Ron Reed – Executive Produce SXSWedu (#sxswedu)

As we look back at the SXSWedu conference I wanted to take a second and introduce the Executive Produce and founder of the SXSWedu conferenceRon Reed is an independent sales and marketing consultant in K-12 publishing and been involved in the educational space since graduating from college.  In 2011 SXSWedu made its debut focusing on innovations in learning. With the 2012 conference recently ending we thought we would catch up with Ron and see how the show went.

Jeff – Thank you for joining me and congrats on a very successful SXSWedu conference. Can you share any statics from this years show?

Ron –  Our attendance grew 250% from our inaugural conference last year, to over 2000 registrants at SXSWedu 2012. Clearly there is a hunger for innovative solutions to the many pressing challenges in efficient, empowered learning. I really appreciated you’re being here, and felt energized about the positive buzz and tremendous enthusiasm at SXSWedu.

Jeff – This years shows was packed with Keynote Speakers, Distinguished Speaker, Concurrent Sessions and the new LAUNCHedu, based on initial feed back which part of the show do you think has gotten the most positive feed back from show-goers.

Ron – Certainly our high quality of speakers throughout the conference was well received. We were very proud of the program. In the post conference survey, which we really encourage our attendees to complete and submit, attendees ranked highly and particularly appreciated the wide variety of concurrent sessions. We take a little different swing at SXSWedu, hoping to engage stakeholders across an array of perspectives, from early childhood to higher education, to career & workforce development. Involving education professionals, entrepreneurs, legislative and policy leaders as well as representatives from business and industry makes for a rich conversation about innovations in learning.

Jeff – Nobody can deny that education is changing and technology will play a big role, What major changes do you foresee in the next 12 – 18 months that will impact they way education is taught to our students?

Ron –  Goodness, I should really defer to our community, who are much closer to the action than I am, but in general I was taken with the interest in open education resources across the spectrum of teaching and learning, from elementary and secondary to post secondary. This is one of the larger disruptions that is driving significant change in traditional teaching, empowering learners and leaders to access and customize resources for specific needs. I was also pleased with the rich discussion surrounding gaming and learning. Good games, by their nature, engage their audience. I’m curious about the appropriate deployment of those engagement strategies to help energize learning, and involve and personalize experiences for learners.

Secretay of Education, Arnie Duncan @ SXSWedu 2012

Jeff – Your show was a great combination of teachers, administrators, professors and tech geeks. I am sure you get a lot of feedback. Anything we can expect next year to make the show even better?

Ron –  We’ve got several ideas…as was the case last year, we dreamed and schemed about new components for the conference, then worked hard to invent and implement. One thing that struck me was the tremendous energy and synergy that resulted from driving a discussion between educators and entrepreneurs. The LAUNCHedu startup competition was very well received. We had a lot of feedback about student entrepreneurs and the merit of shining a light on their ideas. It seems odd to have a conference about learning and not engaging more fully those that are on the receiving end. I look forward to exploring how we can help make that happen in 2013.

Jeff – While I really enjoyed the sessions that you had just sitting around and meeting other show participants was a real highlight. The number of tech companies in attendance who are trying to understand trends and develop products to improve education was truly impressive. Have you considered a tech showcase for all the start ups who want to just demo their products (like a mini tradeshow floor)?

Ron –  Great question! We had a healthy amount of feedback on that point…that above and beyond the sessions, attendees enjoyed the casual conversations and interactions with others who shared their passion, albeit from a different vantage point. In terms of a tech showcase, you echo the request of many others. While I’m interested in addressing that, I’ve been reluctant to do a traditional exhibit or trade show. I tend to think that approach to showcasing vendors tends to diminish dialog at a conference of thought leaders rather than elevating it. But having said that, providing a venue for attendees to see what’s next and new from the invited finalists of LAUNCHedu makes good sense. Stay tuned, and perhaps we can come up with a meaningful opportunity to further drive that discussion about the intersection of education and entrepreneurialism.

Jeff – Anything else you want to add?

Ron –  Just that SXSWedu is really a community-driven conference. We invite the submission of panels and sessions via our PanelPicker intake environment. We’ll open Panel Picker to programming suggestion in mid to late August. After receiving session proposals, we flip the environment so that our community can provide feedback as to what sessions rock or don’t rock, and the community can provide input directly to panel organizers as to what topics and issues they hope the session will address. We really look to our community to help guide and inform what programming content should ultimately be on the program.

Jeff – Thank you for your time. As a participant in your show I can say that it was a good use of my time. I am sure others feel the same way. I look forward to seeing you next year for SXSWedu 2013, March 4-7 in Austin, TX. I encourage all my readers to add this to your show list.

Ron – Thanks so much, Jeff. We look forward to seeing you at SXSWedu next year!

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