SXSWedu 2013: 10 crucial ed tech issues being discussed

K-12 and higher ed institutions face big education technology questions in 2013, and many of the most important issues are on the menu this week at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas. Administrators, edupreneurs and front-line classroom educators are there right now swapping perspectives, and whether they arrived to network, collaborate or attract followers, everyone there is in a place to weigh in on the future of learning.

South By Southwest's education-focused conference precedes even more Austin-based innovation talks later this week. Before the show hands Austin over to marketers and music, though, some of the brightest minds in ed tech, from district superintendents to Bill Gates, will each make their case. Here are ten of the most important topics that are on the table:

Duke University's Andrew Butler and Rice University's Richard Baraniuk arrived on Monday to discuss how personalize data can help learning systems cater to individual users.

"We have technologies that can acquire massive amounts of personalized data about students as they work through problems," Baraniuk said, as quoted by InformationWeek. Tools such as OpenStax Tutor, he explained, can respond to and serve learners in the same ways that Netflix or Amazon provide user feedback.

One of the biggest issues for campus CIOs shows up in a Wednesday presentation being given by Michael Mills, an assistant professor from the University of Central Arkansas. Mills' "Can BYOD Narrow the Digital Divide?" talk is set to focus on how mobile devices can aid student engagement, particularly among low-income and minority demographics who may use such devices as their primary means of accessing the Internet.

Blended learning can mean lots of things. Among them are paradigm shifts for teachers' roles and restructured pacing, as representatives from Education Elements and Knowledgeworks were scheduled speak on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Maremel Institute Executive Director Gigi Johnson is on the SXSWedu schedule to address challenges and changes that blending learning environments can introduce.

Panelists participating in "Mobile Education for the Marginalized" on Thursday are set to address how students can benefit from tablets, both through connectivity and novel learning experiences. Tuesday's "Mobile Technology and Hispanic Empowerment" panel specifically tackled economic and social drivers, as well as examples of mobile technology's role in the Hispanic-American experience.

South By Southwest events exist, if for no other reason, than to showcase new approaches to current issues, and institutions must universally confront both how and if to use new tech. Noted ed tech writer Audrey Watters of "Hack Education" was on the Tuesday ticket to talk about the future with Richard Culatta of the U.S. Department of Education and Lord Knight of Weymouth, the former Minister of Education for England.

The "Big Dreams, Big Data: Putting EduAnalytics to Work" should introduce plenty of perspectives on data at the postsecondary level and the kinds of opportunities that understanding it can open up on both sides of the podium. Panelists include the founder of Civitas Learning, as well as the chancellor of Western Governors University and CTO of Achieving the Dream.

Tuesday featured a range of start-up-oriented programming, both about what business models are taking shape in education and what challenges entrepreneurs face as they try out new approaches and attempt to find their way.

The biggest four letters in online education right now stand for "massive open online courses," and 2013 should be an important year for them. Instructure CEO Josh Coates had the microphone to talk about MOOCs on Tuesday, and you can bet the list of SXSWedu rooms where MOOCs aren't being discussed this year is a short one.

Experts from the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Education Development Center will talk students and games on Wednesday at "How to Play: Models for Game-Based Learning." Models, goals and outcomes are all on their minds heading into the panel.

Brooklyn-based Xaverian High School's Director of Instructional Technology Patrick Fogarty had the stage Tuesday for his "Creating a Cloud Classroom" chat. With on online learning platforms, file storage and video learning all taking instruction outside of brick-and-mortar rooms, expect to hear the cloud mentioned all around the show this year.


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Filed Under: Higher Ed K12 Technology Online Learning