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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Creativity shines at SXSW EDU

Gabrielle Caumon / Hilltop Views
SXSW EDU happened from March 4 – 7 at the Austin Convention Center.

People from all over the globe gather during March in the heart of Texas for the annual South by Southwest festival. This annual convention kicked off March 4 with the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival, held for only four days and setting the stage for the rest of the festival. 

Among all the technologies, innovations and networking, SXSW EDU did not forget to highlight the creative side of it. With panels, performances, workshops, installations and downtown walking tours to discover Austin through the eyes of locals: There was something for everybody.  

“We come to SXSW EDU because this is where all of the new and innovative ideas are coming out,” CEO of New York Edge Rachael Gazdick said. “I think it’s a great way to meet and talk to people about their creative process in any sort of core content area. It’s an opportunity to see what people are doing across the country, and I think there’s a lot of innovation and great minds that come to the SXSW conference.”

Many businesses and organizations were showcased at the SXSW EDU Expo, the main meeting point for attendees and exhibitors to connect and share their expertise. CEO of FutureMakers Matt Barinholtz owned one of the many stands. His company makes creative and practical materials to help educators engage their learners. 

“My goals and intentions? Spread more educator joy, so teachers stay teachers,” Barinholtz said. “We happen to be a company that makes playful learning materials, but we exist to spread educator joy.”

Barinholtz explains that knowledge begins with play and learning. 

“It is more hands-on, tinkering, exploring, inventing and learning science through invention,” Barinholtz said. 

For attendee Kenji Yoshino, this is his first time at SXSW EDU as an attendee. Founder and CEO of Infinite Scope, Yoshino created a portable microscope accessible through any phone screens. This is a tool that empowers students, pushing them to ask their own questions while making “learning” a group activity.

“I was trained as a scientist so when I published this I just thought it would be a microscope,” Yoshino said. “But quickly finding out that other people will just be using it for taking photos to get patterns, textures and colors that they would otherwise have never seen. We kind of silo information in a lot of the ways we traditionally teach. We don’t draw the connections between how art and science interplay or just the beautiful patterns that exist within science.”

The expo was not the only exhibit. One of the many art installations set up on the fourth floor of the Austin Convention Center on March 6 was called “Books Unbanned” and organized by the African American Policy Forum. According to Chief of Staff Shermena Nelson, their goal at SXSW EDU is to raise people’s awareness of the book’s censorship happening in America.

“We use the books, especially the book giveaways, as something really tangible that people can hold in their hands and really understand how critical this has become,” the African American Policy Forum Chief Of Staff Shermena Nelson said.

“Literature is art, right? I think most of us, especially in our early formative years, use literature as a way to see the world and is really a part of how you develop,” Nelson said. “Books are the best way to communicate our history but also to communicate our experiences. So it’s really important to have diverse and accurate literature in our schools that tells a full story of who we are.” 

To do so, the AAPF proposed a banned books giveaway, where attendees could pick between a wide range of choices.

“When you ban the ability to tell those stories, you’re banning our history,” Nelson said. “So, it’s really important for us to push back on this by giving those books out.” 

SXSW EDU was the place to be last week to share expertise with passionate people and dive into the latest innovations concerning education. From exhibitors, to speakers and attendees, everyone had something to contribute. 

“I just love that there is just a wide range of learning, mentoring and understanding going on,” Gazdick said. “I think that’s what makes SXSW EDU special.”

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About the Contributor
Gabrielle Caumon, Staff Writer
Gabrielle Caumon is a junior from Paris, France, who is pursuing a major in the BFA Acting program and a minor in Journalism. This is her second semester writing for Hilltop Views and her first as a Staff Writer. She loves writing for the Life & Arts section, and is excited to branch out and try out other genres.

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