The first day of SXSWedu came to a close with keynote speaker LeVar Burton discussing what he believes to be the key educational issues in the United States.
He cited his experiences with science fiction and his stints on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Roots” as catalysts for his message: Tell great stories. The words “creativity” and “inspiration” repeatedly came up as he reflected on his career in Hollywood and exposure to storytelling.
Burton talked about the pitfalls of standardized testing and modeling the system around those tests.
“We’ve created a culture of education where we are teaching to the test instead of teaching the subject," he said.
He also announced that “Reading Rainbow,” the television show about learning that ran for more than two decades, which Burton hosted, is on the verge of being restarted. Additionally, a “Reading Rainbow” app will be released to a new generation of kids to inspire new kinds of learning.
The AISD Angle
The message that educators and administrators should find new ways to inspire learning and encourage curiosity resonated across the conference.
In talking to AISD Board President Mark Williams, he said that educational institutions—at least directionally—would do well to follow the heading of SXSWedu in the interest of progress.
Which begs the question: Perhaps AISD is a perfect testing ground for some of the ideas being vetted at the conference?
The issue comes down to the scrutiny that accompanies trial programs when they don’t work. SXSWedu has addressed that, too: it’s a mistake to not make mistakes. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said “If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
While parents don’t want their children to be treated as test subjects, it seems there must be some research and development in education to replace an antiquated system. That's part of what SXSWedu is all about: understanding that mistakes are a natural part of progress.
If there’s one message that the audience repeatedly heard from kids that are currently being subjected to the education system, it has been to give them a chance to be passionate about knowledge and be encouraging about their success no matter if the subject is art, math or woodworking.