Behind the Buzzwords: Diving Deeper at SXSW EDU

Panels that highlight challenges and strategies shaping the Mendez turnaround plan

Behind the Buzzwords: Diving Deeper at SXSW EDU

If you're checking out SXSW EDU next week (Mon.-Thu., March 4-7, at the Convention Center), you can take a deeper dive into some of the educational concepts discussed in this story. Check out the following panels.


STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math – has been an education buzzword for years, and Mendez Middle School is not the only AISD school to focus its curriculum around the four subjects. The biggest keynote speaker at the EDU conference will be former Florida governor Jeb! Bush, in conversation with Washington Post education reporter Laura Meckler (Mon., 2pm). While the presentation is not explicitly focused on STEM, it will explore "disruptive policies" that could "transform today's classroom into tomorrow's ideal laboratory of learning." More buzzwords!

Two panels focus on explaining and reducing the gender gap in STEM fields. At "Seeds of Change: Gender, Leadership, & STEM" (Tue., 1pm), Sara Jordan-Bloch of the Stanford Women's Leadership Lab will discuss efforts her organization is taking to "understand and address the gender biases" that lead to fewer girls choosing STEM-focused education pathways early in their academic careers. Similarly, "STEMinist" (Wed., 5pm) will feature a conversation among representatives from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) exploring the "unintentional exclusionary curriculum" that they say has contributed to the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers.

School Discipline

Professional education's approach to discipline in and out of the classroom has shifted dramatically from past generations. In the interactive workshop "Culturally Responsive Educators" (Mon., 11am), Mandy Manning from CCSSO will lead participants in an examination of how "connections, compassion, empathy, and acceptance" can transform classroom management.

Also on Monday, two leaders of the youth advocacy organization Chicago Beyond will explore how trauma and stigma can impact a student's life at a panel titled "Arrested Development: Children, Trauma, & School" (Mon., 1pm). Liz Dozier and Nneka Tapia will share their approaches to working with students struggling with persistent behavior issues in some of Chicago's toughest schools. And NPR education reporter Anya Kamenetz will lead a conversation on the relationship between children and the devices that dominate their lives. "The Art of Discipline in the Age of Screens" (Wed., 5pm) will discuss "trauma-informed practices, instructional tools and successful interventions" best suited for working with children who present behavior challenges.

Problem-Based Learning

Also described as "project-based learning," this is another on-trend concept that both presents a different approach for teacher-student interactions and is key to the academic experiment underway at Mendez. "Closing the Gap: Implementing PBL in LD Classrooms" (Mon., 3pm) will feature speakers from the Houston-based Parish School, which serves students with special needs, exploring how the model works with special education learners, which account for about one in six Mendez students.

A workshop titled "Hands-On Approach to PBL in the Classroom" (Wed., 11am), led by engineers of the Arduino technology platform, will explore how to bring electronic components into practical classroom applications. And a panel the next day will explain how the physical space of a classroom can be engineered to make the PBL model more effective. Architect Danish Kurani and the leader of Google's Code Next initiative (not that one!), Mary Jo Madda, will discuss how school districts can design their facilities to be best suited for PBL classrooms (Thu., 11am).

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