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SXSWedu: Tech, Teachers, and Texas!

Written by: Celia Alicata, Director of Marketing & Communications

Last week, we experienced SXSWedu in all its glory (and lots of BBQ!). We presented a talk to some seriously inquisitive and innovative teachers in the Playground—the hands-on learning space—about the promise of embedded assessment within game-based learning.

Despite the freezing temps, Austin felt warm and welcoming to the many attendees—from educators, to product developers, to thought leaders in policy, reform, and educational technology. Nolan Bushnell (he’s the father of Atari and was a longtime mentor to Steve Jobs) gave us one anecdote that was hard to forget. Advances in brain science + cheap hardware + robust networks = the perfect storm for game-based learning.

It was hard to do, but here are our top four edtech takeaways as it relates to our learning games, research, and support for educators:

  1. Keep it personal: From Michelle Rhee to Jose Ferreira of Knewton, it seemed everywhere we turned, personalized learning and differentiated instruction were the talk of the town. Much credit was given to technology (particularly adaptive learning games) for its promise to deliver on efficiencies for teachers and for students to define their own learning paths. Competency-based learning and mastery, especially in the age of the CCSS, are driving the exploration of how innovations can better serve individual students.
  2. Know your audience: When creating a product or service for education, it’s imperative to keep the student and educator top of mind. Vivienne Ming, neuroscientist, encouraged the edtech universe to understand and engage the system that we’re all looking to impact. With the proliferation of educational apps, we heard a welcome refrain: if you’re not filling a need in the education marketplace, rethink your solution.
  3. Show them outcomes, and they will come: Teachers, administrators, district leaders, and parents must see outcomes. No one desires tools to be adopted into the classroom without careful consideration of the impact on student academic success, and a plan for implementation. This is positive reinforcement for our work at Classroom, Inc.—we help teachers understand how our games can be integrated into instruction and infused into a larger blended learning strategy.
  4. Work on the gap: The digital divide and issues around equity must drive the edtech sector. Discussed by presenters hailing from rural and urban districts as well as from leaders of the Aspen Task Force on Learning and the Internet, access to broadband and access to innovative, digitally-enhanced instructional tools and content are key elements for supporting successful 21st century learners. The divide contributes to gaps in opportunity and achievement and as more systems build 1:1 programs, the broad meaning of access (at home, in school, and in the community) must remain part of the conversation. That’s why for more than 20 years, Classroom, Inc. has kept it our mission to serve the most under-resourced schools and communities.

What was your big takeaway from SXSWedu? What do you wish was discussed more? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.