SXSWEdu: Teaching, Technology and Closing the Diversity Gap

South by Southwest is a conference that has grown every year since its beginning in the 80’s. Today, there is a dedicated division for education. Before all things technology, film, and music fill the rooms, halls and surrounding streets of downtown Austin, the teachers get their chance to play. Genius Plaza had the opportunity to sponsor and also visit the conference, which was held in early March.

Even though the technology division of the conference does not start until the education sessions are over, I noticed quite a bit of spillover. Technology is making its way into education more than ever and in more ways than ever. From what I witnessed, there’s six letters that lead the charge: VR, AR, and MR.  

Each kind of technology is growing and can have a place in a forward-thinking classroom. VR (virtual reality) puts the student in a world where the the real world does not exist (at least they don’t see any of the real world). This can be done with Google Cardboard or any other VR viewer that you can put a smartphone into. AR (augmented reality) involves laying virtual elements over the real world (think Pokemon Go). This can be done with a smart phone and dedicated app. MR (mixed reality) is where I started getting confused a bit. I learned that the main difference with MR as compared to other similar experiences is that there is a physical element that interacts with the digital world. It was interesting to see the ways educators suggested and demonstrated using these technologies in the classroom. A main takeaway for me was that these technologies can not only send students to places otherwise impossible, but they can also be very powerful in preparing or building excitement for real world learning experiences. For example, students can virtually visit Ellis Island from their classroom and build excitement and interest for an upcoming field trip.

This year, we hosted a private event to talk about one issue impacting technology, and in which education is crucial to close the gap of diversity.  Our CEO, Ana Roca Castro, hosted a Q&A with Freada Kapor Klein to learn more about the work she is doing with the Level Playing Field Institute.

We were also able to showcase a bit of our technology. Michelle Emerzian, our Chief Academic Officer, lead a panel about STEAM careers and technology.

She also announced the official launch of our new app “Sammie Seal.” Freada also joined this session and spoke about how companies like Genius Plaza will be critical in addressing the pipeline issues.

Watch our video recap:

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