SXSWedu Halftime Report

The Getting Smart team is live from Austin, TX this week covering the SXSWedu conference. The event, in its third year expects up to 5,000 attendees this week, a large jump from the 800 its first year. We took a break from breakfast tacos for a first half recap.
Data is Beautiful.  inBloom is everywhere at SXSW with briefings, receptions, and parties. Along with the subtler Ed-Fi Alliance launch, data plumbing, policies and tools are all the rage in Austin.
Stop Buying Tablets, Start Buying Solutions.  Amplify rolled out their new tablet bundle: a $300 device loaded with open and engaging content.  Teachers will appreciate the assignment and classroom management features.  See the full review on Getting Smart.
Innovation Clusters.  Richard Culatta, acting EdTech Director warned about the “tech for tech’s sake” rush and said “If we are not careful, we will end up with a digital replica of our analog system.”  To avoid a digital version of what we’re doing, Culatta commended Digital Promise, its League of Innovative Schools and recommended creating innovation clusters that connect educators, researchers, and entrepreneurs. (I’m a little obsessed with this idea and write a weekly blog about Smart Cities.)
Powering cluster development are incubators and accelerators–nearly ubiquitous here at SXSW–Heather Gilchrist, Socratic Labs; Matt Candler, 4.0 Schools; and Eileen Rudden, LearnLaunch.
Blended Classrooms and Communities.  Lisa Duty, and the EdElements team
discussed how legacy structures in school districts can stifle creative forms of teaching and learning, but with community involvement in efforts like district-wide shifts to blended learning, structures can be reinvented to support innovation. See Lisa’s recap for more.
Anything Anywhere.  Udemy offers 6,000 classes to its 600,000 users.  They experienced 5x growth in 2012 and added 15,000 instructors in the first quarter.  President Dennis Yang made thoughtful contributions to several sessions and lots of hallway conversations.
Apptastic. Edmodo announced that it made an acquisition and added staff to make it “easier to build cool experiences.”  Edmodo launched its app marketplace here at SXSW last year with 40 apps and 6 million users. This year, there are 500 apps and nearly 18 million users.
Our pals at portfolio provider Pathbrite announced another round of funding led by testing giant ACT.
Big Buzz.  David Robinson, former NBA Player, and Founder of the Carver Academy drew a crowd and talked to AmericanEdTV.  Check out the interviews with Jaime Casap, Google Global Education Evangelist, and yours truly!
Tackle Real-World Problems. Chase Lewis, the 13-year-old winners of this year’s Invent It Challenge, exhibits a balance of confidence and curiosity. Chase won for his invention called the Refugee Travois — a solution to a problem he learned about in an article his mom read to him about African famine victims. Chase’s story is good reminder of the amazing things kids can accomplish when they are emotionally connected to their learning, feel empowered to explore their own ideas and are surrounded by adults that truly value their contributions.  Learn more about Chase and his invention here.
For live updates from the conference follow @Getting_Smart and #SXSWedu.
Edmodo and Udemy are portfolio companies of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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