The second day of SXSWedu commenced with keynote speaker and Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino rounding out the day's events.
The crux of her message—to think differently and take chances to inspire innovation—has been a major theme of the conference. Scardino spoke about creativity and asked "How do we get to exceptional?"
“Extraordinary things can happen if you take a radical, creative approach, and the corollary, it probably won’t happen if you don’t,” she said. “Instead of worrying about what can go spectacularly wrong, think about what can go spectacularly right. Calculate the rewards of what would happen if you took a creative chance.”
During the Q&A portion of the speech, an audience member asked how a large company such as Pearson can make sure it has a presence at the ground levels, ensuring there is as little disconnect as possible between educators and executives.
This is a problem with many large companies, and a significant reason why there are gaps in the education industry. But today's sessions proved that the market for academic progress is expanding quickly.
In addition to large players like Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, there is an ever-increasing number of independent entrepreneurs with talent and original ideas that are pervading the industry, specifically in educational software and apps.
Enter LAUNCHedu: a first for the conference, and an event that provides educational startups the opportunity to strut their products and business concepts before judges.
The competition is essentially "The Voice" of SXSWedu.
"Based upon successful Accelerator programs at SXSW Interactive and SXSW Music, LAUNCHedu provides an exciting opportunity for conference registrants to see promising entrepreneurs publicly pitch their startup education business concepts and products."
March 7 saw finalists from LAUNCHedu make their last attempts to persuade a panel of venture capitalists, successful entrepreneurs and education practitioners to support their product.
But there seemed to be a more important, underlying point: the goals that LAUNCHedu tries to accomplish keeps with the theme of pushing the envelope in education.
While large, established textbook corporations may have more capital and resources than smaller companies, the playing field is increasingly leveled by the Internet and—more importantly—creativity and the willingness to take risks.
Many of the small-business owners participating in LAUNCHedu are looking to become the next big transformation in education, and the odds are less overwhelming by the day as the world witnesses technological breakthroughs in software development and social networking. That message is loud and clear at SXSWedu as many smaller companies are now able to competitively play with the big boys.
It's a reminder that all it takes is one great idea to turn an industry into a revolution.