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SXSW EDU Turns 10 in March. Here Are a Few Not-to-Miss Keynotes and Sessions.

By Henry Kronk
November 14, 2019

SXSW EDU, one of the preeminent education and edtech conferences in the world, is turning 10 next year. It will run from March 9 to March 12 in Austin, Texas. On November 13, the conference announced its keynotes and featured sessions. Speakers include leaders from the edtech private sector, scholars, authors and journalists, venture capitalists, and more.

Some discussions will focus on issues that have persisted for generations (Stamping Out Racism) while others feature themes that have more recently come to the fore (Unlocking Opportunity for Incarcerated Learners). Below, we’ve written up a few of our most-anticipated keynotes and featured sessions.

The Future of Higher Education (at SXSW EDU)

Forget the topic—the specific title of this featured session has already been claimed by dozens of studies, white papers, articles, books and blog posts. But at SXSW EDU, it will be taken up by Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc and Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig.

Both speakers sit poised to address the issue. SNHU has transformed into an online learning powerhouse under LeBlanc’s leadership. Rosensweigh, meanwhile, has transformed Chegg from a Netflix 1.0-style textbook rental service to a digital learning company with a wide range of offerings.

The Inequality Machine

In this featured session, education authors and journalists Paul Tough (a regular contributor to New York Times Magazine) and Liz Willen (editor-in-chief of The Hechinger Report) will assess the issue of fairness in higher education.

In his latest book, The Years that Matter Most, Tough follows a number of students through secondary school and beyond, detailing their collective “hope, joy, and frustration, through the application process and into college.”

Revolutionizing Education From the Ground Up

Sir Ken Robinson delivered a TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity?” in 2006. With nearly 63 million views, it remains the most popular TED Talk ever. Robinson also studied issues of arts in education for his PhDand  is the author of twelve books.

Ted Dintersmith, who will be joining him on stage at SXSW EDU, has worked as a venture capitalist in the past, but now focuses on issues of education. He produced and funded the 2015 film Most Likely to Succeed and other films. Dintersmith has also authored numerous books and articles, some in collaboration with Robinson.

Their keynote will describe grassroots education initiatives and their upcoming education platform Boundless.

Unlocking Opportunity for Incarcerated Learners

Policymakers have long recognized the power education can have on incarcerated individuals. A 2013 RAND Corpration study found that inmates who take advantage of education in prison are up to 43% less likely to avoid crime once they get out.

This summer, New York Times journalist Erica Green told the story of Maurice Smith, who managed to complete a degree taking online courses from Goucher College just a few months before being released from the Maryland Correctional Institution. He was able to do so thanks to Second Chance Pell, an astonishing bipartisan pilot initiative that makes Pell Grants available to inmates.

Green will be joined in this featured session by Chief Business Development Officer of American Prison Data Systems Arti Finn, Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer, and author Chris Wilson. Wilson himself earned a high school diploma and associate’s degree behind bars. He described his experiences in his book Master Plan, which was published in February.

“It is a true honor to have some of the most well-respected leaders in pedagogy, equity, and research at SXSW EDU,” said Head of SXSW EDU Greg Rosenbaum,  in a statement. “One of our most important values is diversity and the addition of these unique perspectives on the program speaks to the power of convergence in learning, both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Media courtesy of SXSW EDU.