Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A month in Austin

We pulled into Austin on the first of March.  When we drove through the city to Pecan Grove campground it felt to me like we were coming home.  I usually don't feel comfortable in large cities (Austin has more people than Vermont) but camping right in the middle of downtown was just where I wanted to be while attending South by South West and afterwards.

  I had called Pecan Grove in September and gotten one of their coveted spots for the whole month of March.

It was cold and rainy when we first arrived.  Just as it had been last year.  The first day there was a Kite Festival in Zilker Park just up the road from the campground.

 We watched the Austenites fly kites, enjoying the lively youthfulness of the city.

For the next several days, preceding the beginning of SXSW Edu, we hustled to get work caught up realizing that once the conference began we would have very little time to devote to anything but soaking up as much information and inspiration as we could.

Lucie made prototype electronic gardens for her Girls Make It workshop she would be leading later in March.
We found a coffee house up the street with good WiFi and ate at some of Austin's famous food trucks.

 We stocked up on supplies at the original Whole Foods Marked, which was within walking distance of our campsite.

I approve of their beer room!

 Fellow nomads Jeannette and Eric Udell joined us at Pecan Grove for the last few days before SXSW.  By then Austin had begun to gear up for the event and we had an excellent time exploring downtown with them.

 They say the "Crane" should be the Austin City Bird because of all the construction going on. 

Austin is a Google Fiber City - we stopped by their office and experienced un-metered bandwidth at gigabit speeds...  For people who work over the Internet from the road it was like a preview of heaven.

We moved on to a craft beer place on Raney St., a happening old neighborhood that has been converted to restaurants and bars, then headed back to the original Chuy's Mexican restaurant, right next to the camp ground.

Eric and Jeannette left for points west, and that same day we registered for SXSW Edu then went to a reception where we hung out with young, rock star teachers who where gathering for the conference.

The next day South by South West Edu began.

We would get up to arrive at the conference center by 9:00 for the first session.  Each session we would both have at least 5 things we wanted to see, choosing one we both wanted so we could go together, or choosing one that had another near it so if it wasn't as good we could easily move.  

 There were panels and guest speakers, workshops and keynotes.

An example of what I attended one day;

What are we Making... and Why are we Making it?
Coding in Schools: A Conversation
The State of Funding: E-Rate Strategies
SXSWedu Education Expo
Great Instructors are they Born or Built?

During each session there would be 50 other sessions offered with at least 5 being of interest to me.

They also had a playground which was a large conference hall with 30 or 40 displays and 2 stages that had scheduled speakers.  This was where the Makers hung out and Lucie and I both spent lots of time here.

After the presentations there were evening activities, socials and gatherings.  Sometimes we would be invited to parties sponsored by the likes of Google where they would show off their latest and greatest.

Then, way after dark, Lucie and I would walk the 1.8 miles back to the campground, talking animatedly about all we had seen and experienced.  Then we would fall into bed and rise the next morning to do it again!

 And we would repeat this routine the next day.
Repeat a Third day!


By the 4th and final day of SXSWedu the weather had warmed up, we were starting to regularly run into people who we had met and befriended and we felt like we knew our way around.

But Austin wasn't slowing down, it was just getting warmed up - because the next day was the beginning of SXSW Interactive and SXSW Film.  People with badges for any SXSW event were invited to the SXSWedu final afternoon keynotes where Bob Santelli spoke on the importance of music in the classroom, Mimi Ito spoke on how our connected world changes learning, Goldie Hawn spoke on brain focused strategies for learning and Sal Kahn spoke on education re-imangined.

They then offered us all a final party with free munchies and drinks after which Lucie and I retired to Pecan Grove to recharge and prepare for SXSW Interactive!

To Be Continued -

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