Our 3 Biggest Takeaways from SXSW EDU 2019

Our 3 Biggest Takeaways from SXSW EDU 2019
Apr 01, 2019

Earlier this month, Wolf Trap’s VP of Education Akua Kouyate-Tate participated on a panel of early childhood education and arts experts at SXSW EDU in Austin, TX. Akua was joined on the panel by Melissa Carlson, senior digital producer at PBS member station WGBH, Wolf Trap Institute Master Teaching Artist Kofi Dennis, and Kantara Souffrant, dramatic artist and assistant professor of art history at Oberlin College and Conservatory.

The conference is packed with hundreds of sessions spanning a broad range of topics covering the entire education spectrum. Wolf Trap’s session garnered a strong group of educators, community leaders, and artists, all of whom were hungry to hear about how the arts can help us create learning environments for young children that are culturally responsive, meaning experiences that celebrate, inform, advocate, and incorporate aspects of a given learner’s background and experiences (the session was centered around a resource from Head Start, which is helpful to understand more about culturally-responsive practice).

Here are our three biggest takeaways from SXSW EDU 2019:

1. Organizations and individuals around the world are committed to quality in education, and they’re doing it in creative and innovative ways.

We were overwhelmed with the sheer number of people, presentations, competitions, exhibits, demos, and conversations at the SXSW EDU conference.  It’s amazing to think that all of this brain power that was displayed over the course of this four-day conference is dedicated toward making the lives of learners around the world better through high-quality education. As we say here in the arts world, bravo!

2. Early childhood education warrants more focus.

Despite all of the amazing things we saw at SXSW EDU, early childhood education seemed to be an area that has great growth potential within the structure of the conference, and would benefit from even greater attention Considering that the first few years of life are so critical to building the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health, we believe strongly that early childhood needs to have a louder voice in the field.

3. Tech was the star of SXSW EDU 2019, but we think the arts also deserve the spotlight!

From virtual reality, to coding challenges, to podcasting in the classroom, there was no shortage of very cool tech-focused sessions to be enjoyed at SXSW EDU. While the applications of these technological innovations hold a lot of promise, the arts also are an innovative and effective approach to unlocking children’s innate desire for joyful, active learning. A dance can help a child understand the lifecycle of a flower. A song with a steady, repetitive beat can help a budding mathematician master patterns and predictability. A story with compelling characters can help teachers demonstrate critical concepts like empathy, sharing, and compassion. The thinking skills developed during these arts activities lead to the creative thinking that imagined and created the technology to start with. And that’s just the beginning of how the arts can impact the early childhood teaching and learning. Check out our website and follow us on Twitter to learn more!