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Engaging Parents: Talking Circles and Twitter in Schools

When you think of the annual SxSW festival, what images come to mind? If you’re like a lot of people my age, you probably envision a pulsing sweaty mess of concertgoers bum rushing pop-up stages to catch the next big thing in music.

The annual festival has sprouted several spin-offs in recent years. When thousands descend on Austin, TX next week, art won’t be the inspiration du jour—education will.

Monday kicks off SxSW EDU (#SxSWedu), a conference and festival devoted to teaching and learning. Thousands of educators, administrators, policy-makers, and thought leaders from around the world will attend this year’s event to share ideas and insights about the future of schools.

For a sneak-peek at this year’s festival, check out this video:

This year’s list of events and sessions is rich and varied—so is the list of keynote speakers. Author and educator Temple Grandin will help educators parse the nuances of individual learning styles, while tech entrepreneur Ayah Bdeir will piece together the potential of the growing maker movement in schools. Want to peek into your future? Game designer and big thinker Jane McGonigal plans to reveal her vision for what classrooms will look like in 10 years.

Attendees have their pick of over 500 sessions, with topics ranging from ed-tech marketing to personalized learning to mastering social media to the importance of STEAM education.

How do I choose?
That’s a good question. Below, we’ve picked four sessions to put on your calendar. Each homes in on one of our favorite topics: community engagement.

The Power of Student Voice in Today’s Classroom
Monday, March 7: 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center Room 16AB

2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples talks about the role students play in helping teachers innovate new lessons. She’ll discuss her approach with two former students. Attendees will walk away with new strategies to better engage students and include them in important education decisions.

Mentor Session: Eric Sheninger
Monday, March 7: 3:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center Room 11AB

A former award-winning school principal, Eric Sheninger is now a Senior Fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). Sheninger is a powerful advocate for more authentic engagement with students, parents, and teachers. He’ll advise school leaders how to advance their “brands” through leadership, engagement, and stronger customer service.

Sheninger has a heady following on social media. If you’re not following him, you should: @E_Sheninger.

10 Lessons Teachers Can Learn from Marketers
Tuesday, March 8: 4:20 p.m.–4:35 p.m.
Austin Convention Center Room 15

Marketing expert Stephan Bayer wants to help teachers engage their students—in the same way that marketers engage customers. Use these ideas to engage students and increase parent and community involvement in your schools.

The Future of the Local Public School
Wednesday, March 9: 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
Hilton Austin Downtown Room 400-402

Listen as four prominent school reform leaders discuss the consequences of competition in America’s public schools.

If you’re attending the conference, let us know what you’ve learned in these and other sessions in the comments and via social media (@K12insight).

If you can’t make it to Austin this year, be sure to follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #SXSWedu.