Usually about this time, I’d be getting registered and ready to attend the Early Bird Reception before tomorrow’s opening day of SXSW Edu in Austin, Texas.
Not this year. I’m not attending this time.
I think back two years ago, when we arrived in Austin the day before SXSW was canceled en toto due to concerns about the new COVID contagion. We cut our planned two-week visit short and skedaddled back home to hunker down for the unexpectedly long season(s) of the pandemic.
I recall watching rescheduled Edu sessions remotely later in the year as the conference coordinators scrambled to recover, and hoping for the best as we lurched through 2020. Come summer, the usual push for presentation proposals brought hope for a live conference in 2021, but eventually, the ongoing pandemic caused last year’s event to go fully remote as well. So, I was excitedly looking forward to this years’ renewal of the in-person event.
Except that with concerns about COVID contagion still hanging over many such public events, I started wondering about attending personally. I certainly have been looking forward to a return visit to Austin. Last summer’s journey for my brother’s funeral services did have us travel through Austin, but our time there was so short and our hearts so heavy with grief, it hardly counted.
In fact, we’d been talking about driving down and turning the whole trip into a longer visit, spanning 2, maybe 3 weeks, so we could try to catch up with more of our Texas friends, including some not located near Austin.
But we’re still seeing problems with the pandemic. Yes, I am fully vaccinated and properly boosted, so my personal risk is greatly reduced. But it is not eliminated. And there were simply too many “red flags” in the simple description of the event: thousands of people (red flag #1) from all over (#2), gathered together inside (#3) for 4 consecutive days (4).
It’s not that we haven’t experienced crowds or indoor events recently. I’ve gone to a few concerts within the last year, both outdoors (better) and indoors (cautious, masked, etc.) But the combo of all the risk factors in a prolonged indoor gathering just seemed unwise at this time, so we have decided to postpone our Texas sojourn until later.
I will be watching portions of the conference online, an option still available to purchase if you want to see some of these events. Kari Byron, formerly a co-host of MythBusters, will emcee the online experience. I will have to look up what’s available to watch when. No doubt I will find a few sessions that enlighten, intrigue, and inspire me. Of course, I will miss out on the networking and the opportunities that pop up unexpectedly around that many people involved in learning, teaching, and education. I will miss that sense of recharging my creative juices that I have come to love about these spring jaunts to Austin for SXSW Edu.
But there’s always next year.