Scanning the Horizon at SXSWedu 2022

The annual SXSWedu conference typically serves as the most innovative, fresh, and predictive venue for envisioning the future of the ed-tech marketplace. This year, the SXSWedu® Conference & Festival will be held in face-to-face format in Austin, Texas from March 7-10. This conference specializes in the future. What will the horizon look like? How will tomorrow be redesigned and hopefully be different from what we have today?

Using conference session analysis as a discovery methodology, the following ed-market trends appear dominate the intellectual landscape at this trailblazing conference:

DEI rules. Diversity-Equity-Inclusion is the big dog at SXSWedu this year with more than seventy-four conference sessions slated. This single topic dwarfs all other topics by an insurmountable gap. Previous years may have been overshadowed by such topics as computer science (this year amounting to only five to ten sessions), but DEI is the reigning topic for 2022.

Tired female student in glasses sitting at the table with laptop over white backgroundEducator fatigue is pervasive. The repeated waves of Covid-driven school closures and general disruption have been very hard on educators worldwide. Fatigue, and how to remedy educator fatigue, is a recurring theme at SXSWedu. Similarly, over fifteen sessions at SXSWedu are aimed at SEL or social-emotional learning challenges in schools. The emotional and mental health challenges that arrived with the pandemic are still top of mind. Educators appear largely demoralized.

Activism is alive. There has always been a noticeable activism streak at SXSWedu, but this year, driven by DEI priorities, activism is ubiquitous. In fact, there is so much activism at play in education these days, and so much Covid fatigue, that I predict teachers will soon manifest a backlash against distance learning, dehumanizing technology, and many activist ideals. They will close their doors to the world, and try to work quietly inside their own classrooms, just serving the children they love to care for. Can you blame them?

Humanizing is a rising star. Many conference sessions at SXSWedu seem to be aimed at dramatically humanizing educational and technology experiences. If your display technology can help humanize education—if you can put your finger on that alchemist’s formula—you may have an easier pathway to sales success in our post-pandemic schools and universities.

AR/VR/XR is… Since XR is a favorite topic at Display Daily, I would be remiss not to mention my observations in this arena. AR/VR/XR at SXSWedu, consistent with other educational conferences, remains on the declining side, with only eight sessions being offered. Many of those are focused entirely on student-created content. As I’ve stated in past articles, the Rona has really put the kibosh on virtual reality in educational circles. I hope that changes, but the unending reprise of SARS-CoV-2 variants is making things harder in that regard. – Len Scrogan