BY Madeline Hays
The future of higher education seems to be a constant worry, with lack of funding and rising costs. However, for the past three years, the SXSWedu conference has focused on providing solutions to these problems.
To most people, SXSW is a celebration of the arts. However, one art that executive producer of the SXSWedu conference Ron Reed says gets overlooked and deserves a nod is teaching.
"We always felt from the get go that educators are creative artists and they ought to be celebrated like rock stars," Reed said. "Respecting and celebrating the art of teaching and learning is something that is timely and needed."
At SXSWedu the focus is on enabling and encouraging innovation and passion for the generations ahead.
"The world is changing so dramatically," Reed said. "I think that for students to really understand what their passion is and what engages them, that provides the direction that they ought to channel their energies and learning in."
For some Lanier High School students, they've already found a passion for teaching and this conference only helped boost their enthusiasm.
"I want to be a teacher," said Lanier High School Dailia Sanchez. "I want to go into this field, and after seeing everybody and how excited they are about it, it makes me like, even more excited!"
For 8th grader Chase Lewis, this conference is the opportunity of a lifetime. He invented a device to help famine victims carry their children to refugee camps, and hopes to get it produced and start saving lives.
"I won an invention competition in which I got a patent for my device so I spoke at Tuesday's breakfast and as an added bonus I get to sit here and hopefully talk to Mr. Gates about it," Lewis said.
Bill Gates spoke about this type of creativity in his keynote address to close out the conference, and expressed extreme promise for the future of education in America.
"Innovation can change the world in a way that the framework is utterly different," Gates said. "And I think the goal that we all have here is that the quality of education, the way we empower teachers to do their jobs better, to understand what each student needs to personalize learning experience to make the information more relevant for the student, technology comes along and plays a key role in that."
Overall, this conference aims to give educators, students and the general public the opportunity to come together and discuss, create and innovate and to make them feel like the rock stars they are.
There was a great turnout for this year's conference. It was standing room only at that keynote address with Bill Gates.
Next year's SXSWedu is scheduled for March 3rd through the 6th.