The crowdsourcing PanelPicker™ process for selecting presentations for the SXSWedu 2019 conference has mostly ended now. Public review for up/down voting on proposals ended a week ago, and the evaluation period for Advisory Board members’ input ended at midnight on Labor Day. I do not know when or how the staff will weigh in with their 30% for the final selection. When it’s all done, over 1,400 hopefuls will have been narrowed down to 400-500 acceptances.
My role as evaluator involved reviewing 65 randomly assigned presentation proposals on 3 criteria, using a good old 5-point Likert scale for each: 1) quality of presenters, 2) creativity of proposal, and 3) relevance of proposal. Specific considerations for each of these criteria were provided in the evaluator’s instructions, and we had access to all materials submitted with the presentation. We also added comments critiquing each proposal, and, most importantly, voted each one we reviewed up or down.
My 65 assigned proposals shared a few common threads among topics of interest trending among these conference proposals:
- Blockchain-related topics
- AI in education
- VR in education
- Storytelling and the arts(in education, of course)
- Workshops featuring active movement such as drumming for healing trauma and Indian dance for feminist empowerment and diversity.
My general reaction to the proposals I evaluated include:
• While we had slightly more access to information & support resources submitted for each proposal than the public, those proved surprisingly thin in most cases, and often repetitive. Basically, I found myself wishing I knew a lot more about most of the individuals & groups and their plans for the presentation.
• Some proposals were so vaguely worded they might fit anything. It’s hard to vote for something when you’re not quite sure what it is. Enough with the buzzwords, gimme some specifics to review.
* Some described great panels or workshops on important topics — with NO discernible link whatsoever to learning or education: hospital readmission rates, family fire safety training day. There were several about specific aspects of film-making that sounded intriguing — but also sounded more like they belonged at the SXSW Film conference, not SXSWedu.
My record on the evaluations I completed? I’m a soft touch, so I passed more than I rejected. Given that they get about 4 times as many proposals as they can accept, I guess you could say I failed in my job as a screener. But that wasn’t really my job. My job was to evaluate each and every idea/proposal on my list on its own merits. I did that. Let someone else (talking to you, SXSWedu staff) take the results from the public, Advisory Board members and staff and winnow it down to a manageable number of sessions for next spring’s conference.
Thanks to SXSW for designing and using this wonderfully open process with all of their festivals, including SXSWedu. I especially appreciate the opportunity to become more directly involved in reviewing suggested sessions through my work on the Advisory Board, both during this process and afterwards. I look forward to seeing the end results of this selection process. Hope my proposal squeaks through!