I have a confession to make. I just returned back to Louisville, and I have been to a conference where I did not even want to step out and explore the city. This was a complete first. I did not go outside for over 48 hours. I wanted to make sure I did not miss a single experience.
Now, you add the fact that I was in Las Vegas when this happened is truly a statement in itself. A city where you have SO much to do and many other iconic attractions – and I didn’t do any of them. This conference captured not only attention, but my creative soul, and that is a first.
You may be asking what conference is this and where do I sign up. I’ll tell you. EDUMax and Adobe MAX have become my favorite branded conference experience. This is my third Creative Campus event by Adobe, but my second MAX. I attended for the first time last year, where I wrote this summary of my experience (which was fabulous), and I was able to return again this year. However, I was invited as a Creative Campus Thought Leader, one honor I will truly treasure.
The fact the learning is so experiential in nature is what makes Adobe MAX and EDUMax so unique. We have labs, workshops, presentations, keynotes, and receptions to attend. We are able to connect, discover, and learn from everyone across the industry.
What were some of the lessons and takeaways I walked away with? Let me share with you what I learned in the few days I was in Las Vegas with Adobe:
Adobe is truly committed to education
This was consistent throughout the two events from Adobe. They have not only feel education is important, but they truly embrace all aspects of education. This was very awesome to see and experience in person.
Brian Lamkin started the EDUMax conference shared this in his talk to the educators for EDUMax about how there are many challenges in education, and that Adobe understands how educators are on the frontline, being flooded with constant changes, expectations, and trends they need to be incorporating into their classes and work. I love the point he made by saying that Education is the passing of the soul to civilization – and how we, as a society, need more soul and civilization. Educators, along with students, can co-create and collaborate to enhance the soul of education together. I was extremely pleased, and excited, to see how Adobe was investing across the board with their tools, platforms, and resources.
I was very, very impressed with the community and acknowledgements that were made for educators during both events. I had a chance to chat with many professionals from Adobe, and I was greeted with a friendly smile, handshake, and a thank you. I was approached by several professionals who knew I would be in attendance and introduced themselves and thanked me for the blog post I wrote last year about my experience at Adobe MAX and EDUMax. Have I ever gotten this type of reaction from academic conferences? No. This meant a lot to me because it shows the community, culture, and commitment Adobe is showing for education.
Even Michael Ninness of Adobe Spark shared in his Spark presentation how we should all thank teachers and educators for the work they do to help the industry. I have been to several trade conferences and events, and this was the first time I have ever heard an industry professional, representing a global leading brand, go out of their way in their presentation to thank educators. This truly made an impact for me, and I am very grateful Michael was able to do this and share his story of his graphics design teacher who helped him become the professional he is today. Thank you, Michael.
We all have stories to tell, but we have to share and know OURS
I felt Todd Taylor’s (UNC professor – definitely follow him!) talk was very strong and I was impressed with the point he was making with the emphasis of the digital DNA. This was something I think we all need to think about – there are going to be some things you are able to teach, but there are sometimes where you just have it. There are certain skills and experiences companies (like Adobe and others) are looking for. As educators, we have to think about this and consider – are we emphasizing this in our classes? How are we approaching this for our own personal brand?
Every medium has become digital, or incorporated a digital element to them. What we have to think a few things with this. Just being on social media or using technology doesn’t mean you are in the home stretch. It’s much more than that.There are certain areas we have to consider, especially when we are exploring this particular concept. You got to have passion for what you are focusing on and what you feel you can contribute to the community. That’s what I have been emphasizing (and will continue to emphasize in my social media classes) for my students. You got to have a passion for why you focus on what you do. That’s what I have been doing with researching, teaching, and consulting in social media. You got to think about the things that get you up in the morning first thing, and you do not feel it constitutes as “work.”
We also have to think about what is our overall purpose – how are YOU going to be making a difference? Educators need to take note of this, and I know this is a constant discussion about how to separate yourself from others to create your own brand. You need to create what works for you. No one is you more than you. We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, as well as perspectives, so let’s focus on what we have to offer, rather than try to absorb someone else’s ideas that have already been done. Lastly, we have to continue to evolve and grow. We can’t stay in the same place – agility and the willingness to work hard are part of the equations here. All of these principles and key best practices were some of the insightful and relevant themes that came across to me during EDUMax as well as Adobe MAX.
