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SXSW EDU Uncensored: Full Recap

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SXSW EDU Uncensored: Full Recap

Season 3 · Episode 6

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Episode Show Notes


We recap the South by Southwest Education conference (SXSW EDU) in 2018 after it ends, talking about the reactions of attendees, educational technology, PBS, escape rooms, political visitors, the educational pipeline from industry on down to K-12, ideas for future SXSW events, and more.

The photo in this episode’s cover art was taken at the Austin Convention Center during SXSW EDU 2018. It shows a collaborative wall for attendees to write on and draw on during the conference.

Our closing music is “Yes And” by Steve Combs, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Subscribe and leave episode reviews wherever you get your podcasts. Support Pios Labs with regular donations on Patreon, by purchasing digital teaching materials at the Pios Labs curriculum store, or by buying a copy of the reference book Engineer's Guide to Improv and Art Games by Pius Wong. You'll also be supporting educational tools and projects like Chordinates! or The Calculator Gator. Thanks to our donors and listeners for making the show possible. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of Pios Labs.


Pius Wong  0:00 



Rachel Fahrig  0:01 



Pius Wong  0:01 

All right. This is the part that we're going to try to cut out.


Rachel Fahrig  0:03 

We always cut this part out.


Pius Wong  0:05 

Because it's always awkward and I say uh and like, like ten times.


Rachel Fahrig  0:08 

Uh and like, like you say like a lot.


Pius Wong  0:10 

Like, uh, uh, what are we talking about?


Rachel Fahrig  0:16 

This is Season 3 of The K12 Engineering Education Podcast.


Pius Wong  0:21 

It's your hosts Pius Wong and Rachel Fahrig, recapping South by Southwest Edu 2018 in Austin, Texas. If you missed it, har about different sessions that you missed, the opinions of people who watched panels, and overall impressions about what happened here and what's going to happen in the future.


Rachel Fahrig  0:40 

All right. Hi, Pius.


Pius Wong  0:42 

Hi, Rachel.


Rachel Fahrig  0:43 

How are you?


Pius Wong  0:44 

I'm good, except that I've got a little bit of a headache.


Rachel Fahrig  0:46 

Yeah. You said.


Pius Wong  0:48 

Yeah, I was up trying to create more episodes of this podcast, and do more other stuff. Oddly enough we're recording during spring break, so I should have a little bit more time.


Rachel Fahrig  0:58 

Well, but it depends. Not everyone has Spring Break.


Pius Wong  1:01 



Rachel Fahrig  1:01 

I don't have spring break.


Pius Wong  1:03 

You're still doing your job.


Rachel Fahrig  1:04 

I'm working.


Pius Wong  1:05 

I'm working too. Yeah. Well, happy spring break to those of you who -- You know, this isn't even going to come out during Spring Break, so maybe I shouldn't --


Rachel Fahrig  1:14 

But they -- It gives them context.


Pius Wong  1:17 

Context is good, as we've learned.


Rachel Fahrig  1:19 

Especially since -- So what happens in Austin during Spring Break?


Pius Wong  1:23 

South by Southwest?


Rachel Fahrig  1:25 



Pius Wong  1:25 

Among other things. Some people leave.


Rachel Fahrig  1:27 



Pius Wong  1:27 

They specifically avoid -- I spoke with one of our teachers that we used to work with, and she -- I asked her, because I ran into her. I was like, oh, what are your plans for South by? Are you going to come by? Because I was trying to push people to come to our --


Rachel Fahrig  1:39 

Our session.


Pius Wong  1:40 

-- which we spoke about last time. And she's like, No, me my husband, we go out every year. They do not like the crowds. In fact, right now is South by proper.


Rachel Fahrig  1:50 

Yes. Big South by, we call it.


Pius Wong  1:53 

Big South by. There's ridiculous amounts of people around downtown.


Rachel Fahrig  1:56 



Pius Wong  1:56 

But traffic is low elsewhere.


Rachel Fahrig  1:59 

Yeah. Oh yeah. My commute coming in -- So easy. It takes me like maybe 25 minutes to get to work, whereas it normally takes me somewhere between 45 and 75.


Pius Wong  2:13 

That's the thing that always bothered me about the long commutes when I used to travel from South Austin all the way up north. Like, completely unpredictable.


Rachel Fahrig  2:22 



Pius Wong  2:22 

The window of variability is just too much.


Rachel Fahrig  2:26 

But then there is that -- So going back to South by, though, there's that Scandinavian airline that created nonstop flights just to come to South by.


Pius Wong  2:35 



Rachel Fahrig  2:36 

Did you read about that? I encourage you to go look that up. It's pretty fantastic.


Pius Wong  2:40 

Is it only during this session or these two weeks?


Rachel Fahrig  2:43 

Yeah, only Big South by. Nonstop flights just come to Austin, just for South by.


Pius Wong  2:48 

You know, I missed an event just yesterday where there was a Scandinavian video gaming company that wanted to do, like, a meetup and tell all these local developers what they're doing, and I really wanted to go to that, and they were going to have free Scandinavian food. I don't know.


Rachel Fahrig  3:01 

Oh. Swedish meatballs?


Pius Wong  3:03 

I'm imagining IKEA food, but that's little I know.


Rachel Fahrig  3:07 

Mmm. Lingonberries.


Pius Wong  3:08 

What is a lingonberry?


Rachel Fahrig  3:09 

It's sort of like a gooseberry. But it's red, and it's sweet, and it's yummy.


Pius Wong  3:14 

That's too exotic for me. I don't know what that is. I want to try it.


Rachel Fahrig  3:18 

Yeah, it's good.


Pius Wong  3:19 

But I wanted to see what their video games are all about, because I don't know what Scandinavian video games are.


Rachel Fahrig  3:24 

I don't know what Scandinavia video games are either.


Pius Wong  3:26 

Are they different from other video games?


Rachel Fahrig  3:28 

I don't know. Are they kinder?


Pius Wong  3:31 

And taller? I don't know.


Rachel Fahrig  3:35 

Yes. We need to find out.


Pius Wong  3:39 

They have probably have national health care in their video games.


Rachel Fahrig  3:41 

I bet they do.


