A SXSWedu cardboard robot hangs out in the "Playground" area of the education convention, made by Yoxo Toys.
A SXSWedu cardboard robot hangs out in the "Playground" area of the education convention, made by Yoxo Toys. - 

Before the techies and music lovers descend on Austin for South by Southwest, or SXSW, there’s SXSWedu.

Senior reporter Adriene Hill, and the LearningCurve edtech team have been at the education conference all week. Adriene spoke with Marketplace host, Kai Ryssdal, about which new technologies were grabbing the attention of educators. 

Tom Leonard, superintendent of Eanes Independent School District in Austin, says introducing laptops and tablets into classrooms has been hard at times, and teachers took some time to get on board, but there's no going back. 

“Technology in schools right now is like the infancy of the automobile,” he says. “For a while when the automobile was just starting, the horse was more effective, it really was. But we knew we were going in the direction of the car, so we had to get there. And right now I think that’s what’s happening in classrooms. You are seeing teachers struggle with that, but good school districts know we need to get there.” 

And tech entrepreneurs want to get there right along with them. Billions of dollars are pouring into edtech as software makers, among others, vie for a place in the classroom.

One area that's getting a lot of attention is "making."  The “Playground” area of SXSWedu was full of products focused on kids building things, using 3D doodlers and Lego robots. 

There’s also a big focus on coding. “Coding is now pushing down into the lower grades, we’re talking kindergarten level,” says Claire Novy, a teacher from Miami. Get ready for second-graders to be showcasing their work in the app store. 

Along with all the tech talk, there has been a growing discussion about what's called social and emotional learning, or SEL. It focuses on kids' views of themselves as learners, and how their perceptions can help — or hinder — their ability to learn. Expect to hear more in the future about student emotional health.

Superintendent Leonard says he expects to see more entrepreneurial programs in schools, aimed at teaching kids how to create their own jobs in the future. 

Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County public schools, is looking forward to new organizational tools that will bring much of a school's data together.

"Usually school systems have about five different systems they operate from,” he says. “Your learning management system can be one, your grade book’s another, your student information system’s one, you may have a data dashboard or a warehouse somewhere else. We are creating [a database] which will be a one stop shop for everyone.”

That includes parents, who may have an easier time in the future keeping up with their childrens' educational lives.

Follow Adriene Hill at @adrienehill