Educational innovators deliver a wake-up call at SXSWEdu

While it is still too early to tell if Sonoma will be an early adopter, stay in the mainstream or be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, all signs at the recent South By Southwest Education Conference (SXSWEdu) in Austin, Texas, indicate that we should brace ourselves for dramatic and exciting changes in education.

More than 4,000 educators, administrators, tech developers and media attended the three-day conference in Austin last week. The education-centric event is only in its third year and it leads up to the more famous SXSW music event, which follows a week later. There were panels, keynotes, parties, book readings, workshops, a competition for promising education startups, and the launch of some high-profile products and initiatives.

The conference included more than 300 presenters and the overwhelming focus was on how technology will – not could or can – completely transform education in the next few years. I managed to squeeze in 11 sessions in two days on topics that ranged from how technology can help deliver America’s new common core curriculum to specific apps that can transform elementary education (see more at sxswedu.com/schedule).

The conference took over Austin’s enormous conference center, as well as the adjacent Hilton Hotel. The audience seemed split almost evenly between teachers/administrators and ed tech companies. The conference cost $375, but the teachers and district staff I spoke with all indicated that in terms of professional development, it was money well spent. (I paid my own way but was given a free press pass).

I chatted with Jaime Casap, the Google’s global education evangelist, and he said the conference has quickly doubled in size and is now his favorite annual education conference. “Instead of disjointed workshops on narrow topics, the focus is on how can we all work together to take what we are doing to the next level.”

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