Friday, July 5, 2013

An Educator's Top 4 Tips for SXSWedu PanelPicker Success

Checking out the SXSWedu 2014 blog today, I saw a new post entitled "5 Great Tips for PanelPicker Success".  It certainly gives some useful tips, like to actually fill out the whole proposal form, but I think it leaves much to be desired... As an educator who attended SXSWedu in 2013 and is on the advisory board for 2014, here are MY top 4 tips for non-educators for PanelPicker Success (with a bonus tip for educators at the end):

1.) Propose an active, collaborative effort between the presenters and the audience.  Real education doesn't work via lecture, and neither does professional development or the development of new educational innovations.  Offer questions for your audience to consider together, mini-activities to think through problems and solutions, or at least a backchannel for discussion.  (#SXSWedu gets awful crowded... over a sub hashtag for your session!)

2.) Include the teacher voice in your session. There are dozens of teachers who can contribute to a session on any topics.  MOOCs, 1-to-1 initiatives, even reaching schools with your marketing strategies or considering the implications of big data!  If you want educators to come to your session, the educators want to know that their voice is being represented.  Reach out.  Some teachers have started listing themselves as available for collaborations here, and you can troll twitter... we're out there!  (And if you don't already have teachers with whom you're collaborating... think about the implications of that for a minute.)

3.) Focus on the interaction between teachers, students, and technology. I don't speak for all educators, but I don't know a single educator who wants to "save time" and "be more efficient" by handing all teaching, assessing, and student connection over to the computer.  Your personalized adaptive math education platform might be cool, but nothing can replace the direct connections I have with my students.  How will your product support or enhance that connection?  What ideas do you have towards using technology to encourage positive relationships, deeper thinking, and interaction.

4.) Think about how your ideas and words sound to those of us in the trenches. If your proposal - like some from 2013 - refers to EdTech entrepreneurs with no classroom experience as "the real saviors of education," how excited do you think that will make those of us who work day-in and day-out trying to improve the lives and futures of children? And when you respond - like some did from 2013 - that those of us educators at SXSWedu are outliers and "if only all teachers had your enthusiasm!," consider what a slap in the face that is to the majority of my colleagues who are also awesome, and love children, and aren't at the conference.  If you want to work with teachers to improve educational outcomes for kids, consider your words and whether you are inviting teachers to work with you.

(And if working with teachers is not your priority... then we probably won't see eye-to-eye.)

I am looking forward to a kick-ass SXSWedu in 2014, as are many of my teacher colleagues around the country and around the world!  As an advisory board member, I'm encouraging my friends in learning sciences research - especially those in applications of technology to education - to propose sessions to bring more quantitative understanding of learning to the conference.  I'm also encouraging my teacher friends to propose sessions about their incredible successes with technology in the classroom, as well as their challenges and needs...

In that vein, one final tip for educators making SXSWedu proposals:

We teachers need to take every opportunity we can to bring our needs to the edtech entrepreneurs!  They're enthusiastic; they want to improve learning for kids.  They often have little classroom experience.  Educator-driven sessions need to provide opportunities for educators and edtech entrepreneurs to work together to hammer on common needs in education that can potentially be helped or straight-up solved with technology!

Innovating solutions for better outcomes for kids!  That's basically the mission for SXSWedu, right??  Go forth, and PROPOSE!

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