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SXSWedu Recap

I spent this week going to the SXSWedu conference here in lovely Austin, Texas. I like this conference because of its focus on innovation. And, I think Ron Reed, Greg Rosenbaum, Nicole Krause, and the rest of the staff put on an excellent, well-run conference.

I thought I’d take a few minutes to run down some interesting takeaways from SXSWedu sessions this week. In no particular order, here they are:

  • There’s a professor at the University of Texas that’s heavily using data in both the MOOC and live versions of his jazz appreciation class. He hooked up with a software developer to create all kinds of displays to tell him how his students are interacting with the material. Most importantly, he knew what sorts of data would tell him that and worked with the developer to put those data in the system. Thus, his data make total sense to him.
  • Lots of sessions on student data privacy. And, I think I see the conversation changing from doom/gloom to the work that needs to be done with data. To that end, the Data Quality Campaign and CoSN released a set of 10 Student Data Principles. You can read them at http://studentdataprinciples.org.
  • I facilitated a panel put together by Elissa Seto of eScholar. The panel consisted of Shawn Bay, founder and CEO of eScholar; Olga Garcia-Kaplan, writer for Ferpa Sherpa; and Jules Polonetsky, Director and Co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum. Their diverse backgrounds and experiences highlighted the complexities of data privacy. Like everything else in education, it’s all about context.
  • Featured speakers Sal Khan and Goldie Hawn (Goldie Hawn, right?!) talked about their work and their presentations were excellent. Khan, of course, started Khan Academy. Hawn has a foundation that focuses on socioemotional issues in education – in particular, teaching kids about how their brain works. She has a book out that I want to read.
  • I kept thinking about time all week long. I saw many innovative solutions, but I’ve been in education long enough to know that a good percentage won’t end up working. For that reason, teachers have to be careful where they invest their time, and many are rightfully risk-averse with this resource. I hope these innovators are keeping this fact front and center as they innovate.

And, of course, there are all the meet-ups and opportunities to talk with people doing different things in education. That might be the best thing about the conference – it’s a group of people with similar interests as mine, but many whom I wouldn’t come in contact with otherwise.

So that was my conference in a nutshell. Give it a try next year, it’s fun. And thanks for reading.

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