This blog entry is cross-posted from: http://www.sxswedu.com/news/2014/advisory-board-reflections-kqed%E2%80%99s-innovation-practice#sthash.BXGYYVY8.dpuf
Most of the conference presentations I’ve seen over the years end with a brief answer to the question, “so what?” Perhaps the element I love most about my two years at SXSWedu is that its sessions often make the “so what” the focus of the dialogue. One of my favorite 2014 sessions that stood out in this way came to us from KQED, a project for multidimensional learning.
The work presented by Matthew Williams of KQED is a perfect example of a creative idea successfully implemented. Existing at the intersection of public media, civic education, and social technologies, KQED provides students with a starting point and a forum for impactful discussions. Williams went through the tools used by KQED – a reliably updated website and an active Twitter presence were two examples – and proceeded to really showcase a model for how to implement technological tools in education. Another great session worth noting along these lines dealt with digital and participatory maps as educational tools. At SXSWedu, there is an assumed starting point for all attendees in terms of knowledge that you bring in, and this allows for a depth of conversation that is unreachable otherwise.
As an educator with a research focus on technology, I’ve seen all too many promising conference sessions devolve into a back-and-forth debate over the minutiae of definitions. SXSWedu mostly avoids this momentum-killing practice by using a format that rewards dialogue and practical application. The shared language that seems to serve as a backbone of SXSWedu leads to a notebook filled with tangible ideas and actions you can bring home. Of course, as with any conference, it’s important that you choose where to spend your time carefully, and you will find hits and misses. Once you find a session that takes theoretical propositions and animates them using clear applications, it can be an immensely rewarding professional experience.
Adam Gismondi is a PhD candidate in the Higher Education program at Boston College and former student affairs administrator. His dissertation is on undergraduate social media use as a means to civic engagement and his other research work deals broadly with technology within higher education. He can be found on Twitter @AdamGismondi and blogs regularly at societyandsocialmedia.wordpress.com.