SXSWEdu Reflections Part II

Creating Session Boards EdCampATX

Photo by Stephanie Cerda 

Check out Part I of SXSWEdu Reflections here

The A in STEAM

I started out volunteering at the EdCampATX session. In other words, since I wasn’t presenting this year I needed to feel valued and productive, so I asked Stephanie and Adam if I could be of service. They directed me towards the session boards. Yess!!!

There is a sort of odd intellectual stimulation that comes from creating the EdCamp session boards. I love the craft of making connections from the seemingly disparate ideas on little stickies and coming up with titles that encompass the ideas with as much authenticity as possible. I get great pleasure from deciphering handwriting and acronyms I don’t know. I love trying to find a home for every single sticky in hopes that every idea can be discussed, valued, and heard. Adding to my delight, Moss Pike, jumped in on the fun as we sorted, rearranged, debated, and ultimately settled upon the sessions that would make up the next couple hours of discussion.

One of the categories which Adam Holman aptly named, The A in STEAM, brought together creative minds interested in everything from creativity in the classroom, to teaching educators the art of improv. This was one of my favorite conversations of the conference, not only because it resulted in some impromptu collaborative sketchnoting, but also because by the end of the conference some of these folks had become legitimate friends and thought partners (more on that later).

A in STEAM Discussion at EdCampATX session

Photo by Stephanie Cerda

I am also glad I shared about how sketchnoting was impacting my thinking which opened up some discussion about why and how it could have a place in the classroom. Then Chris Davis asked if he could interview me and share my sketchnote book right there at our EdCamp session table as the second session began. With no question prep? My lizard brain wanted to say no, but I am glad I didn’t. He made my stream of consciousness comments and messy sketchnotes into a beautiful little glimpse of the conversation that happened that day around the table.

EdTechWomen Networking Mixer

EdTechWomen SXSWEdu Mixer

Still working on the whole needing to feel valued and productive, I sped-walked over to the Capital Factory to help the EdTechWomen folks (Sehreen & Margaret) with set up and check in for the 100 women (and one brave man) who would descend upon the Capital Factory kitchen for a facilitated networking experience.

It was here, amongst this group of incredible women doing all sorts of extraordinary things, that I had conflicting emotions again. On the one hand it was hard to discuss the messy parts of my startup journey and not feel some sense of loss and failure around the experience. On the other hand, the very lessons I learned (and continue to learn) from that journey were valuable in several conversations with women who were where I was last year, in the middle of making decisions that could chart the course of their entrepreneurial journey.

I reflected back on my decision to listen and learn and added a verb–to share. I chose to share the behind the scenes experiences when I thought it my be helpful for others. I chose to say hey why don’t we all stop pretending like we have it all together and share the mess, so others might not have to go through that same thing. Let’s share the mess, so our successes don’t seem unattainable. Let’s share the mess, so we don’t have to clean it up and put ourselves back together alone.

I said some sort of rant like this at the event, women’s heads nodded in response–either from agreement or group think.

Visual Literacy Bootcamp

Visual Literacy Bootcamp SXSWEdu 

I have a confession on this one. I am a Brad Ovenell-Carter fan girl. I follow Brad on Twitter, Instagram, Paper-Mix, and simply can’t get enough of his ideas, sketchnotes, and the work he does with students. My digital sketchnotes have been greatly influenced by his style and Paper tips and he has pushed my thinking regarding the possibilities for sketchnotes and other visual mediums for student learning opportunities. Needless to say I was pretty pumped about attending his session and meeting him face to face.

The session went even beyond my expectations though, as I got to explore not only digital sketchnotes with Brad, but also photography with Julia Leong and videography with John Woody.

Each chunk had meaningful examples and wrapped up with hands on activities that got everyone involved with experimentation and creation. I tried to get rid of my internal editor, Brad, but I didn’t get my sketchnotes posted until after the session was over.

Sketchnotes Visual Literacy Bootcamp SXSWEdu

 Exploring at the Visual Literacy BootCamp SXSWEdu

Oh and remember my friends from the table at EdCampATX? A bunch of them were at the front table with me during the Visual Literacy Bootcamp….so we headed down to the hotel lounge area and continued the discussion. Sharing sketchnotebooks, drawing stylus’, iPad screens, ideas, and with my kindred spirit, even some relationship advice. 

Intentional Authenticity

I think if I could sum up what made SXSWEdu this year a valuable experience for me. It was my choice to be intentionally authentic in every opportunity possible. I listened, and learned, and shared–even when it didn’t do anything to progress anything I was working on and even when it didn’t make me necessarily look “successful” or whatever other perceptions of myself I was most convinced needed to be upheld. And in that place, with my guard down, and devoid of pretense, I was free to actively listen, deeply engage in learning, and humbly share.

I choose to keep learning

SXSWEDU Reflections Part I: When Your Horse Goes Out to Pasture…

Jessica Ross & Edward Clapp, @AgencybyDesign, presenting on Exploring Environments for Maker-Centered Learning

Jessica Ross & Edward Clapp, @AgencybyDesign, presenting on Exploring Environments for Maker-Centered Learning

SXSWEdu is always a whirlwind and this post sums that constant feeling of FOMO I had no matter what decision I made on how to spend my time. FOMO aside, the thing that makes SXSWEdu powerful is the people. There will forever be a debate if there is the right balance of educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, government folks, nonprofits, and students involved in SXSWEdu. My take on this is that we can always use more educator and student voices at these events, not to mention an authentic increase in diversity of all sorts. But of the educational type conferences I get involved with, it is that mashup of folks from the classroom, startup, government, non-profit, and research lab that, when given the space and time, can challenge perceptions, extend thinking, and even change perspectives–if we let them.


Vantage Points
This year, on the heels of a challenging decision to walk away from a startup I was involved in for the last three years, SXSWEdu was pretty hard. I struggled to find my tribe and get my bearings on where I was headed and what my purpose was. I had no less passion to make positive changes in the education space, but the power-horse through which I had imagined I would make those changes was headed out to pasture. I am sure these feelings weren’t lessened by the prevalence of hip, young startups with wild eyes to make their mark in education and my obsession with events in the Capital Factory space.

 

Kristie sitting in the chair we made from cardboard, brads, and nails in 20 minutes in the maker session.

Kristie sitting in the chair we made from cardboard, brads, and nails in 20 minutes in the maker session.

Early on during the first day of the conference I made a decision. I would focus on listening and learning. I would engage with those sharing ideas that challenged or extended my thinking, not just those who I knew or who would likely think like I did. I would leave margin to have conversations in the hallway, on rooftop dining establishments, and approach folks I wanted to meet. I had no ulterior motive, I had no intention of creating a company partnership or getting a new customer or getting feedback on my MVP. I would simply focus on taking the good, the vision, the deep desire for positive impact and see where it might take me.

The series of reflections that follow are a little piece of what happened after making this choice…