MOOCs and Assessments and Makers, Oh My!

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MOOCs and Assessments and Makers, Oh My!

Highlights from SXSWedu 2013. And nope, it's not yet over.

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     Mar 6, 2013

MOOCs and Assessments and Makers, Oh My!

Coming at you, live from Austin's SXSWedu. Some 5,000 educators and entrepreneurs have been buzzing around the Texas state capitol, talking technology and education.

We're learning a lot--and still asking a lot of questions. We're tallying up the announcements. We have continued to hear teachers ask--quite practically, too--about what it takes to translate all the Big Picture ideas into action in real districts. (One teacher told us--with a note of despair--how his district has bought 1,000 new computers, all of which have to be physically locked down so they don't vanish. Anyone got an app to track that?)

UPDATE: Congratulations to the winners of the LAUNCHedu competition!

HigherEd: Speaking Pal: Software for practicing English with your cell phone

K12: Clever: Software to integrate schools' Student Information Systems to applications

  • Words of the week: Thanks to TechWithIntent, for turning these buzzwords into games with this handy-dandy SXSWedu Bingo card.

  • inBloom, the massive database effort funded by the Gates Foundation is still raising hackles. Audrey Watters elaborates on concerns here, including rumblings from the likes of the ACLU. We'll report back with more details soon.

  • Google's regular Google hangouts from its chipper, white carpeted room. (Why a white carpet? Well, explained a Googler, everything happens in the cloud. White cloud. It did make us think that there's a new undercurrent to that eco-advice: "Take only pictures, leave only footprints.")

  • Girls reign: A grand dinner for more than 100 marked the debut of EdTechWomen, a gathering convened by Sehreen NoorAli of Noodle. The spirit matched that of the original women's education technology network, the DOLS. (Know what DOLS stood for? Tweet it out (#edsurge) and then come around to the Maker room and collect your very own EdSurge tee!) Future gatherings are in the works in New York and San Francisco. (Check out #edtechwomen).

  • *MyEDU's VP of Design, Jon Kolko, is moonlighting as director and founder over at the Austin Center for Design. Students we met at the design-thinking and social entrepreneruship program are tackling some serious issues--from addressing pain points in the child adoption and elderly care process, to giving autistic children better channels for self-expression--that mainstream edtech tends to gloss over.

  • NBA all-star and all-around good guy David Robinson (founder of The Carver Academy) is teaming up with IDEA Public Schools founder and CEO Tom Torkelson to expand its network of high-achieving charter schools from 28 to 56 over the next five years. "I love tech as much as anyone, but discipline is highly valuable, as is passion, early on," said Robinson.

  • MOOCs remain on the mind. MOOCs: Hope or hype? with Joshua Coates, CEO of Instructure. Rumor in the hallways: that some nonprofit MOOCs are looking into what it would take to create K-12 MOOCs.

  • Gamedesk, Pearson, and Learnsprout showing us that there's no better way to party than with fellow geeks over haphazard Rube Goldberg contraptions and giant Jenga.

  • Twenty-four startups (both for-profit and nonprofit) raced through 3-minute pitches on Tuesday for LAUNCHedu. The semifinalists were:


  • Clever
  • Duckie Deck
  • Learn Sprout
  • instaGrok
  • ThinkCERCA
  • Zondle

Higher Ed

  • College Snapps
  • Matchbox, Inc.
  • Media Coe
  • School Yourself
  • Speaking Pals

Winners will be announced on Wednesday evening.

EdSurge continues to host the MakerSpace room. We're collecting questions for Makers, such as: what do Makers really learn? Dale Dougherty, the father of the Maker movement along with special guests talked about this in our Google hangout. Drop us a note if you've got a burning Maker question to

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