Monday, February 6, 2012

OLA Superconference 2012

February 1-4, 2012 was the Superbowl of provincial library conferences, the Ontario Library Association Superconference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Be prepared for a few days of posts on the topic. Here's my reflections.

Ontario Library Association Super Conference 2012

Innovation: Imagine. Innovate. Impact
Conference Reflections by Diana Maliszewski

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 7:45 a.m.
Session #200: Forest of Reading ® Breakfast
Summary = “Winning authors and illustrators from the 2011 Forest of Reading ® Program will join the members of the 2012 Selection and Steering committees in this celebratory breakfast.” Students from Agnes Macphail P.S. (my school), Chine Drive P.S. and Adam Beck P.S. were invited as interviewers. This was the first time that children were admitted to the breakfast and I was told that their presence ramped up the energy and excitement in the room 100%. Parents escorted the eager teams via TTC and car pools. The room was packed but there was food enough for all.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 9:05 a.m.
Session #301: Forest of Reading ® Winners Showcase
Session #316: Let’s Talk Security in the Digital Age by Marsha & Michelle Bissessarsingh
Summary = I was unable to attend either of these sessions because I needed to coordinate the interview process for our students. Coats needed to be stored, quiet places for videotaping needed to be found and photos of the action needed to be snapped. I also had the chance to have some good conversations in the Speakers’ Lounge.
3 Key Points
  • ·         Melissa Murray from the York Region District School Board is delighted with the steps her board has been taking with regards to inquiry. Although it’s exhausting, she loves her increased amount of time in schools videotaping inquiry learning. On how to convince people to permit their teaching to be taped, she says that once word gets out, people volunteer others and it’s a joyful escalation.
  • ·         Roger Nevin, Elizabeth Gordon, Isabelle Hobbs, and I did some planning for the AGM. It’s important to have a streamlined but yet still useful meeting, especially because of our special guest.
  • ·         Authentic learning experiences in real-world situations like these student interviews are incredible. After their interview, Kevin Sylvester sat down on the floor of the Convention Centre with a half-dozen of our students and conducted a drawing lesson. That’s an experience they won’t soon forget.
So What? Now What? = I think I need to schedule in “flexible time” and not feel guilty if I have to skip a session. There was just as much learning happening in these out-of-workshop discussions as there might have been had I attended my regular workshop. Flexibility is really important when my students are involved. They wanted time to explore the Expo Hall, with and without me. They all left a little later than I had originally intended but they had a fantastic time.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 10:40 a.m.
Session #427: Greening the Learning Commons by Mary Hickey and Mona Sahu
Summary = Library staff at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Peel DSB explained the various steps they took to become an Eco-School. The school library took the lead in many of these initiatives.
3 Key Points
  • Choose something each year to work on (e.g. for Cawthra Park, 2010 = filter your air project with plants in the classroom / 2011 = local food with growing own vegetables)
  • Use technology to help (e.g. buy a printer that does duplexing, use Captivate to make instructional videos for staff and students on how to do “2-up” printing to save paper & $)
  • Get everyone on board (e.g. custodians for extra work involving plants, other students for spaces during lunch in the library for videos and debates)
So What? Now What? = Although this was focused on high school practices, there were several ideas that could be modified for our school. Using the website would be ideal for an upcoming partner unit with the kindergarten class on recycling. Mary and Mona also reminded the group that it takes frequent reminders and instruction to get people in the habit of doing things like print previews but with perseverance, you can see a difference.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 12:00 p.m.
TDSB TL Luncheon
Summary = Every year, OSLA Toronto councillor Lisa Dempster arranges a lunch for all TDSB teacher-librarians at Joe Badali’s. This year I brought three non-TDSB personnel to the function: Alannah King from Upper Grand DSB and Dr. Jennifer Branch and Dr. Joanne DeGroot from the University of Alberta. We are all linked via the Teacher-Librarianship via Distance Learning M.Ed program. We talked a lot about how our children influence our work, the process of gaining tenure, and our opinions on the conference so far.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 2:10 p.m.
Session # 500: All-Conference Plenary by Jonah Lehrer
Summary = Dr. Lehrer talked about creativity, aha moments (insight) and “grit”, with many references to neuro-scientific studies.
3 Key Points
·        Insights do not just happen in fairy tales. They can be studied using Compound Remote Associate Problems and you can even tell by the way a certain part of the brain lights up on a ECG that someone is about to have an insight; these happen when a person in relaxed daydreaming, in the shower, or having a long walk.
·        Society is obsessed with maximal tests (e.g. a 1982 task to determine the fastest cashier) but they are useless! (maximal-typical contradiction); people who possess “grit” (single-mindedness towards goals, appropriate response to frustration) will succeed, especially if it’s the right goal for the person > their goal needs to pass “the underwear test” (it’s a pursuit that will keep us motivated for years, inspire passion to continue working/learning/improving)
·        Collaboration is key to creativity nowadays (i.e. in the past papers that were the most cited/influential were written by one person but post 1970s it’s ones made by teams); even with our technology making it easy to “connect” from far away, people need to be brought together in common spaces for the mixing and “human friction” that leads to creativity
So What? Now What? = This was a great rationale for allowing me to attend conferences! (Lehrer states that despite the introduction of Skype, attendance at conventions has risen because people need face-to-face contact). Since “grit” creativity involves practice and dedication, whereas “insight” creativity involves relaxation (he called it the “red room” and “blue room” for one study reference), then I must make sure that both environments are nurtured depending on the type of creativity.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 3:45 p.m.
Session #626: Lit Circles Go Graphic and Wiki-dly Wonderful by Martha Martin
Summary = Martha talked about three things combined together > literature circles, graphic novels and class wikis.
3 Key Points
·        Martha taught the tool using the tool > her workshop was made on a wiki and can be found at
·        Reading aloud as part of literature circles is controversial; Martha likes doing it especially when graphic novels are the selected literature because you can alter voices, you must read at a slower pace to examine the illustrations thoroughly, and you read for meaning instead of decoding.
·        Parents can request to be added to the literature circle wikis and even be allowed to contribute to the discussion
So What? Now What? = This workshop was more of a reaffirmation that the things I am doing with graphic novels and wikis are good, rather than an avalanche of new things I learned that I didn’t know before. Martha is a dynamic presenter and a good friend of mine so it was wonderful to watch her in action.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 5:15 p.m.
Session #702: Ontario School Library Association Annual General Meeting and Award Presentation / Reception
Summary = A brief report encapsulated the past year, the incoming president introduced our new council, and 4 groups/individuals received awards. The big excitement of the evening was when the Minister of Education, the Honourable Laurel Broten, came to make a short speech and pose for photos.
3 key points
  • ·         The winner of the Teacher-Librarian of the Year Award was Bernard Dowling from the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic DSB and the winner of the Administrator of the Year Award was Helen Fisher from the Toronto DSB.
  • ·         The winner of the OLA Technical Services Award was Bonnie Starr from the Halton DSB.
  • ·         The winner of the Award for Special Achievement was People for Education.
So What? Now What? = We have many new people on OSLA Council this year; as one of the senior members, I need to support them by keeping communication frequent and open. I ended up being the official photographer of the short meet-and-greet with the Minister. I will be sending copies of the photos to her administrative assistant. After the meeting, I had a fantastic conversation with Lori, Carm, Karrie, Lesley, Lindsay, and Alannah. Lori and Carm told us about the experience of presenting to the Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB directors and superintendents. Lesley described what it was like in California for school librarians to be interrogated by lawyers. Five of us continued the conversation until late at night at East Side Mario’s. I need people to write down some of these great stories for use in The Teaching Librarian magazine!

