Hacking Edu: My 7 “Whoa’s!” at SXSW Edu

Dr. Jane McGonigal: Reality is Broken

A different kind of geek parade now descends upon Austin as SXSW Edu wraps up and SXSW Interactive revs up.  I’m overlapping between the two events to welcome our MCDM Flip The Media SXSW team (check out our blog redesign!), connect with some friends at a Starbucks Speed Pitch session, and to attend an O’Reilly Media Mini Tools of Change for Publishing conference tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I reflect upon my revelations at SXSW Edu even as we plan our own Four Peaks “Hacking Edu: From Tower to Town Square” month of events in April (more details soon).

1. DISRUPTION: Education is undergoing a massive upheaval in the United States.  That’s one reason why venture capital is flocking to it.  And why the Gates Foundation has identified education as a key area for addressing inequality.

2. TECHNOLOGY: Technology is the “new platform” for education, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared in the conference’s closing keynote.

3. EVERNOTE continues to be my #1 platform for knowledge management.  I discovered that I could start a new note, and share its URL publicly via Twitter.  That way folks could get my “coverage” of a panel or keynote in real time, even as I was taking notes for myself.  No more 140-character constraint!  So if you want my notes, images and audio from Secretary Duncan’s keynote, click this link (most of the links that follow in this post connect to my Evernote notes).

4. TABLETS specifically are the hottest technology in education.  I witnessed the effective use of an iPad Algebra 1 app in California schools (students who used the app scored 9% higher on standardized tests a year later).

5. GAMING: Peter Nillson scored best talk for me, with his Creativity in the Classroom (it’s worth reading my notes from his presentation).  He points out that school can be seen “as a game ecosystem.”  Jane McGonigal (author of bestselling book “Reality is Broken,” which advocates that games can “help save the world”) revealed in a new study that 92% of 2 year-olds now play some sort of technology-related game.  I have firsthand knowledge of this new truth.

6. CONTENT WANTS TO BE….Free or Paid?  This was a huge tension, highlighted by a keynote from Pearson (owner of Penguin, The Economist, The Financial Times) CEO Marjorie Scardino compared to many of the open source advocates at SXSW Edu, including actor LeVar Burton.  This tweet says it all:


7…THE SOLUTION TO OVERCOMING A LACK OF RESOURCES IN EDUCATION was generally seen as a blend of BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) and MOOC (“Massive Open Online Courses”) as identified in the eye-opening Where is the Disruption? panel.  When 150,000 people sign up to take a course on Artificial Intelligence from a tenured Stanford professor for free (the professor then leaves his position of safety for his own start-up), we know instinctively that the disruption is here, now.  Traditional educators, especially in higher cost higher education — beware.  It’s like journalism in 2008 all over again.  As Secretary Duncan said, “We all know what happens to dinosaurs.”