No way you haven’t heard about SXSW - Austin feast of all sphere creativity and innovations. It brings under one umbrella three independent festivals: music, film and interactive. The truly Texas-sized event, SXSW gathers thousands of participants, who shape their sphere of industry. In other words, it’s a place where the experts from all over the world exchange their experiences and perspectives. One of the key agendas of the event is to motivate innovative and productive education. SXSWedu 2017 was already eleventh annual 4-days run of conferences, workshops, panel talks, and practice platforms. The last-year participant statistic is impressive, check out the picture. Yet, the scope of this year event has outreached even the SXSWedu 2016.
Among the directions of this year SXSWedu discussion the most interesting for a college student might be the following:
Let’s take a brief look at each of them.
Some will ask, why we keep talking about it? Are the race or gender equity in colleges really still an issue? Is that so acute topic to make a special track for it? And the answer is definite yes. Moreover, according to professor of Boston University Raul Fernandez, today students come to universities from the districts that are more racially segregated than 40 years ago. And there is a necessity to talk about racial prejudices in class.
Indeed, a star keynote of the conference belongs to Dr. Christopher Emdin. He challenged the modern education system and compared its work with the Dinka people approach to traditions. Alike to the primitive people, we keep practicing the familiar things even though they don’t work anymore. We still have the lack of diversity among teachers while minority representatives keep their silence and don’t influence much on schooling process. Teaching and learning patterns are outdated. And an absence of student impact and participation in decision-making makes them devitalized. Besides, white urban school teachers have primary low expectations for their students. They rather try to “extract their culture” than to let them speak up. Thus, the young people traumas and hard feelings remain influential but unsaid. What Emdin suggested to teachers is to immerse into hip-hop culture and to understand its uniqueness and value. In other words, to make a step towards their students and to start listening to them. But no retelling can express the Emdin’s passion. His whole speech is rather a hip-hop performance than an academic speech. Take your time to enjoy it:
The question of race injustice was not the only one in the frames of equity conference track. Various forms of gender, queer and class discriminations were also discussed. For example, the forum talk Digital Equity: Power of Community Collaboration underlined the lack of equally accessible Internet connection. According to the data, over five million students don’t have a home Internet connection. It means that these students drop out of the digital education program. And that is a serious issue of unequal educational possibilities. The panel aimed to find a solution to the problem through the community cooperation.
Another important issue raised in this year SXSWedu was employability. Last years showed that our parents’ success recipe with its “good schooling - good university - goo job” scheme doesn’t work anymore. The problem is that college education in the US doesn’t really guarantee the employment for the graduates.
It’s true that for the young people between 24-29 years who don’t have a college degree the situation is even worse. Still, the problem is pressing. And the recurring motifs of the conference was a search for a way of filling the skill gap between college study and profession.
In particular, the panel discussion College & Career Readiness: A Whole New World was about finding a way of making a college time fruitful for getting a job afterward. Well, the key word here is ‘skills’. The main part of any job description is the list of skills. But universities often don’t give the needed ones. In other words, there are two parallel worlds: the academic study and industries. For now, they live primarily in separate ways. Colleges don’t prepare the students for work, they prepare them far passing the exams. So the question is how to fill this gap?
There is no a general answer really. Extra-curricular activities, community service, volunteering experience, various internships - all these things will help a student to get a wider perspective of professional activities. Besides, it is important not only ‘follow your passion’, but follow the market needs. A student should be active and open for new experiences without making GPA their main priority.
Well, don’t get too far since nobody says that colleges are not important. Of course, they are. They teach students about concentration, time management, research skills, and diligence. Besides, some of them consider the future employment of the graduates as their priority. So they collaborate with the companies and offer students the programs of internships and prospects for a career start. Check out our infographic on this topic, presenting the US Colleges Employability Ranking 2017.
SXSWedu participants agreed that entrepreneurialism is a skill-integrating activity. And it should be supported by the educators. How so? Why? And here come the answer that partially concerns the problem of employability. Entrepreneurs create the opportunities and provide changes. But to learn how to do these things students need a space for their inventiveness and a bit of independence. So instead of suppressing them with the systematically unpractical academic workload, why don’t we give them such space? It means that the teachers also have a lot to learn about guidance and teaching creativity.
Pairin CEO, Michael Simpson claimed that one doesn’t get born with the entrepreneurial mindset, but can develop it. In the panel discussion, How is the Entrepreneurial Mindset Developed? he said that the teachers should challenge themselves to do what is relevant for education. Because skills and knowledge needed for leading a business are something worth their attention.
One of the powerful engines of the conference is a call for innovations and creativity in education. Such events as Educators as the Most Optimistic Innovators and College, Career & Entrepreneur Ready were aimed to show that both school and university educators actually hold a control panel of society. Teachers are able to break the sad statistic of young unemployment. They can teach them how to contribute to the society independently or by cooperation with each other.
With great power comes great responsibility and, according to the SXSWedu participants, a lot of fun.
As you can see, SXSWedu 2017 is one of the most important and influential educational events of the year. Don’t miss your chance to join the SXSW educational panel in 2018. See you there.
Final touch - one of the recaps of the conference for you to enjoy: