A quick look at SXSWedu: its history, what makes it different and what to look forward to this year

SXSWedu will kick off March 6 and run through March 9, and will feature a variety of education-related speakers, panels and events.

SXSWedu will kick off March 6 and run through March 9, and will feature a variety of education-related speakers, panels and events.

The education component of the South by Southwest family of conferences, known as SXSWedu, kicks off March 6 and will include four days of speakers and panelist discussions, in-depth workshops, interactive learning experiences, film screenings and business opportunities, to name a few.

Returning for its seventh year, SXSWedu brings together students, teachers, administrators, experts in the education field, and more to discuss the future of teaching and learning. To kick off this year's coverage of the conference, Community Impact Newspaper took a quick look at the history of the event, how it differs from the rest of SXSW, and some of the highlights of this year's conference. Stay tuned for more coverage in the days leading up to the event, as it unfolds, and after-the-fact recaps on our website and social media accounts.

The history of SXSWedu

When the forces behind SXSWedu held the inaugural event in March 2011, the idea was to celebrate innovation in learning. What began as a Texas-focused K-12 event held in collaboration with the Texas Education Agency is today an internationally recognized conference that is the ultimate gathering for creative professionals in the education realm.

In its second year, SXSWedu hosted more than 2,000 attendees from across the country. Since then, the conference has continued to grow with a reported 13,840 in attendance last year. In 2013, the program expanded to include new initiatives, such as the SXSWedu Film program, the Policy Forum and Makerspace, which today is known as Playground—a destination where attendees can explore gaming, virtual learning and activities related to STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math.

In 2013, SXSWedu also introduced its Expo component, an event that is free and open to the public that today features more than 100 exhibitors, student performances, a student startup competition and opportunities for personal and professional development through session programming and coaching.

The conference's fifth anniversary marked the first year of mentorship and summit programming. Today, summits can range from a few hours to multiple days, where collaborative environments and project-based learning gives way to education innovation in small group settings.

Industry talks and a focus on the business of education made its debut in 2016 with the introduction of the Industry Hub. Last year, SXSWedu recorded 7,535 participants and 1,020 speakers in attendance. This year's conference is set to draw an even larger crowd or approximately 8,000 participants, according to SXSWedu General Manager Greg Rosenbaum.

What makes SXSWedu different from other SXSW events?

Unlike other branches of the SXSW family of conferences, SXSWedu is education-focused. Attendees must purchase a badge to attend most events, excluding the Expo, which is free and open to the public. SXSWedu occurs from March 6-9, in the days leading up to the SXSW interactive, film, music and comedy festivals and conferences.

According to Rosenbaum, some of the programming at the conference is intentionally formatted to be longer in duration so attendees can fully immerse themselves in the content. The idea is to allow participants the chance to glean teachable content to take back to their schools, school districts or organizations.

This year's keynote and closing program speakers

Keynote and closing program speaker events feature presentations from prominent and emerging leaders in education. Keynote speakers kick off the day's programming, while closing programs speaker events occur at the end of each day. All of the events will take place in Ballroom D of the Austin Convention Center.

  • Chris_Emdin_web300x300Dr. Christopher Emdin-associate professor and director of science education at Columbia University: Well-known for his commentary on issues of race, culture, inequality and education, Emdin's work has appeared in a slew of well-known publications, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Emdin's presentation will delve into major issues, such as the absence of diversity among teachers, the ways educators of color are silenced in schools, the absence of student voice in designing teaching and learning, and a way forward. Mon., March 6, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Austin Convention Center-Ballroom D.


  • Sara_Goldrick_Rab_credit Chris Kendig_300Sarah Goldrick-Rab-professor of higher education policy & sociology at Temple University: Goldrick-Rab's research examines the intended and unintended consequences of the college-for-all movement in the U.S. Her presentation at SXSWedu will focus on the contentious debate over the value of college and the attached price tag, and the myth of the American Dream as it relates to higher education. Tue., March 7, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Austin Convention Center-Ballroom D.



  • Tim Ferriss _webTim Ferriss-author, entrepreneur and investor: Ferriss is an early-stage technology investor and advisor for tech juggernauts Uber, Facebook, Shopify and many more. In his talk, Ferriss will share frameworks and techniques that can help take learners and teachers to the next level. Wed., March 8, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Austin Convention Center - Ballroom D




  • Brene BrownBrené Brown-founder and CEO of Brave Leaders Inc.: Houston-native Brown is well-known for her TED Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability," one of the top five most-viewed talks worldwide with over 25 million views. Brown's talk will focus on how risk and vulnerability in the classroom can lead to teachers and students choosing courage over comfort, what is right over what is fun, fast or easy, and practicing values rather than professing them. Thu., March 9, 12:30-1 p.m., Austin Convention Center-Ballroom D.



  • Sarah Elizabeth Lewis_Kwesi Abbensetts_photo credit_Lions 2Sarah Elizabeth Lewis-assistant professor of history of art and architecture and African-American Studies at Harvard University: Lewis is best known for her essays and best-selling books on topics ranging from race, contemporary art and culture. Her closing program presentation will examine the role of creativity in justice, and how the history of art has contributed to democracy in the past and its role in modern times. Thu., March 9, 1-1:30 p.m., Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D.



  • Roberto RiveraRoberto Rivera-president and lead change agent of the Good Life Alliance/7 Mindsets: The movement of social emotional learning, or SEL, and how to incorporate it into the lives of students and community members is Rivera's expertise, as evidenced through his work to construct a national alliance of organizations demonstrating best practices of SEL and social justice. Rivera's speech will delve into how hip-hop culture embodies best practices in SEL, post-traumatic growth and social change. Thu., March 9, 1:30-2 p.m., Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D.

By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


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