Day two of SXSWedu kicked off for our student bloggers with a trip to the Expo! The Expo at SXSWedu is a powerful event designed to bring together the local community to inspire and encourage learners of all ages. With learning pavilions featuring interactive exhibits by theme, visitors could explore a plethora of topics from college admission, to music and the arts, to STEM innovations. The NEXT Stage at the Expo featured young musicians, poets, writers, and entrepreneurs with the Student Startup Competition all showcasing some of the brightest young talents at SXSWedu. Find out more from our student bloggers some of the other interesting facets of their day at the Expo:
STEAM is the name of the game at SXSWedu day 2, with the Expo drawing huge crowds of interested conference goers and one day attendees alike to learn about and experiment with all the latest in Ed tech. I mean, there were three separate 3D printer booths in the Expo alone, not to mention the 3D printing pens attendees were enjoying playing with at the Doodler booth in the Playground. The plethora of products being presented, in my mind, represents the continuing shift in education toward creation and learning through experimentation. Why just show how circuits work when you can instead let students draw their own with the conductive ink pens from Circuit scribe? Why talk about how robotics work when students can learn for themselves with littleBits, Lego Mindstorms or Makeblock? STEAM education (and corresponding ed tech) engages the curiosity and creativity of students and is a necessity in today’s schools. With so many tools and toys available, why would anyone choose not to add STEAM to their curriculum?
Tuesday is expo day, so I’ve been doing a lot of coverage for AISD schools that are cycling through. The Eastside Memorial Band Drumline woke me up this morning! I also saw LASA robotics and Kealing’s music production program perform. Another theme that’s been woven throughout my day so far has been educational technology in the classroom. The keynote was all about littleBits, a set of tiny computer blocks that students can use to channel their creativity and build out their innovative ideas. Following that, I went and tried out Kahoot, which lets teachers facilitate games in their classrooms that engage everyone. The ideas behind Kahoot and littleBits are very similar– educators want to engage their students through doing! They call this a “bottom-up” approach, and it’s becoming increasingly influential idea in education and edtech specifically. Students want to learn when they’re having a hands on experience and pursuing projects they love. I encountered this idea yesterday and I’m seeing it again today.
When I think about “school,” I often think about the core subjects like math, English, science, and social studies before anything else. But what I was reminded about today at SXSWedu is that there is so much more that makes school special for students. Throughout the day at the AISD (Austin Independent School District) stage in the Expo, students from area schools have been presenting the things that make their school experiences unique, from an elementary school mariachi band to a middle school slam poetry group to a high school firefighter training program. There’s a big focus here at SXSWedu about platforms to learn traditional subjects, but what I’ve been inspired to think about today through XQ America’s Rethink High School initiative and exhibitors in the Expo is how other skills and activities can be brought to the table to inspire well-rounded and creative students of all ages. These activities may be the things that students connect to most, and can even provide students with real-world workforce preparation. Educators should be encouraged to consider how they can incorporate the activities students care about into schools to inspire active student engagement in school and allow students’ passions to shine through.