Dude with guitar

Where public education meets private funding: Reflections on SXSWedu

I loved attending SXSWedu 2014. It was well organized, and the different topic tracks were up my alley: design thinking, achievement gap, technology and many more. But perhaps most importantly, there was a lot of energy – shall we call it – flowing between the educators and the technologists. It was exciting to be somewhere with a little bit of tension in the air. That tension means that people are actively engaged in figuring tough things out.

A big theme that emerged, that just may be familiar in library circles was…

The way you’re doing it now is wrong. Technology is the only thing that can save you. And by save, we sort of mean eliminate (because you’re doing it wrong).

Okay, it wasn’t that harshly stated, but it was palpable in many workshops, especially the Redesigning EdTech: A Human-Centered Panel Storm. In this interactive workshop, we traded letters that were designed a little bit like MadLibs. We wrote them as educators, technologists and policy makers, then addressed them to one of the other two groups. The idea was that we’d grow our empathy for one another. However, it started with a lot of venting.

The elephant is identified!

The technologists wanted to know why the educators were so resistant to technology and seemingly unbothered by the problems in education. The educators wanted to know why the technologists seemed to put profit before students, and why they as teachers were considered part of the problem. And so it went, rather delightfully. There was a real conversation. The elephant was trampling through the room and it was liberating.

Also provocative was Diane Ravich. Her talk was a highlight because it was rooted in longitudinal research. She wasn’t trying to sell us anything. Instead she was encouraging us to save something – education – the hard way: through trust, money and hard work.

I left before the big action got started at SXSW straight-up, but others have documented the library-centered discussions:

District Dispatch

Library Future

American Libraries Magazine

Let me know who else I should add here…




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