Doing Our Part to Keep Austin Weird at #SXSWedu

Posted on March 5, 2014


Night had fallen on Austin, and I could still hear the revelry off Congress Street, but a 5 a.m. airport shuttle pickup had me sitting in my Embassy suite, bonding with my MacBook Pro, as opposed to joining the festivities.

We had come, we had presented and, with any luck, we had contributed to the educational dialogue that was SXSWedu

It’s weird when you come to a place filled with smart people talking about smart things, and they invite you for a seat to the table. That was our privilege, as I joined three fellow Ohio Staters to present at the Austin, Texas, ed-tech conference that is SXSWedu.

The calm before the storm: awaiting our panel start time.

The calm before the storm: awaiting our panel start time.

Our topic of Reaching Online Learners: Being Smart Isn’t Enough.

Truth be told—and wonderfully so—conferences like these are only a fraction about presenting, and even more so about being presented to, bonding with and sharing together. The chance to be surrounded by so many smart people in a nurturing environment is priceless, and I was gifted by so many quality interactions.

Among my favorites were “10 Papers or 10,000 followers,” about encouraging higher ed to accept the development of online content for promotion and tenure by my new friend Warren Wiechmann at UC Irvine; “Remembering that one teacher,” and how to become that person for the future generation of learners; “Is Being Tech Savvy the New MBA,” which offered the chance to talk with William Ward of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.

The session were only a fraction of our interactions, though, as we hung out in the Google, Pearson and Social Media lounges, fiddling with the latest developments—Oppia anyone?—wandered through the SXSWedu Playground (mini weather balloon + GoPro = amazing science experiment).

Even more importantly, I got to better know some of Ohio State’s best at what they do—Jim Fowler from math, father of MOOCulus and math MOOC genius; Ben McCorkle who helped bring our English MOOC to life; Ashley Miller, our fearless coordinator and leader; Liv Gjestvang, who seems to inspire with every smile and insight; and Sam Craighead, conducting recon for the upcoming Innovate Conference (and my hero as finder of my missing iPhone).

Jim Fowler checks out the SXSWedu playground.

Jim Fowler checks out the SXSWedu playground.

Our hour went by far too quickly and, despite some hotel-induced technical challenges—was well received based on the numerous tweets and emails I subsequently received. A whole new crowd turned on by our Twitter attendance policy—who knew that would resonate son?!

That 5 a.m. pick up would get me back to Ohio State reality soon enough to join my office hours in progress, and gather with my Comm 2221 for much-anticipated work on our upcoming profile articles. Real life beckons, and after all my recent ed-tech travel, it is a welcome destination.

For even better than contributing is listening and absorbing all that educational dialogue. I can’t wait to put to use all we learned.

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