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A Maker’s (School) Dozen: 13 Must-See Sessions at South By Southwest Education

Photo Credit: SXSWedu

March 2, 2016

Talking Points

13 sessions not to miss at #SXSWedu

Such much deep thinking, so little time, @the74’s guide to 13 must-see events at #SXSWedu

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What organizers like to call “society’s true rock stars: educators” — and an ever-expanding orbit of tech innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs, filmmakers and media types focused on teaching and learning — are again set to converge next week in Austin for the sixth annual South By Southwest Education (SXSWedu) Conference & Festival.
It’s a dizzying and deep four-day gathering that kicks off Monday with a keynote address by famed autistic author and animal science professor Temple Grandin on the different ways people think when solving problems and culminates Thursday with a presentation by LRNG CEO Connie Yowell on the $25 million effort (thank you MacArthur Foundation) to close the opportunity gap for young people by creating a connected, digital catalog of in-school and out-of-school learning and career experiences. LRNG was tapped just last week to be part of the White House’s summer jobs initiative.
Stuffed in between are hundreds of panels, summits, workshops, forums, mentor sessions, meetups, film screenings, book signings and core conversations being led by more than 1,000 presenters, discussing everything from cognitive process to continuing education, from educational equality to entrepreneurialism, from leadership to learning spaces. 
And if that sounds like all work and not enough anything else, fear not: There’s even a LEGO Education and VEX Robotics playground.   
To go big without going crazy, The 74 has distilled the SXSWedu catalog down to 13 can’t-miss sessions sure to lead the week in fueling insightful discussions about the future of American education. We’re also doing our part to stoke that debate: 74 Editor-in-Chief Campbell Brown will be leading a discussion about politics and education in the 2016 presidential race with journalist and author Jonathan Alter, National Review editor Reihan Salam and journalist and cable TV news host Roland Martin. 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 8 at the Austin Hilton (Salon H); we’d love to see you there.
Here are our other picks from the full March 7-10 schedule.
Monday, March 7
12:30 p.m.: The Science of Teacher Hiring. Some 600,000 teachers are hired each year but it’s a far from flawless process. Learn how Spokane Public Schools in Washington teamed up with researcher Dan Goldhaber to change its hiring practices, land the best candidates and improve student achievement. (I’ll be live-tweeting the session at @kjemoore15)
12:30 p.m.: Moving From Privacy to Trust. Last year, the Student Data Principles were endorsed by 40 education associations, and more than 200 companies have signed a Student Privacy Pledge. Still parents fear schools are collecting too much data on their children and don’t trust them to protect it. Moving beyond suspicion with the U.S. Department of Education’s chief privacy officer and others.  
3:30 p.m.: Failing Successfully in a School: True Confessions. What are the ingredients for a really successful failure in a school setting? The co-founder and director of a private Austin middle and high school and a student each give their perspectives on what it takes to get an A in failure.
Tuesday, March 8
9:30 a.m.: The Role of Maker Ed in Schools. littleBits founder and CEO Ayah Bdeir discusses how the Maker Ed movement should look beyond career prep to focus on turning young people into imaginative, engaged citizens. She’ll cite examples of students solving real world problems working with littleBits, a platform of electronic building blocks that can be use to create inventions, and other Maker tools, and promises an “important announcement about a new initiative.” (74 Editorial Director Steve Snyder will be live-tweeting the conversation at @thesnydes)
12:30 p.m.: Think Rethink! CrowdSourcing Innovation. Drawing on the power of the crowd — especially student voices — to uncork ingenuity, ignite young people’s passions and uncover the next great idea for moving education forward.
2 p.m.: Invisible Assessment: What K-12 Can Learn from ECE A look at how early childhood education does “invisible assessment” without the bubble sheets and how that can be applied to K-12 where parents are in a testing revolt. Organizers say teachers in early childhood are doing real-time, ongoing assessments that are focused on child development and powered by technology and project-based, hands-on teaching and learning. (74 Editorial Director Steve Snyder will be live-tweeting the conversation at @thesnydes)
3:30 p.m.: From South LA to the Ivy League. Two students from South Los Angeles, both first-generation college students, and their high school advisor recount how they applied and were accepted to Harvard and Yale, how they handled that transition and found the support they needed to succeed in their freshman year. (I’ll be live-tweeting the session at @kjemoore15)
Wednesday, March 9
9:30 a.m.: How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist. Pioneering game designer and bestselling author Jane McGonigal gives a playful one-hour master class where she will teach the three most important techniques of future forecasting, give a tour of five of the most surprising potential futures for education and play a collaborative future forecasting game she designed just for SXSWedu.
11 a.m.: Closing the Equity Gap. The goal of Aurora Martinez’s Future15 session: Shifting the equity discussion away from dollars spent and toward innovation and meeting students’ diverse needs with new instructional practices, data, streamlined assessments and increased student engagement.
12:30 p.m.: The Future of Socioeconomic School Integration. Exploring ways to bring about socioeconomic equality in schools by moving toward a world in which no child attends a school where more than 50% of the students are poor.
2 p.m.: The Common Core: Defend, Bury or Transform? Under attack by the right and the left (and the parent opt-out movement), where to go with the five-year-old, multi-billion dollar effort to bring more rigorous standards to K-12 education. (I’ll be live-tweeting the session at @kjemoore15)
3:30 p.m.: Innovation in Charters vs. Districts. The innovation race is on between charter and district public schools, with charters in the lead in implementing personalized learning via technology but district schools are gaining ground, organizers say, as they begin “to transform at scale.” Panelist promise a “bare knuckle bar brawl.”
Thursday, March 10
11 a.m.: What Higher Ed Can Learn from Uber and Airbnb. What are the takeaways for universities studying the disruptive success of two companies that honed in on “a collaborative marketplace that matches the haves of providers [think universities] with the needs of the customers [think labor markets].”
Follow our updates from SXSWedu at @the74.