[SXSWEdu 2016] Sharing Our Key Takeaways

Monday, March 14, 2016 -- Ashlee Tatum-Eckley

The 2016 SXSWedu Conference and Festival has officially come and gone, and we were so inspired by all of the new knowledge and ideas we and other attendees gathered. We want to help continue these conversations, so over the next four weeks several of our Edmentum team members will be sharing their favorite sessions and takeaways here on the blog!

From the three very unique keynote presentations to diverse sessions and workshops on topics that ranged from entrepreneurialism, learning spaces, and implementation to assessment, educational equity, leadership, instructional strategies, and more, there was never a dull moment at SXSWEdu 2016. The conference brought together minds from around the nation to discuss forward-thinking education innovation across K-12 and higher education. We heard from classroom teachers, superintendents, principals, policy makers, reporters, and other industry leaders who each brought their own unique perspectives and experiences. Today, I’m going to kick off our SXSWEdu recap by taking a quick look at the conference’s three keynotes, as well as a few of my own favorite sessions.

Right out of the gate in the first keynote session, Dr. Temple Grandin led a session entitled Helping Different Kinds of Minds Solve Problems. She shared her own experiences with autism, education, and in the workplace; discussed the differences between photo realistic thinking, visual thinking, and verbal thinking; and explored ways in which each of these “different kinds of minds” can work together. On Tuesday, Ayah Bdeir and Sean Cavanagh discussed The Role of Maker Ed in Schools and how to make technology available open and “unleash the inventor in everyone.” And, on Wednesday, Jane McGonigal, PhD led, How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist, an exploration into what it means to be a futurist, four steps to start thinking like a futurist, and what it means for thinking about education – what could the future of education look like, and how can we shape our vision of it? I share these keynote sessions specifically because they demonstrate the broad range of topics and innovative practices that were covered and discussed during the conference. From exploring how students learn to talking about new ways in which we can engage educators, schools, and learners of all ages, there was never a dull moment and always a wide variety of topics to explore.

Outside of the keynote sessions, one of my favorite tracks to follow during the conference was the Policy Forum. This unique group of panel sessions dug into a wide variety of topics stemming from ESSA and the Common Core, to educational technology and innovation at both a local and national level. One of the first sessions I attended, and one of my favorites in the Policy Forum was called, Is Education Policy Stifling Digital Innovation? This discussion featured a Q&A panel about opportunities in educational policy, specifically as it relates to new legislation. Panelists discussed opportunities under ESSA, how the new law affects districts, and concerns or points of caution as we move forward in the coming year. The panelists explored a variety of topics as they relate to the new law, including increased flexibility for states and districts, an increased need for and emphasis on equity, and an opportunity to define what a personalized learning experience can look like for students. This theme was interwoven through many of the sessions I attended. Two of my other favorite sessions in this track were K-12 Education Policy: New ESSA Enables PL + CBE and Straight Talk from Teachers on Ed Tech Policy.

SXSWEdu 2016 provided the opportunity to explore so many ideas, issues, trends, and challenges in the realm of education. Be sure to check back over the coming weeks as we dig into more of these compelling topics, takeaways, and themes. We’d also love to hear from you! Did you attend SXSWedu? Share your key learnings with us on Facebook or Twitter!