I flew on Sunday from Newcastle airport to Austin, Texas via London Heathrow and Dallas. It was reasonably uneventful, but checking in late meant I sat behind two families with babies. :-/
Unfortunately jetlag kicked in straight away and I was awake from 2.30am on Monday. Given that I was presenting at 3pm that afternoon, this was far from welcome. However, everything was surprisingly OK. The plus side was catching up on email and writing a blog post, as well as reviewing the presentation slides.
I met up with Kathleen Stokes (Nesta, my co-presenter) for breakfast and we got some great breakfast tacos from Austin Java where we finalised the presentation. We headed over to registration straight after, which turned out to be a good idea given the length of the queues we saw later on!
From 10am to 12pm I was on a couple of calls with my colleagues at Mozilla, and then afterwards caught up with my family. Lord Jim Knight asked to meet up with me to talk Open Badges leading to an enjoyable hour discussion English education, technology and alternative credentialing. Lunch I found at a Vietnamese street food van (delicious!) and then I headed to the Green Room an hour before our presentation.
The session (Supporting a Generation of Digital Makers) went reasonably well with lots of good feedback afterwards. We did, however, experience a bit of PowerPoint fail. Also, being in the Maker Space meant that there were conversations happening at the back; I was very close to asking them to please shut up. But I’m too polite to do that.
After a lot of great conversation post-session, I headed to the SXSWedu Lounge (heavily sponsored and branded by Google) before heading off to dinner with Ryan McCormack. We went to this awesome Brazilian steakhouse and talked about everything from Philosophy to MOOCs. Great stuff.
Tuesday is a bit of a blur. I can remember an engaging panel session featuring Jim Knight, Audrey Watters and Richard Culatta and, of course, I attended the session run by my colleagues Sunny Lee and Emily Goligoski. I also tried (and failed) to find a place to watch the Manchester United vs. Real Madrid game. Oh well.
I woke to the tragic news about Chris Allan. It took me a while to pull myself together and get out of my hotel room after that. In the end I had to dash to the Austin Convention Center as Rafi Santo got in touch to say Connie Yowell couldn’t make her ‘Distinguished Speaker’ slot. Could I, as a member of the DML community, fill in? Thankfully, by the time I got there they had a replacement (phew!)
I then attended an awesome session by Christian Long and co-conspirators entitled Hack Class. Christian’s a very engaging teacher and the work they’re doing around design thinking for schools is a refreshing change to almost everything else at SXSWedu being about profit and ‘scale’.
Lunch was spent in the company of Kate Stokes and Janet Laane Effron (we hit the Vietnamese place again) and then I headed to Melissa Techman‘s session. I already know how fantastic Melissa’s work is, but I was surprised not to have come across her co-presenter, Joelle Alcaidinho, before. Check out my Thought Shrapnel blog for some of the links I got from that session!
The final session of the day for me (before catching up with people in the bloggers lounge) was Jaime Casap from Google. He was talking about the Web as the platform. It’s hard to argue against that. After that I went to the receptions and met Stephanie Sandifer in person for the first time. Stephanie and I used to be part of the ‘edublogosphere’ as it was c.2007.
I was intending to head out to dinner with Stephanie, Melissa and others but when I got back to my hotel room I suffered a migraine, ordered room service and went straight to sleep. :-/
I made sure I set my alarm on the last day of SXSWedu for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to make sure I got my stuff together for packing, but I also wanted to ensure that I got to the Convention Center in time for Ewan McIntosh and Tom Barrett’s session. As I expected, it was a fantastically run session exploring design thinking. You should check out their newly redesign NoTosh website.
After that I attended the weekly Mozilla Web Literacy standard community call before heading back to my hotel and then the airport. I’m pretty glad I missed Bill Gates’ keynote given the vitriol on the backchannel.
The trip home was fairly uneventful and I managed to sleep pretty much all the way across the Atlantic. Win.