Get Out of the Way!


It might be a strange memento, but my SXSWedu nameplate has been sitting on my desk since the conference ended on March 6th. It serves as a reminder. A reminder of the things I learned this year and a reminder of the commitment I made to action with my original co-presenter, Greg Garner, and a room full of people tweeting to #sxmetacog.

I was inspired to scrap almost the entire structure of our presentation the night before, after taking part in the EdTechWomen dinner, an awesome event put on by the national organization and our local Austin chapter. Of course when I got into a room with such a diverse group of interests, passions, experiences, and perspectives, I wanted to remain in this Neverland forever. The conversations were powerful, indeed, and left me desiring another opportunity to learn, grow, and be pushed by the people who had traveled to Austin in search of something bigger than themselves. I left Uncle Julio’s that night determined to use our time the next morning to create and facilitate this type of experience.

Redoing a presentation the night before is not necessarily best practice or a habit to engrain, but in this case, the learning opportunity that emerged was worth far more than the missed sleep and frazzled nerves that accompanied a nascent presentation in front of lots of smarties.

I won’t go too deep into our content here, if you want to get the idea you can check out our Smore. But what is still making me smile a couple weeks later, is the authentic, collective conversation and connection that occurred amongst a random group of incredible people. It was as if they were just waiting for someone to pull the release valve, to be given permission to speak, share, and connect in an authentic way with those around them—that is… beyond the last five minutes at a solo microphone in the center of the room with all eyes staring at them #nooffenseifudidthat.

We knew we wanted to facilitate an active learning session, but what we did not know was how well this desire would mesh with the desires of those who showed up.

Learning alongside our peers, we experimented with Visible Thinking strategies, tweeted “headlines” representing our individual SXSWedu experiences, thought about what we want our students to be like and reflected on a shift in our thinking about what needs to take place in order for educational innovation to occur. And just when we thought we had pushed them to their cognitive capacity, (since it was day 3) we asked them to take one more step.

You see, I went into the conference remembering distinctly my inspiration after last year– I thought I could fly. Then reality set in and the day to day normalcies slowly ate away my inspiration. This year, with wild, sparkly eyes once more, I wanted to capture that energy and commit to doing something with it. I didn’t want to go it alone either. So, our last request was to connected with someone in the room who could help you and/or you could help them accomplish something to move innovation in education forward. Then they were asked to take a “selfie” with that person and Tweet out what they were going to do.

Maybe our kids are just waiting for someone to pull the release valve too….

Maybe they are waiting for us to get out of the way…

This is what happened when we got out of the way:

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So what about you? How are you going to encourage thinking and do something to move innovation in education forward? Tweet to #sxmetacog and let’s keep the momentum going!

SXSWedu: This is the Moment of Truth

By Tracy Clark

By Tracy Clark

The EduNerds are leaving and in their place music groupies, film aficionados, and gaming junkies descend upon Austin for the “other” SXSW events. The Jeffrey Tambor keynote and Pok-e-Jo’s BBQ may have signaled the end of SXSWedu 2014, but hopefully the learning, connecting, and action is just getting started.  According to executive producer, Ron Reed,  “SXSWedu provides a powerful platform to drive meaningful change and constructive, actionable outcomes.” I know… sounds pretty nice, but here’s the question I want to keep asking:  What will it take to see this change?
SXSWedu may set the stage, but we still have to perform the show. A conference can provide a platform and opportunities to connect, maybe even develop a sort of culture, but ultimately we are responsible for how we engage in learning opportunities both during and beyond the conference dates. We choose what to make of the conference and what the conferences makes of us.
By Amy Burvall

By Amy Burvall

 Inspire & Be Inspired

Classroom teachers, entrepreneurs, investors, professors, thought leaders, students, and non-profit organizers from across the world gather in one place for four unique days of conversations, connections, and growth. People come to inspire and be inspired. Beyond the planned events, in the nooks and crannies of a jam packed schedule, the informal learning takes place.

I was reminded that good stuff happens during these “in-between” moments as I reflected on my own:
  • Conversations with friends both new and old, huddled by coveted outlets, on the top floor of the Hilton
  • A 15 minute hallway interview with Vladmir, a Russian edtech writer, prompted by the EduSocial profile
  • Learning from an incredible table of women, in preparation for the ETW lightning talks
  • Pushing the mindset of an entrepreneur looking for an educational viewpoint
  • Playing with the Paper app with Amy Burvall (definitely one of my new favorite people) during my #sxmetacog session (while I was implementing wait time for responses)
  • Carrying on conversations via Voxer with my extended PLN (most of whom were not at the conference) discussing the networked lives of teens
When everyone is willing to take a moment and talk about things that matter, a culture of thinking develops. And it is this collective cognition that makes the event so powerful.
By Tracy Clark

By Tracy Clark

 Moment of Truth

Ok so…
  • Mountain top high conference experience…check
  • Learned a lot…check….
  • Met a lot of incredible people….check, check!
But I want to talk about the moment of truth (insert inspirational trumpet music here). That moment when we all part ways.  When we get in the car (or on a plane or other mode of transportation) and go home, reflecting on what just happened. In that moment will we say, “that was really cool I can’t wait to see all those folks next year.” Or will we choose to solidify connections, commit to action… and then actually do it.
This is the moment to stop talking and start doing. Don’t let innovation die at the steps of the Hilton and Austin Convention Center. Don’t leave the change you want to see lying in your suitcase. Don’t disconnect from the connections you made. It was scary and akward to talk to that person in the first place.  Use the momentum of your active mind and your active connections to pursue innovation in education. We can’t keep talking without action. Our kids are way too important to leave change in the hotel lobby.


 What Now?

Here’s the thing, change is not going to be easy.  In order to get something done, to shift a culture, or to create lasting impact, it is not going to be one phone call, one tweet, one lesson. Most likely change will be more like the “20 mile march” Jim Collins writes about. It is going to be setting flags (performance indicators/mini-goals) along the way to make sure you don’t stray of course. It is going to be getting told “no” several, or several hundred times, before “yes”. It may be failing. But change is worth it and our kids are worth it. SXSWedu brings together pockets of innovation. But will we leave the conversations in Austin or follow through, creating connected and tangible innovation and impacting the future of learning?
SXSWedu self labels as a “catalyst for change in education”. Instead of complaining about where that fails to be true, why don’t we just go out from this conference and make it true.