This month’s SXSWedu, the education-oriented arm of the SXSW phenomenon, proved interesting on many fronts. The speakers addressed immediate, relevant and innovative industry trends, and there was a great deal of networking between and among disparate groups in the lounges and socials. Three key themes emerged as we at the Ed-Fi Alliance reflected on the sessions and buzz.
High water mark of creative and entrepreneurial energy
Thanks to the edtech entrepreneurs in attendance, this was a high-energy crowd – definitely not the typical education conference. The animated atmosphere was stoked by our colleagues at inBloom on the heel of its remarkable launch, which gave 20+ vendors the opportunity to showcase their applications. Their lounge was the go-to spot in-between sessions.
New mindsets around innovation frontiers
Previous vendor concerns about platforms and standards are giving way as tangible examples are coming online that put substance on the promise of standards as a way to better, faster, cheaper innovation and new markets. The pace of change is picking up, although actual educator adoption of innovative new tools is still a ways out. Companies with an educator-adopter to speak about the tools saw healthy attendance and a lively Q&A session. Which leads me to the third theme…
Realizations about the continued divide between ed and tech
In spite of the buzz and accelerated pace in tools and services, the divide between education and technology stubbornly persists. It should come as no surprise that changing a sector with 3.2M front-line professionals will take time. SXSWedu is positioned to play a role in bridging that divide, particularly if the panels and presentations start to include more district- and school-level educators (or students themselves) talking about how new ways of approaching instruction – through innovative tools, better data, and the like – are positively impacting students’ lives.
We took some lessons from SXSWedu for ourselves and have some advice for EdTechies. Next,we’ll launch a series on “Top 5 Tips for Ed Tech Entrepreneurs” in hopes of moving us all further, faster in the quest for improving the education landscape for teachers and students
Lori Fey is president of the president of the Ed-Fi Alliance. Prior to leading the Alliance, Lori served as portfolio director for policy initiatives at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. You can read more of Lori’s posts here. And if you’re a K-12 educator with a strong point of view on how data could be—or is—used to make a difference for kids in the classroom, the Ed-Fi team would love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story!