Secretary Of Education, Betsy Devos, Moderates A Panel At An Education Conference, With No Educators
The nibletz.com team is on the ground at South By Southwest EDU, the official kickoff to the south by southwest season. We were pleasantly reminded upon registration that this was our 6th year at the edtech festival and conference geared towards educators and innovation in education across the entire prek-20 spectrum.
Last year, at SXSWedu we were just a month into the Betsy Devos appointment. It was met far and wide, across the country with wide criticism as Devos had never had a role in public education before. At SXSWedu DeVos was the butt of much criticism starting with the opening keynote by Hip Hop education guru Christopher Emdin.
Many of the attendees last year, and the media, were wondering if the new education secretary would make an appearance at such a high profile event. Last year she did not.
This year mum was the word, in fact until just days ago nobody knew that DeVos would be in town for SXSWedu much less speaking and moderating a higher education panel called Rethink Higher Education. Her panelists included edX CEO Anant Agarwal, Whiteboard Advisors CEO & CoFounder Ben Wallerstein and SVP of Consumer Insights at Strada Education, David Clayton. Like DeVos, none of the panelists have ever been educators.
South By Southwest EDU is an education conference, it’s not really an edtech conference in the same vane as ISTE, FETC, CUE or TCEA are. DeVos referred to SXSWedu as an innovation conference when someone in the audience posed an anonymous question asking her why, in her opening remarks, did she placed entrepreneurs and innovators ahead of students and teachers.
“Well,” DeVos answered, “we are at an innovation conference, and I believe that teachers can and are innovators—and believe that we actually have to free up teachers to be able to be a lot more innovative in their own classrooms.”
It’s not surprising that the disconnect between the country’s educators manifest in the audience and across social media while DeVos was speaking. While there were no picketers or overtly loud hecklers the social media rage and anonymized questions brought the general sentiment of conference goers to light.
“Am I getting it right? Betsy Devos and her crew’s plan to improve Higher Ed is to take students out of it? Traditional degrees = bad and non-traditional = good?” Career educator and leader of Edublogs, Ronnie Burt said on Twitter.
Heather Williams, an edtech teacher in Ithaca New York summed it up with this tweet: