SXSWedu 2017: Ones to Watch and What to Know


SXSWedu 2017: Ones to Watch and What to Know

By Sydney Johnson     Mar 1, 2017

SXSWedu 2017: Ones to Watch and What to Know

It’s that time of year again. We’re breaking out our barbeque bibs, pulling out our reporter’s notebooks and heading down to Austin for SXSWedu.

Now in its seventh year, the annual gathering brings together thousands of entrepreneurs, educators and industry experts from around the world for four days stacked with panel discussions, workshops, an expo hall, meetups, film screenings—plus plenty of after-hours shindigs. (Psst... EdSurge will be hosting it’s own party with HireEducation and Intel Education Accelerator on the Speakeasy rooftop on Tuesday, March 7.)

Here’s a sneak peek at our calendars for next week, including all the sessions and happenings that you (and we) don’t want to miss.

Monday, March 6

9:30 a.m. We Got It from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service (keynote): Combining insights from his own book and rap group A Tribe Called Quest’s latest album, Dr. Chistopher Edmin (Associate Professor at Teachers College Columbia University) uses history, practice and theory to explore education’s most pressing issues: a lack of diversity among teachers, challenges faced by educators of color, and absence of student voice in the learning design process.

7:30 p.m. SXSWedu Opening Party: After a long day of learning comes a long night of parties. Renaissance Learning will host SXSWedu’s kickoff bash with beverages at Buffalo Billiards from 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.


11:00 a.m. Opinionated Products: There’s a word for the kinds of tools and products—like say, Google search results—which adapt to a user’s behavior: opinionated. We use these products everyday to help get around town, speed up online shopping and more. But the technology lends a question: to what extent should educational products make assumptions about a user’s end goal?

12:00 p.m. Diverse by Design: Creating CS Programs for All: When working to diversity computer science programs, strategies often look to improve existing programs rather than designing better programs for all from the get-go. Charisse Taylor, senior director of policy and implementation at NYC Department of Education, will share resources, templates and other activities aimed at helping educators create new CS programs that are “diverse by design.”

2:00 p.m. Seed Stage Funding 101: Funding an idea—no matter how great—is rarely an easy undertaking. In a panel discussion moderated by Mark Phillips (CEO at HireEducation), Graham Forman (Founder of Ednovate) and Mandela Schumacher-Hodge (Portfolio Services Director at Kapor Capital) will talk about the challenges of obtaining funding, and how to overcome those obstacles to get your business started.

Higher Ed

12:30 p.m. Let’s Chat...Bots in Higher Education: What if all of your college questions could be answered by sending a text or Facebook message? AdmitHub, which uses conversational artificial intelligence (AI) to guide students through college, is trying to make that happen. During this 60 minute session, AdmitHub CEO Andrew Magliozzi will reveal insights from his company’s 2016 trial with Georgia State University, where a chatbot exchanged 185,000 messages with more than 3,100 students.

3:30 p.m. A Workforce Shift to Alternative Credentials: There’s a lot of buzz around “alternative credentials” these days. But what do employers and traditional higher-ed institutions think of these microdegrees and other online certificates? One recent study found “widespread acceptance of alternative credentialing programs at American colleges and universities.” Panelists in this discussion will discuss the study’s findings and the evolving attitudes towards alternative credentials in the workforce.

4:00 p.m. HBCU Educators, Advocates & Entrepreneurs: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) regularly produce some of the country's top educators, innovators and entrepreneurs. Four of them—Lauren Miller (CEO of Can't Stay Put), Crystal deGregory (Executive Editor of HBCUstory Inc.), Jahliel Thurman (Vice President of Uplift Entertainment) and Shalon Bell (Director of Strategic Alliances at the Atlanta Voice)—will discuss how despite limited monetary capital, these institutions continue to boost students’ potential in graduate education, entrepreneurship and advocacy through human capital.

