While South by Southwest draws huge crowds and celebrities that flock to the Interactive, Film and Music portions of the event, SXSWedu—the newest part of the conference—hopes to gain similar influence as leaders in education and technology assemble to discuss the current state of education across the country.
“Many wonder what SXSW is doing hosting an education conference. The fact of the matter is that SXSW celebrates the creative arts with an international audience each year via SXSW Music, SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive,” SXSWedu Executive Producer Ron Reed said. “Educators practice the art of engagement every day, and with significant impact on our collective future. If SXSW can help celebrate the good and important work of educators, it would be a contribution we'd be proud to make.”
The second annual SXSWedu conference will take place March 6–8 at the Hilton Austin Downtown where experts will discuss emerging ideas on how to improve the status quo. The conference is a symposium that simultaneously narrows and widens the focus on innovations in education and will feature keynote speakers such as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, LeVar Burton of "Reading Rainbow" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" fame, and Pearson Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino.
“Arne Duncan has been a highly visible, extremely active Secretary of Education, shining a light on the power of technology to fully support classroom teachers and learners of all ages,” Reed said. “Duncan’s keynote will be a compelling addition to the already rich content for SXSWedu, and we are confident conference attendees will welcome the opportunity to hear his perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing our education system.”
While the 2011 SXSWedu conversation concerned itself with early childhood education and pre-high school education, this year’s event will center on technology.
The presidentially appointed Duncan has been a significant proponent of the use of technology in schools and classrooms. He has stressed education being the most consequential issue of the current age and asserts that using technological advancements to improve education is a long-term cure for poverty and inequality.
“Technology tied to great teaching can help children learn more and learn faster, produce lifelong learners and give young people new skills for the global economy,” Duncan said. “Kudos to SXSW for linking the worlds of interactive technology, music, films and education.”
Attendance is expected to more than double from the 800 attendees at last year’s conference with an audience made up of media, educational professionals—including teachers, administrators and university professors—as well as business, industry and policy leaders.
SXSWedu will collaborate with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) conference in Washington, D.C., and the Society for Instructional Technology in Teacher Education (SITE) in Austin—two other educational conferences—to host a three-way teleconference called “On The Horizon: Harnessing Emerging Technologies in Education” to open the conference March 6.
The goal, Reed added, is to bring education to the forefront of people’s attentions and look to inspire creative thinking about solutions for effective education.
“Our vision for SXSWedu is that it continues to grow as a platform for an elevated conversation about innovations in learning, for all learners, from early childhood through college readiness to career development,” Reed said. “Education is a critical topic that crosses multiple audiences, certainly learners and education professionals, but also business, industry, legislative, and policy leaders. We hope to engage them all in a positive discourse about best practices and successful strategies.”
Local speakers will include the University of Texas’ S. Craig Watkins and KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg, among others.
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