South By Southwest Education: 19 Sessions & Speakers Worth Seeing at SXSW 2019

From the next generation of personalized learning to redesigning college admissions to sex education in the time of #MeToo, SXSW EDU promises an eye-opening conversation about the future of America’s schools

By Steve Snyder and Kate Stringer | February 27, 2019

By Steve Snyder and Kate StringerFebruary 27, 2019

This is the first in a series of articles, essays, and reports from South By Southwest Education 2019. Get the latest updates — and all of the day’s most interesting education headlines — delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.

The 2019 South By Southwest Education Conference and Festival kicks off March 4 in Austin, Texas, and the headliners for its ninth year promise an expansive mix of policy, practice, and personality. Beyond the keynote sessions that run the gamut from strengthening social capital to teaching kids about reconstruction, some of the more prominent workshops, performances, and policy sessions feature an eclectic lineup of thought leaders, including former governor Jeb Bush (March 4), actor LeVar Burton (March 6), and author and performer Aija Mayrock (March 6).

As the festival has expanded (more than 1,100 speakers appeared across 449 sessions in 2018, for an audience of more than 15,000 attendees), so too has the range of topic areas and SXSW “tracks,” which allow a visitor to go deep in a specific subject area. This year, there are 17 separate tracks, including “Science of Learning,” “Student Agency,” “Learning Spaces,” “SEL,” and “Emerging Tech.”

We’ve combed through the hundreds of events listed in the 2019 catalog, looking to assemble a mix of high-profile, under-the-radar, and eye-opening sessions that could make for a richer visit to Austin. So between all the tacos and barbecue, here are 19 speakers and events you might want to check out (arranged chronologically):

 

Monday, March 4

9:30 a.m. — ‘Building Community: Weaving America’s Social Fabric’: The festival’s opening keynote spotlights “Weave: The Social Fabric Project,” a new initiative of the Aspen Institute that will soon be entering its second year. Focused on the issue of social fragmentation and the ways in which today’s society can fuel issues of isolation and alienation, “Weave” aims to celebrate groups across the country that are looking to rebuild community and create social capital. The Aspen Institute’s Dan Porterfield and David Brooks will be joined by Darius Baxter, co-founder of GOODProjects, and Lisa Fitzpatrick, executive director of APEX Community Advancement Inc. (Read more about the session and panelists; will begin 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D)

11 a.m. — ‘Building Empathy Through Storytelling’: What can creative writing teach kids about kindness and empathy? How can teachers harness the power of narrative in developing social-emotional learning competences in their classrooms? That’s the focus of this workshop featuring Anna Griffin, manager of 826 National’s educator platform 826 Digital, and Debra Serebrin, director of marketing at the Cartoon Network. (Read more about the session and panelists; will begin 11 a.m. Monday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon F)

1 p.m. — ‘Demystifying AI: Machine Learning in the Classroom’: As artificial intelligence expands across industries, few classrooms teach it. These panelists will share their story about teaming up to create an artificial intelligence curriculum to teach students about how this technology can be a force for good. Led by Joe Bungo of NVIDIA Corporation and Tara Chklovski of Iridescent. (Read more about the panelists and session; will begin at 1 p.m. Monday at the Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 4 Next State)

1:30 p.m. — ‘Blended & Personalized Learning Toolbox’: This interactive, learner-centered workshop promises to share practical and tangible strategies for bringing blended learning into the classroom, as well as resources to assist with personalized learning and guidance for district leaders surrounding critical decisions that leaders face, such as “scaling innovation across a district.” Led by Saro Mohammed and Stephen Pham from The Learning Accelerator. (Read more about the session and panelists; will begin 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon K)

2:30 p.m. — ‘Vulnerability Is Power: A New Learning Movement’: Using an online platform that includes 300,000 students, this organization created a learning community that emphasizes how students can learn from their errors. Led by Eduardo Valladares of Descomplica. (Read more about the panelist and session; will begin at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom E)

 

Tuesday, March 5

11 a.m. — ‘What Do We Mean by Personalized Learning?’: Two education technology leaders will discuss what personalized learning looks like in schools and how it can support instruction. Led by Larry Berger of Amplify and Michael Horn of The Entangled Group. (Read more about the sessions and panelists; will begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon C)

11 a.m. — ‘The Power of Collaborative Teacher Communities’: Giving teachers the opportunities to lead starts with teacher communities. A group of educators from New York City will share how collaborative teacher groups can result in better respect for the profession and support for students. Led by Jude Julien of Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts, Megan Roberts of Math for America, Lynn Shon of Middle School 88, and Andrew Wille of Brooklyn Technical High School. (Read more about the sessions and panelists; will begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon E)

12:30 p.m. — ‘Ban the SAT: College Admissions Redesigned’: This is the story behind how one college banned the SAT. After Hampshire College conducted a research project to see whether their student admissions process determined student success, they made changes and learned a lot about access, innovation, and ed reform. Led by Kristina Moss Gunnarsdottir of Hampshire College and Meredith Twombly of Clark University. (Read more about the sessions and panelists; will begin at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon E)