Pius Wong  3:43 

We'll learn from them. So unfortunately, neither of us are going to Big South By, not the official events.


Rachel Fahrig  3:49 

Not this year.


Pius Wong  3:51 

Because we were all spent at Edu.


Rachel Fahrig  3:53 

Yeah, we upped our Edu game from the previous year. We went from the playground to conducting a workshop and a meetup, so I feel that that's -- That is a step up. We gave ourselves a promotion at Edu.


Pius Wong  4:11 



Rachel Fahrig  4:11 

And so we focused on that.


Pius Wong  4:13 

And we still met people.


Rachel Fahrig  4:15 

Yeah. And we apparently did a pretty good job, based on the feedback we have so far.


Pius Wong  4:20 

Yeah, I remember us -- well, me, patting myself on the back. No, we've gotten good feedback.


Rachel Fahrig  4:25 



Pius Wong  4:26 

And I've sent out some follow up emails.


Rachel Fahrig  4:28 

I saw them. I haven't read them yet, but I did see them in my inbox.


Pius Wong  4:32 

I will say that podcasters are really into podcasting.


Rachel Fahrig  4:34 

Oh, for sure they are. Super passionate.


Pius Wong  4:37 

Yeah. Otherwise, they wouldn't be doing stuff like this, earning headaches to try to get podcast episodes out.


Rachel Fahrig  4:44 

It's a labor of love.


Pius Wong  4:45 

Yeah. Well, I think South by went well. We talked about our sessions. And Rachel, I just wanted to talk with you about our general impressions outside of our sessions. Like, what did you think about what you had seen, the people you'd seen, things you had felt?


Rachel Fahrig  5:00 

I feel like I saw more classroom teachers at Edu this year than I have in previous years. I think previously we'd seen a lot of education innovators or edtech specialists. I did see -- I mean, I saw  classroom teachers whom I personally know. But then in hearing other people talk about it, there were plenty of classroom teachers in other sessions. And so that shift in audience, I think, means to me -- My takeaway is that it South by Edu has grown so much that it's finding a more localized impact, I guess. So it isn't so lofty as it used to be. It's full of information that you can take away, hit the ground running, and actually use it with young people.


Pius Wong  5:57 

So it's not just theory.


Rachel Fahrig  5:59 

It's not theory.


Pius Wong  5:59 

You have applied ideas.


Rachel Fahrig  6:00 

And it's not, you know, necessarily that startup feel. I mean, it's still got that, but it isn't targeted just toward corporate people who are trying to innovate education. It's now really becoming even more inclusive.


Pius Wong  6:17 

That's interesting.


Rachel Fahrig  6:17 

But I could be wrong. I don't know.


Pius Wong  6:19 

No, so it's hard for me to judge, because I didn't see as many sessions as I wanted to.


Rachel Fahrig  6:25 



Pius Wong  6:25 

But talking to other people who were floating around, I mean, talking about other teachers, and other educational leaders, they said other things. Like, the popular sessions seemed to be the instructional sessions, like, things about actual pedagogy or teaching methods. And not just that, but also equity in education is also a theme this year.


Rachel Fahrig  6:44 

Social and emotional learning and equity in education were huge this year.


Pius Wong  6:48 

Right. So it was all stuff you could literally bring back to the classroom. And I thought that was really interesting. So I didn't speak to edtech people, really, this year, not as much as last year.


Rachel Fahrig  6:58 



Pius Wong  6:58 

And I think I think there was actually a little bit of pushback against edtech. And I would say rightfully so. So my brother also was in town, as you saw.


Rachel Fahrig  7:08 

Yeah. Thank you, Linus, for helping.


Pius Wong  7:11 

Yeah, he's an edtech person, sort of. Well, he's not actually in the industry. He is a software developer. And he wants to explore more of that. And he was there and going to a bunch of different sessions. And I spoke to other people confirming this, too. But, as an example, he said that one of the best sessions he went to -- because there were some bad ones -- but one of the best sessions was a session with an educational leader from KIPP, the charter school organization, and some edtech leaders, and kind of just having a discussion about where edtech is and what people want from educational technology, and how, yeah, it's great that we have a lot of technology, but that's not good enough. We need actual data on which educational technologies work.


Rachel Fahrig  7:54 

Yes. How are they impacting student learning? How are they making teachers better teachers?


Pius Wong  8:00 

Which we don't have.


Rachel Fahrig  8:00 

We don't have that information, no.


Pius Wong  8:02 

Part of it is, as many people know, educational data is hard to come by.


Rachel Fahrig  8:06 

It's also proprietary.


Pius Wong  8:08 

Actually, that came up, because one of the discussions was, at the end -- Some people want to know, well, all these different companies, they're collecting data, which has value. And companies -- I mean, oftentimes they're for-profit, but some nonprofits, too -- They want to protect their their value-making products.


Rachel Fahrig  8:27 

It's sort of their intellectual property in a way.


Pius Wong  8:30 

Yeah, so why would they share it?


Rachel Fahrig  8:31 



Pius Wong  8:32 

Why would ETS, for example, want to share all their research with a competitor company that --


Rachel Fahrig  8:38 

Standardized testing, yup.


Pius Wong  8:39 

Right, for example. But they're the ones collecting all this data. Or other educational technologies, like if you have toys that are supposed to teach computer science. Or games, like I'm trying to make -- they're supposed to teach some kind of engineering concept. They're fun, and maybe we can measure things like what students feel about these fields. But then when it comes to measuring how much they learn, I think a lot of companies might have some data about that. But they sharing it unless it looks really, really, really positive. And also, that's just hard to get in the first place. It takes years, really, to see how effective these things are. And you have to have control groups. And so the point was that there was actual, out-loud pushback that like -- People were saying, Hey, we need data, real data on which educational technology works, and not just throw all this money to corporate interests without any kind of accountability.


Rachel Fahrig  8:40 



Pius Wong  9:01 

I thought it was interesting.


Rachel Fahrig  9:34 

I do too, especially looking at it from an educational perspective. I mean, it seems like every year there's a new program, a new software, a new tablet, a new something, and you need to train teachers on how to implement it in their classrooms. You need to train students on how to use it. There are always acceptable use policies. So you have all this training and development to use these games and these apps or whatever, for what? You know, what is the outcome? What are we getting from this?


