Beyond the Classroom: Experiencing Technology Innovation Up-Close-And-Personal at SXSW

I am constantly told that the best way to tell a story is in 140-characters. When my mother has a question about how to post a photo on to Facebook, I am her go-to-girl, because I "grew up with this stuff." Last semester, I took an entire class on social media. But while I "tweet" and learn about the digital revolution in my communications classes, I have never immersed myself in the technology and digital methods that are supposedly altering how we as humans communicate and function.

As a millennial, I have experienced first hand a technological evolution that has transformed our daily lives. But even though I grew up with a touch-screen phone nearly glued to my hand, I never had the opportunity to delve into the more complex technologies and digital platforms that have so heavily altered our engagement with one another.

That changed last week when I had the opportunity to travel to the SXSW Interactive conference during my spring break. It was definitely a new experience to engage first-hand with the technologies I only read about, and even meet the innovators behind them.

At W2O Group's PreCommerce Summit, I listened to top executives from companies like Google, Twitter, IBM and Dell discuss how these companies have helped shape and adapted to the digital revolution. The director of the Health Data Initiative at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Damon Davis, discussed how analytics are reshaping health services across the nation. VJ Joshi, a former HP executive council member, discussed the future according to nanotechnologies and smart machines. I even got the chance to listen to the Today Show's Al Roker discuss the importance of maintaining your true identity in a world that is becoming increasingly shaped by "trends."

The event even offered technology demos, like the interactive demo from MDigital Life, which allowed me to determine my network connections across social mediums on a single platform.

As a journalism student determining her future in a world where I receive scoffs and the classic, "there are still journalism majors out there" when I tell some people my course of study, I found my attendance at this event to be pretty critical. While the classroom experience is necessary to any education, this event provided me with the opportunity to truly understand the technologies I am so often told are "defining the future" and even "defining our generation."

While millennials may be a bit iPhone happy, there is still a great deal for us to learn about the digital revolution.

Universities across the country are striving to ensure that students begin to grasp what digital influence is all about. As a student ambassador for the Center for Social Commerce at Syracuse University, I've been afforded the opportunity to immerse myself in social commerce, social media, technology, analytics and big data, and the larger influence they play in society.

Putting technology into the hands of millennials, and putting them in front of the innovators of the 21st century at events like SXSW is game changing. There is truly no stopping the next generation of thinkers and doers.

Just sit back and watch us.