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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wow, What a Difference! (SXSWedu 2014)

Official Logo
Four years. The time it takes for the average student to go from middle school to college. The time it took me to go from high school grad to college grad. And you might say SXSWedu has gone from middle school to college in their first four years.

Four years ago, like a tween, SXSWedu wasn't sure what or who it was. At times it wanted to play with it's big brother SXSWi and at other times it demonstrated that it had no clue what it wanted to be when it grew up.

This year we can see the refinement in its style. It is starting to get its own character. Yet it is still treated like a junior statesman by its much senior SXSW brethren.  Wouldn't it be cool if it were included on the "official" posters (see image at top)?

So what was it like this year? The first thing that comes to mind is that there were a lot of people who I knew were here, but I rarely saw them because they were is sessions. For example, I saw one of my friends three times - while I was transiting on escalators. She was in one or two of the sessions I attended but only realized that from her tweets.  Were we avoiding each other? No, we just both had options - definitely a first for this conference.

There still weren't enough K-12 educators here, though. Why? Well, this is a terrible week for teachers in Texas because it comes right before Spring Break. Schools won't let teachers take off and teachers don't want to take the vacation days when they have vacation time coming up. For those outside of Texas, the conference is fairly expensive because of the cost of lodging and flights. Teachers and school districts have to be careful with their finances.

That isn't as true for education-related businesses and academia. There were plenty of these folks in attendance, yet it didn't feel as vendor-heavy as it did in 2012 or 2013.  There really was a nice blend of topics for both educators and entrepreneurs. And many of the panels had a mix of education people and business people on them.

I think SXSWedu is now a conference worth promoting in the education world. Prior to this many (most) of those I had talked with were hesitant in recommending the conference to their peers. I fully intend to promote the heck out of this conference when proposal time arrives. I am hoping that we can move to a situation where greater than 50% of the attendees are from the K-12 arena. Or, worse case, greater than 70% are K-12 or higher ed. 

I saw a lot of friends at this conference. The parties at night were fun and were great for networking. And I learned a lot in the sessions I attended. SXSWedu is an education conference. You are able to mingle with other like-minded educators and you can exchange ideas with education entrepreneurs (or edupreneurs).  

If you came during the first three years and you hated it. I can relate. But now, after year four, it is time for you to come back. If, on the other hand, you hadn't thought about attending this conference, then 2015 might just be the year. First step? Listen up for announcements about submitting proposals - we need you here.