March Magic: Reflections on SXSWedu & SXSWi

Banner image of the 2012 SXSWedu and SXSWi logos together.

It has been over a month since my last blog post, so I feel like I’ve been slacking!  I have so much to share with you all and simply not enough time to write.  With over 6,000 miles of travel last month, I have been quite busy!  I presented in Austin, TX for South by Southwest Education and Interactive (#SXSWedu / #SXSWi); served as Host Director in Boston, MA for the Association of College Unions International Annual Conference (#ACUI12); and visited Louisville, KY for ACPA’s Annual Convention (#ACPA12) to begin planning for the ACPA 2013 Annual Convention in Las Vegas, where I will serve as Technology Chair.  These three trips shifted the way I have thinking about social media and technology in Student Affairs, but also in the bigger Higher Education picture.  Let me share some brief stories from each trip, beginning with my trip to South by Southwest Education (#SXSWedu) and Interactive (#SXSWi).  

This is the first of three “March Magic” posts.  My #ACUI12 and #ACPA12 reflections are coming tomorrow and Wednesday respectively!

This was my second year in a row heading to Austin, TX.  After last year’s trip, thanks to the work I did on the Portfolio’s of Excellence Mentoring Program at Bridgewater State,  I believed it would be the only time I would/could go.  However, after our #ThinkingSocial Panel was accepted by #SXSWedu and I got a few day-passes from my friends Rey Junco and Liz Gross for #SXSW Interactive, I took the leap and funded the flight and lodging myself since it was over our University’s Spring Break.  Some folks use their vacation time for “vacation”, I sometimes use it for my development :-)

South by Southwest Education (#SXSWedu)
In only it’s second year, the #SXSWedu conference was still slanted towards the K-12 sector, although I did make some great connections there in the Higher Education space.  It was great to finally meet Michael Staton in person, and pick his brain as an Educational Entrepreneur and how he works with the Gates Foundation on Inigral and the Schools App on Facebook.  Even though we had connected on Twitter, it was great to hear his passion in person.  Our conversations spurred a blog post from Liz while we were there, which I agree with completely.  Most University’s aren’t ready for the next generation of Student Support services, models of education, etc., even if we are.  Most of the current Higher Ed systems don’t allow for true innovation unless the President and her/his respective boards of trustees are ready to push things forward.  We are simply left with trying to affect change in our own ecosystems where we have (perceived) control.

Photo of Liz Gross, Rey Junco, Greg Heiberger, & Ed Cabellon at #SXSWedu 2012

#thinkingsocial panel at #SXSWedu 2012

I was proud of the #thinkingsocial team for how we represented ourselves during our #SXSWedu panel. We had about 50 folks stop in for a great conversation about Social Media, Student Engagement, and Higher Education.  Liz did a fantastic job moderating our panel where Rey and Greg shared their research and I shared how I applied it to my Higher Education work.  I was a bit frustrated that many of  folks in the room were still at a beginner level of technology acumen, with one person asking what a “hashtag” was at one point.  The flip side is that many of the K-12 folks there shared anecdotally that more education on Digital Identity needs to happen in High School, specifically in 11th and 12th grades, to better prepare them for the technology demands in college. All in all, it was a great experience being on this panel and in case you wanted to see our slidedeck, feel free to check it out here.

Photo of Ed Cabellon, Greg Heiberger, Rey Junco, and Liz Gross on the CNN Soundstage at CNN Grill at SXSW 2012!

#ThinkingSocial on the #CNNSoundStage #CNNGrill #SXSW

Other than our networking opportunities, I was a big fan of two sessions.  First, was Mark Milliron‘s talk on “Using Technology to Make Learning Personal” and second was the “Where is the Disruption” Panel, featuring Curtis Bonk from Indiana University.  Both provided information that I knew intuitively, but presented it using thoughtful questions such as: “How do we close the feedback loops to increase engagements in teaching and learning? How do we showcase our success examples of using Technology in Education to the broader community?”  It’s important to ask the right questions when you are teaching and learning about technology on a college campus and these two sessions reminded me of this well.  Feel free to mine my notes from these sessions for anything you might find useful.

South by Southwest Interactive (#SXSWi)
#SXSWi was more about networking and informal learning this year as I went to no formal educational sessions (GASP!), except of course, for Liz Gross and Deb Maue‘s on “Effective Social Media Presence in Higher Ed“, where I got to be a special guest :-)  What #SXSWi taught me is that all the Higher Education folks who love tech and social media as much as I go there, NOT to #SXSWedu.  They were engaged with the products, services, and people who want to push Higher Education forward and were willing to engage in meaningful dialogue.  One of these people is Jennielle Strother, co-founder of #EMchat, whom I got to do lunch and chat with in living color :-)   We had met and conversed on Twitter for months now, so it was great to be able to chat in person about her interests and help her launch her new blog!

Visiting Google Village was a real treat for me as a loyal Android and Google user.  There were four houses in the village: MAPS, DEVELOPERS, ANDROID and DISCOVERY.  Each house had folks from Google there to share what they were most excited to be working on, which in turn got me uber-excited and curious about Higher Ed application.  I got to learn about the new Map Maker features, how developers are using Google Plus, a sneak peak at Google PLAY, some of the latest Android tablets and phones, and got some cool swag including an Android Bandana and a Schemer Android bot.  The experience had me thinking about what might happen if some of our vendor colleagues invited us at the table to talk research and development.

Photo of Ed Cabellon at Google Village at SXSW 2012

I geeked out at Google Village at SXSW!

Finally, some other highlights of the SXSW trip were finding a Filipino Food Truck, getting a sweet Hootsuite scarf from Greg Heiberger, seeing Delorean from Back to the Future, and of course, meeting Jimmy Fallon (who has been following little old me on Twitter for quite some time now!)

Photo of Ed Cabellon and Jimmy Fallon from South by Southwest 2012

Thank you... Jimmy Fallon... for making SXSW 2012 that much more awesome!

When folks say that SXSW is “Geek Spring Break”, they aren’t that far off!  SXSW was a great time and something I will continue to try to get to every year, as long as my schedule allows.  It continues to give me a unique perspective that I do not get at other conferences I attend, and stretches the way I think about technology, social media and its Higher Education applications…. not to mention it is a LOT of fun!

Paradigm Shifts:  1.  Find ways to partner with our colleagues in High School, particularly the 11th and 12th grade teachers to teach Digital Identity. 2. Any future Social Media research projects with the #thinkingsocial team should also include High School and Vendor colleagues to broaden our perspectives. 3. Focus educational energy on people who want to learn about tech, not on those who aren’t using it.

Have you ever been to a conference or convention outside of Higher Education?  Would you ever invest in your own professional development if your institution stopped providing funding for it?

Tomorrow, I reflect on my 2012 ACUI Annual Conference experiences!


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