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Primo Toys and Cubetto on an adventure to SXSW Edu

Our Head of Education Giorgia Migliaresi has been in Austin, Texas for the SXSW Edu conference. We caught up with her to ask how it went and get her key takeaways from this leading global Edtech event…

SXSW Edu is different from any other education conference you will attend. It’s the younger, dorkier sibling of the famous SXSW festival. It definitely takes stylistic inspiration from its big brother. What a great place to be hanging out with our little coding robot Cubetto.”

One of the reasons why SXSWEdu is so influential is that it acts as the unofficial barometer of relevant trends in the education field, and gives a good insight into what will be hot next year.

This means that everyone wants to be at SXSWEdu and institutions like MIT wait for SXSWEdu to announce new releases such as the Playful Journey lab (more info in a minute.)

What I found most refreshing about this event was the real dynamic community atmosphere created by so many talented educators in one place. Cubetto felt right at home! 

More than 1500 sessions proposals are submitted each year and less than a third make the cut – none of which are sponsored. It’s a true, community-based event for educators and by educators without intermissions and it really shows in the quality of the content.

As Cubetto and I rolled around the event we picked up on some of the trends for the next year in edtech. Here’s what we think is coming up in the space: 

  • The importance of creating culture as a foundation for the maker movement (including ethics, sustainability, gender equity, race equity)
  • Socio-emotional learning (inclusivity, diversity)
  • The integration of leading-edge tech like VR, AI, Blockchain and the learning experience
  • SEN and inclusion classroom (in makerspaces, but also innovative pedagogies)
  • Financial literacy and the need for new tools to educate children about money (Primo’s new idea Pigzbe has this covered)

If you have ever been to big events, you know they can be a little overwhelming.  As a single human, it’s terribly frustrating to be surrounded by all this knowledge and being able to only enjoy a small portion of it, and so many times the choice between what sessions to attend amongst dozen happening concurrently is determined by whether or not one can arrive on time to join the queue before that session fills up.

But don’t worry! My little robot and I trekked around the halls so you don’t have to!  We highlighted live streams of the most popular sessions and shared them here so you too can enjoy the enjoy the best of SXSWEdu from the comfort of your desk or classroom.

There is a lot of great stuff on their youtube channel. I can definitely recommend watching the keynotes from Patrick Awuah Jr on Turning Challenges into Opportunities The Ashesi Way, on the importance of nurturing ethical, long-term minded leaders through a mindful education system, and the Building Communities: Weaving America’s Social Fabric with David Brooks, Dan Porterfield, Darius Baxter, & Lisa Fitzpatrick – focussing on the problem of social fragmentation, and what’s the role of education in solving it.

A few of my big takeaways:

  • Storytelling is still, across all age groups and especially in Early Childhood, the most engaging way for students to not only to learn but to explore their identity. 826 National and Cartoon Network have offered a brilliant workshop on storytelling and inclusivity, which I cannot wait to integrate with our Cubetto playroom activities.
  • In a context where it’s almost universally recognised that 21st-century skills are on the verge of undermining the status of national standards when it comes to employability, it becomes more and more urgent to find ways to quantify skills like creativity, problem solving and communication. The MIT has just launched a brand new endeavour called Playful Journey Lab, a research project aimed at embedding assessment in makerspaces, STEM activities and play. Far from adding more burden onto the teacher’s shoulders, assessment is peer-based and student-led and fosters students’ agency on their own learning above all. We’re a fan and cannot wait to incorporate this in the work we do with our Cubetto.
  • Building a makerspace, teaching STE(A)M skills, is all nice and well – but it might just not be enough on its own. The Hacking the STEM curriculum panel advocates an introduction of a baseline cultural framework involving ethics, sustainability, transparency and accountability into STE(A)M to shape well-rounded makers of tomorrow. I wasn’t sold until Yoav Schlesinger compared learning for instance to code to learning a language: it’s not taught in isolation, but contextually to a language’s culture and literature – as a foreign language major I couldn’t have agreed more.
  • On a similar note, have a read of this interesting research on the culture of makerspaces around the U.S.A, result of comprehensive research by the Drexel School of Education. The extent of implicit bias and lack of diversity is staggering for a learning environment that espouses openness and innovation.
  • Last but not least, an excellent session on How to teach financial literacy and why we must. Featuring Tiffany Aliche (aka  The Budgetnista, responsible for a law been passed for financial literacy to be mandatory in middle school in the state of New Jersey) and Jean Chatzky (CEO of HerMoney, a platform dedicated to changing the relationship women have with money).

This was a particularly interesting session for me because Primo Toys has been doing a lot of thinking about this educational area. It’s an unavoidable truth that the digitisation of money means it is becoming invisible and subsequently it has become harder and harder to teach children about it. All this at a time when children are growing up in a hypercomplex financial world where they will have to juggle so many financial responsibilities at once,

You might have heard about Pigzbe, a new product in development at Primo Toys that we believe will be transformative in this space. So it was extra exciting to join this session and explore strategies and pedagogies to teach important aspects of financial literacy such as money flow, saving and budgeting to children as young as 3.

We picked up the picture book Happy Birthday Mali More by Tiffany Aliche, and bagged some great resources from the  ‘Your $ Magazine’, a spin-off dedicated to teaching financial literacy to children published by the Time for Kids magazine.

We would love to hear from anyone who attended (sorry were didn’t meet) and hear any feedback you have on our key takeaways.

Next year you might just see Cubetto on stage!


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