SXSWedu 2017 was Awesome!

I spent a stimulating and exhausting week at the South-by-Southwest EDU conference in Austin, TX. It’s the premier event for new and innovative education products. I saw so many fascinating presentations, and everyone I met was super-interesting. I’ll try to capture my experience with just two events.

The firWP_20170306_13_27_47_Panoramast was the SXSW Playground–a big convention center ballroom, filled with fun educational technology. I sat in on a workshop for Bloxels–where you build a videogame world using colored blocks, then you snap a photo of the blocks and the computer turns it into your own virtual world. That’s the picture at the right.

Like the Bloxels, all of the technologies were designed for kids to be creators and make things. The robots and software guided learners as they programmed robots and computer games. One of my favorites was a drone that you can fly around yourself using Snap, a drag-and-drop programming environment that you can learn in a few minutes.WP_20170306_13_46_19_Pro

Second, I had a great time leading the workshop “Creative Teaching” along with Tacy Trowbridge from Adobe, and Villy Wang from Baycat. The room was filled to capacity with 60 conference attendees, ready to be active creators. We led them through a tower-building activity using 6 pieces of newspaper and tape. The take-home lessons were about group dynamics, design thinking, and iterative making. Here’s one of the groups, who used an analogy with a Christmas tree skirt for the base of their tower:

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Thank you to Tacy and Villy, I learned so much from doing the workshop with them!

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It’s always fun to do a book signing. I gave out a bunch of my Zig Zag creativity cards! Keep being creative everybody!

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Ten Educational Innovations To Watch For In The Next Ten Years

A team of education experts at the Open University (UK), led by Professor Mike Sharples, have identified “ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education” in this new report. Of course, you can find similar lists in just about every business magazine and newspaper, but what’s different about this report is that it’s been generated by researchers working at the cutting edge of both technology and learning sciences research. It’s a must read for teachers, academics, and policy makers–anyone who cares about how schools and learning will change over the next ten years. Here are quick summaries of their ten predictions:

  1. Massive open social learning. Imagine MOOCs but with their power multiplied by social network effects.
  2. Learning design informed by analytics. Design and analytics work together to support the development of successful learning and teaching. (If you find this interesting, you have to read the new chapter on learning analytics in the just-published Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, Second Edition, by the leading experts on this topic: Ryan Baker and George Siemens.)
  3. Flipped classrooms. At home, or in individual study time, students watch video lectures that offer them opportunities to work at their own pace, pausing to make notes where necessary. This allows time in class to be spent on activities that exercise critical thinking, with the teacher guiding students in creative exploration of the topics they are studying.
  4. Bring your own devices. Teachers become managers of technology-enabled networked learners, rather than providers of resources and knowledge. This shift opens opportunities for connecting learning inside and outside the classroom. (Mike Sharples is the co-author, along with Professor Roy Pea of Stanford, in a chapter on Mobile Learning in the newly published Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, Second Edition).
  5. Learning to learn. Web tools and activities such as reflective journals and concept mapping have been designed to support learning to learn, but these are rarely well integrated into a learner’s social world. There may be more value in adapting for wider use social research environments such as ResearchGate, or question-answering communities such as StackExchange and Quora.
  6. Dynamic assessment. The assessor interacts with students during the testing phase of the process, identifying ways to overcome each person’s current learning difficulties. In the dynamic assessment process, assessment and intervention are inseparable.
  7. Event based learning. Examples are the ‘maker fairs’ that gather together enthusiasts who are keen on do-it-yourself science, engineering and crafts projects, and the ‘Raspberry jams’ where fans of the Raspberry Pi computer meet up and share ideas. Local events spark national gatherings and these build into international festivals.
  8. Learning through storytelling. Developing a narrative is part of a process of meaning making in which the narrator structures a series of events from a particular point of view in order to create a meaningful whole. Writing up an experiment, reporting on an inquiry, analyzing a period of history – these are all examples of narrative supporting learning.
  9. Threshold concepts. A threshold concept is something that, when learnt, opens up a new way of thinking about a problem, a subject or the world. A challenging aspect of threshold concepts is that they often seem strange and unintuitive.
  10. Bricolage. Bricolage is a practical process of learning through tinkering with materials. It is a fundamental process of children’s learning through play. It also forms a basis for creative innovation.

If you like this report, you might also be interested in my conclusion chapter in the new learning sciences handbook, “The Future of Learning: Grounding Educational Innovation in the Learning Sciences”.