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.

EdTech Women EduWins Group

Nurturing Authentic Voices

EdTechWomen Austin Planning Session & Pizza

When our EdTechWomen Austin chapter organizers sat down (and by sat down I mean opened our Google Hangout Chat window) to discuss plans for an event at TCEA we all aligned on one point. We wanted to provide opportunities to raise up authentic voices of females and their supporters. We hoped to provide a safe, laid-back environment for women to come together and share the ways they were trying to innovate, ideas they had, their EduWins, and the lessons they were learning along the way.

EdTech Women EduWins Group

Part by design and part by necessity we kept it really simple and each speaker shared a little glimpse into what was going on in their world:

  1. Emily Weerts used the time to practice her pitch deck for Nucleus Learning Network, an organization she co-founded which is focused on connecting, educators, learners and mentors by facilitating sustainable partnerships that will result in high-quality educational experiences. She shared about the ways in which the Nucleus Network is coordinating Affinity Groups where people working on similar issues can connect to enhance cooperation in order to develop and achieve shared goals. The Nucleus Network is also coordinating the Maker Education Village this year at the Austin Mini Maker Faire.Students Working Ann Richards School
  2. Kat Sauter & Ana Jo shared about their journey to develop a MakerSpace at the Ann Richards School and the lessons they learned along the way. They shared how the space is already impacting student learning and providing opportunities for innovative experiences. We especially loved this picture of girls working with power tools to create. For others interested in creating a MakerSpace, their advice was to start by identifying the current resources such as: space, funding, and experts. You can learn more about their innovative space and projects on these two sites: www.arsdesignlab.com & www.projectventura.wordpress.comChallenging Perceptions in STEAM
  3. Jennifer Flood shared about her brainchild event Challenging Perceptions which was initiated last spring to do just that, challenge the perceptions young girls had about the STEAM fields and opportunities through hands on activities, conversations with mentors, and facilitated reflection. The event took place in Bastrop in hopes of providing opportunities for girls on the East Side of Austin to participate, an area Flood feels is often underserved. EdTechWomen Austin plans to support the event again this year and is looking for volunteers and mentors to help make the day a success. Sign up to help here! SXSWEdu even did a piece about last year’s event.
  4. Marcia Hensley: discussed some of the creative possibilities when webtools and extensions are combined in the classroom in her presentation Combined Creativity. Marcia asked the group to talk about how their students create unique learning artifacts with various tools and shared about the power of infographics to encourage student thinking and demonstrate information in a new way.Young Women Who Code
  5. Janet Couvillion: Janet’s energy and passion for her new organization Young Women Who Code was contagious. The organization is committed to providing opportunities for young women, aged 5-12, to learn the fundamentals of computer science. Young Women will experience various plugged and unplugged coding exercises, in addition to having access to a mobile maker space. Janet shared about her journey into the world of technology and her heart for encouraging young women to explore the possibilities of creation with code.
  6. Cori Coburn: I am pretty sure Cori inspired everyone with her talk “On the Move”. She shared about her reignited passion to learn and grow and how this mindset has transformed her life and career. She even received her most recent job opportunity via Twitter! Her advice to the rest of us? Remember your roots and why you do what you do. Establish relationships. Be connected. Jump at opportunities to improve yourself. She is a true embodiment of someone who takes her own advice and I could listen to her stories all day.Heather Russell STEAM night
  7. Heather Russell: motivated others to take the plunge and host a STEAM Night. Heather gave us some ideas and tips from her experience of planning and hosting a STEAM night in her district. She shared stories of parents and students playing and learning together as they explored different materials, activities, and concepts. Her stories and advice definitely had brains marinating on the possibilities back in our own districts and communities.
  8. Karla Koop: shared how she is retiring from her many years in public education in order to pursue her vision to take Maker Spaces to the masses. Her new company, MaKr U will provide MakerCamp opportunities for all ages including DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. They will provide equipment such as 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies in the experience.
  9. Christy Fennewald: shared about the incredible group of students she works with in her Girls Who Code club. These girls constantly blow Christy’s mind with their desire to innovate, create, organize themselves, and make a difference. You can see more at the Westwood Girls Who Code club site. The girls are currently seeking more female instructors and speakers in the industry. Contact Christy if you’re interested.ACC Space
  10. Stacey Guney: shared how the Austin Community College gave new life to the Highland Mall with the largest installation of edtech in the country. She gave us a behind the scenes glimpse of the project and transformation. One new program made possible by the space is called the ACCelerator, which is already having a positive impact providing flexibility and differentiated opportunities for students working to further their education amidst the demands of work and family.


Thank you to all these incredible women and everyone who took part in the event. We look forward to future opportunities to nurture authentic voices, come together, and push one another towards greater innovations and impact.