Pius Wong  10:10 



Rachel Fahrig  10:11 

And nobody really has those answers sometimes.


Pius Wong  10:15 

Or maybe they do, but --


Rachel Fahrig  10:15 

They're not sharing them. Sure.


Pius Wong  10:18 

I mean, we used to work together to try to develop a curriculum. It wasn't a single technological product, but it was it was still a product.


Rachel Fahrig  10:26 



Pius Wong  10:27 

And we, you know -- We can talk about it now, but like, as part of the university, we wanted research, just like any university does, about our product. And we got it, but it took years to publish that. And I don't know if companies have access to -- I think they know. I mean, they have access to PhDs.


Rachel Fahrig  10:45 

I mean, they must. Yeah.


Pius Wong  10:47 

Yeah. And so these are the questions that -- I did speak to edtech people before about some of these things, but it really went to the forefront amongst a lot of people at South by, so I like that. Also, before I forget, I think that that question also was applied to, not just edtech people, but educational institutions, like charter schools.


Rachel Fahrig  11:08 

Yup. Higher ed. Charter schools.


Pius Wong  11:10 

Yeah. I think in that conversation that I was mentioning with KIPP and the other people, they were kind of throwing that question to them, as well.


Rachel Fahrig  11:17 

Like what is the value that you're bringing or adding?


Pius Wong  11:20 



Rachel Fahrig  11:21 

How are you doing it differently? Okay. Interesting.


Pius Wong  11:23 

Exactly. Because there is some aggregate data. And I think that's what -- If you search for it, you can find it. There's aggregate data about different charter school networks. Okay, on average across all these, you know, hundred schools, maybe we see higher performance in some states or something. But then when you get down to the granular data, some of that data isn't --


Rachel Fahrig  11:46 

-- as favorable, or isn't publicly released?


Pius Wong  11:49 

Maybe. We don't know. So when there is not as much transparency, just like with the edtech people -- obviously teachers who were prevalent here, as we noticed -- They're gonna criticize. We want to know, hey, what are the details? And I think this idea of data is really interesting. And I hope it carries through to next year.


Rachel Fahrig  12:10 

Yeah, that'll be interesting to see.


Pius Wong  12:12 

Yeah. Did you see any of the expo or any of these other things that were happening?


Rachel Fahrig  12:19 

I did not make it down there. So last year, I was able to spend more time at South by Edu and at South by proper or Big South by. This year, I've taken on more responsibilities at work. So I ended up -- I only went to South by Edu for part of the day on the days that we were presenting. So I went to work, and then I went downtown, and I did some stuff. And I presented, I said some things, and then I went back to work. So I really didn't get to see as much as I would have liked. I stopped in the PBS teachers lounge, which was super fun, and it was really uplifting. It was an enjoyable space. So there was a wall. And they had post-its that were fill-in-the-blank sort of Mad Libs style. And it was: Thank you, comma, name a person, for --


Pius Wong  13:21 

Fill in the blank.


Rachel Fahrig  13:22 

Fill in the blank i-n-g verb, to be an adjective noun. And so you could thank a teacher or someone that you knew for promoting you or inspiring you or something-ing you to be a better person, a taller teacher, I don't know.


Pius Wong  13:45 

To be Scandinavian.


Rachel Fahrig  13:47 

And so it was really impactful. It was really powerful to see all of those notes. And there were so many that I found out that they were replacing them as each day went -- They didn't have enough room.


Pius Wong  14:03 

Aw, I shouldn't have known that.


Rachel Fahrig  14:03 

So as new ones would go up, they would have to pull old ones down.


Pius Wong  14:08 

I wonder what they did with that.


Rachel Fahrig  14:09 

I don't know. I would love to -- I don't know.


Pius Wong  14:12 

I remember being at an improv show once here in Austin, and they would -- Apparently people wrote all these secrets on little post-it notes or pieces of paper, and at the end, they burned them all.


Rachel Fahrig  14:22 

Oh, cool.


Pius Wong  14:23 

And I wonder if, like, PBS is having some kind of ritual at the end.


Rachel Fahrig  14:28 

I would imagine, knowing PBS, they probably archive them somewhere. I don't know.


Pius Wong  14:35 

I mean, they had happy hour there. They had, like, free retro t-shirts to give away if you, you know, took a video with them.


Rachel Fahrig  14:41 

Daniel Tiger made an appearance, but I missed him.


Pius Wong  14:44 

Oh, but I took a picture with Arthur the aardvark.


Rachel Fahrig  14:47 

I did see that.


Pius Wong  14:49 

I really liked that photo. I appreciate Arthur, so I liked that little bit. So PBS -- I feel like they know how to show love to their teachers and educators.


Rachel Fahrig  15:03 

And then they just know how to engage people.


Pius Wong  15:05 

I was talking to someone else. They're apparently always at South by -- Big South by, too, every year. And PBS throws the biggest parties.


Rachel Fahrig  15:13 

I did not know that. Look at you, PBS.


Pius Wong  15:16 

Tip for future South by's. I'm going to look for the PBS --


Rachel Fahrig  15:20 

Go become a member. Join your member station. That's my plug, because apparently there doing some good stuff.


Pius Wong  15:28 

They were also kind of promoting some of their new educational apps for kids. I didn't get a chance to test some of them. But I know they've got a lot of educational specialists working on that. So that's kind of cool.


Rachel Fahrig  15:41 

They do a lot of field research. So my son is eight. And we're on the list for our local PBS station to be able to go test games and apps. We've previewed some shows before they were released.


Pius Wong  15:56 

Are there nondisclosure agreements?


Rachel Fahrig  15:58 

I don't know if there is or not, but I really enjoy being able to do that kind of stuff with my kid and teach him how to be, you know -- to look at things with a critical eye, but also to kind of be enthusiastic about things, and be an early adopter, and be a go-getter and --


Pius Wong  16:18 

Be a lead user.


Rachel Fahrig  16:19 

Yes. Way to cycle in that academic vocab.