2 p.m. — ‘Sex Ed in the #MeToo Era’: Comprehensive sex education could be the antidote to a pervasive culture of sexual assault. This panel will argue that a sex ed curriculum that encompasses healthy relationships and consent should be just as important to students’ education as math or history. Led by Caitlyn Caruso of Advocates for Youth, Lincoln Mondy of AMAZE.org, and Rebecca Ruiz of Mashable. (Read more about the session and panelists; will begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Austin Convention Center, Room 10C)

3:30 p.m. —Social Emotional Learning Should Be Like Fluoride’: Think social-emotional learning has to be another program to add to the school day? Actually, it can be what fluoride is to drinking water: blended into what already exists. This panel will discuss how subjects like math and reading can incorporate social-emotional skills like communication, collaboration, and citizenship. Led by Pam Betten of Sunnyside Unified School District, Brian Kingsley of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Christina Riley of EL Education, and Jessica Reid Sliwerski of Open Up Resources. (Read more about the session and panelists; will begin at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Austin Convention Center, Room 11AB)

5 p.m. — ‘Is School Choice the Black Choice?’: The 74’s Mimi Woldeyohannes leads this frank conversation about the critical role that school choice — or the lack thereof — can play for communities of color. Joined onstage by Derrell Bradford, the executive vice president of 50CAN (and a frequent contributor to The 74); Naomi Shelton, the director of K-12 advocacy UNCF; Gerard Robinson, the executive director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity; and Jacquie Hood Martin, co-founder of J Hood and Associates, the education and civic leaders will spotlight how choice policies and initiatives improve the educational environment for students of color — as well as their families. (Read more about the sessions and panelists; will begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon H)

 

Wednesday, March 6

11 a.m. — ‘Pathways to Personalization’: For leaders who want to create personalized learning initiatives, this panel will walk through the process and best practices of creating and launching these pilots and eventually scaling across a school or district. Led by Roshni Lakhi and Shawn Rubin of Highlander Institute. (Read more about the panelists and session; will begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 412)

Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images

11 a.m. — ‘Going Digital: The Future of the K-12 Library’: Libraries are no longer just responsible for curating and sharing literature. As education technology becomes more widespread in classrooms, libraries also need to start vetting and sharing these products, and this panel will look at one district’s process to do this. Led by Stacy Fox-Myers of Epic!, Melanie Rosier of Gowanda Elementary School, Ellen Ullman of eSchool Media, and April Woolsey of Liberty Elementary School. (Read more about the panelists and session; will begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Austin Convention Center, Room 10C)

12:30 p.m. — ‘Integrating SEL Into Data Systems for Improvement’: To make sure students in California’s largest districts are prepared for college and careers, leaders are turning to measures of social-emotional learning. The data team behind this effort will share how they launched and analyzed data systems to help improve schools. Led by Noah Bookman of the CORE Districts and Libby Pier and Andrew Rice of Education Analytics. (Read more about the panelists and session; will begin at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 408)

2 p.m. — ‘Millennials Matter: Ed Reformers Need to Hear Us’: As a generation that’s grown up with the concept of choice embedded in their lives, millennials are naturally supportive of school choice. However, this group is not represented in communities debating these topics. This panel covers how to amplify their perspectives. Led by Mendell Grinter of the Campaign for School Equity, Lalla Morris of Families Empowered, Evy Valencia Jackson of EVJ Consulting, and Emmeline Zhao of The 74. (Read more about the panelists and session; will being at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon G)

3:30 p.m. — ‘Supporting the Teachers of Tomorrow’: Following a wave of teacher strikes across the country that have called fresh attention to teacher salaries, education funding, and classroom conditions, Margaret Hoover helps guide this conversation about recruiting, supporting, and retaining educators. The panel spotlights a trio of current school and district leaders, including Matt Kramer, CEO of Wildflower Schools; Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus; and Pedro Martinez, superintendent of San Antonio ISD. (Read more about the sessions and panelists; will begin at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Austin Convention Center, Room 12AB)

5 p.m. — ‘The Art of Discipline in the Age of Screens’: How is technology impacting children’s brains? Panelists will talk about attention, self regulation, and strategies for helping children manage themselves, especially with a lens toward trauma and the excessive punishment of children of color or children with disabilities. Led by Anya Kamenetz of NPR, Jelani Memory of Circle Media Labs, and Katherine Lewis, author and journalist. (Read more about the panelists and session; will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon G).

 

Thursday, March 7

2 p.m. — ‘Mayors, Youth, and the Fate of Cities’: These city leaders have recognized that youth are the future of economic, social, and civic success in their towns, and they have invested in their welfare and social mobility. Led by Shane Bemis of the City of Gresham, Jorge Elorza of the City of Providence, Elizabeth Gaines of Children’s Funding Project, Lisa Piscopo of the City and County of Denver, and Levar Stoney of the City of Richmond, Virginia. (Read more about the panelists and session; will begin at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon J)

2 p.m. — ‘Translating Research into Practice’: Sometimes learning science myths drives classroom instruction, and sometimes research-backed practices don’t translate well into the real world. This panel will discuss how applying science behind learning and human development can help students succeed. Led by Betsy Corcoran of EdSurge and Priscilla Chan, Bror Saxberg, and K. Brooke Stafford-Brizard of Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. (Read more about the panelists and session; will begin at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABCD)

Go Deeper: This is the first in a series of articles, essays, and reports from South By Southwest Education 2019. Get the latest updates — and all of the day’s most interesting education headlines — delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.

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