5:00 p.m. Designing Organizations to Support Tech on Campus: One of the most common pain points around implementing tech in higher education is the lack of support that follows a purchase. Speakers from University of Virginia, University of Maryland, MIT and University of Pennsylvania will share what works, what doesn’t and how they have built structures to support technology initiatives on their campuses.

Tuesday, March 7


11:00 a.m. Humans of K-12 Purchasing: Education Week’s Michele Molnar will moderate a discussion—self-described as “co-misery 101”—on the difficulty around finding and buying K-12 products. Panelists include Darryl Adams (Founder and CEO of Adams Consulting And Edutainment Services), Nicole Neal (CEO and Founder of Noodle Markets) and Michele Molnar (Associate Editor of EdWeek Market Brief).

12:30 p.m. Will VR Really Impact Student Outcomes?: Companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Google are all dipping their toes into virtual and augmented reality. But will VR and AR live up to its hype? This panel asks how this technology might expand the walls of the classroom—or isolate students from the learning environment.

2:00 p.m. ESSA: What Edtech Providers Need to Know: Whiteboard Advisors Senior Vice President David DeSchryver and Education Week Senior Editor Sean Cavanagh break down one of the biggest federal education policies to pass in the last decade: the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). DeSchryver and Cavanagh will look at how ESSA is guiding the work of edtech companies now and in the future.

5:00 p.m. Black Lives Matter Does Black Curriculum: Many contributions of black Americans have been sidelined in history lessons and textbooks. That needs to change in order to improve academic performances for black children, according to Courtney Robinson (Founder of Excellence & Advancement Foundation) and Gina Tillis (Doctoral student at Huston Tillotson University). In a 60 minute session, the duo share the importance of teaching and understanding race and racial identity.

Higher Ed

11:00 a.m. Elevating Educator Prep with Micro-Credentials: What are some of the first steps that early educators can take on their path towards teaching, and how can micro-credentials recognize those efforts? Panelists from Educators Rising and Digital Promise will discuss incentives behind micro-credentials and the programs they are enacting to support teachers to learn new skills throughout their career.

2:00 p.m. Digital Courseware 101: Edtech for Student Success: Rahim Rajan (Senior Program Officer, Postsecondary at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) will share solutions and findings from the foundation’s Next Generation Courseware Challenge, and how open digital courseware innovators are working to address issues around access and equality in higher education.

3:30 p.m. Integrated Planning & Advising for Student Success: As technology steps in to automate traditional academic advising duties like helping students register for courses, a new approach to student success and planning has stepped in: iPASS (Integrated Planning & Advising for Student Success). Melinda Karp (Assistant Director at Community College Research Center), Elizabeth Dooley (Vice Provost and Dean at University of Central Florida) and Vanessa Kenon (Assistant Vice Provost for Information at UT San Antonio) will discuss the changing role of academic advising and what this looks like in practice.


4:00 p.m. Making Smart Decisions in a Crowded Edtech Market: EdSurge’s very own Leonard Medlock (Director, Concierge) will pry open some examples of districts working with Concierge and discuss strategies around how to articulate challenges, find and choose technology and successfully pilot selected tools. An interactive workshop, this session will invite participants to discuss their own edtech challenges and will receive an overview of Digital Promise’s Ed-Tech Pilot framework

Wednesday, March 8


11:30 a.m. When Public Education Data Isn’t Really Public: The U.S. government’s data center,, is a goldmine of open student and school data. But as Lindsey Cook (Data Editor at US News & World Report) points out in this 20 minute talk, that data isn’t always accessible. So if school leaders and parents can’t look at their school or child’s data, Cook asks, who is it really open for?

2:00 p.m. Transgender Student Rights in K-12 Education: At a critical time for transgender rights in education, a panel of educators and LGBTQ rights advocates will discuss how teachers can “go beyond meeting legal obligations to create a safe and welcoming school environment for all.”

