The Future Is Bright: Takeaways from SXSWedu 2019

Topics: Education Equity, Future of Learning

“I left SXSWedu feeling inspired and energized,” said Jason Swanson, summarizing sentiments of the whole KnowledgeWorks team that was in Austin for this year’s festival.

The organizers of this year’s SXSWedu event helped spotlight a diverse collection of experts and speakers, lift up the voices of students and share examples of learning now that demonstrate how bright the future can be.

Celebrating inclusion

SXSWEdu, placed an emphasis on  diversity and asking deep questions in regards to equity. This was evident in the range of perspectives represented in speakers and presenters that helped move conversations beyond just diversity of voices but to inclusion of various perspectives. This shift is important as we try to plan for a future of learning that better serves all students. We must be inclusive of all voices to achieve an equitable future of learning.

“There was intentionality to elevate experiences of equity and that helped create a great experience for everyone at SXSWedu,” said Michael DiMaggio.

Elevating student voice in conversations about the future of learning

“The number of young people who were speaking and presenting at the conference was powerful,” said Katie Chadwell. “At KnowledgeWorks we often talk about the importance of student voice. At SXSWedu, you could see many examples of why it’s important.”

We saw civic superpowers in action when David Hogg, cofounder of March for Our Lives, talked about the student-led activism that started after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. When Christine Rodriguez spoke after the screening of Personal Statement, a documentary focused on the shortage of school counselors across the country and the barriers that can prevent students from attending college, we were able to engage in rich conversations about how we combat toxic narratives.

Civic Superpowers and Toxic Narratives are two of the drivers of change outlined in our most recent forecast on the future of learning, Navigating the Future of Learning. Learn more about all five drivers of change that will impact education over the next decade.

Innovation in action

“How do you create change? The answer is simple but simple isn’t easy,” said Swanson.

At multiple sessions, people and organizations shared changes happening within their learning communities, many of which can be models for new futures of learning. For example, the Valley Day School (VDS) is modeling human-centered learning in how they have implemented neuro-educational research in all areas of school operation. By using insights from neuroscience, VDS is successfully applying brain-based practices, while supporting instructional technologies.

During a conference session called “Innovation Takes a Village: The Power of EdClusters,” Gregg Behr of the Grable Foundation said, “An orienting question in the Pittsburgh region over the past two decades has been, ‘How might we become one of the great places on earth to be a kid?’”

He also called attention to a common value across all people and communities of love. If we keep love for children as a central, guiding point of innovation, we will continue to put kids first. And that helps inspire human-centered learning, personalized services around trauma-informed care and designing truly inclusive learning systems.

“There are a lot of people thinking really deeply about the future of learning,” said Swanson. “It’s a breath of fresh air to be at SXSWedu in that asset-based positive mindset about what education could and should be.”

We can never know how the future will unfold, but we can expand our ideas about what might be possible and necessary for a future of learning in which all students can thrive.