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A group gathers for a photo at SXSWEDU 2018 in front of wall art in Austin, Texas.
Photo courtesy of Murray Woodard

Sparks of innovation: takeaways from the future of teaching and learning at SXSWedu

Three Kauffman associates joined those engaged in the education space to tackle problems, old and new, and to explore innovative solutions to transform the future of learning at SXSWedu.

For a few days, Austin, Texas, was the epicenter of teaching and learning. At South by Southwest EDU (SXSWedu), those engaged in the education space gathered to tackle problems, old and new, and to explore innovative solutions to transform the future of learning.

Three Kauffman associates joined in.

Culture of control | Murray Woodard

When we give students agency to make choices – from 3-year-olds in preschool to high school and beyond – we give them the ability to learn how to make good choices, and to be leaders. The SXSWedu session, “Over-disciplined and Under-educated” facilitated by Dr. Jennifer Adair, associate professor of Early Childhood Education at University of Texas at Austin, and Dr. Courtney Robinson, founder of Excellence and Advancement Foundation, was an innovative discussion of how schools act to control students – specifically students of color. From research to those who shared personal experiences, it was eye-opening to learn how schools, in ways direct and subtle – from discipline policies, practices, and even curriculum – can inflict harm on our most marginalized students.

“If kids are just following directions from teachers that whole day, that’s not good. That’s not teaching them to be leaders. That’s not teaching them to make good decisions in the world. That’s just teaching them to be a follower. I think we’d have a lot more leaders from a more diverse range of communities if children at school had the opportunity to use their agency, and learn how to make good decisions, and learn how to be in charge, and design projects. If they had those experiences I think we’d have a lot more leaders.”

—Dr. Jennifer Adair, University of Texas at Austin

Quality care catalyst | Halley French

Many communities struggle to offer quality child care programs that are accessible to all the children and families who seek them. This lack of quality child care prevents parents from working, and children from entering kindergarten with the preparation needed to be successful.

One solution I saw at SXSWedu around this issue came at an intersection I am familiar with from my work at the Kauffman Foundation – the intersection of education and entrepreneurship. Organizations like Wonderschool are exploring ways to support experienced child care providers to start their own home-based businesses, while also ensuring the program is high-quality. The approach seems simple, but it’s an innovation that not only address the issue of limited access, but also empowers individuals who can provide a range of culturally appropriate options for all families.

Disrupting the norm | Miles Sandler

“System of oppression, inequalities and inequities are by design, shouldn’t we use design to dismantle them?”

—Antoinette Carroll, founder and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab

Started in response to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Creative Reaction Lab, provides workshops for youth on equity-centered community design. The design lab is shaking up power dynamics and providing youth the opportunity to envision and implement change in their community.

Hip Hop Architecture is disrupting the norm by connecting youth to urban planning and design through a familiar medium, hip hop. In one activity, youth track the rhyming styles of popular hip-hop songs and use the number coding to explore building design – #Mindblown. Both organizations are inspiring youth to define and shape their future in new ways.


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