2:00 p.m. Public Private Partnerships - The K-12 Funding Gap: Many inequalities in the American education system can be attributed to massive funding gaps between schools. And now, many schools are turning to private-public partnerships to fill those shortages. Panelists will discuss how Samsung and Manor Independent School District have worked together to bring necessary resources to students and the community.

3:30 p.m. How to Best Serve ELLs with Edtech: As the number of English Language Learners (ELL) in the U.S. continues to grow, how can edtech help serve this population? This panel will explore how and what edtech tools are currently supporting ELL students and “how we can shift mindsets and pedagogy to view children who speak a language other than English at home as an asset rather than as a deficit.”

Higher Ed

11:00 a.m. Hooray for Community Colleges Meetup: Community colleges in the U.S. are producing some of the most innovative edtech initiatives in the higher-ed landscape—yet these schools rarely receive recognition for their efforts. This meetup will bring together innovators and edtech thinkers in the community college space to discuss ways of increasing the number of college graduates.

1:15 p.m. Lessons Learned: MOOCs & Online Education in LATAM: Adrian Catalan (Innovation Lab Lead at Universidad Galileo) and Stephanie Falla (New Media Department Director at UFM) share insights they’ve gleaned as MOOC creators and course managers, and “why it is important to keep moving the MOOCs train and the journey to turn talent into skills in [Latin America].”

2:00 p.m. Scaling Digital Learning with the CWiC Framework: Advocates of digital learning tout its potential to impact student success—but much of that depends on how institutions implement, choose and incorporate digital products with students and faculty. Panelists in this session will discuss the Courseware in Context (CWiC) Framework, and how this approach is intended to support postsecondary decision-makers navigate digital courseware options and initiatives.

4:30 p.m. Keeping the Promise of Tuition Free College: To increase the number of students who enroll and complete a postsecondary degree in Tennessee, the state decided to create the nation’s first statewide tuition-free community college program. The program, Tennessee Promise, now has 16,000 students participating and expects to serve more than 90,000 students by next year. In a 90 minute discussion, panelists will share what’s worked with the program and how other states can offer their students tuition-free schooling.


10:45 a.m. Lightning Talks: When Learning Goes Digital: Join EdSurge’s Allison Dulin Salisbury (Director of Higher Education Strategy) and Jeff Young (Senior Writer) for a series of TED-style talks around what’s happening and what’s next for digital learning. Attendees will also hear from other speakers including Heather Hiles (Deputy Dir Solutions for Postsecondary at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Bror Saxberg (CLO at Kaplan), and more.

Thursday, March 9


9:30 a.m. The Power of Student News Engagement: With talk about “fake news” and “alternative facts” permeating mainstream media, digital and news literacy has resurfaced in many educators’ lesson plans. Journalists and educators will lead a discussion around the importance of incorporating news into the school day, and how “consuming and creating meaningful news and opinion content produces more empowered graduates.”

Higher Ed

9:30 a.m. A Debate on “Open” Educational Resources: Can free and open educational resources (OER) save students money without compromising their content or value? Publishers like Peter Cohen (Group President, McGraw-Hill Education) and other OER leaders like Kim Thanos (CEO of Lumen Learning) will share their thoughts in a friendly debate hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

11:00 a.m. The Mismatch between Higher Education & Employment: With new high-tech industries comes new high-tech employment opportunities. But how can educators and employers create pathways for these jobs? The panel session will explore how leveraging data, new postsecondary models and hiring practices can make these opportunities more accessible for the students who want them.


9:30 a.m. Personalized Learning & the Tech to Make it Happen: You know her from the EdSurge on Air podcast, events and Instruct newsletter—EdSurge’s Mary Jo Madda (Senior Editor) will join Chris Liang-Vergara (Learning Innovation Chief at LEAP Innovations), Eileen Rudden (Cofounder of LearnLaunch) and Muhammed Chaudhry (CEO at Silicon Valley Education Foundation) for a 60 minute session on personalized learning—an approach where instruction is contextualized for each student. Educators will share replicable successes happening around the U.S. and insights into how edtech can help schools support individualized learning.

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