SXSWEdu: DreamBox 5 Key Takeaways

What an exciting week at SXSWedu in Austin! The DreamBox Learning team members came away with great information and interacted with thoughtful educators and leaders. Here are 5 takeaways we wanted to think about and share:

Takeaway #1: “Make people [not technology] more powerful.”

On Tuesday, March 4, the keynote “Keeping the Promise of Educational Technology” struck a chord. Norma Ming and Vivienne Ming noted that “Instead of cool technology that we release into the wild, we need technology that makes the most of the real world of teachers, families, and students. Teachers deserve technology that augments rather than mimics them, that enhances rather than constrains how they teach. For education to reach beyond schools, technology needs to create tangible value for all families, not just the educational elite.” They also noted the need to use real-time, actionable data to inform instruction and personalized. DreamBox has always been designed to support student learning in ways that complement teachers.  We are one of a very small percentage of ed-tech companies with a large number of teachers on staff.

Watch the presentation here.  

Takeaway #2: “Women are revolutionizing online learning.”

On March 5, the “Women: Disruptors of Education” session was packed with educators, leaders, and others in the field of education who were inspired by women entrepreneurs who are challenging their businesses to evolve at the speed of technology and improve education in the future. Panelists Betsy Corcoran, Deborah Quazzo, and DreamBox’s own CEO Woolley-Wilson shared their own experiences, lessons, and some obstacles they’ve faced along the way. Woolley-Wilson’s advice? “Be adaptive and focus on delivering excellence.”

EdSurge posted a great follow-up article about the panel that you shouldn’t miss: read it here.

Takeaway #3: “Educators want to be involved in ed tech development”

One of the general insights we heard repeatedly was the need to focus ed-tech products more on the “ed” and less on the “tech” (which is an echo of our Takeaway #1). This point was addressed directly in several sessions, such as “How do we get more ‘Ed’ into ‘Ed-Tech’ Development?” Rightly so, educators want to be heard and consulted, and here’s what they’re asking for:

  • Cloud-based services and products with seamless overlap (integrate with CMS for example)
  • Personalized learning
  • Collaborative capabilities
  • Teacher controls for content and to modify lessons
  • Customization at multiple levels
  • Single sign on with one set of credentials
  • Solve real problems, have real impact
  • Cross-platform tools
  • Cross-curricular tools
  • Easily accessible tools
  • Secure information/data safety

We couldn’t agree more because at DreamBox, we regularly hear from teachers about many things on this wish list. DreamBox was initially developed in close consultation with teachers and researchers, and has continued to be built by experienced classroom teachers. In fact, John Bransford, lead editor of the book “How People Learn” was an original DreamBox Advisory Board member. Teachers are intimately involved in the construction of every DreamBox lesson, and our curriculum designers have on-the-ground classroom experience.

Hear directly from some of our amazing DreamBox teachers here.

Takeaway #4: “What does the term ‘adaptive learning technology’ mean?”

After attending “50 Shades of Adaptive Learning—An Honest Debate” we could see that the desire for truly adaptive learning is real and generates excitement. However, we wondered if the panelists-who operate in the post-secondary education world-had experienced Intelligent Adaptive Learning ™ and how it’s already impacting achievement for elementary math students. At DreamBox, we‘re already delivering on what the panelists described as “the promise of adaptive: highly personalized, with real-time, instantaneous adjustments for each individual student.

Check out this whitepaper for more information on DreamBox’s uniquely adaptive approach.

Takeaway #5: “Student data is more secure than ever before.”

On Tuesday, March 4, “Data, Lies and Videotape: Busting #EdData Myths” was thought-provoking, especially for a team like ours that is dedicated to providing and protecting quality, real-time actionable data to educators and learners. Education data experts John Kraman, Paige Kowalski, Laura Hansen, and Tracy Barrientes covered many “big data” topics in just an hour.

When education stakeholders use data to inform their judgment at all levels, student achievement increases—but data privacy must be safeguarded. Yet the national conversation is flooded with misinformation about data privacy. Here’s what we learned:

  • Student data is generally more secure now, in the digital realm, than in the past when it was often stored in a Manila folder on the teacher’s desk (or occasionally left on the photocopier.)
  • Despite improved protections, the intense focus on data security over the last year has seen the growth and promulgation of a number of myths and falsehoods about data security.
  • It is incumbent on all parties (teachers, companies, etc.) to proactively educate parents and communities about the student privacy and the security of student data.

There is so much more to discuss. Did you attend SXSWedu this week? What were your key takeaways? Let us know at!