A week in Austin, Texas: Being a student again at SXSWedu® 2017

By Melissa Ripp, Director, PR & Communications

Flights booked? Check. Hotel rooms secured? Check. Full-access conference passes? Check. Next week, from March 6–9, 2017, Renaissance will be in Austin, Texas, for SXSWedu®.

For those not familiar with SXSWedu, it’s an offshoot of the popular SXSW festival that’s been held in Austin since the late 1980s. SXSWedu began in 2011, and since then, it’s been committed to fostering innovation in learning by hosting a passionate and diverse community of education stakeholders. The festival features four days of presentations, in-depth workshops, discussions, networking, and so much more. Last year, SXSWedu greeted nearly 14,000 educators, business and industry leaders, and stakeholders in the nonprofit and government arenas—and a few students, too!

I’m excited about SXSWedu for many reasons. First, this event has a reputation for being the place where bold and brave new ideas in education are unveiled. A quick glimpse at the list session titles, keynote speakers, and interactive workshops is enough to make anyone passionate about education swoon a little. With specific tracks on everything from data (student privacy, trends and predictions, ethics) and early learning (boosting curiosity, teaching STEM) to instruction (student empowerment, personalized learning) and learning spaces (build-your-own, outdoor tech instruction, maker spaces), you’ll have no shortage of things to learn. As someone who gets excited about every opportunity I have to be a student again, I can’t wait to settle in this weekend and figure out my conference schedule!

The other reason I’m excited is that we’ve been planning great events on behalf of Renaissance. We’ll be hosting several throughout the the week. Check out the descriptions below and make sure to stop by if you’re attending the conference.

SXSWedu Opening Party

Monday, March 6, 2017
7:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Buffalo Billiards, 201 East 6th Street

To close out the first day in Austin, we’ll be hosting an opening-day party. Food and beverages will be plentiful as well as games like billiards, darts, and more in a laid-back pool hall in Austin’s historic Sixth Street district. Join us for a bit of fun and reflection on the first day’s events. All SXSWedu attendees are welcome!

Industry Talk: Personalized Learning for ELL Students

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
JW Marriott, Griffin Hall

English language learners are the fastest-growing segment of the public school population, and according to the National Education Association (NEA), one in four public school students will be ELL students by 2025. There are plenty of challenges facing these students and their teachers, one of the biggest being assessment. Appropriate assessment helps teachers understand if students are making progress or struggling due to a language barrier.

Meaningful formative assessment, paired with a personalized learning model, can truly make a difference for ELL students, but how do we arm educators with what they need and create scalable solutions? Gene Kerns, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Renaissance, will be speaking about personalized learning and how it can directly benefit ELL students.

Renaissance Star Spanish® Launch Party

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Swift’s Attic, 315 Congress Avenue

Our Star Spanish launch fiesta will celebrate the only solution on the market that delivers real-time insight into a student’s capabilities in English and Spanish. We’re excited to show you what Star Spanish can help your students achieve. If you’ll be in the Austin area, we’d love to have you as our guest. You don’t have to be registered for SXSWedu to attend, but space is limited for this event, and you must register to attend. Click here to RSVP.

A week of learning and discovering? Check. My first-ever visit to Austin institution Torchy’s Tacos? Check. The opportunity to meet so many people who share my passion for education? Double check.

I hope to see you in Austin, but if you’re not attending this year, I’ve got you covered! Be on the lookout for another blog from me after the event, where I’ll be giving a rundown of what I learned and what caught my eye at this year’s conference. And be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter at @RenLearnUS, where I’ll be live-tweeting some of my adventures throughout the week.

Speaking of social media, we’re excited to announce that we’re hosting a Twitter chat with EdSurge (@EdSurge) during SXSWedu as well—on Tuesday, March 7, at 7:00 p.m. CST, to be exact. EdSurge will be leading this chat—Renaissance will moderate—about personalized learning and what it looks like in the classroom. To participate, follow EdSurge on Twitter, and when questions are posted during the chat, reply back with the hashtag #edsurgechat.

If you’re attending SXSWedu this year, what are you looking forward to learning about? Will we see you? If you’re not attending, what are you hoping gets covered? Do you plan to attend next year? Let us know in the comments!

Keep up with our SXSWedu plans and all things Renaissance by subscribing to the Renaissance newsletter.

Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast
Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast
Melissa is inspired every day by the stories she hears about amazing educators doing amazing things in their classrooms and schools. In her free time, she enjoys running, watching documentaries, and has a soft spot in her heart for old buildings, vintage signage, and street art.


  1. Rita Platt says:

    I love Austin and this looks like fun. But, I’ll miss it… can’t do everything!

