At the Digital Harbor Foundation’s tech center in Federal Hill, Andrew Coy looks to find ways to change up normal approaches to the school day. So, when presented with the chance to organize a daylong event at SXSW, it’s fitting that he’s looking for a new approach to a conference, too.
“With tech education, you really need some hands-on experience because it’s so rapidly changing,” said Coy, who is DHF’s executive director.
"Most of the day is really focused on doing stuff."
On March 11, the Digital Harbor Foundation will debut the SXSWedu Tech Ed Summit in the largest ballroom available at the J.W. Marriott in Austin, Texas — and they’re bringing fellow maker-educators from Baltimore along for the trip.
The summit is an official SXSW event, which means badge-holders don’t need to pay extra to attend.
To set the tone, there will be keynotes from Lynda.com founder Lynda Weinman — who is fresh off a $186 mllion raise — and Stephanie Santoso, who serves as senior advisor on Making to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The rest of the day, however, is designed to give attendees a taste of what’s out there in technology education, and the bristling energy that comes with it.
“Most of the day is really focused on doing stuff,” Coy said.
Instead of breakout sessions, there will be 20-minute micro-workshops designed to provide a hands-on experience. In one part of the room, Printrbot will be leading a crowd-build of (at least) one 3D printer. Elsewhere, Baltimore’s own Code in the Schools will be leading the creation of an Android app, while fellow Marylanders from Perryville Middle School will show off their 3D-printing business and FutureMakers will offer a chance to build their latest creation. In another corner, a workshop will show attendees how to make video game controllers using a MaKey MaKey — a favorite of DHF students.
“Instead of a business card and a 30-second pitch being the takeaway, it’s an experience where they did something and made something,” Coy said.
Coy was approached by SXSWedu producers Ron Reed and Greg Rosenbaum, who were looking to capitalize on the new space available in the J.W. Marriott. Along with showing educators the possibilities of maker education and linking people who are already involved, the high-profile role as the organizer helps DHF further “our interest in seeing a national conversation about technology education,” Coy said.
For Coy, that not only involves introducing new technology and learning tools. It’s also about changing the approach to education, whether it’s splitting up the day or creating more chances for interaction that don’t involve a teacher talking at a group of students.
There’s a more systemic form of change involved in fixing those issues, but a prominent spot at a national innovation conference that brings together people from many disciplines isn’t a bad place to start.
“The education system isn’t broken; it’s doing exactly what it’s designed to do,” Coy said.