For years I have wanted to come to SXSWEDU. I use to go to YouTube and watch Dr. Christopher Emdin's when he blew the roof off the sucka by integrating the entire Tribe Called Quest album into every ounce of his keynote. I knew then that it was a conference of doers and researchers who have a passion for teaching, learning and having a good time.
I wasn't disappointed.
SXSWEDU was filled with forward-thinking, futuristic, collaborating, brilliant walks of life from all around the universe.
To assure I got the most of this experience, I strategically arrived in Austin on Sunday morning. I have learned through many conference experiences that if you are not familiar with the host city or the conference itself, it is imperative to arrive at least a day early. This helps the conference goer get an understanding of the city's culture and to map out a conference plan. I got a chance to see Lake Travis with my Leanlab Education co-worker Karnissa Caldwell and attended the pre-networking event.
One of the first connections I made at the Early Bird Pre-networking event was the incomparable Barbara Bray I first met Barbara at ISTE17 after following her authentically positive work on Twitter. The connection assured me that SXSWEDU was the place to be as Barbara has always been way ahead of the masses. Barbara's book, Define Your Why: Own Your Story So You Can Live and Learn on Purpose is an excellent piece of work that dives deep into being your authentic self in everything that you learn and do.
After scanning the sessions and networking events, I knew there were three events I did not want to miss. The first was Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education. This session shared the brilliance of Sam Seidel, Michael Lipset, and Tony Simmons who wrote a book of the same title of the session over a decade ago and created a new edition of the book this year. Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education features the story of the High School of the Recording Arts in Minnesota that David "TC" Ellis started 22 years ago. The session also featured Lamya "YK"Andrews, senior student from the High School for the Recording Arts who shared her story of growth and accomplishments through rhyme.
A bonus encounter happened as I walked through the hotel conference lobby. I literally bumped into one of my Ruskin High school classmates, Dr. Usamah Rogers. Dr. Rogers is the Deputy Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Dallas ISD. Dr. Rogers presented on Confronting Inequities to Close the Achievement Gap. Her session explored initiatives for breaking down barriers to post graduation success that disproportionately affect low-income and minority students. Ruskin High School prepared us for greatness.
That same night, the second event that I marked as "can't miss" was the Big Picture Learning Leadership Journeys. All I can say about this event is if you ever get a chance to attend, be like Nike and Just Do It. This event is one that will tickle every part of your imagination and touch your soul with valuable lessons from amazing leaders from across the country. This event is so brilliant that even the Secretary of Education of the United States, Dr. Miguel Cordona and his staff attended
The third session that I bookmarked was NFT's & Blockchain in Education. This session was on the last day of the conference, however, you could not tell. The session was standing-room only as Michael Cohen, Vriti Saraf, and Kwaku Aning shared the present-future: Web3, NFT's, and Blockchain and defined each so eloquently that a 1st grader could understand. There is a growing buzz in this space and I am quite sure SXSWEDU23 will have many more sessions on the intersection of Web3 and education.
The SXSWEDU experience was one that I will always treasure. The excitement of learning by all walks of life and at all ages was a true treat. There were so many connections made and every one of them had a passion for education. This one of a kind conference is one that you should definitely add to your conference bucket list. See y'all in 2023.