, HTML, etc., and you’ll get resources and advice on what you should be reading and watching to gain these skills.
Texas’s own effort to fight poverty with education
Texas’s Panhandle Twenty/20 non-profit presented ways to fight poverty through “collective impact.” The Amarillo group coordinates those in need to be matched up with local “navigators” that help them get the resources they need in a comfortable environment. Panhandle Twenty/20 also holds valuable opportunity conferences that focus on taking care of someone’s immediate needs so they can then work on their long terms goals like education.
US Secretary of Education (and straight up baller) Arne Duncan closed out the festival. He gave a short speech about the importance of using technology in education especially for low-income students who don’t have access to technology at home. He left plenty of time for people to ask questions. It quickly turned to “No Child Left Behind.”
Duncan’s frustration with Congress was evident and he stresses he is encouraging states (and meeting with Governor Perry) to apply for waivers like the states that already have.
SXSWedu covered many more topics; you can learn more about on their site.