Making a splash at SXSWedu®

By Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist

SXSW® (South by Southwest) is an event that rarely needs introduction for those in the music, film, and interactive media spaces—the annual event has been going on for nearly 20 years, and, since its inception in 1987, has taken place in Austin, TX. Because of this rich history, it’s possible that one of your favorite bands, a premiere of a movie you love, or a social media platform you use on a daily basis (Twitter, anyone?) was made “famous” at SXSW over the past two decades—it’s the ultimate platform for the new and innovative.

SXSWedu®, an offshoot of the popular festival, is where new and bold ideas are unveiled in the education space. From March 6–9, 2017, in Austin, TX, educators from numerous backgrounds will gather for four days of compelling sessions, in-depth workshops, and engaging learning experiences. From policy-centered discussions to film screenings, SXSWedu offers a ton for educators and encourages higher thinking.

“SXSWedu is where new and bold ideas are unveiled in the education space.”

Even though SXSWedu is more than six months away, we’ve developed four panel proposals for the event, dealing with a variety of topics we heard educators talking about at ISTE this year—the love/hate relationship educators have with data, interoperability and the push for open data standards, defining and measuring student growth, and the latest research on deliberate practice:

Data: Education’s New Four-Letter Word
With the rise of technology in classrooms nationwide, educators are able to gather more data about their students’ growth and learning habits than ever before. However, data is confusing and overwhelming—and this panel, featuring Renaissance VP of Psychometrics Research Dianne Montero, and a small group of educators and consultants, will focus on solutions to common data pain points and ways to reduce prep time and use student data more effectively.

Open Up: Districts’ Push for Open Data Standards
School and district leaders have made it clear: it’s time for edtech providers to open up. Even the federal government, through its #GoOpen initiative, is getting into the act. Featuring Renaissance’s Chief Technology Officer Mark Angel and other district and corporate CTOs, this panel explores the implications of the #GoOpen movement, forecasting challenges and describing best practices.

Growth Beyond A Snapshot
What exactly is “growth” and how is it measured? The era of assessment and accountability has school leaders and teachers transfixed on student achievement in unprecedented ways. The pressure for visible student growth has never been more intense. This panel will discuss growth as an important aspect for understanding effective instruction as well as focusing on the whole child.

The True Story of Expertise: Power of Practice
We know that extensive practice is necessary to develop reading, writing, and math skills. Yet oftentimes, practice, the foundation for subsequent success, is overlooked. Sometimes educators are unaware of the vast research on expertise and may even subconsciously limit the aspirations of their students by latching on to inaccurate beliefs. Our own Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Gene M. Kerns (and frequent blogger), will dive into the role talent plays in student success and how deliberate practice can be used to support the development of student expertise.

There’s nothing typical about SXSWedu, and that includes the process for selecting panels. Crowd-sourced votes account for 30 percent of the consideration for panels—and a vote from you would help tremendously.

“Crowd-sourced votes account for 30 percent of the consideration for panels—and a vote from you would help tremendously.”

To cast your vote, head over to the SXSWedu PanelPicker® site, sign in or create an account with your Facebook or email (It only takes a minute, promise!), and simply click the titles of each panel above and give them a “thumbs up”. Hurry, PanelPicker voting ends Friday, September 2!

Now that I’ve detailed our SXSWedu plans, I’d love to hear yours—if you’re planning to attend SXSWedu this spring, what are you looking forward to learning about? If you aren’t, what are you hoping is covered at SXSWedu? Have you cast votes for any of the other panels?

P.S. Interested in hearing how SXSWedu went this year? Check out our post-SXSWedu blog post!

Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet is the communications specialist at Renaissance. He has been with the company since 2015 and can be found crafting anything from a press release to a tweet. In his spare time, Ken enjoys spending time with his friends, lifting, and making trips to the Frozen Tundra to cheer on the Green Bay Packers.


  1. Dvawn says:

    I’m curious to hear/read/see more of what this is about.

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet says:

      Hi, Dvawn! If you want to check out more about SXSWedu, there’s a ton of great information on their website ( We’ll also be talking more about SXSWedu and what it entails for Renaissance as March gets closer. Thanks for reading!

  2. Rita Platt says:

    I am interested in the “Growth Beyond A Snapshot” session. I sometimes feel like I am missing the boat by not understanding scale scores. I would hope that would be addressed in this session.

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet says:

      Hi, Rita! I’m happy to hear that you’re interested in the growth panel. Unfortunately, the final discussion topics for the panel haven’t been fleshed out quite yet, but scale scores would be a great point to cover. We’ll make sure to put it on our list of potential topics! Thank you!

  3. Loved the “Data: Education’s New Four-Letter Word”. The reducing prep time is huge for me! Looking forward to learning more about this.

  4. John Wolfe says:

    This sounds good: Growth Beyond A Snapshot

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet says:

      Thanks for the comment, John! Make sure to cast a vote for our growth panel so we can present it at SXSWedu!

  5. Laura Quiroz says:

    This is really interesting, I never new about this festival and the great ideas that have come out from it. It would be great to attend this year and see what new.

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet says:

      Laura, thanks for reading! It’s a really awesome conference! If you get a chance to go, it’s totally worth it.

  6. Amy says:

    I’ve never heard of this conference before. I’ll try to follow along on Twitter and see what I can pick up from the conference.

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet says:

      Hi, Amy! SXSWedu is worth following on Twitter. During the conference, a lot of panel discussions will also use hashtags and live tweet. I know we’re planning on live tweeting during our panel discussions if they’re chosen!

  7. Karen Jordan says:

    I am a children’s author and I was wondering how could I get my book on the Accelerated Reading list for children ages 4-8. The name of my book is called Andy’s special family, I believe my book will benefit children that are going through family lifestyle changes. The book is currently on Authorhouse, Amazon, Nook, Kindle Ebook, Apple IBOOK, and Barnes and Nobles.