Pius Wong  16:25 

That's a phrase that -- I don't know if we spoke about it, but we'll save that for another day.


Rachel Fahrig  16:29 

No, we did our -- the one that we did --


Pius Wong  16:34 

Last episode. We might have talked about it for a little bit. But no, that's true. He's a lead user, testing it with all the bugs and everything.


Rachel Fahrig  16:43 

He sure is.


Pius Wong  16:44 

PBS is my competitor, now, you know that?


Rachel Fahrig  16:46 



Pius Wong  16:46 

Well, it's because I'm going to create my own educational apps. In theory. I keep saying that.


Rachel Fahrig  16:51 

Well, they have teams of people.


Pius Wong  16:53 

Yeah, I can't compete with teams.


Pius Wong  17:00 

So I saw a couple more cool things, or I heard about a couple more cool things that happened at South by. One was that Stanford D-school, Stanford Design School, had an escape room, in a little truck on the outside.


Rachel Fahrig  17:11 

I heard about that. Yeah.


Pius Wong  17:13 

You know what it is?


Rachel Fahrig  17:14 

Yes, I've done an escape room. Just not that specific one.


Pius Wong  17:19 

Okay. And so an escape room, you know, people know that, it's like, you go in there with your team.


Rachel Fahrig  17:24 

And you have to solve problems --


Pius Wong  17:26 

Puzzles, and work together.


Rachel Fahrig  17:27 

Logic things. Yeah.


Pius Wong  17:29 

So they were -- Stanford design school was there, and they set up an escape room, but a portable one inside a little truck. And they were parked right around the Austin Convention Center. And the way it worked was, they were having fun, but they also wanted to create something that could be used to measure or quantify how collaborative a group of people is.


Rachel Fahrig  17:53 



Pius Wong  17:55 

So the theory is, you could take your colleagues, your little team, your science team, go to this portable escape room and --


Rachel Fahrig  18:05 

Solve your way through it.


Pius Wong  18:06 

They'll give you the rundown. Yeah, solve your way through it. And there's someone watching you.


Rachel Fahrig  18:09 

Oh, wow.


Pius Wong  18:09 

They tell you beforehand what the deal is. And they tell you, hey, you're going to be scored on how fast you solve these puzzles and how fast you get out. And there's a rubric for how well they grade you on your collaborative-ness.


Rachel Fahrig  18:23 

Like communication, or --


Pius Wong  18:25 

Sure, well, like, specific things. So for example, one puzzle inside there was -- There was like a maze or something. And you needed two people to solve it. On one side, you could see the maze, and on the other side, you control the magnet that moves.


Rachel Fahrig  18:37 

Oh, so you had to be able to say, like, move the thing up left two inches. Now turn right for an inch and a half. Or something.


Pius Wong  18:46 

Exactly. And so the person monitoring would be looking at that and probably noting down, like, how many times you actually communicated, or if people just gave up.


Rachel Fahrig  18:55 

Or how many mistakes where made. Okay.


Pius Wong  18:57 

Yeah. There's a bunch of little puzzles like that. And at the end of it, they gave you a score. They gave you a grade on how well you work as a team.


Rachel Fahrig  19:06 

That's awesome.


Pius Wong  19:06 

It's meant to be some kind of PD, a professional development, for -- It could be for teachers. They were aiming for both teachers and corporate clients for designing this escape room, but it sounded really fun. And the people who I spoke to who went through it really enjoyed it. And so I want to do it one day, but I didn't get a chance to do myself.


Rachel Fahrig  19:26 

I know, that seems awesome.


Pius Wong  19:28 

It made me think of the idea that students -- especially in engineering, they could design an escape room. It's like a modern Rube Goldberg.


Rachel Fahrig  19:36 



Pius Wong  19:36 

Except the purpose is just to play a game, and you can get, like, your other students to run through your escape room.


Rachel Fahrig  19:41 

Sure but I think that you can incorporate a lot of other curriculum and standards in there, you know?


Pius Wong  19:49 

Oh, yeah. History puzzles.


Rachel Fahrig  19:52 



Pius Wong  19:52 

Very collaborative.


Rachel Fahrig  19:53 



Pius Wong  19:54 

So I like the idea of doing that.


Rachel Fahrig  19:55 

That's really neat.


Pius Wong  19:56 

And out of all the other little things that I saw there -- There was also Unity. Unity is a platform for making games on the computer, video games, and they were there. They were introducing their educational platform. I should have known about this, but they basically let you program 3D games more easily.


Rachel Fahrig  20:16 

Oh, wow.


Pius Wong  20:17 

And they used to be the only educational -- sorry, the only 3D video game platform that had an educational component, like a bunch of tutorials and a curriculum that goes with it.


Rachel Fahrig  20:29 

Okay, gotcha.


Pius Wong  20:29 

Teaching people how to use their video game design system. And that was for a couple years. And now another competitor video game company --


Rachel Fahrig  20:37 

-- has finally entered the field.


Pius Wong  20:39 

Yeah, just entered the field: Unreal. And so for the computer science and art people who want to teach how to create games, that was interesting to me.


Rachel Fahrig  20:46 

You know, one thing that I did see this year that has been, I think, missing for some time -- So South by Edu tends to focus a lot on STEM, because that's -- I mean, that's really where the future is, right? We have to know science, technology, engineering, and math, in order to make so many other things happen.


Pius Wong  21:06 

I would agree.


Rachel Fahrig  21:07  

But this year, the arts were coming back. There were more STEAM components and STEAM-focused things than I have seen in a long time. And that really made me happy. I think that you can't leave those out. There is a wide body of research that does show, you know, students who engage in music or fine arts education, just like students who speak dual or multi languages, just perform better, and learn faster, and learn more, and have usually higher levels of self-efficacy than students who do not receive that sort of arts focus or arts supplement, whatever you want to call it.


Pius Wong  21:56 

I've heard that sometimes music can help you learn math, and depending on the context or the teachers, speaking of context, it can help you learn science or English.


Rachel Fahrig  22:08 

I mean, I think about -- So when I taught physics, there are a number of different ways to teach waves and resonance and things like that. But that's what music is, and seeing guitar strings vibrate, or, you know, watching the head of a drum vibrating, there are some --


Pius Wong  22:30 

It's an application.


