My SXSWedu Top 5 Most Awe-Inspiring Moments

Guest Post By Dara Ross

This year I was super excited to be part of the NYC DOE iZone contingent attending the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas. There were tons of interesting sessions focusing on topics that are near and dear to my he art as an arts educator, including DIY and making, project-based learning and design process thinking. I had an absolutely amazing time. Here are my Top 5 most awe-inspiring moments:

  • Let’s Work Together: On Monday afternoon, I participated in a core conversation with Katya Hott of Brainpop! and Steve Isaacs from the William Annin Middle School called Building the EdTech Bridge. The conversation was focused on how teachers and edtech entrepreneurs can work together to build amazing edtech products. It was awesome to sit in a group with real edtech entrepreneurs and share perspectives.
  • 6 Seconds of Fame: On Tuesday afternoon, I attended the Mobile Video Storytelling Lab at the Alamo Theater with Michael Tringe and Sara Akhteh of CreatorUp! I worked in small group with my new iZone BFFs Angelina and Helen to create a 6-second story using an iPhone and the Vine app. After we shot our films we had a mini-film festival where our films were projected on the Alamo big screen! It’s amazing how you can tell a complete, funny, engaging story in only 6 seconds. I can’t wait to bring Vine into my classroom.
  • “And For That Reason, I’m Out”: On Tuesday evening, I participated as a “teacher-shark” in my first ever #SharkTankEDUedu event. I sat on a panel with 7 other teachers from across the country as 3 vastly different edtech startups pitched their products to us. It felt very empowering to be a teacher-shark and to give feedback to edtech entrepreneurs. They were really listening to us. My favorite product was a new learning management system called Kiddom. It was beautifully well-designed and had lots of potential.
  • Working the Wheel of Steels: On Wednesday morning, I learned about the art of DJing in a hands-on workshop run by Payton Long and Laurie Lyons from the Austin-based Dub Academy. During their workshop, STEAM Up the Classroom with DJing and Production, Long broke down the physics and math of DJing by explaining how you need the right amount of torque to scratch effectively and you need to be able to calculate beats per minutes to expertly cross fade from one song to the next. While I was scratching and attempting to mix on the turntable setup, I was reminded that you can turn any passion into a fun and rigorous interdisciplinary learning experience for your students.
  • Get Making!: On Wednesday evening, I watched a SXSWedu film called If You Build It. It was about the ultimate maker classroom run by Project H’s Emily Pilloton. She built a farmers market with her students in rural North Carolina. A whole farmers market. Pilloton was there and gave a talk after the film. She gave us 3 homework assignments: “Make the space for making things and fill it with as many tools as possible. Wear failure as a badge of honor. And come to school as a student first. Say, ‘I am here to learn.”  I’m officially obsessed. I have been actively working on these 3 homework assignments everyday since I left SXSWedu.
Dara Ross is an Arts & Technology Teacher at The Brooklyn International HS and co-leader of the Pedagogue Makers Affinity GroupDara was one of three NYC teachers who joined our team at SXSWedu 2015.
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