By Greg Rosenbaum



New Year, New Themes Shaping SXSW EDU 2023

SXSW EDU 2023 Themes

Tackling what lies on the horizon requires setting intentions while grounding ourselves in the present. Each year the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival convenes a community eager to build understanding and seek solutions for the next generation of learners. As a team, we find this process of annual reflection and reinvention to be a unique opportunity to take stock of where we have been and where we are about to go.

Education, and learning more broadly, is an innately human experience driven by the community and all the stakeholders involved in an individual’s development. It has the power to shape future generations and is essential to society as a whole. The themes that follow serve as guiding principles for the convening and year ahead, not only from the perspective of the team dedicated to bringing SXSW EDU to life but also from the Advisory Board that helps shape the program each year.

Whether you seek inspiration, connection, or meaning, we hope the framing and context below resonates with you and helps illuminate what is driving you in your work. We share a dedication to continuous improvement and collective development that enables us to embrace this annual evolution and reflect it across the learning ecosystem we serve.

Explore the 2023 themes:


Every day, we come up against and conquer new challenges — some small and some large — and the past few years have certainly put that to the test. Yet, we continue to make it through with greater awareness and appreciation for the community around us and the incredible strides that we have made as individuals and together. So now is the time to be even more bold — bold in our ideas, bold in our approaches, and bold in our support for education and all of those impacted and involved going forward.

“Nothing like a global pandemic to inspire some bold ideas about how to use technology to keep our daily lives going! While there is understandably a strong desire to get “back to school,” I’d rather see the thoughtful conversations about the value of schools and education (and — perhaps most importantly — educators) we engaged in during the worst of it to propel us forward. Integrating some of the promising innovations in teaching and learning we experimented with during the pandemic is the bold, post-covid move we need in education right now.”

-Jessica Millstone
Managing Director,
Copper Wire Ventures


To be bold, we must also be willing to imagine. The world around us is constantly changing, and it is our openness to possibilities that will allow us to continue to dream up the most daring solutions to society’s challenges and better serve current and future generations. Whether it is the brainstorming session that leads to the next transformative innovation or the story that reflects a perspective that has remained too long in the shadows, join us in dreaming, exploring, and progressing our collective imagination of what it means to learn and teach.

“It is pivotal that students are instilled with an authority to IMAGINE a world that will benefit humankind. Our incredible advances in technology should not supersede our desire to foster original thought or the original thinkers of our time. I believe that the betterment of society stands firmly in our ability to IMAGINE a world infused with kindness, character, and principle. May we continue to advance the minds of our most precious learners.”

-Ja’nell Ajani
Curator & Educator,
The University of Texas at Austin


Our imaginations are much more expansive when exposed to the diverse thoughts and experiences that make up the societies we live in. Despite forces attempting to divide us, we are connected more than ever before. We have unprecedented access to concepts and practices that are developing across the globe, making it the perfect moment to build partnerships and coalitions that are unique, unexpected, and brimming with untapped potential.

“Forces coming together. Addition that may be a seedling for compounding interest. Expanding perspectives. The field of education is a profession and public service that is integral to our human experience.

Aside from parenting, formal education impacts every human more than any other influence we will experience. Or so it should. But for that to occur and stay impactful, influential...HEALTHY CONVERGENCE of supporting roles needs to occur on the regular. Students and teachers, of course, but also administrators, public officials and policymakers, those who've committed a business model to serving schools and districts in product and investment. And SXSW EDU is my choice space for witnessing such convergence occur.

For nearly a decade now, I have consistently returned most every march to be a part of this wonderful space knowing I will meet others to challenge or illuminate my thinking as an education professional. Though my career has led me from the classroom to consulting with many stops in between, SXSW EDU stays a constant source of converging energy and inspiration to keep me connected and contributing to our field.”

-Eric Nentrup
Chief Stoker,
Stoked for Learning


It is when we accept boldness fueled by imagination and imagination driven by convergence that we can evolve and climb even higher than we ever dreamed possible. As a community of lifelong learners, we continually put ourselves in the shoes of students, educators, caregivers, entrepreneurs, academics, and policymakers. This enables us to more authentically listen to what is happening around us, seek solutions, and demand new ideas and opportunities that will build bridges and further mold the education sector into the relevant and forward-looking environment it needs to be.

“To evolve means to adapt to circumstances in such a way that you are most able to thrive in the future; in terms of education, proper evolution must first take into account the current environment, for example the manner in which access to information has completely changed the nature of learning and the skills that must be mastered to be successful in society. Then, the system itself must adjust its fundamental characteristics, shedding its "vestigial organs," while simultaneously enhancing or improving upon its most essential characteristics, in order to remain relevant and provide students with the most essential future skills.

Specifically, practices like letter grades and traditional instructor-based learning must first be considered as potentially vestigial while simultaneously enhancing the most future-focused practices such as project- and place-based learning so that the field of education can not only remain relevant but thrive as the essential means by which citizens develop throughout the world."

-Martin Moran
Lead Designer & Director of Upper School,
Bennett Day School

Join Us at SXSW EDU 2023

Shape the future of learning and grow your impact this March 6-9 in Austin, Texas. Register to attend in-person and online.

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By Greg Rosenbaum