Rachel Fahrig  22:31 



Pius Wong  22:32 

And research has shown that you retain things more, people learn more when you tie what you learn to your real life, or something you can see or understand or hear in this case.


Rachel Fahrig  22:41 

Or like, why does a trombone -- Why do we slide it out and slide it in? Because we're shortening or lengthening the path of the air, because that's what makes the sound different.


Pius Wong  22:53 

I was going to say, because it's funny. Like, of all the musical instruments, I think the trombone is one of the funniest ones. I attach humor to certain instruments. You know, what you said reminded me of something that came up during our session about designing lessons. There was this moment where Amar, our co-presenter, Amar and I -- Well, he was demonstrating a game called just --


Rachel Fahrig  23:18 

He was doing Books.


Pius Wong  23:19 

Oh no, I'm thinking about, like, he was doing the Detail Game, or Yes, I Know. Where like, you start out saying something. In fact, he started out saying a Texas Educational Knowledge and Skills.


Rachel Fahrig  23:30 

I think he did. Yes.


Pius Wong  23:31 

He started by saying an educational standard for Texas, and it was a standard from math, Algebra One, like, students must learn linear equations and how to solve them.


Rachel Fahrig  23:41 



Pius Wong  23:42 

And Amar is not a math teacher. And it was really interesting that he started -- He had to be inspired by this standard.


Rachel Fahrig  23:49 

By one or two words in the standard.


Pius Wong  23:51 

He focused on the word "linear," I think.


Rachel Fahrig  23:54 



Pius Wong  23:55 

And he started going off on like, how music feels linear, because he's a musician.


Rachel Fahrig  23:59 



Pius Wong  24:00 

And he's just, like, starting to say stuff, and we -- Music is really linear and like, I wish I could bring back my trombone, or something.


Rachel Fahrig  24:07 



Pius Wong  24:07 

And like, I had to be inspired by that. And be like, Oh, yeah, trombones were what my grandmother played -- I don't know.


Rachel Fahrig  24:13 

I forget the story you guys told.


Pius Wong  24:16 

After we played that improv game, rightly so, someone asked, or maybe Amar brought up the question of, like, how does that relate to designing lessons? And especially for him, like, he's not a math teacher, so he didn't really know what was going on. But it was cool, because his random words, his random ideas about trombones and music made me think of some lessons that I could use in my math class that I'm actually teaching right now. It was about like, oh, he made me think, you know, we always talk about making math visual, you know, with graphs with geometry, but I'm like, how can we make math also more audible?


Rachel Fahrig  24:52 

Or tactile, even.


Pius Wong  24:53 

Right, these different sensory things, were like, yeah, we could play instruments. We could have a tone that rises linearly.


Rachel Fahrig  25:00 

What happens if you -- Yeah, that's what I was thinking. I think of the radioactive decay chart. So what happens if you do something similar, for example, with the slide trombone? Or the flute or the piccolo? Like if we cut off the air column at halfway, at a quarter way, at an eighth, what happens?


Pius Wong  25:24 

I was talking to my brother, actually, about it. Because I play the piano, I like that. It's both tactile and visual and audible. And you can measure the number of keys that you are walking along, from the lowest to the highest 88th key. And in physics class or whatever class, you can just put a linear rate of pressing the keys, and then you can change that to an exponentially increasing one or something.


Rachel Fahrig  25:50 

Or if you have an old piano and can take the back off, and your can see -- they can see the shape of the strings. It's not a straight line.


Pius Wong  26:02 

You can learn about frequency.


Rachel Fahrig  26:04 



Pius Wong  26:05 

So all in all, it just reminds me like, yeah, all these interconnected ideas is where we need to go. And I'm happy you brought up that STEAM connection.


Pius Wong  26:19 

Pius here, taking a few seconds in this break to say thank you to the supporters of this show who helped us get into South by Southwest Edu this year, and who also financially support this podcast, making it all possible. We really appreciate it. And thanks.


Pius Wong  26:43 

Now that we've talked about the things that were cool, I have to mention some of the things that were not so cool.


Rachel Fahrig  26:49 



Pius Wong  26:50 

Well, just a little bit. So one of the criticisms that I've heard -- South by can be a grab-bag. Like, you go to sessions, a lot of times they're disappointing. That's what I hear from countless teachers. Like, you go in, and you're disappointed, ann like, oh, this is a waste, so you just go to another session.


Rachel Fahrig  27:04 

The one I heard about was -- It was a panel. And apparently the moderator just was -- The way it was explained to me was that the moderator was not -- She was too polite to cut off a particular speaker, who just kind of went on and on and on. And so the other panelists really did not get equal time. And so that really devalued the whole purpose and the intent of the panel. So I did hear about one of those.


Pius Wong  27:11 

Because you have to rely on a good moderator.


Rachel Fahrig  27:41 

Yeah. The facilitator has to be able to say, you know, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. So let's move on to whomever. You have to be able to kind of politely step in and have someone stop talking.


Pius Wong  27:56 

Right. I will say something that has gotten better is: South by's really trying to prevent the sales pitches at these things, which I appreciate. So it's not just people being like, oh, buy our testing program, or go buy our curriculum.


Rachel Fahrig  28:10 

Like a glorified trade show, essentially. Like you sign up for a session and oh, no, it's really trying to get you to buy something.


Pius Wong  28:20 

Right, which -- I don't like that at other conferences. And I'm glad that South by is trying to be more transparent with it. I don't mind being sold to as long as I know --


Rachel Fahrig  28:27 

But keep it in the Expo, right?


Pius Wong  28:29 

Yeah. And there was also an Innovation Hub, quote-unquote, where -- That was more corporate people who were there the entire days. And I think they're targeting a different clientele. Probably the principals and superintendents.


Rachel Fahrig  28:41 

Yeah, probably.


Pius Wong  28:45 

So the other thing about South by was that I do think that despite the sometimes lackluster presentations, there's still always some amazing ones.


Rachel Fahrig  29:00 



Pius Wong  29:00 

And I feel like people remember those. They're willing to overlook some of the crappy talks, because they can always just leave, go to another one. And plus there's all that networking you do at night, which people appreciate, as well. You know, Betsy DeVos was apparently talking at South by Edu.


