We’ve talked about this week for weeks now. And we’re thrilled it actually happened. There we were, The Inclusive Class’ Nicole Eredics, The National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion’s Beth Foraker, Renay for ParaEducate, Rob Rummel-Hudson, and Schyuler Rummel-Hudson all in one place. But wait, that wouldn’t be enough, we also had Torrie Dunlop from Kids Included Together too! (If you were wondering where Sheryl Zellis was, she unfortunately was unable to make it. Please send speedy recovery thoughts her way! She was truly missed, but not forgotten.)
But that was all on Wednesday.
Renay flew in on Sunday and participated in the early bird meeting.
Monday was a flurry. SXSWEdu takes up three main venues the Hilton Convention Center, the Austin Convention Center, and the JW Marriot. Planning schedules was highly important.
We first stopped off at the Expo with a variety of education and venders. Educators from many Texas universities were there in addition to the largest area dedicated to Austin Independent School District for their VR playground. After wandering the Expo and seeing the STEM (mostly robots and programming) and the universities that were participating, Renay took a spot in the back for the Rather Prize event. The Rather Prize is awarded by Dan and Martin Rather, $10,000 for anyone who has an idea to implement to improve public schools in Texas. And anyone can submit an idea. Teachers, students, school districts, politicians, or parents. Last year’s winners took an entire high school class of juniors and taught them how to apply for college with not just college trips, but FASFA form nights, and encouraging students to be organized for the process. This year a school idea won from a teacher who wanted students to be mentored by high school students for an hour every day on things that may not be necessarily taught in school.
Renay also met up with the creators of DifferBot, from the University of Oslo. She looks forward to how the technology created by this company may adapt over time.
In the afternoon, Renay caught a session from the Chancellor of the University of Texas System and the changes being experienced by the entire UT system.
Renay and Beth finally met up and then went to the screening of “Hidden Figures” (in a fourth venue!) Here in addition to getting to watch the amazing movie of “Hidden Figures”, four women responded to the issues that were shared in the movie (racism, culture, achievement for women and women of color, and roles in history). Of highlighted importance, check the hashtag #hiddennomore and #teachwithfilm #hiddennomore looks at folks who have impacted their communities that aren’t covered necessarily by history books.
A wonderful day when all five SXSW “Learning the Undeniable Truth About Inclusion” actually met in real life. While Nicole, Beth, and Renay have met in many different venues, this was the first time for meeting Rob and Schyuler.
Tuesday night, at an event hosted by the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, a fun night of connecting with other educators and parents who have concerns about inclusion.
Renay made it into the Keynote. There she listened to him discuss the methods and strategies that might make school more interesting for some students.
Renay had the book signing on the 3rd floor but Wednesday was mostly reserved for presenting.
Sadly, Renay did not make any of Thursday’s sessions as she was due back at work first thing on Friday. SXSWEdu was a fun experience. There were some interesting nuances with covering such a huge venue, and different experiences were to be had by everyone who attended.
The Take Away
Unlike TASH and Cal-TASH, this was an entirely different sort of conference. No one here was really directly interested in data driven outcomes. It’s also a lot harder to network at such a large event. When folks were on, they were on. When they were off they were either soaking up some Austin, Texas, life or they were connecting with businesses elsewhere.
None of those things are bad. It’s just really different.
Would we go back? We’ve learned quite a few things, not just the way Austin works or how SXSWEdu works. So a second trip would not be out of the question. What we would like to do in the future is bring in a few more folks though, and we do see the growth for improvement for folks with disabilities through a venue like SXSWEdu.
One other take away highlight, SXSWEdu has an app, rate the speakers and the venues. Additionally, you were able to take notes directly on your app and email them back to yourself later.
One more thing:
If you attended our session and wanted to find resources that we mentioned, check out our live binder here. We really had a great time. We got access to good food, good folks, and learned a few new things.
Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.