SXSWedu is as relentless as a Great Plains twister. It is a veritable force to be reckoned with, and this is my attempt to do just that, catching up after two straight days of non-stop thinking and doing.
Days one and two of SXSWedu each put one in the win column, but it was far from a shutout. I found myself both elated and disappointed in the sessions I attended on the first day of the event, however, I own my share of responsibility in choosing the sessions for which I needed growth. It’s difficult for a rookie to navigate the myriad choices in sessions, seeking opportunities that apply to his or her practice, whether that be in the classroom, district, or Ed Tech development space. But I learned a lesson groomed at other conferences which applies radically at SXSWedu: be ruthless in abandoning the wrong session. It may be the right session for others in the room, and may not actually be a bust, but there are so many other conversations occurring simultaneously, that 10 or 15 minutes lost on a session that turns out different from the description offered can quickly be salvaged a couple doors down in the convention hall. The impoliteness one makes in walking out of a session is quickly forgivable relative to thinking SXSWedu is more hype than it delivers.
See Eric’s Previous SXSWedu Post: A Newbie’s Hope For SXSWedu: More Connections, Less Navel-Gazing
The day one session that impressed me and my colleague was a panel touting the value of YouTube in the educator’s toolkit.["Meet the Educational Stars of YouTube"] panelists included Logan Smalley [TED-Ed], Meredith Walker [The Smart Girls with Amy Poehler], John Green [award-winning YA author, and creator of Crash Course]. Angela Lin of YouTube EDU moderated the conversation.
This vibrant conversation from YouTube whiz kids was useful to educators for one significant reason: we have a dysfunctional love/hate relationship with YouTube. YouTube is a distraction, it’s a bandwidth hog, it’s a legal liability of inappropriateness. In the classroom, it is also our salvation for when we really do believe showing is better than telling, a genius concept for storing and sharing our lessons, a brilliant repository of video supplements across all subjects, and the most important website available on the Internet.
The panelists have all experienced immense success in developing rich programs distributed through a YouTube channel, and their discussion was motivating that all teachers could and should follow suit, and that we should relinquish our prior attitudes and adopt a much more expansive perspective for YouTube in the classroom. Much like any tool that can be misused or abused, in the proper hands and application, positive outcomes are the result.
Day two yielded a very fascinating conversation from the panel of “A Lord, a Lady and a Deputy Walk into a…” We missed the opening salvo, but walked headlong into an admonition by Audrey Watters citing the abuse and negligence of Ed Tech companies who put their shoddy interfaces in front of both teachers and students, expecting quality results from their laziness. Lord Jim Knight delighted the audience here in the deep and dirty South with his golden, British baritone, while the DOE’s Richard Cuflatta brought back an angle of urgency from his chief, Arne Duncan. The conversation, moderated by Rod Berger cut through edu-speak and revealed issues that really mattered in the pursuit of popular “data-driven decision-making”. The panel was aligned in their call to action for reform to happen not only in policy but in the Ed Tech companies and their customers.
These days were both successful in their innovative, progressive conversations and allusions to reform that matters. Day three is lining up to be another action-packed day, full of both formal and informal opportunities to further the discussion.