SXSWedu: Moving Forward or Running in Place?

By March 19, 2015October 13th, 2017No Comments

At SXSWedu 2015, much of the discussion was about data: Big data, data privacy, how to use data, who gets see data, and everything else in between. And while data is an important issue that seemed to be the only thing anyone was able to agree on. In almost every instance the example of inBloom was brought up, but in th

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e two years since it’s hard to see what progress has been made on this topic. Panels were somewhat stagnant and didn’t offer much in way of solutions for the issue at hand.

There were two exceptions to this however. “How to Create a Data Privacy Policy” provided a strong outline of how to build a privacy policy. While this was directed more at administrators to inform parents and other stakeholders of how data will be used, it was one of the few sessions that the subject matter tied closely to the session title and provided actionable steps attendees could take home with them.

The other session “Who Gets to See and Use Big Data?” stood out due to the liveliness of the panelists involved. While most of the sessions seemed oddly subdued, presenters from LightSail Educationand Noodle passionately took opposing views on the topic and provided thoughtful insights. More of that kind of energy would have been welcome throughout the conference.

The two main themes to come out of the data privacy sessions were “transparency” and “data with context.” The first idea is how vendors and schools need to explicitly and simply state how student data is being used. The second idea is a push to make sure data isn’t being presented in a vacuum. Data is going to become a fantastic tool, but without someone willing to step up and deliver actionable steps, the issue will be left spinning its wheels.

The same can be said for the other sessions. There seems to be a real need to push the topics beyond the basics and provide genuine insight into the topics being discussed. As one presenter mentioned, it’s 2015. Most educators and vendors know the internet is a useful resource for classroom instruction and while there are some educators still resistant to moving away from the analog methods of teaching, that number is shrinking, and isn’t the audience for this kind of event anyway.

SXSWedu is unlike any other industry event, but it needs to keep pushing forward or it’s going to get stuck in place.