SXSW edu Conference

SXSWedu and Google Think Tank Education 2016

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My job as a content writer at LearnBIG is always pretty great, but two weeks ago was particularly gratifying. I got to spend six days in Austin, Texas attending the Google Think Tank on Education and SXSWedu. LearnBIG was selected for a guest speaker spot at the Think Tank, and we filmed a micro-documentary for the Allen Distinguished Educators project at SXSWedu. Both events revolved around innovation in education and, for me, they reaffirmed why the work we do at LearnBIG is so relevant and important in today’s increasingly digital learning economy.

I encountered many hot topics in learning during my six days in Austin, but the one that seemed to crop up the most was adaptive education. I heard a lot of talk about flexible learning tools and environments that can identify and accommodate individual learning needs. At the Think Tank, for instance, we all did a design thinking activity where we came up with ideas for how technology could facilitate adaptive education. My team decided that sleep deprivation is a big learning obstacle, so we proposed wearable technology that monitors circadian rhythms and optimizes class schedules to fit the natural sleep cycles of individual students and teachers. The topic surfaced again when I attended a SXSWedu session called, “Why Your Start-Up Should Hire My High School Student,” where several Allen Distinguished Educators discussed how differentiated learning keeps students engaged and encouraged. Students are asked to pursue questions that actually interest them (what a concept!) and are given the freedom to try and fail. Students inevitably end up learning very different things, but the presenters assured us that that’s okay – in fact, it’s preferred!

Besides making me feel like I wanted to go back to high school (as long as I could have a sleep optimized schedule and pursue my passion projects), those six days in Austin made me feel really good about the adaptive education we build at LearnBIG. Our ultimate goal is to create relevant, relatable learning experiences that positively impact our learners’ lives, and if I learned anything at the Google Think Tank and SXSWedu it was that we’re definitely not alone in that awesome endeavor.


by, Melissa Allen

Photo Credit: David Rzegocki