Move Over TED, SXSWedu is Muscling In for Education

During the last decade, the very best ideas in education and technology could be scouted by attending or listening to a TED talk. Times have changed. Move over TED, because, in the U.S., the annual SXSWedu phenomenon has rapidly outpaced the TED talk as the most innovative, fresh, and prognostic venue for envisioning the future of the education and technology marketplace. This year, the SXSWedu® Conference & Festival will be held in Austin, Texas from March 7-10.

PanelPicker StatsSXSW LOGOIn a previous article, Previewing SXSWedu: 3D VR/AR Arrives, I highlighted the coming AR/VR presence at this venerable conference. In today’s follow up piece, I will highlight some of the remaining memes coming out of the first wave of program announcements that will be of interest to the display industry.

The Screen-time Tussle.

Another meme that is raising its head at SXSWedu is of great importance to the display industry. The screen-time debate that has heated up over the last year, and promises to get louder, is again on the table at SXSWedu. In this ongoing debate, disparagers warn against the negatives of excessive screen time in schools, while proponents of technology dismiss the concerns summarily. Others are trying to carve out some middle ground in this fracas. Some of the presentations in this arena include:

Tots and TVs: Children’s Learning from Screens
Sarah Lytle from the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, believes that “young children are spending more and more time engaged with screen media.” This session focuses on what, when, and how infants and toddler are learning from screens as well as how to support children’s media activities. “Participants will understand how cognitive development influences children’s ability to learn from screen media.” See more details here.

In Defense of Smarter Screen Time
Sarah Morris and Emily Weerts of the Nucleus Learning Network) argue that “screen time needs defenders – and a revamp.” This session addresses the question: “What is wrong with students using screens?”and hopes to identify smart responses to screen time criticism through Smarter Screen Time activities. See this whitepaper.

Redesigning Learning Spaces.

I have dedicated a lot of ink over the last few months to the quiet revolution in learning space design. The implications for the display industry are significant. See this previous article as evidence. The revolution continues to bubble at SXSWedu with these sample sessions:

Facility Design Directly Impacts Academic Success
Aaron Jobson (Quattrocchi Kwok Architects and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools) leads the discussion by a multidisciplinary team from University and public school settings.

From Library to Innovation and Design Center
An award-winning school district puts their learning space design ideas on the table. See this insightful Photo Gallery of creative display use and evolving collaboration spaces.


FutureSXSWedu always gives us tempting glimpses of the future. Two of the coming presentations that stand out in this regard include:

The Promise and Peril of Technology Disruption
James Whittaker of Microsoft will explore the leading edge of technologies, most of which will affect the educational customer.

Begging for Disruption: EdTech Procurement
Hal Friedlander from the New York City Department of Education Harold Levy, Jack Kent from the Cooke Foundation, and Celina Morgan-Standard from the New York Academy of Sciences offer a presentation that should make us all stand up and take notice: they will take a look at innovative approaches to procurement – including new paradigms and cooperative purchasing models. According to the presenters, “participants will understand how they can better introduce new products into the market stream of school procurement.” The session also proposes to identify existing procurement best practices, practices which can be replicated or deployed anywhere.

All in all, the SXSWedu conference promises to be controversial and insightful. I will be there. Look me up. Len Scrogan