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 9:05 a.m.
Session #1000: Why Social Networks Matter for Education by Alec Couros
Summary = Dr. Couros from the University of Regina discussed open education, networked learning, social media and critical literacy.
3 key points
  • ·         Use free web 2.0 tools and work towards open doctrines and open education (world knowledge for the public good, i.e. Creative Commons, the Directory of Open Access Journals); this will re-imagine what scholars do and is controversial in some circles where the knowledge industry is still for profit
  • ·         81% of North American children have a digital identity by age 2; the digital divide is not by age but by access and opportunity (the digital native is a myth) so allow kids to consume, produce, remix and share using tools like blogs, wikis, Tumblr, posterus, Twitter, Yammer, Edmodo, Diigo,, drop-box, mednely, Google docs, Evernote, Instagram, YouTube, Pearltree, scoop, Storify, etc. > schools should have a hand in creating positive digital identities with their students
  • ·         Understand network literacies (how networks work) and digital fluency; preserve your reputation, make human connections, contribute to group projects (see the virtual choir, Johnny Cash project or learning documentation project) > everything is about relationships and we must understand the tools as well as the people behind the tools
So What? Now What? = Am I giving enough away for free? Am I making things accessible enough? A quote during the talk (paraphrased) was that it is no longer enough to do powerful work if no one sees it. I have to share it wider, expand my Twitter PLN, and educate myself on things like the Creative Commons more. Even just sharing how my LiveScribe pen works with Jeanne and Glenna right after the session was a good first step. 

