Welcome to Austin: Pittsburgh educators kick off a week of discovery at SXSW EDU

Last summer, we invited Kidsburgh readers to vote to send our Parents as Allies project and several other Pittsburgh-born innovations to SXSW EDU. This annual festival in Austin, Texas, gathers creative thinkers and innovators from around the world to present the latest research and discoveries related to learning and education.

Our panel presentation, How to Build Trust & Sustainable Family-School Engagement, was chosen for the festival and took place on March 4.

An audience of more than 200 educators gathered to hear Kidsburgh’s director, Yu-Ling Cheng, interview Burrell School District parent Twaina Williams, Deer Lakes School District assistant superintendent Bobbi-Ann Barnes and California Area School District principal Rachel Nagy about their experiences pursuing family-school engagement through Parents As Allies.

parents as allies
An audience of more than 200 educators attended the Parents as Allies panel at SXSW EDU on March 4.

Later this week, several other Pittsburgh-based projects will be sharing their knowledge with the global SXSW EDU audience.

On March 5, educators Daniel Beck and Timothy Wagner from the Upper St. Clair School District will partner with Donna Westbrooks-Martin, executive director of Adults & Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities (ACLD) and The ACLD Tillotson School, to present a workshop called “Schools Unified in Neurodiversity (SUN).”

Neurodivergent kids face more social, emotional, and learning barriers at school than other students. That can lead to noticeably worse outcomes than neurotypical students. Attendees will participate in a human-centered design workshop to learn practical ways to better support neurodivergent children.

Also on March 5, the folks from KnowledgeWorks are hosting an immersive session exploring a future where student-centered learning is the norm, and assessment and accountability systems have been radically redesigned from the ground up with heavy community input. Presented as a graduation party in the year 2034, participants will mingle with actors at this fictitious party, engage with other partygoers and explore a room set up with artifacts that bring this potential future to life.

Then on March 6, Remake Learning will host a panel discussion about the powerful work of creating a learning ecosystem called “Developing Ecosystems: From Lifelong to Lifewide Learning.” Pittsburgh has been a major innovator in understanding and developing the idea that learning can happen anywhere — across a wide range of times, places and contexts.

Our Parents as Allies panelists sharing ideas at SXSW EDU 2024.

Faced with the wicked problems of today and the unknowable complexities of tomorrow, it’s easy to see why the ecosystem concept has gained global attention. Along with sharing about the work happening in Pittsburgh, this session will explore research on ecosystems that are growing in Qatar and Uruguay.

Later in the day on March 6, the award-winning Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will present a panel titled “Anti-Ableist Tools for Inclusive Art & Maker Education.” The audience will learn about new tools that support educators in adapting hands-on art and making activities for learners with disabilities.

Additional Pittsburgh-connected events include “A Gamechanger: How Chess Might Just Save the World,” presented by Queens Gambit founder Ashley Priore. And all of Remake Learning’s current Moonshot Grant recipients are attending the conference to network with other innovators.

Stay tuned for more coverage of Pittsburgh educators’ experiences at SXSW EDU.