Wow, what a week it has been! We're back at the TGR Learning Lab in Anaheim, California, after four exciting days at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas. While we're dealing with some very real brisket taco withdrawal symptoms, we've come back home fueled with fresh ideas and a whole lot of hope for the future of education. 

The seventh annual SXSWedu conference was attended by more than 12,000 passionate educators, innovators and like-minded organizations looking to make a real and lasting difference in education and the lives of students. From panels and workshops focused on a wide range of topics -- from educational equity to micro-credentials to placed-based learning -- SXSWedu had something to offer people in all facets of the industry. 

In one of the week's most inspiring and provocative keynotes, Dr. Christopher Emdin, author of New York Times bestseller, "For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood..and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education," kicked off SXSWedu by challenging conference attendees to not "tech away" the problems facing underrepresented students. "No more, will you allow our brilliance to feel insignificant," said Emdin. "We got it from here... thanks for your service."

You can watch Emdin's stirring keynote address here:

While panels dove head-on into the very real concerns plaguing K-12 and higher ed, the Playground Hands On space, hosted by Oracle, allowed attendees to engage in interactive projects. From experiencing coding curriculum via virtual reality to building your very own museum in a box, the Playground portion of the exhibit hall brought out the inquisitive learner in all of us.  

With the spirit of the music festival that bares its name, SXSWedu exuded a playful yet passionate energy that was truly invigorating. With posts and pillars wrapped in cling wrap throughout the Austin Convention Center and the city alike, attendees were encouraged to leave their mark throughout the conference and on the streets. With our own form of guerrilla marketing, TWF followed suit, promoting our VP of Programs and Education Dr. Kathy Bihr's SXSWedu workshop as well as leaving TWF's imprint wherever we could. 

Last, but certainly not least, SXSWedu served as a platform for TWF to share the work we do with a wider audience. Dr. Bihr spoke to SXSWedu attendees about how we're working toward bringing quality STEM education to every child -- about how we need to say YES to kids instead of no. During Bihr's Future20 session, the room was engaged in a candid conversation about the future of STEM education in both the traditional school setting and the after-school space. The session took a deep dive into both the theoretical and practical strategies TWF uses to empower students from underserved communities.   

Without a doubt, there is so much work to be done to drastically improve the state of public education, to make it an even playing field for every single child. But what's clear is that there is a dedicated army of educators, thought leaders and innovators forging ahead to make real, lasting change. 

Cheers to a wonderful, first foray at SXSWedu! Until next year, Austin! 

Champions of the unexpected.