I found out about the SXSWedu 2016 conference through a LittleBits newsletter just a few days before the conference. My everyday job (the one that pays my bills) is heavily involved with education, so I was super excited when I got approved to attend the conference in Austin.
My coworker and I drove together from Houston and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn just a few blocks away from the Convention Center where the conference was held. There was another Hilton right in front of the Convention Center, but it was way way WAY more expensive. Our corporate rate for Garden Inn was $160 + tax + $32 a night for parking, which is also not cheap. Breakfast buffet was nice, but was an additional $18 per person.
We got to Austin on Sunday evening, picked up our registration, and got the last two drink tickets to the SXSWedu happy hour.
On Monday, we missed the keynote speaker, but had a nice breakfast at Le Cafe Crepe and got to play with virtual reality at the Google Fiber space. There were a few more presentations on diversity, technology, and interactivity in education. During dinner we refueled at The Russian House where instead of complimentary chips and salsa they bring you complimentary vodka shots and rye bread. My colleagues tried pork schnitzel, cold borsch, beef stroganoff, and cherry vareniki, which were all very delicious. I had chicken tabaka, which was good, but not big enough for the hefty $17 price tag.
The night ended on 6th street with complimentary games at a local bar courtesy of SXSWedu.
On Tuesday, the keynote speaker was Ayah Bdeir, the CEO of the LittleBits, whom I was really excited to see. I’ve been following LittleBits for a year and half and am amazed by the tremendous progress the company has made in that time. Ayah definitely won the crowd when she said that teachers have the hardest job. After that there were several more sessions and presentations, including a talk on the role of fabrication labs in young childhood development.
On Wednesday (our last day at the conference), Jane McGonial, the keynote speaker , opened our eyes into new ways of thinking outside the box, or as she titled it “Like a Futurist”. I would definitely recommend watching her presentation, which is available free on the SXSWedu YouTube page.
I am glad I got to attend and experience the conference, but I was slightly underwhelmed by it. Perhaps I was in a funky mood from a gloomy weather, but several people I met and interacted with expressed the same concern. There were too many sessions to choose from and I felt like a lot of my energy went into organizing my schedule. I would suggest for the organizers to focus of the quality of the sessions, rather than quantity, but I also understand the amount of work that goes into organizing an event like this and think they did a great job with the logistics.