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Q-and-A: SXSWedu to ignite new conversations on the future of education

4 min read


The SXSWedu Conference & Festival gets underway March 9 in Austin, Texas, and SmartBrief will be there. We sat down with SXSWedu Executive Producer Ron Reed to get a sneak peek at what’s in store for this year’s conference.

What exciting innovations and conversations can we look forward to hearing about at this year’s SXSWedu conference?

This year, we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of SXSWedu and as always, we are looking to drive meaningful conversations and action on the future of education. This year some of our highlighted programming focuses on teachers and student voice, and increased international engagement has led to more insights into education across the globe, through session and workshop programming and other components including LAUNCHedu and eduFILM.

This year’s “change maker” series showcases women in technology. Why the emphasis on women and can you give us a sneak peek at what — and who — we will see?

We are proud to have had the EdTechWomen organization launch at SXSWedu 2013, and their story epitomizes the spirit of bringing the community together to inspire and collaborate — something that we strive for at SXSWedu. This year at the event we expect to see not only EdTechWomen continuing to do great things, but all of the different education stakeholders at SXSWedu coming together to imagine and invent the future of teaching and learning. Everyone can be a change maker and we work diligently at SXSWedu to help provide a platform for that change.

What benefits have you seen from taking a crowdsourcing approach (PanelPicker) to developing programming? Any surprising topics or trends rise to the surface this year?

The SXSWedu community is really what makes this event special — we have everyone from educators and administrators across public and higher education, students and parents, business leaders, policy makers, non profit entities, entrepreneurs and more coming together to collaborate on the future of education. This year, in PanelPicker we had a record number of entries — more than 1,000 proposals collectively received more than 30,000 votes — and this speaks to the power of the community to help shape the event, not only in concurrent programming, but also through featured sessions and keynote speakers. We saw a rich vibrancy in topics proposed for this year, with great diversity across our 16 themes.

Summits are new to SXSWedu’s lineup. Can you give us some background on this new programming and what attendees can expect to see and do in these sessions?

SXSWedu attendees have expressed interest in more interactive learning experiences at the event, and with the new Summits program, they will get to take advantage of longer, more in-depth programming focusing on deeper collaboration and actionable outcomes. We’re excited to work with a number of partners to put on these ‘events within an event’ including The Gates Foundation, Student Voice, NPR Ed, and The Aspen Institute, to name a few. No two summits are the same, so attendees can expect customized engagements exploring topics such as higher education, project-based learning, international approaches and student rights.

As attendees converge in Austin to participate in the conference, what recommendations do you have for them so they can get the most out of this show? What should their mindset be?

There is so much good stuff happening at SXSWedu that it’s smart to browse the online schedule or mobile app to know and understand the various elements of the event but it’s also important to be open to spontaneity and serendipity. Attendees have the wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the diversity of the SXSWedu community so a piece of advice would be to try something unexpected and meet someone new!

Kanoe Namahoe is SmartBrief’s custom content editor and editor of SmartBrief on EdTech.  Education editor Katharine Haber also contributed to this story. Stay tuned for on-the-ground coverage of SXSWedu by SmartBrief Education editors.

Check out our team’s coverage of last year’s SXSWedu Conference & Festival: