What happens when…?” 6 Questions from Day 2 of #SXSWedu

Day 2 of SXSWedu comes to an end. What better way to end the day than to reflect on the rich conversations, presentations and interactions? Today I’ll do it in the form of 6 questions that highlight memorable moments of the day (That is apart from a great lunch and dinner with new and old friends. You’ll have to ask me in person about those.).

Question 1 – What happens when you apply a social entrepreneur’s mindset to addressing the fact that 90% of the hottest new jobs in Texas require a college degree, but less than 30% of high school graduates go to college…and many who go to college do not graduate?

You get PelotonU, a less-than-three-year old organization that provides funding for eligible students in the Austin area, connects them with regionally accredited competency-based programs (like College of America, WGU, and Patten University), offers mentoring, and creates a space for people to gather, learn, and get the support they need to persist and succeed.

This represents another example of what I’ve written about in the past as the un-bundling of higher education. In some ways, this is like the financial aid office, career services, student advising, and the tutoring center at a college. Only this isn’t a college. It is these types of services unbundled from a school, but then it connects with existing CBE schools to create a full and valuable learning experience for working students. Look for this model to expand over the next few years. I can see a day in the future when we see PelotonU-like services available in most major cities.

Question 2 – What happens when the US Vice President’s wife is a community college professor and she shows up at SXSWedu? 

You get a standing room only presentation with security guards all around the perimeter. You also get a polished and on point message about the importance of college education; making it “accessible, attainable and affordable for all Americans.” You get a champion for President Obama’s challenge to reduce the cost of a community college education to $0.

Question 3 – What happens when you get a passionate, competent and confident teacher; but put him in a school full of policies and practices that hinders his effectiveness?
According to one panelist at the “What a Student Needs from a Teacher for Success” presentation, you get a “subversive teacher,” one who says something like this, “I shut my door and I teach. I try not to let anybody do anything that keeps me from doing what I know is needed to help these students learn.” Good or bad? There are probably positives and negatives to such an approach. Regardless, this description is an invitation for us to ask how we can design or re-design learning communities where everyone is laser focused on the shared goal and vision of helping students thrive and learn.

 Question 4 – What happens when you put two engaged journalists on the main stage to debate whether good teaching is learned or in the genes?

You get a playful but interesting exploration of the challenges that we face as we think about what it takes to have highly effective teachers in our schools. While one camp says that we are best to get smarter people in the classroom, the other says that it is about getting the best trained. So, why not aim for both. Let’s put the smartest teachers with the best training (and a commitment to lifelong education) in the classrooms.

Question 5 – What happens when you take three long-time friends who grew up coding; put them together, and have them design product for young people that teaches coding fundamentals in a way that is engaging and not overly simple?
You get CodeMonkey, another welcome provider of an online tool that teaches computer programming to youth. You also get a University administrator and professor who proudly blogged about making it through challenge 5 in no time flat! Try out the game before you are too impressed.
Question 6 – What happens when you bring hundreds of edupreneurs and educational innovators to downtown Austin and tell them to hang out?
You get much more than a collection of presentations. You get days full of rich and serendipitous conversations and connections. Sometimes I wonder if this event would not be just as good if we took all the same people, put them in a large open space for three days, and told them to do something meaningful and valuable. This is my way of saying that the people are the best part of SXSWedu for me, and I suspect that is true for quite a few others.
Posted in blog, Conferences, education, educational technology, sxswedu | Tagged , ,

About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.

3 Replies to “What happens when…?” 6 Questions from Day 2 of #SXSWedu”

  1. Michael Olneck

    Given the restaurant Nirvana that is Austin, can you please relate how you and other attendees are doing in that regard? 🙂

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