Professional Development · SXSWedu

SXSWedu Day 2 Recap!

imagePhew! I am in desperate need of a device break right now, but first I want to get some thoughts about SXSWedu Day Two down on paper (er…Gorilla Glass?) while they are fresh. Without further ado, here’s some musings about the awesomeness that is South By Southwest Education in Austin, TX.

1. Those in the know call the festival, “South By.” No more. So if you want some instant Austin cred, only say “South By.”

2. I was speaking to a teacher saying that her colleague chose not to come to SXSW. I’ll say again, she TURNED DOWN a trip to a super innovative EDU conference. I don’t get it. Does she not like connecting at bleeding-edge conferences AND the opportunity to eat amazing breakfast tacos? I’m lost here.

3. One of my favorite sessions was called “Surviving the Digital Zombie Apocalypse” by Carl Hooker. Carl even DRESSED like a zombie for his presentation. I am a huge sucker for presentations that are funny and relevant, and especially for people that don’t take themselves that seriously. So anyone that will wear zombie makeup AND give an awesome presentation is okay in my book.


Carl’s presentation revolved around technology being inevitable and invisible in society, and thus that’s how it should be in our classrooms. It’s unavoidable, so accept it. But how do we harness its power? My takeaway: treat technology in the classroom like we do in our everyday lives. Share pictures and information, look up stuff, and answer questions you have. And if you’re worried about students (and yourself) becoming a digital zombie? Take a tech-break. No biggie. One district I visited called it “Apples Up” – meaning, turn your iPad upside down…it’s time to listen and, perhaps, reflect.

Another takeaway: we need to meet students at the mediums they use. And you know what? Kids don’t use email. Not unless we make them. So leverage what they do use, and keep it relevant. Which leads to…

4. Alberto Carvalho’s presentation on Convergence: Creating a Culture of Learning. Alberto is the Superintendent (or Super Nintendo, as Ralph Wiggum would say) of Miami-Dade county. He was one of my very first Twitter follows a while ago, and I was super geeked out to meet him. So much so that I took a selfie with him afterwards. I have no shame:


One of Alberto’s main points was talking to students and determining their needs. Besides being a super, Alberto is also a principal AND teacher – he finds it extremely important to “lead from the front” – and to me, that’s really powerful. One of Alberto’s biggest surprises was that his students didn’t want just a tablet, they wanted a hybrid device. So Miami-Dade is rolling out tablets with keyboards – he didn’t say which one, but I’m guessing it’s the Windows tablet. But it was this “lead from the front” and meeting students at their level which helped make this decision easier and much more authentic. But overall, device is the LAST question to consider – digital content, curriculum, PD and infrastructure (bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth!) are so much more important.

My favorite quote: “Students no longer flip through textbooks – they expect education to be available 24/7.” Awesome stuff – ubiquitous learning right there.

5. One of my colleagues wanted me to find an alternative to Glogster, and I think I may have found one: it’s called Buncee. And besides looking like a cool product (it’s more presentation software than a “poster”), the Buncee team were cool to talk to. I also got some sweet swag! Thanks, Buncee! I’m looking forward to exploring this further and sharing it with my colleagues.

It took me a few minutes to figure out how to take a picture of my phone.
It took me a few minutes to figure out how to take a picture of my phone.

Final thoughts: Alberto’s “Lead from the front” philosophy really struck a chord with me. It’s so important to have innovative leaders in education, ones that model and practice the same principles we want to see in our teachers and students. Teachers are much more apt to buy-in to a digital rollout if the ones leading the charge are right there with them. Also important? Transparency. Be open and honest, and if some things don’t work, that’s fine. No biggie. Such is life – but if we are open and transparent, it encourages teachers and students to do the same in their learning. But the ones leading the charge need to be consistently sharing and communicating – because that’s what we want our students to do in education.


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