Cross one big name off the SXSW bucket list: Bill Gates will serve as the keynote speaker for SXSWedu 2013.
Billionaire entrepreneur Gates will provide the closing day keynote at 10:30am on Thursday, March 7. In this morning's announcement, SXSWedu executive producer Ron Reed said, "Gates’ background as a global business executive and leading philanthropist gives him a unique vantage point into education, one we know will be eagerly received by SXSWedu attendees."
The founder of Microsoft, for the last decade Gates has been deeply involved in global philanthropy as co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In recent years, the foundation's work in the US has concentrated on schools. While Gates has undoubtedly become a pivotal figure in the education debate, his foundation has established a controversial and divisive reputation as the bank roll for the education reform movement, and its push for charter schools and a punitive accountability system for public schools.
Last year, the education-centered arm of the SX brand was heavily criticized and, ultimately, picketed by education advocates furious at the selection of Pearson Interactive CEO Marjorie Scardino as one of the keynotes. While critics will see Gates as very much in the same mold as Scardino, Reed has already promised that this year's lineup will be more balanced, giving more of a voice to educators and students. To that end, they have already added 2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki and 17 year old education advocate and author Nikhil Goyal to their list of distinguished speakers.
Gates will not be alone on the technology and innovation front. Also on the distinguished speaker list: PBS KIDS Interactive vice-president Sara DeWitt; Make magazine founding ediror Dale Dougherty; And Google senior education evangelist Jaime Casap.
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