Not Your Mother’s Education Conference: SXSWedu

Thousands of people will flood the streets, restaurants and bars over the next two weeks in Austin to participate in music, film and interactive events as part of the world famous SXSW festival. The perfect way to kick off the festival was the inaugural SXSWedu conference at the AT&T Conference Center at University of Texas. While the conference didn’t have the skinny jeans, tattoos and cheap beer like much of SXSW, it did have inspiring education leaders looking to advance student achievement through the use of technology. Over the past few years the number of education related presentation entries to the interactive festival had grown significantly and organizers began to realize education leaders would benefit from their own conference.
Ron Reed, SXSWedu Principal kicked off the conference recalling laser video disks and how he thought they would transform education twenty years ago. He played a clip showing Texas policymakers trying to allow shift of textbook funds to include laser disks for classrooms twenty years ago. He lamented that the technology did not catch on in the classroom as fast as thought it would, but is inspired by improvements happening today. Reed hopes SXSWedu will be a different type of education conference, highlighting imagination, innovation and the Internet.
The second day spotlight session featured a student panel of online learners followed by keynote speaker Texas Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott. The students explained they have the ability to manage their education and time through resources that allow flexibility. Online and blended learning has created a more student driven approach to education in Texas. Scott, a twice University of Texas graduate, got laughs from the crowd as he explained how hard it was bringing his daughter to visit the Texas A&M campus. But he was inspired by the technology on the A&M campus and the advancements being made, and hoped that Texas K-12 system would begin seeing more enhanced technology like higher education courses are experiencing. He also had high praises and commitment to Project Share, which was the focus of this year’s conference.
Project Share is a global online learning community for educators and students in the state of Texas. Project Share is allowing educators from all over the state to share global resources.  Videos from the conference will be posted on Project Share. More information from the Project Share site:
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is proud to announce a new initiative that will explore the development and delivery of high quality professional development in an interactive and engaging learning environment. Project Share utilizes a collection of Web 2.0 tools and applications to provide professional development resources for teachers across the state and build professional learning communities where educators can collaborate and participate in online learning opportunities.
Sessions and panels featured projects like, POWER ON TEXAS who highlight the work of online and digital learning around the state of Texas and share best practices. POWER ON TEXAS, in partnership with TEA and AMS pictures highlights teachers and classrooms that are transforming education through effectively using technology. Following up a successful online learning summit at the Texas Capitol last month, Texas PBS held a panel on how online learning is transforming education. As a partner in Project Share, the PBS Digital Learning Library is proving open video resources to not only Texas students, but also learners all over the world.
Texas education leaders are making progress in transforming education for their students through technology and need to continue sharing success stories. In typical SXSW fashion, the SXSWedu will continue to grow and become more hip in years to come.

Caroline Vander Ark

Caroline is President of Getting Smart.

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