Here’s What You Need to Know About Attending SXSW EDU 2018

For the last seven years, the SXSW EDU conference has brought together teachers, students, administrators, ed tech companies, policy-makers, and entrepreneurs. The purpose of the conference is, according to the website, to “foster innovation in learning by hosting a community of optimistic, forward-thinking, purpose-driven stakeholders with a shared goal of impacting the future of teaching and learning.”

The conference meets this goal by offering tons of different programming options from workshops to discussions to competitions to film screenings to mentorship opportunities. Keynote and featured presenters represent a diverse set of interests in the field of education. In 2013, Bill Gates challenged teachers and entrepreneurs to keep moving forward with computer-based adaptive learning. In 2015, Charles Best described where he got the idea for Donors Choose and how crowdsourcing has, and will continue to, impact classrooms across the country. In 2016, Sal Khan shared how Khan Academy got started and what blended learning could do for students of all learning levels and interests. And this year’s speakers will include, among many others, podcasters, a data analyst expert, and a college president who changed the campus culture.

If you’re headed to the 2018 SXSW EDU conference, you know it kicks off on March 5 at the Austin Convention Center. Four storytellers from The Moth Education, a popular art and storytelling group, will present “Stories of Schooling and Getting Schooled” as an opening keynote to the thousands of attendee. You won’t want to miss their hysterical and poignant takes on teaching and learning.

You’ll also get a chance to attend a wide-range of activities and sessions all over downtown Austin. There are social hours and meetups in bars and cafes, film screenings at the famous Alamo Drafthouse, and an education Expo with student performances and competitions that is open to the public.

How to Plan Your Schedule

The SXSW EDU app is really handy for organizing your time at the conference. You can add events that you’d like to attend and search for session by topic or tags to create your own schedule.

Or, if you’ve got a certain focus in mind, you can use the schedules shared by SXSW EDU. Check out these thematic tracks the conference has suggested. Using these links will make it easier for you to focus your search and easily navigate the conference based the on the topics you’re most interested in.

In addition, the conference has suggested the ten topics they think will be the most-talked about this year based on programming trends. To help you stay on top of these relevant topics, they’ve suggested five sessions within each trend. To check out the sessions for each topic, go here.

  • AI Impacts on Learning and Workforce
  • Educators as Lead Learners
  • Equity, Assess, and Education for All
  • The Future of Community Spaces
  • Media Literacy in a Digital World
  • Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence
  • A New Era in Data Privacy
  • The Power of Networks
  • Self-Directed and Self-Paced Learning
  • Upskilling and the Work of the Future

And, if you’re looking for continuing education credit, SXSW EDU offers more than 200 sessions that are ATPE-approved.

What Else to Check Out

  1. Keynotes. The conference has a lot to offer and presents information to participants in a variety of ways. You can check out keynotes, like danah boyd, who’s “What Hath We Wrought” talk explores, “unintended consequences of efforts to empower youth, media manipulation and literacy, polarization and other issues.” Or go see Michael J. Sorrell’s “WE over ME: From College to Movement” talk about “how focusing on the needs of communities the school serves led to creating a new version of higher ed and the plan to build a network of Urban Work Colleges using Reality Based Education.” (Kit McNeil,  Launch Competition Showdown 2017)
  2. Competition. Go watch the seventh annual Launch competition. During the event, entrepreneurs seeking feedback, investment, strategic partnerships, and exposure present their ideas to industry experts, investors, educators, and YOU. A couple of the finalists include Choosito, an AI for personalized learning, and Nimble, an applicant tracking platform that matches districts with the best teaching candidates.
  3. Playground. This hands-on learning center lets participants get up close and personal with products and strategies that can change the classroom experience. Both technology and best practices are demonstrated and explored. You can demo products and learn about how to use them with your students.

Final Thoughts

There’s no way to see everything at SXSW EDU, but there are lots of opportunities for learning and networking. You’ll hear great ideas and learn about they’re actually being implemented. You can meet with tech companies and find out how they make teaching easier, smoother, or more focused.

Also, if you’re in Austin for the first time, eating breakfast tacos is a must.

And, if you can’t be there, you can catch my upcoming articles on trends presented at the conference. What innovative educational topics are you most interested in hearing more about?

Amanda Ronan is an Austin-based writer. After many years as a teacher, Amanda transitioned out of the classroom and into educational publishing. She wrote and edited English, language arts, reading, and social studies content for grades K-12. Since then, Amanda has worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from functional medicine doctors to homeschooling moms, writing blogs, long-form articles, curricula, and educational guides. In addition, she is the author of the YA series, My Brother is a Robot, and an ebook for teachers, A Fresh Look at Formative Assessment.