Wednesday, March 6, 2013

SXSW edu: Mostly Doing It Different

Dateline: Wednesday, Noon, SXSW edu in Austin.

An amazing couple of days, hearing more than my eyes and ears can absorb regarding new emerging tools and practices for infusing technology into the curriculum from K-12 - higher education. 

My own presentation, with colleagues Jill Frankfort and Angela Paprocki - More Diplomas -went well and here be my slides at Slideshare. Given it was sxsw, no talking heads us, we did the presentation part as Ignite! sessions (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide). A challenge for talking head HE administrators, but a hit as it kept us from what we do well - drone.

So, SXSW: Lots of start-ups, entrepreneurs, and new ideas. Some don't seem to have a bit of sense, business model, or grounding in what's real, but that's the energy and spirit of innovation at work.  A lot of stuff is going to fail and the innovators will pick themselves up and learn, do better next time. Some crazy ideas may just work and for some that I just sighed and slipped out of conversations on, I may be very wrong. Meanwhile, I comb the rooms, salons and halls looking for ideas that I can imagine in place and able to provide solutions. Those that held my attention definitely addressed the key challenges that hinder student success and keep me up at night:

  • solving/enhancing lack of academic preparation
  • the rising cost of an education
  • lack of informed choice of those in school
  • poor retention and even poorer engagement
  • changing faculty culture so that all the above matter to them
Lots of talk about MOOCs (of course), about DIY, about BYOD, about big initiatives from the research 1's with deep pockets, and about how the little guys (that's me/UWT!) innovate on a shoestring, a prayer, and a deep commitment to our students and to public good. 

I passed out copies of the hot-off-the-press UW Provost's report on faculty innovators at UW - sixteen risk-taking, inventive faculty, SEVEN (yes you read that right: 7/16) of whom are from tiny UWT (W00t!); evidence that you don't need to be one of the very few, super-endowed, research 1 elites to do good work. UWT is doing innovation in small pilot projects and thoughtful implementation of the UW tools that we do have. A great conversation that started some possible collaborations with young, hungry, entrepreneurs at the conference. 

Past that, it was loud music and schmoozy moments. We are on the cusp of change, my head is full, and in a few hours I'm heading home.