  2. Ami Edwards says:

    Sounds very interesting!

  3. Renee Graham says:

    It’s cool things like this, that make me wish educators had more money to further their interests.

    • Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast Mel Ripp says:

      Absolutely, Renee — it’s partly why Renaissance is going to SXSWedu. We want to bring back all the innovative and wonderful ideas we hear back to you and your fellow educators, because we know it can be challenging to get to these conferences. We’re always focused on being a resource!

    • Carolina Castillo says:

      I agree! I would love to learn more about this!

  4. Kimberly Bell says:

    I would love a discussion to take place on the benefits of recess for early childhood (K-5) students. I am personally in favor of breaks, especially those which include movement.

    • Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast Mel Ripp says:

      Kimberly, if I see a session like that, I would be happy to pop in and see what I can find out for you. Thanks so much for reading!

  5. Amber says:

    Sounds like a wide variety of topics are covered! Wish I could attend!

    • Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast Mel Ripp says:

      Amber, I’m not sure of the total number of sessions, but I think it’s at least over 1,500 — a crazy amount of knowledge! I’ll do my best to bring as much back as I can — thanks for reading!

  6. Dvawn Maza says:

    This sound like a very interesting, enlightening, and informative event.

  7. Sheila Shaffer says:

    Some of the elementary schools in my district are at least 1/3 ELLs and in one school, they predict they will make up the majority of the school’s population in a couple years. Would love to, but won’t be able to attend!

    • Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast Mel Ripp says:

      Sheila, we’ve been hearing similar statistics. I’ll be live-tweeting Gene Kerns’ talk on Twitter, and I think it will also make its way to a blog post in the near future. Stay tuned — and thanks for reading!

  8. carly says:

    Half my class is Latino. I would love to attend an event like this. Unfortunately, traveling across the country to Austin is not in my family’s budget.

    • Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast Mel Ripp says:

      Carly, I plan to live-tweet Gene Kerns’ session on Wednesday — if you’re on Twitter, I’ll be on at 4-4:30 pm CST at @RenLearnUS — look for the #PersonalizingELL hashtag! If you’re not on Twitter, I can give you the transcript of my tweets if you’d like the information. Thanks for reading!

  9. Sorry, I won’t be there… but I will be at the NC Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement later this month and I understand that Renaissance will be hosting an exhibitor’s booth at the conference.

  10. David Keech says:

    Unfortunately, budgets will not allow me to attend this event, but I would love to have the chance in future years. I am most interested in sessions that would dive into how the use of Google Apps could help facilitate student collaboration across districts, and how teachers could come together to make this happen.

    • Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast Mel Ripp says:

      Mr. Keech, I’m certainly that I could find a session like this and learn more for you. 🙂 Stay tuned — and thanks for reading!

  11. Keita Brooks says:

    I wish I could attend but the event is to far away

    • Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast Mel Ripp says:

      I hear you, Keita — but if there’s anything in particular you’re interested in, I’ll be sure to keep my eye out for information!

  12. Jennifer Bunn says:

    I would love to attend this event. I would like to hear more about how we can get children into books at a time when we’re competing against video games, Netflix, apps, etc. How can we use tech to help not hinder?

    • Melissa Ripp, Education Enthusiast Mel Ripp says:

      Jennifer, I think there will be plenty of session that deal with this very thing. 🙂 I hope to get to a few of those — I promise I’ll bring back what I’ve learned!

  13. P R says:

    Sounds like a worthwhile event. I cannot attend.

  14. Melissa Robles says:

    I didn’t even know about this event. Would definitely love to attend this year!

  15. Darlene Christianson says:

    Sounds like an exciting event! Time well spent!

  16. Kelsie says:

    Sounds like a great event!

  17. Heidi says:

    I look forward to reading about it. Can’t attend. 🙁

  18. Lloyd says:

    The meeting for formative assessment piece sounds very interesting. I hope to hear a lot more about it.

  19. S.Bellomo says:

    Sounds like a great learning opportunity.

  20. Katherine Williams says:

    I would love to hear more about STEM and ways to enhance 21st century learning ideals/ standards in our curriculum. I am also interested in flexible seating arrangements and would love to know more about that.

  21. Julisa L. says:

    I hope that educators attending this event can benefit greatly for the material presented. It looks like there is much to learn and I hope it goes well.

  22. Chimere McRae says:

    Sounds great!

  23. Lisa Capon says:

    Looking forward! Sounds good.

  24. Darrell baty says:

    I want to transition to 1:1 with take-home. looking for good Strong policies for this to happen

  25. I really wish I could have attended this event. I know there was a lot of learning going on. Maybe next year.

  26. Emily Carlisi says:

    Sounds fun; would love to attend!