SXSW#edu is quickly becoming a major stop on the education conference scene. In the spirit of SXSW it’s a gathering without a clear theme. To a large extent that’s great and can foster creativity and fresh thinking. But the oddest thing about SXSW this year was that it was really two conferences happening parallel to one another. You had ed tech types, reformers, innovators having one conversation. For a taste of that follow Tom Vander Ark on Twitter. The anti-reform crowd having another. Follow Diane Ravitch or Randi Weingarten. And even though everyone was in Austin – which is a great town – there was little cross-pollination. Instead it was mostly two armed camps united only in affection for Starbucks.
Perhaps over time it will become a conference associated with one strand or camp or another. But I hope not. It seemed a microcosm of the larger state of play right now. If all you read is Twitter or some of the blogs and media you hear this conversation of anger and venom. Yet when you get out around the country with different kinds of people there are all sorts of interesting things happening – many of which defy the stereotypes or “sides” and some of are likely to drive progress for kids. A conference that could bring people together, not only in the same city but actually together to engage*, would be a major addition to the annual calendar.
*And yes, I get that there are too many people on both extremes impervious to evidence and all that but there is some good space in between.