Friday, March 8, 2013

So I have had several days to process the really great conference from last weekend. Here in the midst of another winter storm, I get some unexpected time to write about it. I think the most important benefit of these conferences is the opportunity to meet up with other school librarians. I know you have heard it all before, but the cliche is true: networking is critical, and we learn so much from each other that we simply must get out of our buildings and be together. I had some really great conversations during the meals, and in between sessions, and I count those to be as valuable as what I learned in the sessions.

First, kudos to the conference committee. Year after year, a dedicated group of school librarians work tirelessly to bring us the very best speakers, opportunities, and facilities to enhance our learning. THANK YOU!! I appreciate you! :-)

Despite some connectivity issues, which really hindered some of the presentations (I felt badly for those presenters; they brought Powerpoint slides for just such an occurrence, but those sessions didn't work very well), I thought that the sessions I attended were generally all of high quality. The conference began with a bang, with Pam Berger's session on inquiry, primary sources, and technology. Pam provided us with some good examples about how to get kids to think critically about primary sources, and make personal connections. But this activity led to one of the best ideas I heard at the conference from one of the librarians at my table (I'm so sorry, I don't remember who it was! Please write and let me know, if you read this!). She explained how she gets multiple versions of Paul Revere's ride, which include various artistic renditions, Longfellow's poem, maps from the Park Service, and things Revere himself wrote about the events. She then asks students to compare the different versions, and investigate why some of the versions are different from each other. Inquiry! Investigation! Critical thinking! I love it! I will definitely look for opportunities to incorporate this sort of inquiry when talking with teachers about upcoming units.

In the afternoon, Richard Byrne made a pretty compelling case for why Twitter can be an educator's best friend. This is when the internet began to slow down, as did his presentation, but I was grateful for the kick in the pants to get myself connected on Twitter to a lot of my Mass. school librarian colleagues. I will definitely try to figure out how fit Twitter into my (almost) daily schedule now. Time has been a barrier to fully integrating it; I encourage you to give it another try if you, like I did, sort of gave up on it.

The other major highlight for me was the description by Maureen Ambrosino and Anita Cellucci of the public library/public school collaboration that they have developed. My nascent Student Advisory Board has been struggling to stay afloat, and I hope to be able to reach out to our public librarians in Hudson to see if we can re-energize this group. I firmly believe that students need opportunities to take charge of their learning and activities (see the Search Institute's "40 Developmental Assets") and I need to find a way to help my students make this jump, and take charge!

So again, thank you so very much to the Conference Committee. I was energized, and I learned new things that I can try to put into action right away! Well, maybe after it stops snowing...