Rachel Fahrig  29:18 

She was their during out first session.


Pius Wong  29:20 

Yeah. Oh, right. We were competitors with her. I heard that she got a tepid response.


Rachel Fahrig  29:27 

Yeah, I heard that as well.


Pius Wong  29:29 

People weren't that enthusiastic about the stuff that she was saying.


Rachel Fahrig  29:31 

Well, I think that she didn't have -- She didn't bring any new content. She said things that she has said before.


Pius Wong  29:38 

She's pro-charter schools, pro-private organizations, educational technology. She wants to get more technology in general around. But for the most part, teachers, at least at South by, not too enthusiastic about it.


Rachel Fahrig  29:38 

Well, they -- I think that they had some -- It was my understanding that there were critical questions that she really couldn't address. She didn't have enough information or was not prepared to answer those questions.


Pius Wong  30:09 

Right, either choosing not to or just not prepared. Yeah. And I'm sure she's going to be in the news some more, like, between the time that we're recording now, and by the time we release this episode, because now she's talking about gun violence in schools, not exactly a K-12 engineering topic, but definitely an education topic. And I'll be interested to hear where that goes. So it's always interesting to me how South by tries to bring in politics. Last year, it was for sure there. It's here, too, in the form of those equity in education talks.


Rachel Fahrig  30:45 



Pius Wong  30:46 

As well as in inviting, you know, our Education Secretary, and I think they're going to continue to do that.


Rachel Fahrig  30:51 

Yeah. Definitely.


Pius Wong  30:53 

What do you want to do in future South by's?


Rachel Fahrig  30:55 

Well, so I was thinking about this. Whe first year that you and I did South by together, we did Edu at the Playground. And then we did Big South by. And then this year, we didn't do Big South by, but we got -- like I said, we promoted ourselves. Yeah, we doubled up on Edu. We stepped up our game.


Pius Wong  31:17 

I had to be press.


Rachel Fahrig  31:18 

Yeah, you had a book signing.


Pius Wong  31:21 

Oh, that's right. I forgot about that. That was cool. I spoke to a guy who I went to college with, actually, and he's an educational consultant, too, doing -- teaching design thinking. Sesign thinking was a big trend.


Rachel Fahrig  31:33 

Yeah, that was big this year. But so I think for next year, we kind of started at a 3. This year, we went to maybe 4.7.


Pius Wong  31:45 

We're gonna go --


Rachel Fahrig  31:47 



Pius Wong  31:47 

We're going to go to six, whatever that means. 


Rachel Fahrig  31:49 

Or maybe 6.1.


Pius Wong  31:51 

Is this out of 10? Or out of 6?


Rachel Fahrig  31:53 

I don't know. Maybe out of 12.


Pius Wong  31:56 

The numbers mean whatever we want.


Rachel Fahrig  31:57 

Yeah. We're just stepping up our game little by little. I think next year we should try for two Edu presentations and a Big South by.


Pius Wong  32:12 

I think so. And we can. I mean, in theory, if I get, you know, my stuff in gear, my beep in gear, then I can, like, create some tools or do some research that might actually be useful. And I am working on stuff that's relevant to them.


Rachel Fahrig  32:27 



Pius Wong  32:28 

Not just digital games but I'm interested in VR, virtual reality. When I say I'm interested, by the way, it means that I'm super skeptical of virtual reality in education, because I think it's really expensive and not good enough yet. But I would like to play around in that space just to explore it.


Rachel Fahrig  32:45 

And I don't know -- So we talked about this a little bit in our first session, Designing Better Lessons, that in order to teach empathy or to do Lead User Analysis that you could you could use VR.


Pius Wong  33:07 

You could.


Rachel Fahrig  33:08 

But I don't --


Pius Wong  33:09 

Can I explain --


Rachel Fahrig  33:10 



Pius Wong  33:10 

So we were talking about empathic lead user analysis, just trying to give designers a better feel of what it's like to be in the experience of their customers. So what if -- to use an engineering example -- What if, you know, you're an elderly rock climber or something? Maybe we don't want to put you, as the designer, at risk by climbing rocks or something, and you're designing a rock climber -- some gear or something. Like, you could be a rock climber and experience what it's like to be a rock climber. But to be an elderly rock climber, we might have to put, you know, 100 pound weights on you or something.


Rachel Fahrig  33:47 

So that it emulates that stiffness.


Pius Wong  33:50 

Yeah, something. But that's risky. And I don't think that's ethical to do that. So what if instead you were in the virtual place of an elderly rock climber, like, someone who is already kind of experienced, they have a VR camera, and they're doing it on their own. They would be rock climbing anyway, and they're just -- You're just coming along for the ride. Maybe you can sort of experience that. But like, so where we were thinking about it, we were talking about how people design lessons. So we simulated people with vision loss by covering their eyes with a sleep mask. Well, what if we wanted to simulate what it's like to be the lead user of the only girl in a classroom full of boys in your computer science class? What if? Well, I can't put on an eye mask to simulate that. But we could get an actual, you know, female student who's in a computer science class, somewhere where there's not a lot of women. And unfortunately, today, there's a lot of cases of that. Maybe she's wearing a VR camera, a small one or something. Maybe everyone's aware of what's going. I know that this poses a lot of ethical and privacy issues.


Rachel Fahrig  35:03 

Right, because people are going to say, well, you're leaving out, you know, the years of experience of hearing, you know, boys are good at this, and girls -- or you know, or whatever.


Pius Wong  35:14 

That's the thing. VR can maybe simulate certain parts of being a certain user, a certain person.


Rachel Fahrig  35:20 

Exactly. But not the full experience.


Pius Wong  35:21 

But I want to repeat, I don't want to trivialize that. Yeah, just like putting on a sleep mask is not going to make us really know what it's like to be -- to have some vision loss, or be blind.


Rachel Fahrig  35:31 

To be visually impaired or blind. Exactly.


Pius Wong  35:33 

And so it is a very tricky thing to design a proper empathic lead user analysis, where you aren't trivializing things, but you are still trying to give your designers an authentic experience -- like, get them closer to what they understood before. And I think VR could do that. So that's something to think about.


