I went to Austin, Texas March 4-9 to attend SXSWEDU the 5th thru 8th. I met some people from my network in person, I added some new people to my network. I had a couple of good conversations and encountered a couple of interesting ideas. But I am spoiled, I wanted more casual, informal networking. Not at a bar (evening socials). You can’t have conversations at a noisy place. I have been to conferences that have gaps in the schedule and some designated space for these interactions. You cannot schedule “Happy Hour” & “Social Meetups” at the same time as other sessions on the schedule. You need a place to go where people expect you to “butt in” to their conversation. A place to go where no one is allowed to sit alone, others drag you into their conversation. I go to conferences because those are the only places I can have face to face conversations with people in my network. The sessions are nice, but I could get just as much info from a shout out on Twitter and some website research. Conferences are about networking.
Some of things I did encounter that I will look at in more detail :
- The Dumpster project in Austin is the question of how to turn a dumpster into a sustainable home. It is an actual design/build project, but also a discussion starter for many science topics around the Huston-Tillotson University campus. How many sci-fi future movies show us living in the space the size of a dumpster or shipping container. I think this was the best idea to explore.
- There was a nice session about Education in Finland that I tweeted many ideas. Education started from nothing after 5 wars created shortages of everything. Education is highly valued, teachers are trusted, the Minister of Education is the 4th most powerfu in the government. Early education is social and play basic education is age 7-16. Lots of free , free, free. School sports not a big thing. Learning spaces rather than classrooms, and movable / flexible spaces. They look at a 50 year return on investment. Second best session and it was only 20 minutes (should have been longer) and in a room that only fit 70 people (waiting line).
-There was a Designing An Innovative School panel session with people from 4 different schools. One was Holy Family Academy near Pittsburgh PA and the interesting point Dr. Lisa Abel-Palmieri made was about the partnerships they have with businesses , many of which are internships for the students. Besides student learning, these also help the students afford a private school.
- A nice session about the national program to help Maker Education through Maker Ed , Google, and the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh. Making is working with people building capacity and professional development. They are creating a national network, with 15 Regional hubs supporting up to 20 schools each.
-Rigorous Whimsy was a session about Understanding through Creativity. They have a book “Intention : Critical Creativity in the Classroom” which I added to my Amazon list. A lot about learning activities with authentic purpose and audience, opportunities to show what you learned connected to things you are interested in. Very much MakerSpace ideas “if they build it they will get it”
- National Geographic has very good Education programs that can bring scientists into you classroom. Some of this is via YouTube live sessions. Dr. Robert Ballard is an upcoming event.
-Dragon Printshop is a school “intrapreneurship” program at The Art Institute in Round Rock ISD. They partnered with a local printer to learn about the business. They use a wide format printer and students run the shop only 1.5 hours a day producing posters and banners and wall flair (paper only). They now have screen printing and are hoping to get a good chunk of the ½ million dollar t-shirt business that the District does. Every school District should have this as part of their Makerspaces, paper printers, vinyl printers, tshirts…