Last week, Pam Garner, Vice President of Strategy, and Lisa Panka, Vice President of Program Development, had the opportunity to attend SXSW EDU 2023 in Austin, TX. The week was filled with a variety of speakers and sessions covering 11 overarching themes in the education industry. There was something for everybody, and simply not enough time to see all the things we wanted to! Now that they have had time to decompress and reflect on all that they learned, we wanted to share some highlights and takeaways with you.
Highlights from the Conference
Lisa enjoyed learning about the latest trends in education, particularly those that are not tied to a specific subject area. It was wonderful to see educators excited about what is coming! In addition, Pam was eager to learn more about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its effect on teachers, students, content developers, and the industry as a whole.
Pam and Lisa agreed that the biggest highlight for both of them was Luma Mufleh’s keynote address: Teaching America: How We Fail Our Newcomers, Why It Matters, and How We Can Do Better. Ms. Mufleh did an outstanding job communicating the challenges and experiences of newcomers to this country and to our schools, and explaining what we need to do to help them succeed. Since Ms. Mufleh was an immigrant herself, she was able to provide an insightful and first-hand account of some of the obstacles she overcame when she first moved to the United States.
Lisa’s focus at this conference was on the various pathways to successful careers that students can follow. One of her key takeaways was learning that if students are not introduced to different careers by the end of middle school, they will start to exclude entire career categories as options. If we can open the door to a wide variety of career choices in middle school, students are more likely to be willing to learn more about those occupations. In middle school, students can begin to answer these questions:
- What do I like?
- What am I good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can I get paid for?
Answering these questions can help students decide what careers to explore further while in high school.
Additionally, Lisa shared the following statistics that we found to be staggering:
- 85% of high school students feel pressure to pursue a bachelor’s degree
- 50% of high school students worry about college every day
- 75% of students say they need tools to plan a career, but only 40% feel that they have those tools at their disposal
AI in Schools
Pam attended several panels with discussions on AI—predominantly ChatGPT—and the possibilities for teaching and learning in this age of AI. There were a lot of good conversations—mostly reassuring, but some people expressed concern about the role this technology will play in the classroom.
It was encouraging to hear some of the ways teachers are already using AI. One example Pam shared is having the students come up with the topic for an essay, then the teacher produces and reviews a ChatGPT version of that topic. The student then rewrites it to be in their own words, produces a Venn diagram or some other diagnostic visual about the topic, and makes a presentation for the class from the information.
What Pam found a little concerning is that all panels agreed that AI will be evolving exponentially in the classroom. Teachers will either have to embrace it or be totally frustrated. Our hope is that we at CSA can help our clients produce ideas for engaging with all of this new technology so teachers can keep their frustration level down.
To sum it up, SXSW EDU was a worthwhile learning experience that CSA was thrilled to attend! Lisa and Pam came back with a wealth of information on career pathways and AI. We are excited to see how we can apply what we learned to future CSA projects and processes.