SXSWEDU, A Brief Reflection Before the Show

My first sxswedu was years ago. I was speaking in the google room, not on program, but on behalf of an app developer…a developer who only knew me from my constant tweets about their product. It was the first time that I presented at any conference bigger than a regional and the first time that I was ever face to face with the non-school side of edtech. Oh my gosh, everyone wanted to pitch me their product! 

The significant part to this story is that like many teachers who wished to attend conferences, even with the event ticket covered by the developer, I could not afford my travel or meals. By pure determination,  I drove to Austin & back home…3.5 hours there and back…in one day. It’s what you do when you desperately want to do something and besides,  this was too exciting of an opportunity to miss.

I didn’t care though. I wanted to be there…to be around people in this space that only existed for me online. I wanted to do something that honestly scared me to death.  Prior to this moment, I had only trained the teachers in my school. I was uncomfortable talking to total strangers and even more so completely mortified that I had agreed to also do a lighting talk about this app in front of actual people. (I may or may not have a thing for “ignite” like talks)

I remember feeling so lost but a developer from another presenting app gave me the best possible advice. 

He said, “They’re just people and what they will remember most is the passion behind the words you share. So when you talk, do it like you were the one coding through sleepless nights…like your life depended on it.”

My one day at SXSWedu was probably the most significant of my career. I didn’t get to attend any sessions but I did get to talk to school leaders from all walks of life about this “mind blowing” app that would “revolutionize the way they communicated.”


For the record, that app is long gone and months later even after taking my second leap…leaving the comforts of my classroom, I’m still here…hitting the pavement in this oddly exhilarating world of edtech…diversity issues and all.

The difference is that I know much better than to over promise the significance of any single tool because that’s not where true impact lies. Buzzwords be gone!

What’s the same though is that message from that app engineer…constantly reminding me that when I open my mouth, I better own my words as if my life depended on it.

I’ll be sure to keep that in mind while co-emceeing LAUNCH which may not be a big deal to a lot of people but for me, it’s a reminder of where my current career path actually started and that means the world.

Dear Self,

Is this real life?


 One more thing, I met Jaime Casap at this event and I was really nervous…which is hilarious in hindsight and also, while admittedly random…significant.

Comments 1

  1. I love you, Rafranz! You are my hope for the future and my inspiration for continuing to stay in education!

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