A group of Cengage Learning employees attended SXSWedu this week and sent in “dispatches” from the field. Below are some quick snippets of the things they heard, saw, and did!


Highlights from our trip to SXSWedu

Monday, March 9

Our time in Austin started off with Charles Best’s inspiring keynote on “How the Crowd Will Change Education,” during which he focused on the ways that people are coming together to fund programs and resources for some of the United States’ highest-need schools.

We also attended “Accelerating Change by Personalizing Learning,” a session featuring Gillian Waterston, Mike Midgley, and student Ramiro Robles from Austin Community College. Together, they discussed how their college’s redesigned developmental mathematics program—which makes significant use of adaptive-learning technologies—has increased student engagement, success, and retention.

In addition, we stopped in to the Student Voice session on “The State and Future of Student Rights.” Our main takeaway from that session: let’s all support and accept the charge of helping students think deeply and critically.

Tuesday, March 10

First thing Tuesday morning, we attended “Re-designing Higher Education for Student Success,” the popular session featuring Dr. Jill Biden, Casey Green, Kevin Bell, Lawrence Morales, and Tiffany Mfume. Dr. Biden said: “My students are my heroes.” (We concur with that statement!) We also got to see Casey Green demo a selfie stick! Will you be using these in your classroom any time soon?

Next, we visited “Innovative Tools and Strategies to Access Higher Ed,” a policy panel. During this session, Eric Waldo from the Office of the First Lady mentioned that it is critical for high school students to see that college is possible.

Of course, we’ve also found time to mix and mingle with instructors, administrators, students, and one another! This evening, we hosted the “Activate Learning” Meet-Up. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting numerous instructors, discussing how to improve student learning through personalization, and exploring new ways of getting to the heart of improving the student user experience. And we had a lot of fun while we were at it!

Wednesday, March 11

Off to a great start today! We especially enjoyed “Higher Education Built by Students for Students.” This panel discussion, featuring Zak Malamed, Alisha Fredriksson, Dale Stephens, and Jill Barshay, sparked a lot of conversation about the power of student-directed learning, and the ways that students can (and should) be involved in the educational process. Follow the conversation at #sxstudents.

At this afternoon’s panel discussion, “Mind the Gap: Faculty and Student Tech Experiences,” we heard some interesting data from the recent EDUCAUSE 2014 Student and Faculty Research Studies: 86% of students own smartphones, and 47% agree that mobile devices in the classroom are distracting. Meanwhile, per their study, 67% of faculty believe that smartphones are a distraction. (Check out how these numbers compare to responses to Cengage Learning’s survey on smartphones in the classroom.) Also interesting: the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research also found that 72% of students feel that their instructors have adequate tech skills.

Thursday, March 12

Our time here has come and gone so quickly!

We sat in on the “The Chronicle’s Trends Report: Forces Shaping the College World,” hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some of the trends covered were career competence and social-media skirmishes. (What trends have you observed?)

In the session “Redesigning Higher Education with the Campus, Clouds and Crowds,” Diana Oblinger of EDUCAUSE addressed new models for college, including competency-based learning.

In the closing program, Bob Santelli, the Executive Director of the Grammy museum, noted that it’s essential for the arts to be a part of education in the United States.

The final day closed out with Goldie Hawn’s presentation on “Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning and Living.” She talked about her foundation, and stated how important it was to give kids the tools they need with to deal with “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Then, in his presentation “Education Reimagined,” Sal Khan shared the history of Khan Academy’s beginning, and talked about how it’s grown.

…And with that, everyone was on their way home! What an inspiring and engaging week.

Did you attend SXSWedu this year? Share your experiences in the comments.


Check out some of our snapshots from the meeting

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