What was fun was to help others create their own stories and experiences. This year, I had a chance to not only enjoy MAX and EDUMax myself, but also share the journey with two fellow professor colleagues, Amber Hutchins (Kennesaw State University) and Emily Kinsky (West Texas A&M). For me, I was able to experience and see their excitement and true joy as they were able to listen, learn, and engage with others at both events. I was thrilled to see this – because I was felling the exact same way. This was truly a wonderful experience for us to be a part of, and as we designated ourselves as the #AdobeSquad, I hope other educators will join us in being part of the Adobe Family.
So. many. WONDERFUL updates for Adobe products and apps
When you think Adobe has launched all of the possible apps and features that are out there.. wait. They always have something up their sleeve and this year’s event was where they were able to showcase all of the latest updates to their largest crowd of creatives, which was pretty cool to see.
There were a ton of updates I felt were very, very cool. Project Felix became Adobe Dimension – which focused on 3D modeling for creatives. This was very cool to see and I could see this being applied for a variety of different classes such as Brand Management, PR Campaigns, and even Social Media Marketing (if you were creating content to be posted on social media w/ these 3D images). I loved the new updates for Adobe Spark – love the fact you are able to brand content and share these via social. I have been part of the Adobe Spark Insiders group for over a year now, and this is one of my favorite communities. I also loved the fact in Premiere, you have new responsive timing and video features, and amount of AR/VR features for creatives is AMAZING! Loved hearing all of this during the main keynote event. So exciting!
Swag, swag, and more swag (and food!)
Adobe is the GOAT (greatest of all time) when it comes to swag. They always bring their A game, and this was definitely apparent for this year’s EDUMax and Adobe MAX. Along with great items to be able to bring back to our offices and classes, what I really liked was the fact that Adobe focused on digital experiences and assets as well. For example, you were able to get social media headshots (LinkedIn and Lynda), as well as double exposure photos (done by Adobe Creative residents), and personalized t-shirts. These items allowed attendees to show – hey! I was able to not only get swag, but get something that is unique and personalized to me!
And I have to say – as a foodie myself – the food was amazing. We had truly epic foodie experiences here and the reception for Adobe MAX was awesome. We had everything from Chinese food to having a cookie dough station (!!!!).
Not to mention, EDUMax had two receptions this year. We had a chance to open up the experience and meet some of the fellow educators, Adobe professionals, and higher education professionals at The Wynn hotel.
We also had a closing reception where we were at Morel, a truly amazing French seafood restaurant. I enjoyed the conversations I had with the fellow attendees – two high school professors, an education professional from the Idaho state department, and a fellow professor. The conversations, discussions, and brainstorming sessions we had over our meal (which was amazing), was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at a conference. These are the types of intangible aspects of what makes EDUMax so special.
We are all part of the creativity innovation equation
I really, really enjoyed the presentation by Amir Dabirian, CTO of CSU Fullerton, at EDUMax. The question that was raised during his presentation was: in today’s world, is it sufficient for undergraduates to finish college only knowing how the world practices? This is not a question just for students, but for professors. We need to ask ourselves: Are WE doing enough just getting by with the traditional framework of doing research, serving on committees, and teaching courses?
The answer is no. We have to create a paradigm shift by becoming what I would like to call an experiential connector. I have done research in social connectors for educators, but we are beyond what we need to think about when it comes to being just social. Experiential connectors are fully immersed in the process, dialogue, community, and learning networks. They are actively engaged and think beyond the initial conversation, and they are the ones who are disrupting the field and expectations faced as educators.
In essence, what we all need to be aware of is how digital literacy is absolutely key. Having the foundation and the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information that requires both cognitive and technical skills is crucial. This is where creativity also plays a part, which was an ultimate theme from the conferences.
This is a table top skill that is essential to have in place. This should be a fundamental area of skills and knowledge everyone needs to have today. Think of it as an actual table – and imagine that digital literacy is that foundation. How do you make the table stand out? With accessories, colors, and design. That’s what’s missing in many cases for educators. From personal experience, I try to add in my own unique perspectives, assignments, and brand voice whenever I teach, research, and consult.
As I work on this reflection post from both EDUMax and Adobe MAX, there have been so many wonderful highlights and learning experiences. I do have a few recommendations on what could make next year’s event (and future ones this year) truly epic and amazing. I had a chance to chat with a few professionals and fellow educators during the event, and they gave me some great insights I’d like to share with the Adobe team to consider for future Creative Campus events.
