10 Things I Learned at SXSW 2011 (GeekDad Weekly Rewind)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Steam Punk Mad Hatter (although he insisted he was not angry at all)Steam Punk Mad Hatter (although he insisted he was not angry at all)

Steam Punk Mad Hatter (although he insisted he was not angry at all)

South By South West (SXSW) is now a week over. Imagine, 20000 people at a 5 day party in a two mile radius around the Austin Convention Center. Oh, and there are a few hundred panels, discussions and speaker sessions dealing with a mind-numbingly wide range of topics.

The hearing has returned to my right ear, I’m recovering from the conference crud I picked up and I’ve about caught up on the mountain of email that accumulated while I was gone. So, I finally have a few minutes to do a quick round-up of some of the many things I learned at this year’s event.

1. SteamPunk is alive and well and living in Austin, TX. — I read a lot of CyberPunk in the 1980s and then SteamPunk in the 90s but hadn’t given it a lot of thought again until recently. I knew SteamPunk still has had a recent following in both literature and cosplay, but the first party I attended (of many) at SXSW brought it home for me. The “Big Bang Bordello” featured local Texas steampunks in their finery along with some highly entertaining bands and other acts best not mentioned in a family-oriented blog.

2. Older kids want to be overwhelmed [when playing games]; they want saturation. Younger kids not so much. — The panel discussion for Designing Stuff Kids Will Use and Love included members from PBS Kids and Sapient pulling lessons from developing online games for the under 12 age group. They all agreed, though, that what is “age appropriate” is a constantly shifting target. Listen to the Session=

Sket Notes for Designing Stuff Kids Will Use and Love   Sket Notes for Designing Stuff Kids Will Use and Love

Sketch Notes for Designing Stuff Kids Will Use and Love


3. Design inspiration comes from 4 sources: Man, Many, Machine and Mama (Mother Earth). — I came into the panel “It’s Nature’s Way”: Innovative Tech Design Through Bio-mimicry late, but was quickly captivated. One of the ideas that stayed with me was how we can look to bees as master designers, even down to the production of honey. Honey, while seemingly simple and pure substance, is the result of a lot of processing by the bees. The lesson: the simplest ideas require the most planning.

Sketch Notes from  "It's Nature's Way": Innovative Tech Design Through Bio-mimicry   Sketch Notes from  "It's Nature's Way": Innovative Tech Design Through Bio-mimicry

Sketch Notes from "It's Nature's Way": Innovative Tech Design Through Bio-mimicry

4. More kids would want to be class valedictorian if it was called “Dark Paladin Level 20.” — I hadn’t planned on seeing the Keynote from Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer on Top of the World — the creator of the location based game Scvngr — but it was being simulcast from the main ballroom in the room I was waiting in for my next session, and I’m glad it was. I’m not clear how many of the ideas Seth was talking about were his and how many he was just promoting from others, but the idea that education would be far more effective if we applied the “Social Fabric of Gameplay” to it opened my eyes. Rather than penalizing kids for what they don’t know (our current system), we should reward them for what they do know, and then allow them to build on accomplishments like they do in most of the games they play. Most games start at 0 and you earn points to pass different levels. Our school system starts at 100 and, for almost all kids, it’s downhill after that.

5. The future of learning will be interactive with graphic novels like Operation Ajax. — Humans are natural story tellers and explorers, yet learning often involves memorizing rote facts in sequence. A whole new medium is about to change the way we think and learn as tablet devices become ubiquitous. I was excited to get a preview of this future in the form of a new interactive graphic novel for the iPad from Cognito Comics. “Operation Ajax” tells the story of the 1953 CIA-led coup in Iran. The events unfold in semi-animated graphic panels, but readers can dive into more details about the characters at any point allowing the reader to explore the environment around the events. The first three chapters are out, with more on the way. Read It=

[Read the rest of Jason Teague’s excellent article, published on Wednesday, and please leave any comments you may have on the original.]

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