Last week, I was joined by 8,000 other educators, school leaders, government officials, data nerds, edtech founders, and many others in Austin, Texas for the annual SXSWedu conference. Here are a few things that I learned:
1) Data is complicated!
I attended several sessions on data privacy and data in school systems, and the concurrent theme seemed to be, "We don't know - we're trying to figure it out!" The advent of new technology and the novel ways in which we are collecting data on student achievement and teacher performance is incredibly exciting, but leaves many questions unanswered about the different process around legality, privacy, access, and many more. It's certainly a work in progress.
2) Educators need to be at the center of any "innovation" discussion
The best panels I attended were those that utilized the rich knowledge of educators in the audience. Many ed conferences are criticized for the lack of educators in the audience, but I found a tremendous amount of enthusiastic teachers at every SXSWedu session. For some savvy edtech companies, presenting to a group of educators was essentially a mini-focus group at their fingertips.
3) Stay relevant - or things may pass you by
One undercurrent I felt throughout the conference was this undeniable feeling that things are moving and shifting in education - and fast. Many of the hot topics of panels were titles that would have been unheard of 10 years ago - blended learning, "data security jedi" - and I went home with my own list of issues and titles to investigate further. It's an exciting time to be involved in the education world, but it's shifting beneath our feet. I hope to continue to read, attend, learn - and stay relevant.
4) Lastly, you have to wake up early for Texas BBQ.
I made the mistake of waiting until a reasonable lunch hour to try and scout out some Texas brisket and ribs. Starting your BBQ-hunting journey at 11am is a surefire way to end up with without any. Early bird gets the worm!