Education is a hot topic these days, from funding cuts to the controversial school-voucher system to the myriad problems with high-stakes testing. While the Texas Legislature has a number of education-related bills in the pipeline for the 2013 session (151 to be exact), all the legislation in the world can’t fix education without a little magical thinking.
I have spent the better part of the past decade in college classrooms and have often felt quite disheartened (but also sometimes very pleasantly surprised) by the skills students bring into the classroom. I have noticed that students do their best work in self-generated conversations and with out-of-the-box small-group work. Yet, their default setting as students is often to be passive objects in the classroom rather than active subjects in the development and generation of knowledge.
Yet, this is not their fault. The current education system is set up to measure rote knowledge, not a student’s ability to think critically, to solve problems creatively, or to effectively express herself in writing. This is where the magical thinking — and the folks participating in SXSWedu — come in. The educators, business people, and policy makers participating in this year’s conference represent a collection of progressive thinkers committed to innovation in education in the interest of creating a brighter future both for children and society as a whole.
The panels and sessions at this year’s edu conference (March 4-7 in downtown Austin) is broken up into 15 themes, including gaming, learning, and development; DIY and Maker; social and mobile learning; and career development for post-secondary years. The sessions cover topics spanning everything from LEGO robotics sessions to a discussion with folks like John Green about teaching via YouTube. In addition to the sessions, each day of the conference offers networking and tinkering/making opportunities. Keynote speakers include Bill Gates, who heads the Gates Learning Foundation with his wife, Melinda, in the interest of ensuring that low-income students are prepared for and have fewer barriers to college.
It’s not too late to register for and attend SXSWedu.