by Patrick Benfield, Innovation Director at The Magellan International School

The past few weeks, Austin was the epicenter of pioneering ideas in education during the annual SXSW Edu Conference and Festival, which “fosters innovation in learning by hosting a community of optimistic, forward-thinking, purpose-driven stakeholders with a shared goal of impacting the future of teaching and learning.”

With roughly 16,000 participants, speakers, and visitors in attendance from 47 countries, this truly international event unites entrepreneurs, researchers, thought leaders, advocates, policymakers, educators, and students around the common cause of transforming education on a global scale with a focus on access, equity, and ingenuity.

During this conference, I had the opportunity to represent MIS as the co-presenter of a hands-on workshop that explored the intersection of making, art, and science via digitally fabricated, low cost microscopes. Sharing this type of activity provided attendees a window into the philosophy, pedagogy, and approach to learning that informs instruction at our school.

SXSW Edu Maker Break-out, hosted at The Magellan International School

Another reason that SXSW Edu is so stellar is that it affords participants multiple platforms for connecting and collaborating.. This year, Maker Education Initiative, a national nonprofit organization with a mission to create sustainable maker programs in schools across the country, hosted a SXSW Edu “Maker Meetup” at Magellan, which is quickly becoming known as a hub of making and innovation. The event, co-hosted by Digital Promise, with support from KQED and Sparkfun Education, helped to connect conference attendees, as well as our school, with local, national, and global maker communities.

Representatives from UTeach Maker, Maker Faire Austin, Thinkery EdExchange, Stanford FabLearn, as well as leading local and international maker educators and researchers toured the i.lab, networked, and learned from each other over tinkering, food, and fun.

Engaging and interacting with this community in these ways – by presenting at professional conferences and holding events on our campus – can be a fantastic vehicle for not only sharing Magellan’s unique vision and culture, but also for telling our story of the amazing things happening daily at MIS.

Patrick Benfield is the founding director of the Francis Lo i.lab for Design + Making, a new, creative learning space at Magellan International School in Austin, TX. Besides directing the school’s innovation program, he is a lead mentor for the UTeach Maker fellowship program for The University of Texas at Austin, a senior fellow of the Thinkery EdExchange Program, and a frequent presenter at conferences including SXSWedu, Stanford FabLearn, and Maker Faire Austin.