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This week will be the 4th edition of South By Southwest Education (SXSWedu) and I have been to every one of them. This year feels, somehow, different from those first three years and I’m hoping that is a good thing.

The first thing I noticed (about myself) is that I am planning times each day that I want to make sure I am there for and I want to attend lots of sessions. I am not able to take entire days at the conference without taking vacation days but I’ll try to maximize my time.

I will still be going to school every day before heading into SXSWEdu. But I’ll be getting there as early as possible. I told everyone that I will not be at school in the afternoons and I won’t be back for after school meetings or helping students – not like previous years. Nope, I’m going to be in Austin every day and I’m going to stay there until I’m ready to go home. Goal number one will be to minimize feelings of guilt for not being at work. That’s an impossible task – but I hope to be as guilt free as possible.

As I looked over the schedule I decided to look for specific people first. Then I went through and looked at the Session Themes. Themes that struck a cord included “Achievement Gaps and Educational Equality,” Cognitive Process and Design Thinking,” “DIY, Maker and Hacker,” and “Gaming & Virtual Learning.”  Using this process I ended up selecting 52 sessions. During some time slots, I had as many as 5 sessions at the same time! A nice problem to have.

I can remember the first year of SXSW, there were only about 5 sessions that weren’t during the time I was presenting that interested me. That’s another nice thing about this year – I’m not presenting so I can see whatever I want.  I also consulted EdSurge and their SXSWEdu Cheat Sheet. The main thing I found out on their site was that I was too late for signing up for their get-together on Monday night! Definitely blew it with getting signed up for social events at night. Next year, sigh….

Monday afternoon I’m focusing on Design Thinking. I’ve chosen to see either “Liminal Learning: Challenged-Based Design-Driven” or “In the Trenches With K-12 Design Thinking,” which are next door to each other and at the same time, unfortunately.  Then I’ll end the afternoon with “Getting Students Out of The Box to Redesign It.”

Tuesday morning I’ll be hitting sessions on gaming, cognitive processes, and closing the achievement gap. First up: “Small Town HOMAGO:Build, Make, Do, Play” which is opposite my friend Carl Hooker and his Zombies, unfortunately. It’s a short session so I may have time to get over and play with the zombies. It is also in Salon C which is featuring short sessions throughout so I may just stay and see “Does Engagement Really Matter.” Either way I’ll just hang out, mess around, and geek out.

Tuesday afternoon I’ll start with 2 hours of “Probing Needs and Prototyping Solutions: DT4EdTech .” It is opposite another design thinking session that has a summary that is incoherent – not sure how it made it through the panel picker! The folks on the “probing needs” panel can tell me what they are going to talk about and I know one of them.  

At 1:30 I am really torn. There’s “Saving America’s Black Boys“and “Failing to Learn: Building Resilient Mindsets.” Both resonate with me and so it will probably come down to which one has a seat for me.  But I’ll end the day with “Playful Calculation = Design Creativity.”

Tuesday night I’ll be attending the Advisory Board Mixer – one of the perks to being on the advisory board. I know I’ll be exhausted heading home that night but there’s still Wednesday and Thursday to go. More about that in part two.

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