When conference season rolled around, I was looking for a new conference experience. While I love seeing my higher education friends each year at conferences, I felt 2018 was a year to explore an uncharted territory. For me, that uncharted territory was SXSWEDU. I was familiar with SXSW’s interactive and music festivals, but only heard about the EDU portion in the last few years. So, in March, I trekked down to Austin for one of the best conference experiences I’ve ever had.
As a part of the SXSW events family, SXSWEDU is all about promoting innovation in education and advancing educational environments. It brings educators, leaders, and innovators from K-16 and beyond to discuss how we can further learning. The energy of SXSWEDU is electric and it’s rare to engage in a conversation that doesn’t include the words “disrupt”, “design”, “innovate”, and “improve”.
From the moment you check-in and pick up your badge, you can feel the spirit of SXSWEDU. A spirit that is friendly and welcoming while balancing an urgency for innovation and a desire to collaborate. The networking that takes place feels incredibly organic. Conference attendees and speakers hail from all areas of education providing a diverse group of professionals and learners to connect with and learn from. I was a first-time attendee and went with only one other person from my institution, but I never felt out of place. By day 4, I had made some new SXSWEDU friends, who I can’t wait to see at the 2019 event.

The programming at SXSWEDU was some of the best I’ve attended. Each morning kicked off with a keynote speaker. I can truly say I walked away inspired and fired up for the day of learning ahead. Alaa Murabit’s morning keynote on the right to education expanded my perspective on the ecosystem that makes up education. And Michael Sorrell energized me to think about how college is not only a life-changing experience for students, but can be a center for innovation and change. There are a variety of topic tracks ranging from instruction and leadership to data, business, and equity. I often found myself having to choose from too many great session options offered at the same time. There aren’t just your traditional educational sessions, but there are also meet-ups, interactive sessions, vendor session, films, performances, panels, workshops, mentoring sessions, show and tells, and case study competitions.

If you and your organization are looking for a conference experience like none other, check out SXSWEDU. SXSWEDU 2019 will be taking place March 4th-7th in Austin, TX. Registration and call for programs for SXSWEDU will be announced over the summer so stay tuned. If an engaging conference isn’t enough, I can vouch that the tacos and Austin food scene are an added benefit.