SXSWedu 2015 Recap: Top 5 Quotes On the EdTech Movement

SXSWedu, the education-focused branch of the popular South by Southwest conference, had its fifth iteration, and Hack Reactor joined in with talks, panels and meetups. Partner school MakerSquare, which has a school in SXSWedu’s host city Austin, was active at the event as well.

The four-day event, which took place at the front end of SXSW Interactive and Film, provided an excellent opportunity to connect with some of the most forward-thinking minds in education today. Here are 5 top quotes from our SXSWedu experience.


1. “I think collectively we have a shot [at] taking this thing called education … and making it closer to clean drinking water or shelter, just a fundamental human right.”

     -Sal Khan, Khan Academy Founder

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Sal Khan closed SXSWedu with a talk about makind education a fundamental human right.

Online offerings have gone from replicating the traditional classroom to offering brand new models of education. Some, like Khan Academy, offer free education on a wide range of topics for anyone who can find time in their day to watch lessons and do exercises. On the other end of the spectrum, our immersive online digital classroom makes our 66 hour/week program available across the globe. As the EdTech movement grows, it can exponentially reach more students and cater to a growing range of desired outcomes and personal situations.


2. "We need to measure and react to how our students are doing."

     -Marcus Phillips, Hack Reactor Co-founder and CTO

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Hack Reactor Cofounder and CTO Marcus Phillips spoke about rapid-iteration education at SXSWedu.

The rise in EdTech is being accompanied by a parallel movement: data-driven education. As Phillips described in the description of his talk on rapid-iteration education, “technological innovation is demanding an educational paradigm shift on par with evidence-based medicine, the agile software movement and sabermetrics made famous in Moneyball.” With each of these revolutions, results were achieved by both collecting more data, and taking a scientific approach to interpreting that data. The common thread is finding a better answer to the question of “what works?”


3. “In reality, this is the new student: they are often older and juggling work, school and families....We must adapt to meet students’ needs in order to graduate more students.”

     -Dr. Jill Biden, Northern Virginia Community College Professor and Second Lady of the United States

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Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States and lifelong educator, spoke at SXSWedu about vitalizing community colleges.

Alternative pathways to education are gaining traction. As we explore new models of education, the focus should be on what is most efficient and effective in delivering specific desired outcomes. Cost and scalability are unavoidable concerns, as are depth and quality of a program. Traditional four-year universities still have their place, but there is growing interest in Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs) such as ours complementing or replacing the traditional path, depending on the needs of each student.


4. “Everyone should learn at least the basics of writing software. It’s not because I want everyone to become a programmer. I think writing software is a very good exercise in understanding product development, understanding beginnings and ends, understanding project management.”

     -Guy Kawasaki, Canva Chief Evangelist

Watch Kawasaki's talk here (includes some salty language):

Coding is both a key ability for the new economy and a skill that demonstrates a range of useful concepts from logical thinking to working with a team. Because the American educational system treats computer science as optional, programming is still something of a niche field. The United Kingdom recently began mandating that basic computer science be part of the curriculum in all primary and secondary schools. In the U.S., school districts and municipalities can be at the forefront of the movement to bring coding to a broader population.


5. "The strength of the [Hack Reactor] program is borne out by our students who go on to lead teams, take CTO roles and be technical founders.”

     -Douglas Calhoun, Hack Reactor Cofounder

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Douglas Calhoun, Hack Reactor Cofounder, spoke on a panel about closing the tech talent gap with Dev Bootcamp Director Erin Kidwell, MakerSquare Founder and CEO Harsh Patel, and 20 Million Minds Foundation Founder Dean Florez.

The key variable in data-driven education is outcomes. For us, our key outcomes data relates to post-program employment (99% hired at a $105,000 average starting salary), but other programs may be concerned with other metrics. Either way, the idea to use consistent, meaningful measurements to assess the effectiveness of a program has been the missing piece in education for a long time. At Hack Reactor, we know, and want to be able to answer as specifically as possible, how our program benefitted each student.

Ready to experience the cutting edge in data-driven, outcomes-based education? Apply to our immersive program, online or onsite, today.

Read more:

Hack Reactor Forms Trade Association with Other Industry Leaders to Establish Standards of Data-Driven Education

Hack Reactor to Open Oakland Programming School for Underserved Communities as Part of White House-Backed TechHire

Hack Reactor & MakerSquare Ready to Take on SXSWedu