Friday, August 19, 2011

Learning between the Sessions @ #iasl2011

I skipped posting yesterday because I met with a team of teacher-librarians for a combined social and self-directed professional learning session. I'll share some of our discoveries in a post in the next few weeks. Let me return to IASL for a final blog reflection.

A common refrain of mine is that I learn just as much from the conversations I have between workshops as I do from the sessions I attend at conferences. The International Association of School Libraries conference in Kingston, Jamaica, was no different. Here are a few "percolating pots of ideas" gleaned from conversations from August 7-11.

a) Research Projects via Dr. Elizabeth Lee
I'm honoured to consider Elizabeth a friend. While we were in Jamaica, we were able to continue a conversation we've had about a research project I want to undertake. Elizabeth is a university professor familiar with proper research procedures and I am not. While tasting ginips and sipping drinks by the pool, she outlined possible tools to use and ways to analyze the information. I won't go into excessive detail on what my research project will entail, but thanks to Elizabeth's guidance, it's closer to becoming reality. More literature reviews searches for me are in my immediate future. Thank you Elizabeth!

b) Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants via Dr. Barbara McNeil
During the panel on multiple literacies, I asked a question: "The terms 'digital native and digital immigrant' are problematic because they are a fallacy and lead people to thinking that they can't change. What other metaphor can we use to explain the situation?" Anita Brooks Kirkland, an Ontario teacher-librarian, disagreed with the labels and I've accepted and internalized her opinions on the matter, and so I brought it up. Dr. Branch suggested "digital migrant". Dr. Doiron suggested that instead of "we vs them" that it should be "us". Mrs. Roberts did not consider the term to be important or objectionable. Later that night, there was a banquet and auction and I had a chance to speak to Dr McNeil from Regina. She gave me a new perspective on why the terms "digital native and digital immigrant" are problematic and she made a good point, one I had not considered deeply. Being labeled an immigrant suggests that the person is less-than those who are "in the know". As she explained further, I found myself nodding vigorously. Our conversation then veered to finding another analogy to help people understand without alienating or denigrating a particular group. When Dr McNeil came upon a suitable metaphor, I literally got goosebumps! She has promised to write about the idea for The Teaching Librarian in what I think will be a great article.

c) Cross-Country Advocacy via Lourense Das (Netherlands) and Ella Makinza (Namibia)
I had separate conversations with these amazing ladies who are soldiering along against challenging circumstances in their own countries. It made me realize that it's not just in Ontario or in Canada that we struggle to keep effective school library programs afloat. We have some projects lined up between us to help each other with our similar goals, and it is these worldwide endeavors that have me energized and excited.


  1. The notion of "digital immigrants" being perceived as less than those "in the know" is spot on. My problem is when the notion of the digital immigrant is used as an excuse for inability, or far more frequently lack of disposition for learning technology. I love Christopher Harris's idea of digital nature and digital nurture. He argues that it's not so much about age as about disposition, and that some just need more nurturing. It is true that "digital natives" have the advantage of context, growing up in a digital age. They are also, perhaps, more open to learning than many adults.

    I wrote about this debate in the context of professional learning. We can no longer accept people refusing to learn or lacking confidence because they think their immigrant status dis-empowers them.


    Harris, C. (2010). Dumping on ‘Digital Natives’: It’s time to send the natives –
    immigrants dichotomy packing. School Library Journal 56(2).

  2. Anita, I'm nodding vigorously again - the "excuse for inability" was the point I originally tried to make with my question (but you do it so much more eloquently). Dr McNeil has a different analogy that she's going to develop into an article so I don't want to steal her thunder by mentioning the idea here. I'll refer her to the Harris article (thank you for the citation).