Conferences & Events

SXSW EDU Unveils First Half of Lineup for 2023; Emphases Include Diversity, Equity, Student Agency, Teacher Retention

SXSW EDU has unveiled nearly half of the lineup for the 2023 event scheduled for March 6–9, 2023, in Austin.

The annual festival and conference announced 187 sessions and events, which were selected from through the PanelPicker voting process, featuring topics considered the most pressing in education, the organization said in a news release. More than 1,200 proposals were submitted for SXSW EDU sessions.

“The first round of selections was identified for their unique take on the always-evolving 11 programming tracks offered at the conference … and highlights an increase of content supporting indigenous voices, student agency, gamification, teacher retention, and more,” SXSW EDU said. “We see that reflected in the tracks, with the majority of sessions in Practice & Pedagogy and Equity & Justice, followed closely by Work Reimagined, Community Initiatives, and Arts & Storytelling. These overarching subjects will be explored in various formats, from podcast conversations and speaker-led networking events to short solo presentations and in-depth workshops.

Tracks For SXSW EDU 2023

  • Accessibility & Inclusion: Exploring initiatives and programs that focus on special education, learning differences, and disabilities across the learning lifecycle including instructional strategies, assistive technology, universal design, and more
  • Arts & Storytelling: Exploring arts-based pedagogies and creative practices including the performing and visual arts, arts integration, and the intersection of STEM and STEAM as well as narrative and world-building approaches for teaching and learning
  • Community Initiatives: Programs and projects focused on empowering and connecting communities in and out of the classroom by highlighting partnerships and work organized by community spaces and groups including libraries, museums, makerspaces, community centers, after-school and summer programs, and more
  • Emerging Tech: Exploring development and implementation in educational technology including virtual tools, artificial intelligence, XR, blockchain data interoperability, as well as issues surrounding equitable access to technology and future-forward solutions
  • Equity & Justice: Addressing work championing equity, justice, access, diversity, and inclusion in education and beyond, including social and economic disparities, culturally responsive teaching, anti-racism practice, LGBTQ+ issues, restorative justice and more to ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all
  • Global Initiatives: Programs and initiatives exploring the importance of global collaboration in education and beyond including international instructional approaches and business ventures, language acquisition and ESL/ELL instruction, program implementation across borders, global partnerships, cross-cultural initiatives, and more
  • Health & Wellbeing: Furthering social emotional learning and whole-child education including initiatives addressing mental and physical wellness, trauma-informed practices, and health education with a focus on mental health initiatives and comprehensive wellbeing for educators, students, and families
  • Policy & Civic Engagement: Addressing education policy issues across local, regional, national, and international governance including funding assessment standards, student data use and privacy, school safety, and digital policies, as well as economic development, advocacy and activism, and government partnerships
  • Practice & Pedagogy: Content focused on instruction and pedagogy across the entire learning lifecycle with a focus on solution-oriented strategies, innovative teaching, and institutional transformation, with topics including instructional best practices for all educational levels and evolving curricula, leadership practice, and groundbreaking insights
  • Startups & Investment: Content focused on the business of education with a focus on entrepreneurship and startups, with topics including investment and funding, marketing and branding strategies, corporate initiatives and partnerships, market trends and analysis, and business adaptability
  • Work Reimagined: Programs and new approaches to upskilling, corporate learning, and talent development, including workforce revitalization and training, and career transitions, as well as initiatives for mature learners and non-traditional students

Featured Sessions & Speakers Announced Thus Far

Several "featured sessions" and the speakers for each were also announced, centering on several themes:

Athletes Advancing Education

  • Kristi Yamaguchi, 1992 U.S. Olympic champion in figure skating and founder of Always Dream, a nonprofit “dedicated to closing the achievement gap by providing access to high-quality books in the home environment and extensive family engagement support to underserved children.”
  • Arik Armstead, NFL defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers and founder of the Armstead Academic Project, which “advocates for educational equity for all students, no matter their socioeconomic status.”
  • Aila Malik, nonprofit executive and founder of Venture Leadership Consulting, which partners with nonprofit organizations to “drive performance and scale solutions that close systemic gaps of inequity.”

