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SXSW Update: The Need for Innovation

• Samantha Tankersley

We are continuing the three-part series on our takeaways from the SXSWedu conference. Last week, ExcelinEd staff joined teachers, ed tech companies, district leaders and stakeholders at the annual event in Austin, Texas to discuss the most pressing topics in education, including personalized learning, student data privacy and classroom innovations. Read the first part on student data privacy here.

Part 2: The Need for InnovationBetsy with caption

SXSWedu sparked conversations on innovation in education.

One conversation included Betsy DeVos, ExcelinEd Board Member and Chairman for the American Federation for Children. She spoke last Wednesday at “Competition, Creativity, and Choice in the Classroom” and shared how modernized education practices – including digital learning – can help our nation produce students ready for college and careers. DeVos also focused on how educational choice can transform lives and provide students with unprecedented educational opportunities. “As long as education remains a closed system,” said DeVos. “We will never see innovation that benefits more than a handful of students.”

ExcelinEd’s Neil Campbell engaged in a separate discussion on innovation in education. Campbell, the Policy Director for Personalized and Blended Learning for ExcelinEd, moderated the panel “Paying for Personalized Learning.” Speakers included:

  • Stephanie Eagen, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services at Utica Community Schools, Michigan
  • Terry Haas, CFO of Mooresville Graded School District, North Carolina
  • Joseph South, Deputy Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education

Haas and Eagen shared information about the Digital Conversion initiative in Mooresville and the personalized learning project that now reaches K-2 students in Utica. They each discussed the funding sources, planning, collaboration and commitment necessary to get these initiatives off the ground, including some of the tough choices they had to make to ensure these projects would be sustainable.

South shared some of the valuable resources the Department has released about how funds from many federal programs can be used to support education technology initiatives. Title I, Title II and IDEA funds can be used to pay for things like software licenses, devices and professional development. Additionally, a “Dear Colleague” letter published in 2014 references specific components of those programs and allowable uses of funds.

Click here for the presentation from this session and links to additional resources.

About the author

Samantha Tankersley

Samantha is the Policy Coordinator for the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s new initiative, EdPolicy Leaders Online. Before joining ExcelinEd, Samantha served as an advocacy intern for the Foundation for Florida's Future while simultaneously pursuing her master's in Public Administration from Florida State University. Samantha has also served as a teaching assistant for international schools in England and Switzerland. She received her bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Central Florida in 2012.