I recently was in Austin to attend year two of SXSWedu, the education-focused cousin of the wildly fabled annual SXSWinteractive where startup dreams hope to come true or catch fire. Like its more established cousin, SXSWedu generated buzz about secret film screenings, budding entrepreneurs, and big names like Gates (Bill as well as the Foundation).
Standing still for a moment in a hallway at SXSWedu, I was surrounded by entrepreneurs abuzz about their upcoming releases and how many kids and teachers will benefit from their tools. Many are teacher-preneurs, such as Dan Carroll (Clever), Tess Brustein (SmarterCookie), Nicole Tucker Smith (LessonCast), Scott Messinger and Robbie Earle (Common Curriculum), and Daniel Yoo (Goalbook), who felt specific pain points and are on a mission to alleviate them. They are convinced that had they had their own solution in years past, they would have been more effective teachers through engaging learning opportunities or would have simply saved time. In my opinion this is the energy and spirit that will drive this phase of education innovation to impact.
There were also large initiatives such as InBloom that seeks to solve big data problems by building the infrastructure, or the “plumbing,” through which data analytics and technology come together and in so doing personalize learning for all students. Amplify Tablets also made a splash as an “all-in-one” solution for monitoring and managing students while providing learning content.
Photo courtesy of Nihal ElRayess. The author, second from right, at SXSWedu with, from left to right, Mark Hurty (TFA’s IT Solutions team), Dan Carroll (Clever), and Kevin Tame (TFA’s Admissions team)