Rachel Fahrig  35:53 

Yeah. I think that we're happy to take ideas from other -- not take ideas from other people. Give us your ideas. No, but I mean, if you have things that you want us to look into for a South by presentation for next year, I think that would be okay.


Pius Wong  36:17 

Or panel or workshop.


Rachel Fahrig  36:19 

A panel discussion.


Pius Wong  36:20 

A meetup. I mean, I have lots of ideas. Basically one question that I wanted to know was, what do the testing companies and other researchers know about better evaluation of portfolios? Because for engineering education, that is critical.


Rachel Fahrig  36:35 

Sure. Standardized testing doesn't cut it for: What have you been designing?


Pius Wong  36:40 

No, and I was talking with people who work at Google and Facebook and these computer science places, at least, and at least for those CS organizations, they definitely look at more than just grades now. They want to see your portfolio.


Rachel Fahrig  36:51 

They want to see your body of work.


Pius Wong  36:53 

Exactly. And for the engineering classes in general, we know that the University of Texas and other universities, they will wants to offer dual-college credit, and they do that by evaluating high school students' design portfolios. Now, how does a company like ETS or Pearson or any of these other places -- How do they design efficient tests to evaluate someone's design skills?


Rachel Fahrig  37:19 

I don't know.


Pius Wong  37:19 

And maybe they don't have an answer to that.


Rachel Fahrig  37:21 



Pius Wong  37:22 

And I would like them to have an answer to that, because obviously, I'm not researching that, but there's data out there that could be really useful. And my other question is, do design skills -- Do the grades that people get on these design portfolios, do they correlate with the grades they might get on a standardized test like the SAT or the GED?


Rachel Fahrig  37:44 

Yeah, so you ace the ACT or the SAT, but you aren't turning in designs --


Pius Wong  37:52 

Your design sucks.


Rachel Fahrig  37:52 

I wasn't going to say it that way.


Pius Wong  37:53 

Or you don't know how to deal with people? Like, I'm not talking with the priests here that I grew up with.


Rachel Fahrig  38:02 

I was going -- I was just doing to use kinder words.


Pius Wong  38:04 

Sorry. Not you personally. I guess I'm getting worked up. But like, I knew --


Rachel Fahrig  38:12 

Clearly a point of passion for you.


Pius Wong  38:14 

I'm talking about myself, though. Like, my designs, when I first started out, they were bad.


Rachel Fahrig  38:18 

Well, isn't that stand -- I mean --


Pius Wong  38:21 

You're right. Everyone goes through that.


Rachel Fahrig  38:22 

A first year teacher, usually five or ten years down the road, looks back and says, Dear students in my classes the first year I was teaching, I am sorry.


Pius Wong  38:33 

Which is usually why they have student teaching.


Rachel Fahrig  38:35 

Well, but even then.


Pius Wong  38:39 

Even as an engineer, yeah, we try to give our selves and our students more design experiences and internships and all the hands on experiences we can get.


Rachel Fahrig  38:48 



Pius Wong  38:48 

And it's funny that, like, bosses will evaluate the design skills, teamwork skills, of their engineering workers, but do teachers know that?


Rachel Fahrig  38:58 

But how does that trickle down to the college level? Professors should know -- It's a pipeline. We talk about, in education, we talk about vertical alignment, so that the kindergarten teachers are prepping kids for first grade, first grade preps for a second, so on and so forth, so that you don't have those gaps, so that by the time a student is, you know, an upperclassman, they've been well prepared the whole entire time. And when you don't prep someone adequately, that's when those gaps and learning and achievement start, and they're harder to overcome as time goes on. And so really -- and I've heard other people say this -- the industry professionals should have a say-so all the way down to the pre-K level. This is what we need people to know and do as soon as they walk in the door. So how do you prep them for that going backwards?


Pius Wong  39:59 

And I would love to be part of that discussion, because there's two things that makes me think of, if we save this for next year. Like, one of those discussions is: Those industry professionals have to be more involved.


Rachel Fahrig  40:11 



Pius Wong  40:12 

And are they? That's one criticism of mine.


Rachel Fahrig  40:14 



Pius Wong  40:15 

And then the second thing is some people say they're too involved, in the sense that, if we're only going to be teaching what corporations want, for example, then are we going to learn philosophy? Are we going to learn ethics? I think we will, because I think we're getting to the point where businesses, despite trying to make money, I mean, they still want ethical people.


Rachel Fahrig  40:36 

I think we're seeing a shift.


Pius Wong  40:37 

Yeah, it's different from 100 years ago, a little bit. We don't have child labor as much, for example, using extreme case. But like, those are the two intertwined issues.


Rachel Fahrig  40:48 



Pius Wong  40:49 

Like how do we get you don't right amount of influence, participation of companies?


Rachel Fahrig  40:54 

What is that balance? You don't want CEOs saying this is what you need to teach, but at the same time, how do you prep kids to be able to walk into that? And that's really what -- when we talk about -- and this is in air quotes -- college and career readiness, essentially, that's what we're talking about, but who are -- Really, who are the players in that discussion?


Pius Wong  41:18 



Rachel Fahrig  41:18 

And I think that maybe we have a panel next year.


Pius Wong  41:21 

And there should be, like, some government leaders, maybe, or the education board leaders from the state.


Rachel Fahrig  41:27 

Yeah. Especially for states like Texas, where the educational standards are legislated. They're written into law.


Pius Wong  41:35 

So they bring people to the table, including corporations and teachers? So that would be really interesting. And then that would be part of the discussion.


Rachel Fahrig  41:42 



Pius Wong  41:43 

I think that when money-making businesses or nonprofit -- When other non-educational institution interests are part of the discussion, I think that it can be a very good thing. It can also be very bad. Like, it's not inherently bad.


Rachel Fahrig  42:03 



Pius Wong  42:03 

But I'd like to see descriptions of examples of it working and not working so we can see the patterns. Because there's sometimes -- It's just, you know, just parents who are deciding what kids are learning.


Rachel Fahrig  42:18 



Pius Wong  42:19 

I actually think that goes wrong sometimes, if there are parents who decide not to teach, like, science.


