SXSWedu Musings

ryancousett EdTech, Education, Grad School, SXSW2016, Thoughts

IMG_5296.JPGMy first experience with SXSWedu! So different than SXSW Interactive and in so many ways refreshingly smaller and not as crazy.

Slow Pitch: An EdTech Design ThinkTank

DSC_0185.jpgMonday was a great day. I have been working with Dr. Hughes on her session since December and it has been so much fun. She led the session Slow Pitch: An EdTech Design ThinkTank. This session involved EdTech startups pitching their ideas to an audience, having one on one time with some great mentors of the community. The idea was to slow the whole process down and encourage discussion and interaction between educators, startups and other members of the community. It was a long day but learned so much!

SXSW Launch Competition

Tuesday came around and it was my full day to expereince SXSWedu. First back to the registration area to get my badge fixed eye roll ? for some reason I was jinxed and had the badge that would not scan for the poor volunteers. Ryan says its all my previous SXSW quests for free swag … hahaha. I caught up with an old friend from St. Edward’s catching up with all that was going on at my Alma Mater. This relaxing day was followed by three more sessions, one on LX design, the SXSW Launch Competition and on international women’s day the edtech womens meetup. I caught a bit of the interesting session of LX design which brings user experience methods into learning design and reconsiders instructional design with this in mind. My afternoon was filled with the SXSW launch. My loose theme this year is Entrepreneurialism inspired by the session I helped out with and something totally out of my normal interests but new that I find fascinating. This competition featuered 10 startups that were judged in a pitch session. Unlike ours instead of 4 hours there were only 2 hours where each startup had a 3 minute pitch and about 6 minutes of question and answer from the judges and audience.

Below is a quick run down of each of the startups taken from the launch website:

ADMIT.ME | @admitme
Silver Spring, Maryland connects millions of global applications with college students, and admissions experts to receive insights and actionable feedback at an affordable price.


ALCHEMIE | @LearnAlchemie
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Alchemie builds mobile games for higher education, beginning with a huge pain point: organic chemistry. By layering of multiple learning cues – kinesthetic, audio, and visual – into engaging game-play, students have a new method to make sense of the visual-spatial ideas at the core of understanding chemistry and science.


ELSA | @elsa_now
San Francisco, California

ELSA is the world’s best educational mobile app for language learners to improve pronunciation and reduce accent, utilizing in-house speech recognition, automated feedback and deep learning technology. Our vision is to enable 1.5 billion learners to increase language fluency at the lowest cost and unlock new opportunities.


EXPII, INC. | @ExpiiInc
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Expii is the personal learning revolution. We put the power to participate, teach, and learn directly in your hands. Groundbreaking algorithms extend chess-style ratings to pinpoint your location in the map of knowledge with unprecedented precision, powering your personal GPS for Education: turn-by-turn guidance to any destination you indicate.

Listen Current

LISTEN CURRENT | @listencurrent
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Listen Current delivers listening experiences that spark learning! We curate the best of public radio to keep teaching connected to the real world and build student listening skills at the same time.

 Paragon One

New York, New York

Paragon One is a video coaching marketplace and adaptive learning platform which guides international students to career success in the U.S. and abroad. Using proprietary algorithms and curriculum, international students are matched with a network of industry experts for training tailored to the challenges of succeeding in the U.S.

 Parachute Teachers

PARACHUTE TEACHERS | @parachuteteach
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Parachute Teachers is reimagining the role of the substitute teacher by sharing the talents of the local community with schools through an online marketplace. Instead of sitting students in front of a movie for the day, parachute in one of our teachers to teach yoga, photography, robotics and more.

 Smart Coos

SMART COOS | @smartcoos
New Orleans, Louisiana

Smart Coos is where parents can get live language sessions for their littlest learner. Smart Coos web-based platform provides young children, newborns to age 16, the opportunity to learn a second language with a combination of live-language sessions and automated text nudges based on a language curriculum.


