“The best teachers are like hip-hop producers: They study the classics, select the best parts and add some new flavor.”

Mar 28, 2017 · 5 min read

Earlier this month, we attended SXSW. Now, we reflect on our learnings. The interactive and inspirational experience comprised of networking and knowledge exchange with fellow entrepreneurs and changemakers in education and technology.

SXSWedu highlights

“The best teachers are like hip-hop producers: They study the classics, select the best parts and add some new flavor.”


Here is what themes I “packed in my luggage” in my way back to the classrooms of our partner-schools:

  • micro-schools

…and some phrases that got stuck to mind..

“Learners can now learn almost anything they want , any time they want , any where they ar, with whomever they can find, except in school.”

“We’ ll explore the power of unlearning ; offer suggestions on how to unlearn an existing way of thinking that may be impeding your problem solving. Come unlearn with us!”

“Teachers aren’t untaped as end users; they are untapped as partners — in executive & leadership positions.”

“The rise of conversational presenting: students’ brains respond powerfully to two-way dialogues. Once involved in a meaningful conversations, students feel empowered, engaged and apt to absorb new information.”

From the hands-on sessions, I would pick:

a) the “Think Preparing Teachers Is a Game? It can be” interactive panel, which urged the participants to explore some of the gaming approaches pursued by MIT, as well as a new open-source approach to transform teacher education. How? “By engaging teacher candidates in role plays, VRs and other scenarios, we can create a next generation of teachers prepared to lead classrooms focused on the personalised learning and cognitive science that will soon dominate K-12 education.” and

b) the Case Studies “The teachers Guild” & the “School Retool” presented by the IDEO’s Design for Learning Studio, which partnered with educators with the aim to imagine and create the future of schools.

SXSWedu Central Stage themes

Throughout the week, there were two main themes that highlighted what resonated most amongst educators in this day and age. Cultural awareness and technological innovation were the two topics we found to be at the forefront of SXSWedu 2017.

Cultural Awareness

On the speaker stage, keynotes from changemakers such as Christopher Emdin, Tim Ferriss, Brene Brown, and many others left the SXSWedu audience in awe. The theme these visionaries spoke to was one of cultural awareness, compassion, and understanding. They explained both the subtleties as well as the blatant truths to understanding what it takes to reach students on a human level, and begin to motivate reform on an institutional level. Each speakers shared stories and studies of how students learn best, how teachers can teach to this, and how the world around us truly shapes how we educate our youth.

Technology and Education

On the expo floor, we met and mingled with the world of educators and edtech innovators who are on the ground, working hard to move the needle every day. The theme we noticed here? A curiosity and openness to innovation and technological solutions to provide students with the personalized tools and resources they need for success.

The expo showcased a section on local high schools and universities, and even opened up their doors to the public on the second day to help with recruiting efforts. We spoke with teachers, administrators, and recruiters to learn what their pain points were, both inside and outside of the classroom, in reaching and inspiring their students. We learned that is still such a long way to go in reaching the level of innovation that education technologies like ours are trying to impact, but we are grateful to have met firsthand the 16 percent who will be driving this change.

Innovation in Education

Outside of SXSWedu, we met with fellow attendees out in the wild at events like EdTech AMA at Capital Factory, where we learned about how innovational educational startups like ImpactLabs will empower teachers to affect change from the ground up, and how educational technologies can prove their value to schools by celebrating foundational clients and innovative users.

Going beyond the educational track of the conference to SXSW Interactive, one of our favorite keynotes was one by mover and shaker of organizational behavior, Adam Grant. In his talk, Grant shared concepts from his recent NYTimes Bestselling book, Originals. Grant explores why it takes nonconformists to shape the world, and how to craft companies, institutions, and societies that breed this original thinking.

The Future

Overall, the thread that tied all of SXSW and SXSWedu together was clear, that it takes innovation — in thought, technology, and institutions — to truly inspire and breed the next wave of change.

It is truly takes those that have the ingenuity, focus, and passion to affect change to grow the global community of changemakers to impact positive growth and change… in education, learning, and the world.

Let’s Connect

Did we miss you at SXSWedu? We’d still love to connect, beyond the conference. If you’d like to get together and chat edtech, mentorship, or just say hi — let us know!

Originally published at blog.100mentors.com on March 28, 2017.


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100mentors is an EdTech company that empowers today’s youth to consciously take their once-in-a-lifetime decisions.