Rachel Fahrig  42:24 

Yeah, so I think about homeschooling, you know. Some children who come out of homeschooled environments go on to college and are highly successful. Some students who come out of homeschooling environments are not prepared for, you know, secondary or post-secondary education.


Pius Wong  42:42 

So it's the question of, like, what are the patterns?


Rachel Fahrig  42:44 



Pius Wong  42:45 

There was a session at this last South by Edu, which was raising a question that people have been asking for a while. How do you prepare kids for jobs that don't exist yet?


Rachel Fahrig  42:56 

We don't know what's coming, so how do we get them prepared?


Pius Wong  42:59 

Right, and their argument was, you know, design thinking --


Rachel Fahrig  43:02 

Twenty-first Century Skills. Yeah.


Pius Wong  43:04 

Exactly. So I think that there are like -- Those 21st Century Skills, that came out of corporate collaborations, right?


Rachel Fahrig  43:13 



Pius Wong  43:14 

Like, there was some input on what people need.


Rachel Fahrig  43:16 



Pius Wong  43:17 

Even if, if coal mining goes away -- I don't know --


Rachel Fahrig  43:21 

But you still need to be able to solve problems.


Pius Wong  43:25 



Rachel Fahrig  43:25 

You need to be able to analyze text and make decisions.


Pius Wong  43:30 



Rachel Fahrig  43:31 

You need to be able to work as a team. Yeah, these are common foundations for any level of success.


Pius Wong  43:40 

Right. I would like to be part of these discussions.


Rachel Fahrig  43:43 



Pius Wong  43:43 

What else for next year? Is that it? We have plenty --


Rachel Fahrig  43:48 

Yup. Let's do a book-signing, brainstorming. Yeah, let's have a panel


Pius Wong  43:54 

Something improv-related. Man, a panel. That's hard work. Okay. We've got to think about that.


Rachel Fahrig  43:58 

Yeah, the panel is hard work, but it could be worth it. I definitely want a workshop. Well, and I think we get good feedback that way.


Pius Wong  44:07 

The meetup was really good.


Rachel Fahrig  44:09 

I thought the meetup went far better than I thought.


Pius Wong  44:13 

That's because, Rachel, you were -- before this you were --


Rachel Fahrig  44:15 

I was terrified. No, I was just terrified.


Pius Wong  44:18 

Because it's something that we don't normally do.


Rachel Fahrig  44:20 

Yeah. And I don't -- Networking is a skill. And it takes work. And it takes effort. And I haven't done it in a long time. That's not to say I don't need to step up my game, because of course I do. And doing your own networking is very different than facilitating other people's networking, and I feel as though you almost need to be better at it, to help facilitate it, than to just do it for your own self.


Pius Wong  44:49 

I disagree with that.


Rachel Fahrig  44:51 

I was just scared to death. But it turned out okay.


Pius Wong  44:53 

It was really good.


Rachel Fahrig  44:54 

There were some really amazing discussions. They were podcasting in our session. Live podcasting from a podcasting -- Oh it was great.


Pius Wong  45:03 

I learned something. I mean, shout out to Trinity Baker. He introduced me to the consortium of YouTube educators called WeCreateEdu. And so if you are a teacher YouTuber, or a teacher who creates some kind of digital media, you might look up WeCreateEdu, because they get together all the time. They communicate on Slack and collaborate on things. I have just joined, thanks to Trinity. Even though I don't do a bunch of YouTube videos now, I would like to do that in the future to demonstrate, like, improv games for engineers and design techniques. But also my podcast is digital media. So maybe we can collaborate in that way.


Rachel Fahrig  45:40 



Pius Wong  45:40 

And I'll see if I can get him to get on the podcast. I don't know. These are the things that can come out of a meetup. And I'm thinking, Okay, podcasting is a trend right now. Maybe we could have another meetup next year. I would know better how to handle it this time.


Rachel Fahrig  45:54 

Yeah, I think it would just be better next year.


Pius Wong  45:56 

It would totally be better,


Rachel Fahrig  45:57 

But it wasn't bad this year. So I mean, it would just be even better.


Pius Wong  46:00 

I liked it a lot, because I'm getting emails about it. I don't get emails about the Designing Lessons one. And I'm thinking, Who would I love to see all in one room talking? Is it, like, just engineers? Is it just parents? Podcasters today -- because maybe it's just video game designers, indie gamers. Anyway, we'll think about it.


Rachel Fahrig  46:19 

Yeah. But I'm excited about it. We're going to make this happen. Two Edu's, and a Big South by.


Pius Wong  46:28 

All right, we'll do it. 


Rachel Fahrig  46:29 

All right. Okay.


Pius Wong  46:31 

Thank you, Rachel, for joining me.


Rachel Fahrig  46:33 

Thank you, Pius, for having me.


Pius Wong  46:35 

As always, tune in again -- I can't even talk.


Rachel Fahrig  46:40 

Tune in again --


Pius Wong  46:42 

Next time.


Rachel Fahrig  46:45 

Thank you, audience.


Pius Wong  46:46 

Yeah, we'll see you in Austin.


Rachel Fahrig  46:47 

All right. Bye.


Pius Wong  46:51 

This has been Rachel and Pius. For links and information on some of the things you heard us talk about today, check out the show notes for this episode, or find it the podcast website: k12engineering.net.


Pius Wong  47:06 

Remember to subscribe to the podcast to stay up-to-date on engineering education discussions. Find us on iTunes, SoundCloud, PRX the Public Radio Exchange, or any other podcast platform. Leave me some comments and reviews, too. It'll help others find the show. Tweet the show @K12Engineering, or tweet Rachel @rfahrig, or tweet me @PiusWong. Get more show notes and eventually more transcripts at the podcast website: k12engineering.net.


Pius Wong  47:39 

Our closing music is from the song "Yes, and" by Steve Combs, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of my independent studio Pios Labs. Support Pios Labs with regular contributions by going online to patreon.com/pioslabs. You can also just buy me a coffee. Links on how to do that are on the podcast website, k12engineering.net, and in the show notes. Thank you all for listening, and please join us next time.