Why I am going to SXSW EDU: A first-time higher-ed attendee shares how his passion to become a better educator for his students led him to attending SXSW EDU.
As someone who has spent more than the last dozen years of my life devoted to the creation of the best possible classroom, I have always believed that the first step to making the most meaningful improvements starts with me. I spent nine outstanding years in the K-12 system working with students labeled as challenging at a middle school to teaching dual credit and Advanced Placement students at the high school. I also had the pleasure a couple of years ago of leading the largest educator association in the state of Texas. Three years ago, I was hired as a professor of political science for Lone Star College – Tomball; part of the largest community college system in Texas. It is a dynamic and rapidly growing community of educators and learners. It fits exactly with who I am as an educator; one deeply passionate about creating engaging, respectful, and holistic learning environments.
My experiences with the students, faculty, and systems in K-12, education leadership, and higher education have shown me that organizations and events like SXSW EDU are not only a convenient and enjoyable tool for education professionals but a growing necessity for the interconnected systems striving to develop high-impact learning experiences for shared student groups. Having been both in K-12 and higher ed, one of the biggest “AHA!” moments for me has been that these two systems have viewed themselves as wholly separate for too long. Higher education is not simply dependent on K-12 for students and foundational learning, but higher ed can learn a great deal about innovation in education from the K-12 community. The K-12 system can also benefit from the depth of content knowledge, rigorous standards of research and learning, and other innovations in learning happening in higher ed. The two systems ignore the value of the other to their own detriment.
For me, this is where SXSW EDU comes in as a place where the two worlds can collide in an authentically engaging and high-impact way. While I may now have a label that distinguishes me as a “professor in higher education”, I see myself simply as an educator; someone with a responsibility to serve my students, faculty, and community at the highest level possible. Continuous development of my own abilities as an educator so that I can bring my A-Game every day to students rests on me committing to high level personal and professional development opportunities. SXSW EDU gives me a chance to take all of my passions for personal and professional growth, community engagement, and student achievement and bring them into a unified focus so that I can raise the bar in my classroom and on my campus as I fold my experiences into student learning and professional collaborations.
The wide array of learning opportunities with dynamic speakers and facilitators from classrooms, campuses, non-profits, and education companies allow attendees to diversify their learning and do some cross-pollination of ideas with other passionate leaders; choosing various options that fit specific areas of need or interests. The availability of specific learning tracks also gives attendees the option of really focusing in on developing a particularly refined pathway of learning to maximize the effectiveness of the field of interest. For higher ed professionals, SXSW EDU is an opportunity to really get outside of the confines that often constrain them, like content-specific teaching and learning and demanding research, to have a refreshing experience of thinking differently and connecting with brilliant people who share the energy of their ideas. SXSW EDU combines the latest events and ideas with the best practices and data-driven strategies and makes them available to education professionals today.
I am so excited about the opportunities this year at SXSW EDU! My personal learning plans for the conference this year includes such enticing sessions like “Understanding Students as Consumers of Higher Ed”, “Developing Engaged Global Citizens of the Future”, “Unlectured: Adventures in Transforming the Lecture”, “From Headline to Homework: Teaching Current Events”, and “Escape the School: Student-Centered Design Intro”. I will also be going to sessions on culturally responsive instruction, gamification, spoken word, and leadership. The biggest problem for me is that there are so many things I genuinely would like to go to that there will certainly be conflicts between sessions I want to attend.
My personal journey through K-12, organizational leadership, and higher ed along with my passion for bringing the best version of myself as an educator to my classrooms and campus each day seem to have naturally brought me to SXSW EDU where I can feed all of these parts of my educator soul and build both a deeper set of resources and a network of energetic collaborators ready to reach for the next level.
Guest blog post courtesy of
Professor of Political Science at Lone Star College – Tomball, Lone Star College System
Cory Colby is an Advisory Board Member for SXSW EDU and Professor of Political Science at Lone Star College – Tomball, Lone Star College System, where he also served as the coordinator for the Civic Engagement Internship Program. Additionally, he serves as the faculty advisor for the Student Government Association at the college. He is the former state president for the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) and has spent the last dozen years in K12 Education and Higher Ed. Cory is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach with specialization in education and organizational leadership who holds Texas Educator Certificates in 4-8 Education, 8-12 Social Studies, and as an administrator.