Students, Student Success, and Student-Centered Education

Reflections on SXSWedu

min read

SXSWedu 2016 presentation

Student agency was a thread woven deeply into the fabric of SXSWedu this week. Not only was it a topic of conversation throughout the conference’s sessions and receptions, but students were there to remind us adults exactly what they are capable of accomplishing and being.

Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits, talked about maker education as “invention-based education.” She shared many examples of what students created and problems they solved when schools let students learn through invention. Here’s just one:

And then high school student finalists in the Student Startup Competition pitched their very own inventions to a panel of judges. The team behind Bru won $1,000 to support their business idea, but student agency was the real winner of this competition. Our world may just be in good hands if we can continue to encourage this kind of entrepreneurship and problem-solving creativity.

A panel of college students enrolled in competency-based degree programs also enlightened SXSWedu attendees by describing their college experiences. These three students desire an education that will improve their circumstances. They chose a pathway that they know will get them to their goal. And they talked about the support they get from coaches, mentors, and instructors.

"It helped me get out of my minimum wage job where I couldn’t save money because life got in the way. I’m still in it but there’s an end date. I will get a career, not just a job."

"The most benefit has been the advice and help from mentors. I knew where I wanted to go but I didn’t know how to get there. They helped me plot my chart. And since then, I’ve just flown."

"It is possible to get an education. I’m blessed to partner with College For America. I’m so excited about graduating and I’m glad I have found my path to get my degree. I would love for people to get a chance to experience this and get educated."

For more, see #CBEvoices.

Students enriched the learning experience for me at SXSWedu. They reminded all of us what’s important. They want to teach educators how to have empathy [] for the student experience. They want us to talk about race and equity when we talk about the future of learning and personalized learning.

They want to be part of the conversation, not just the topic of the conversation. I carried that reminder with me as I explored questions of K-12 and higher education connections, ecosystems to support personalized learning in schools, personalized professional learning for teachers, and becoming a futurist and telling the #NextEdStory. I intend to continue doing so. I may need more reminders before it becomes second nature. But we are all learners, aren’t we?

Kristen Vogt is knowledge management officer, Next Generation Learning Challenges at EDUCAUSE.