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 10:40 a.m.
Session #1100: All Conference Plenary by Neil Pasricha
Summary = The author of The Book of Awesome and famous blog shared the origin of the book, 4 ways to help awesomeness, and an important closing thought.
3 key points
  • ·         Pasricha had a rough 2008-2009 and to help deal with it, he started his blog and it ended up earning a Webbie award.
  • ·         The 4 As that will help you with an awesome life > attitude, awareness, alignment, authenticity (be positive & empathetic / embrace your inner 3 year old / have everything you do match your principles / be yourself and be cool with it)
  • ·         Life is short so make the most of it, appreciate those moments because they won’t last, and you’ll live a rich and happy life
So What? Now What? = I won a free book because at the beginning of his talk, Neil asked the audience of 3000 if anyone would be willing to stand and share something awesome that happened to them in the past couple of days. I did (“having great conversations with delightful people”) and I won a book for my bravery. Pasricha also suggested that to make an awesome library, you need 3 Ss: the social, the structure, and the stimulation (always learning). I’m going to make sure my life continues to be awesome by refining the right attitude, maybe even defining my alignment principles!

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 12:00 noon
Access OLA Editorial Board Meeting
Summary = AccessOLA is the magazine of the Ontario Library Association and I am the OSLA liaison editor. Mike Ridley is our new editor-in-chief. We discussed the name of the periodical, electronic and print formats, surveying the readers, and themed issues. Good lunch too!

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 2:10 p.m.
Session #1230: Pets as Possibilities @ Your Library
Summary = Annie Slater and I enumerated the benefits of pet ownership for libraries and the procedures one must undertake and considerations one must make before obtaining a pet. Reptilia also came to do a presentation on the services they offer.
3 key points
  • ·         Everyone benefits from having animals in the library (shy students, special education students, young people, old people, staff, visitors, etc.) and research has been conducted to prove it
  • ·         Know the policy of your workplace and investigate the type of animal you wish to introduce (e.g. TDSB does not allow birds or turtles and arrangements have to be made for care during holidays).
  • ·         There are many options, such as the butterfly program (only a 5 week commitment) to Reptilia’s school year loaning program.
So What? Now What? = I cannot evaluate the success of this talk too objectively since I was part of it. I was surprised to see so many public librarians in the room. Annie did a great job; it’s hard to believe it was her first conference. Blair from Reptilia delighted and amazed us all with the creatures he brought > tortoises and pythons as well as other reptiles. I want to research getting a tortoise for myself (but I promise to do intensive research first!)

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 3:45 p.m.
Session #1326: Survival with your staff: Adventures in Technology Teacher Training by Alanna King
Summary = Alanna discussed the philosophy as well as the practicality of helping your staff with digital literacy and technology.
3 key points
  • ·         Don’t just keep to intranets like Bitstrips > let them feel what it’s like “out there in the real world” because it’s about the kids, not us and not the tools > in fact, why not throw out the SMART Board and have a “differentiated technology tool cart” with a variety of gadgets like a LiveScribe pen or tablet that students can select based on their need?
  • ·         Prioritize your tool use because platforms will come and go and we need transferable skills rather than tips and tricks instruction > declare that you will not teach something unless it can be tied to metacognition, critical thinking, and/or problem based learning > whole school tech focus should be on communication, collaboration, creation and curation
  • ·         Find support as a TL by building your community, getting comfortable with asking for help and making time to give help and creating as much as you are consuming. Some of Alanna’s favourite tools are Prezi, blogs, Google, Evernote, Diigo and Nings and some of her favourite means of support are Twitter, the OLA/OTF PD sessions, ECOO, Unplugd and the Teacher-Librarian Ning.
So What? Now What? = I loved how adventurous Alanna was by using multiple screens and offering a Google doc “geek IQ” test ( for people to take using their cell phones. Can my students tweet using a hashtag? I will revisit her presentation on and look into reading two books she mentioned: The Socially Networked Classroom and Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in the Digital Age. I also need to check out Sweetsearch (a search engine vetted by school librarians) and re-visit (the Critical Thinking Consortium).

Friday, February 3, 2011 – 5:15 p.m.
Summary = The 1400 sessions were meetings for other sub-organizations of OLA (such as the public library). I rested a bit with Alanna King in the Speakers Lounge but hunger drove us to the Intercontinental Toronto Centre lounge for a bite to eat (while wearing our 1970s outfits for the upcoming soirĂ©e)! We had a nice dinner conversation about being avant-garde and our patient and wonderful spouses. We spoke briefly with Scott and Maria from Tinlids; in a “6-Degrees-of-Separation” moment, we learned that Scott’s daughter was Alanna’s student in grade 9 & 12.

Friday, February 3, 2011 – 6:15 p.m.
Session #1500: All Conference Networking Event – Friday Night Fever
Summary = The theme of this year’s party was 1970s disco. Alanna and I garnered a lot of attention in our vibrant outfits. We danced our grooviest moves and even started a conga line (which is harder than you’d think!) We had nice conversations with Amanda and June and posed for many pictures with other attendees. When the party ended, June, Alanna, and I met with Dr. Alec Couros for more engaging conversation. We discussed Saskatchewan, cities, children, games and post-secondary education, among other things. Alec had a chance to cuddle with Max, my skinny pig who was with me because of my earlier workshop. Maybe a new pet is in Alec’s future? I didn’t attend the final day of the conference but it was still an educational and enriching two days.

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