TERRITORIUM | @territoriumlife
Guadalupe, Nuevo León, México

Territorium is a gamified social network for education in which students learn by projects, by teaching others and by solving challenges that are recognized with gamification while the platform measures the habilities and competences they develop.


WORDS LIIVE | @WordsLiive
Washington, D.C.

Words Liive is a literacy augmentation start-up founded upon a patented a teaching process called CGI (Contemporary Grammar Integration) that isolates grammar structures in popular music, social media, and computer coding to teach reading and writing skills for traditional literature.

After the lightening round pitches finalists were chosen for a second showdown round and from there a winner was chosen.

CdMiY1PW4AE1IQH.jpgCongratulations to the #SXSWedu 2016 Launch #startup competition winner@elsa_now!

This was my favorite startup focusing on SLL or ELL and they truly did a good job. The day ended on a note of empowering women on international women’s day with the EdTech Women Meetup. By that time I was tired and braindead, drunk with inspiration and new ideas.

How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist


Learning in the Future

Day 3 or Wednesday was short due to other baby responsibiliies of doctor appoitnments. For the one session I attended though it was such a good session by Jane McGonigal in her session “How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist”. In her session she stressed that the future is a place where EVERYTHING can be different and the power each one of us has to be a futurist and form the future to what we want it to be. She has created a game to think of education in the future available at based on the following video:

<iframe width=”555″ height=”325″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

I played along with the following tweets:

#IWouldTeach more meaningful tech integration to preservice teachers #sxswedu

#learnpositive everyone being able to teach

#learnshadow #sxswedu no loyalty to workplace

#learnanywhere #sxswedu traveling the world without college connection

#learnpositive #sxswedu traveling for life with world edublock currency

#teamexploit #sxswedu flooding edublocks by person who doesn’t know how to teach subject
 #learnpositive #sxswedu paying for college with previous earned edublocks
#iwillbe code artist traveling mom learning technologist

Day 4: Last Day!

Making it to SXSW edu on Thursday was to say the least challenging. 8 months pregnant means that the activities of the previous days have been exhausting although exciting and inspiring. With this in mind the decision was made to take the train this morning to have a way to head home if exhaustion was too much, so with this decision made the morning proceeded jinx me with a number of stumbling blocks to get to my much awaited last day of SXSW. The morning started with the realization that I needed allergy shots, no problem about 30 IMG_5290.jpgminutes and I am in and out … no they ran out of my specific elixir today so this took over an hour … session one missed. Roadblock one overwith I made my way to the train. Train leaves at 10:32 and I had plenty of time to find parking and make my way to the platform. Epic fail! There is not one single parking spot! Two trains and one sweet lady later who gave me her parking spot I am finally on the way. Session two missed. Finally on the train I can enjoy the final day of SXSW.

The closing program featured a full lineup of speakers and mini-talks including:

  • Paul Reville with Opening Remarks
  • Todd Rose with The End of Average
  • Russlynn Ali with Rethinking High School – Activating Innovation
  • Connie Yowell with Learning as a Lifestyle: Passion, People, Purpose

The main takeaways for me from this session were mostly in the portion of the “The End of Average”. Todd talked about how there are not average brains or people and so why do we force students to go through an education system that focuses on an average performance and judges everybody on this medium. He talked about three main concepts jaggedness, context, and pathways. Jaggedness talked about the concept that human beings are jagged and there is no average. In context he challenged the audience to think about how much of what we think we know of learning is a misunderstanding of the context. Lastly, pathways focused on the obsession to push students into a particular pathway instead of allowing self-paced systems that allow students to reach potential compared to others with more time. Connie also spoke about making learning a lifestyle making great parallels to the earlier talk by Jane and her futuristic thinking.

Thursday was fun watching all of the acivities in the transformation of Austin for SXSW Interactive and the full SXSW festival. The full SXSW shop finally opened and I was able to score a onesie for Alexander, restaurants transforming into tech islands and paradises and fianlly a new scene of a ferris wheel in front of the Frost Bank Building.