panelOdyssey Head of School, John Brinson, along with educator and Language Arts Department Head, Lisa Bovee, proudly and energetically attended the SXSWEdu conference this week in downtown Austin.

SXSWEdu offers educators, administrators, researchers, and other attendees in the academic arena an amazing array of panel discussions, sessions, hands-on workshops, and debates in the areas of empowering students, building social skills, increasing classroom technology using Maker techniques, project based learning, virtual storytelling, arts in the classroom, and more.

Key Note and Featured speakers included: Guy Kawasaki, former Apple Executive, successful serial entrepreneur, and spokesperson for Canva Graphics, Sal Kahn, Founder of The Khan Academy, and Goldie Hawn Founder of The Hawn Foundation.

Some of the sessions we attended and enjoyed include: How to Stay Curious in the Classroom (Using something as Simple as Doodling), Personalize Learning & Instruction, Digital Citizenship for Students, NPR’s Summit on Insights of a Great Teacher, Creating Collaborative Environments, Making Makers, Entrepreneurship in the Classroom, Building a Digital Ecosystem to Empower Learning, Interactive Strategies to Improve Student Thinking, Improv(e) Your Teaching, and Dyslexia: Changing the way we Think About Potential, and Creating Connected Learners.

Jen Oleniczak, The Engaging EducatorThe Improv(e) Your Teaching session was led by actor and improve coach Jen Olenizcak. “Improv teaches that failure is ok…The outcome of failure in an improve class setting? A lot of laughter. This freedom – and confidence the world won’t end if we stray from our path and plan – continues on to the real world after class. That same chance-celebrated environment needs to be created for students, regardless of teaching venue. Our students need to feel safe to take risks and truly learn – and improv is all about failing and getting back up.”

This is a wonderful lesson that all educators can take away from a session like this: taking risks is okay, and failure is going to happen, and that’s okay too. At Odyssey, it’s important that we support our students and allow them the freedom to try new things, the freedom to fail, and offer the support and encouragement to continue working hard and venturing out of their comfort zones.

Project-based learning (PBL) remains an excellent tool to use in the classroom, especially with students who struggle with reading, writing, and/or attention as many of our students do. The opportunity to solve real-world challenges is also an important skill to provide our students. During Strategies for Authentic PBL, facilitators from Austin Community College and The Khan Academy offered excellent advice on designing and implementing a challenge based class wherein students are provide opportunities to employ effective thinking strategies and problem solving skills.

Another amazing workshop we attended was called Is School Just a Game to You (Yes! And more). This presentation was led by some amazing professionals in the game-design and education industry, including Phaedra Boinodiris (Global Lead: Serious Games and Gamification for IBM) offered us some great insight on game-based learning and how to design a course as an interactive and challenging game.

Guy KawasakiNPR is currently working on a series called 50 Great Teachers and hosted a three-hour summit during SXSWEdu 2015. Odyssey teacher Ms. Bovee met and chatted with Math = LOVE teacher from Oklahoma, Sarah Hagan. Ms. Bovee has shared Ms. Hagan’s fun, interactive, and amazing classroom techniques with her Odyssey peers.

SXSWEdu 2015 was an incredible experience for which we are very grateful. Right after Spring Break, we will begin sharing and implementing some of the amazing techniques, interactive activities, and professional development information we took away from SXSWEdu. Looking forward to SXSWEdu 2016!


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