- Workshops and Labs. Adobe MAX has great labs (went to several and what great hands on experiences!), but I think it would be great to apply this for EDUMax as well. Having tracks (perhaps for educators, administrators, and students separately) looking at hands on experiences they could integrate into their work, classes, and even job market. The presentations shared the knowledge and we were able to understand what was done, but creating more interaction and experiences with creating content we could then bring BACK to campus would be amazing. Having resources, assignment exercises, tutorials, and being more interactive would be tremendous. I think if this was framed as somewhat of a pre-conference to EDUMax (we had an opening reception the night before), this could be amazing. I’d definitely come out earlier to be able to take part in this.
- More diversity and representations of fields and roles. We heard a lot from administrators for this event (only a few educators), and we saw a lot of educators from certain disciplines (ex. English). This could be addressed if we had separate tracks for breakout sessions perhaps for educators, administrators, and students. We can have sessions all together, but we want to make sure we are able to focus on key areas of interest based on our roles in higher education. We need more role and discipline diversity in the presentations – more of a trans disciplinary focus. It’s important to have a strong core and foundation of creativity in the general education classes (this is key) – but how will this of be sustained over time during a student’s college experience? It would be great to have representation for all of the possible disciplines and majors, including the ones that are obvious to note (ex. Communications, PR, Marketing). Some of the activities that were shown for example and discussed from English are areas of focus that are covered in detail in PR and social media classes. I think having a broader view of how creativity is taught is needed.
- Interactive ideas. “A professor, k-12 teacher, and administrator walked into a bar..”No, I am not suggesting this – but I think it would be necessary to have an exercise where we have sessions where we have different roles and members come together to solve a big problem or address a huge opportunity for creativity in higher education.This could be an inspired hack-a-thon or even like a Shark Tank style exercise. Meaning, Adobe could look at the ideas from these teams and see which ones they feel would be successful or they would want to partner with for the upcoming year. This way, we could create more collaborative projects, insights, and reports that could then be shared and created for Adobe Education.
- More outreach throughout the year for educators. I think this was one of the things I heard a lot about. We have various regional Creative Campus meetings (these are fantastic – the one I went to in Lehi was amazing!), but I think if there was a way we could create a digital community where we were able to keep in touch, share announcements and questions about Adobe with fellow colleagues in a designated place, and even propose and share new ideas for how we are using certain products at our respective universities. This is one of the reasons why I created a #SMprofs group on Facebook (we have over 400 professors here) and it’s been a truly vibrant and energetic community. Plus, educators talk with educators, and this could open up more word-of-mouth communications and networking connections. One idea I have would be to have an ambassador programs (ex. Like the one Hootsuite has) can help us not only come together with great ideas, but we could then become digital advocates for others on social media. I know Stephen Marshall (ETSU) does a tremendous job with sharing updates on LinkedIn, but we need more of this and perhaps this could be done via an ambassador / advocacy digital platform.
So, what are my thoughts and feelings about my experience at Adobe MAX and EDUMax this year? What would I tell my fellow colleagues who are professors. I’d say RUN. Run to your computer or pick up your phone, find Adobe Education, and reach out to them to make sure you are on their radar for future Creative Campus events. These are events we all need to be a part of as educators. The overall vision, mission, and community at Adobe is what really has made both of these conferences and events so unique and different from anything else you would experience. Just the fact they are able to encourage, support, and authentically help others to achieve their creative goals speaks volumes to me as how they are as a brand, as well as a community.
Last year, I had a truly marvelous experience. This year, it was magical, just like the Alice of Wonderland themed community area and MAX Bash.
I would like to thank Suzanne, Jim, Paul, Keith, Ashley, Lisa, Thibault, Michael, Ben and the rest of the Adobe team for really making everyone feel so welcomed and for all of your hard work and dedication. You all truly represent the brand extremely well, and it’s the people behind the brand who make a company strong. You all have done this for Adobe. This was truly an epic event and I was truly honored to be a Creative Campus Thought Leader.You all did an amazing job with EDUMax and Adobe MAX this year. Thank you!
And, I’d like to send out a special thank you to Sebastian. Sebastian, you are a true gem and a treasured resource for everyone in education. What you have done with Creative Campus has been extraordinary. I can’t thank you enough for the support, vision, leadership and commitment you have for all of us to make sure we have the skills, support, and experiences to be the best we can be for our students. You are truly the best and I am forever grateful to be part of the Creative Campus community. Thank you again, Sebastian.
I am already counting the days until I am able to attend and experience my next Adobe event.
Hope you all are having a wonderful day.