Drag Story Hour: Fight For Queer Herstories

  • Beatrice Thomas, board president at Drag Story Hour and director of Authentic Arts & Media, is a national multi-disciplinary artist, cultural strategist, and creative producer. Thomas' focus is on uplifting and centering queer, transgender, and POC voices, with special attention to creating queer-inclusive family programming. Thomas’ work has been featured at deYoung Museum, SF PRIDE Mainstage, CounterPulse, SomArts Cultural Center and KALW Radio, and has shown in galleries across the United States.
  • Lil Miss Hot Mess, board treasurer at Drag Story Hour, has appeared on the stages of SFMOMA, Stanford University, and Saturday Night Live, as well as many legendary clubs. A storyteller at heart, her performances are full of political satire and technology; Lil Miss Hot Mess has hosted readings for the Brooklyn Museum, ICA LA, RuPaul’s Drag Con, Vice Media, HBO, WNET’s Let’s Learn, and numerous libraries, schools, and community groups coast-to-coast.
  • Jonathan Hamilt, executive director of Drag Story Hour and co-founder of the NYC Chapter, has spoken at the American Library Association, Public Library Association, School Library Journal, and SXSW EDU. His drag persona, Ona Louise, offers affirming and accepting programming for kids that teaches it is “more than okay to be different and they are loved no matter what.”

How New Attention to R&D Will Transform Learning

  • Joanna Cannon, senior program director at the Walton Family Foundation, works on the K–12 education grant-making team. Previously, Cannon served as chief operating officer for education nonprofit PENCIL and as the chief strategic officer for the Division of Talent, Labor and Innovation at the NYC Department of Education. She holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Columbia University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago.
  • Kumar Garg, vice president of partnerships at Schmidt Futures, served in several roles in the Obama Administration, shaping science and technology policy and leading the administration’s efforts to bolster STEM education. Previously, he worked for educational reform as a lawyer and advocate. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a law degree from Yale Law School.
  • Pamela Cantor, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, author, and thought leader on human potential, the science of learning and development, and educational equity. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, she founded Turnaround for Children, which “translates scientific insights into tools and services that help educators establish the conditions for all students to thrive.” She authored two books published in 2021, Whole-Child Development, Learning and Thriving: A Dynamic Systems Approach and The Science of Learning and Development, and she is a featured contributor to Edutopia’s How Learning Happens series, which has been viewed more than 15 million times. Cantor is a governing partner of the Science of Learning and Development Alliance, a member of the Brookings Institution's Task Force on Next Generation Community Schools, and sits on the Learning 2025 Commission of the American Association of School Superintendents. She holds an M.D. from Cornell University, a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and was a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
  • Roberto J. Rodríguez is assistant secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Dept. of Education, where he leads the development and review of ED’s budget and advises on policy development, implementation, and review. Previously, Rodríguez served as president and CEO of Teach Plus, where he “built an equity-driven teacher leadership movement that engaged thousands of teachers to shape public policy and instructional practice to deliver greater opportunity for students,” SXSW EDU said. Rodríguez holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Sampling of Other Sessions Announced

Session highlights, verbatim from SXSW EDU’s announcement, include:

  • Serving Adult Learners, An Equity Imperative: This talk gathers higher education presidents to discuss how colleges are working to reorient themselves around the needs of a generation of adult learners diverse in age, race, income, and professional needs than any in history. They will cover the practical, financial, social justice, and equity imperatives of such initiatives.
  • The Tuition-Free Online University of the Future: Through this solo conversation, Shai Reshef shares the reasons that led him to create the first non-profit, tuition-free, American, accredited, and online university, including the growing international demand for higher education opportunities.
  • Diversifying America’s Teacher Pipeline: The students sitting in America's classrooms are predominantly black and brown, but 80% of teachers are white females. This gap is further widened when we fail to support teachers of color, who are now leaving the classroom at alarming rates. In this solo presentation, audiences will learn about efforts to reverse this troubling trend.
  • No BS: Bringing Humanities Degrees to Space: Tech and innovation companies are eager for talent without STEM degrees and backgrounds. Join experts from the biggest aerospace companies as they highlight the value of bringing the humanities to space and the critical role the thousands of non-engineers hold in fulfilling their missions to go higher, faster, and farther.
  • Building Literacy Access for Black Boys: In the U.S., more than 82% of 4th-grade Black boys are not proficient in reading despite clear research indicating early literacy difficulty can predict future academic success, physical and mental health, and the likelihood of imprisonment. This panel will explore the intersection of factors that influence reading development, and how increased access to culturally-relevant content can improve lifelong learning and success.
  • Designing Inclusive Playful Learning Experiences: Learning through play is a natural way to design more inclusive experiences and allow neurodivergent students to engage in and demonstrate learning in their own unique ways. In this session, members of the LEGO Foundation's Play for All cohort analyze the principles of Universal Design for Learning and which tools for digital play are inclusive and for whom.
  • School Roleplaying: Table-Top Roleplaying Games as Learning Tools: Tabletop role-playing games have the potential to level up learning through deep thinking, teamwork, and academic engagement, no matter the age or subject. Join a panel of teachers and creators using tabletop games to create meaningful classroom experiences and learn how you can integrate them into your classroom.

Tickets to SXSW EDU are available now at and currently cost $545 for an all-event pass; the walk-up price will be $695, SXSW EDU said.

Learn more about the event at