As we enter a new year, education is a topic that continues to resonate well beyond the classroom into the core aspects of daily life, from home and family to the halls of politics and the corporate world. Since launching SXSW EDU several years ago with the aspiration to become the world’s largest and most inclusive learning festival in the world, it’s been exciting to see the event grow and evolve. As past speakers including philanthropist Bill Gates and Teacher’s College, Columbia University professor Christopher Emdin both observed from the keynote stage, the growth of the event is a direct reflection of the public’s deep passion and interest with teaching and learning—no surprise, when we acknowledge that education is the foundation on which everything is built!

More than the growth of SXSW EDU, though, what’s been most interesting to observe is the evolution of the topics that the community wants to address, as reflected through our crowd-sourced program. Each year, the community proposes thousands of suggestions for sessions and workshops and speakers. As such, the SXSW EDU community’s conversation about teaching and learning continues to become richer and more diverse, spanning the complete life cycle of learning, from early childhood, to and through college, career, and beyond.

Everyone has a role to play in education today

While past programs for SXSW EDU focused largely on the standards and structures of schooling, today the program has grown to additionally address the intersection of culture and learning. Stated another way, beyond exploring the 4- or 8- or 12-year curriculums associated with the traditional classifications of elementary, secondary, and post- secondary education, it’s been fascinating to see the program enriched with discussions about lifelong learning in the real world, against the backdrop of rapidly changing expectations to prepare learners for a future that will look far different than today.

(Next page: The evolution of SXSW EDU)

About the Author:

Ron Reed is the founder of SXSW EDU and director of emerging events for SXSW. Reed has been involved in educational publishing and technology throughout his long career. The experience led him to launch the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival in 2011 and it quickly emerged as one of the world’s leading education events.


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