Last week I spoke at the SXSWEdu Conference for the second straight year. I am so honored to have shared the podium with Sonia Gaillard, Dr. Raphael Travis and Zakiya Larry. This year our topic was Plugging the Leaks in the STEM Pipeline. Last year we focused on Diversifying the STEM Pipeline and the idea this year was to continue that conversation and offer solutions to how we can plug some of the leaks that we identified last year in terms of minorities being under represented in STEM. I must say I had a wonderful time. The conference is such a great networking opportunity and there is so much to learn.
Dr. MateenDiop of San Antonio. Dr. Diop was not on the panel but he made his presence felt as an educator who had much to say during the Q&A period at some of the most interesting sessions. After completing the registration process, we spent most of the day connecting with the other members of my panel and conducting our final preparations before our session on Tuesday morning. I am always amused by how many professional, educated African Americans who are involved in education are not aware of this conference. Mateen and I are already discussing panel ideas for next year. We both agreed the conference needs more educators and more people of color. After lunch, and a quick perusal of the schedule we decided to attend a panel on Saving America’s Black Boys.
I also re-connected with a couple of my friends. Right after registration I connected with Qiana of Edlio. She and I met last year at the National Black Information Technology Leadership Organization NBITLO Conference in Miami, Florida. We have stayed connected via Twitter. I was also able to connect with Lani Fraizer. Lani and I were in the same doctoral cadre at Pepperdine University. She was working with InBloom. It was great seeing both of them. The opportunities to learn about new technologies and connect with folks who are working in the spaces where I am playing were abundant. As a matter of fact, InBloom hosted a code-a-thon. I entered a team but we heard about it late and did not have time to adequately prepare. However, I must give credit to my colleague Kevin Williams who showed up and gave it the college try. The InBloom product may be very helpful to school districts but I need to study it further before I can make a recommendation. We also spent a few moments listening to the remarks during the opening session. I spent most the evening continuing to prepare for my Tuesday morning session.
On Tuesday morning things started off slow as it was time for our panel to meet in the green room and we were missing two of our panelists. But true to form, both of them showed up right before show time and ready to roll. We had a great discussion and many of our attendees got right to the point regarding the challenges they face as teachers working to encourage young people of color to pursue STEM. The diversity of our panel served us well. After the session, I met Ainissa Ramirez. She came up to the panel to introduce herself. I have downloaded her book Save Our Science and I can’t wait to read it. I am looking forward to working with her as she and I are both working in the same space. I think we did an excellent job and we received good feedback.. The highlight of the day was attending a session by Saul Paul. The session was entitled Schools Not Prisons, Education Not Incarceration. It was a brilliant session and we attended a freestyle concert later that evening on 6th. Street. The concert was amazing and we learned of the #HipHopEd Twitter chat that I will be helping to promote.
I was not able to attend SXSW Interactive. Although I was scheduled to speak I had to withdraw as the session conflicted with my daugther’s birthday. Next year I intend to speak at both conferences and I have already arranged with my wife that we will celebrate my daughter’s birthday in Austin. Lani and I have vowed to stay connected during the year so we are better positioned to make an impact next year. Dr. Travis has vowed to do the same. I have already reached out to Anissa and Mateen and I will present on a panel next year together. For me SXSWEdu was a huge success and I can't wait until next year.