Monday, November 27, 2017

Important People, Disembodied Participants and Fun in the Sun

It's been weeks since I travelled to Phoenix for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference but there are still some aspects of the trip that I want to think more about. (Thinking is just about all I was able to do this past week, as I lost my voice AGAIN and was limited to whispering or squeaky squawks.) I loved Eva Thompson's blog post (@leftyeva) she called "BIT17 Non Conference Observations" and how it's the little moments that also make a conference special. I wanted to capture a tiny bit of that in my own reflection post.

Important People

I was going to call this section "new connections" but I realized that some of these were "renewed connections".

Lissa Bonnell Davies (@lissabdavies on Twitter)

I've known Lissa before, from online classes at the University of Alberta and at various Treasure Mountain Canada events. At AASL, I had the opportunity to spend more time with her and I'm so glad that we did. She's a teacher-librarian and vice principal in Edmonton, Alberta. Lissa hung out with us at the Conference Celebration at the Corona Ranch and we spent time together at various sessions and did lunch as a group on Saturday.

Almost every time Lissa opens her mouth, I learn something! I've told her that she is incredibly quotable. I missed writing down half the things she said, but she's so down-to-earth and so smart! She recommended books (like Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon) and gave great advice to my daughter on being herself as she makes the transition to university life. 
Irina Tuule (@Eduporium on Twitter)

At a conference with 5000 people, how likely are you to run into the same person all the time? With me and Irina, the answer is "often". Irina Tuule works at Eduporium ( and although I didn't spend a lot of time in the Exhibit Hall, I spent a lot of time bumping into this friendly face!


I can't find the card Connie gave me, which is a big shame because she is someone I want to stay in touch with. How will I do that when I only have a first name? All I remember is that she is a former school librarian in California who is now in a public library space. Connie was super supportive during our Treasure Mountain talk and had so much to offer in terms of her experience. I hope someone can provide her contact information so we can communicate again.

Anne Weglewski

Anne was one of the many people we dealt with behind the scenes before the conference began. She helped me arrange for my daughter's badge, removed one of my sessions, and recalibrated my other sessions so the time wouldn't conflict. At the conference, she helped us figure out how to deal with our luggage, showed us where to meet the shuttle buses for the conference party, and just made sure we were safe and happy. Thanks Anne!

Now, I'm sure I'm forgetting many other people - those like fellow Canadian Marc Crompton who took up photography duty at Treasure Mountain, those who were kind enough to attend one of my workshops, those who stayed behind to help me clean up after my workshops (see, I've forgotten your name already - dang!), those who boogied with me on the dance floor at the ranch or explained things to me at the Phoenix Art Museum. For all those who didn't get a specific mention but should have, thank you for everything. (Like thanks to Victoria Jamieson for signing my copy of her book!)

With Victoria Jamieson and her graphic novel, Roller Girl!

Disembodied Participants

I can't even call them virtual participants! These are friends and colleagues of mine who never intended to go to this conference, but whose presence I felt as I grappled with ideas and listened at workshops.

Michelle Solomon (@msolomonteacher on Twitter)

I knew Michelle first online as part of the Association for Media Literacy and as a participant in the #K12media Twitter chats. I've been fortunate to get to spend more time with her as she helps run the Media Additional Qualification (AQ) course I've been taking. I tweeted at her several times during the conference and afterwards about some of the media related things I saw and the equity concepts.

Jennifer Brown (@JennMacBrown on Twitter)

 I've already gushed at length about Jenn. I was blessed to get to spend time with her at length at Treasure Mountain Canada and it was like she was still with me at AASL. She had her own presentation to worry about that weekend - the MakeChange conference in Toronto - but still engaged with us about what she was hearing from our corner of the world and what she was hearing at her conference.

Lisa Noble (@nobleknits2 on Twitter)

Lisa didn't get a specific Twitter shout-out from me during AASL, but she was at BIT17 and kept us in the loop at that conference. Lisa is so good at pulling me into conversations and deep thinking about ideas and books and more. She's often in my thoughts.

Fun in the Sun

All work and no play makes someone a dull person. My trip to Phoenix was educational and professional, but I also had the opportunity to relax, enjoy the wonderful Arizona weather, and play tourist for a bit. It would not have been half as fun without my delightful travelling companions: my darling daughter Mary, the marvellous Melanie Mulcaster and amazing Alanna King. It was a very jam-packed four days, but in between the conference, we were able to see the Phoenix Art Museum, the Corona Ranch (part of the AASL experience), and my daughter had the chance to go to the Phoenix Science Center and the Phoenix Comic Con Fan Festival. How sad would it have been if all we saw of this super state was the inside of the convention center as we ran from room to room presenting or attending? I can't adequately describe how the warm weather was a balm to our spirits - eating outside was such a treat, especially knowing that it was snowing in Ontario. Thank you Phoenix, Arizona, and AASL! I don't know if I can afford Kentucky in 2019, but it sure is tempting!

On the plane ready to take off for Houston enroute to Phoenix

Exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum

Stained sugar cubes make faces with coffee
Planning our route home and dinner location after the gallery

Entertainment from the Corona Ranch

Palm tree just outside our AZ residence

Monday, November 20, 2017

Famous Canadians Include Evan Munday

My junior and intermediate students are currently involved with an inquiry around the topic of fame. What does it mean to be famous? How do people become famous? Who should be more famous than they might currently be? The students and I have done several activities together to collaboratively investigate these questions. We've brainstormed famous people and examined our lists for commonalities and occupations. We've read a non-fiction article about how to become famous on YouTube, enjoyed a picture book that hinted that fame can be "in the eye of the beholder", and will participate in a lesson I'm developing partly for my Media Additional Qualification (AQ) course on what it means when something "goes viral". One of the other tasks we've jointly undertaken was to explore Twitter. We used our school's Twitter account, @agnesmacphailps, and we took a look at the account of Evan Munday, known on Twitter as @idontlikemunday. We discussed the codes and conventions of Twitter, including the use of hashtags, and then took a look at the hashtag Evan created, #365Canadians. Here is an example, posted recently on Twitter.

Internationally renowned dancer, former principal dancer and now artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, Karen Kain.

Other Canadians that he has profiled in the last few days have included Herb Dhaliwal, Konwatsi’tsiaienni (also known as Molly Brant), Sir Isaac Brock, Barbara Ann Scott, David Suzuki, Mary Marguerite Rose, Leo Major, Albert Mah and Rose Fortune.

In our pre-viewing class discussion, students predicted how many names they'd recognize and what "kinds" of people they'd see. After we scrolled through a dozen or so, we regrouped and analyzed our results. Many of the individuals were unfamiliar to the students.

"I thought I'd know more people because I thought he'd show a lot more politicians", commented one student. (One of our other lessons involved learning a song about the Canadian prime ministers. More on that later.)

I thought it was pretty neat that after I showed the Grade 5-6 class, the students raced to the shelves and borrowed all of Evan Munday's Dead Kid Detective Agency books. When I conducted this exploration with the Grade 4-5 classes, they had even more questions. We did what came naturally - we used Twitter to actually ask Evan Munday himself. The great part is that he replied!

AgnesMacphailPS @AgnesMacphailPS Nov 15
Hey - One of 's Grade 4-5 students wants to know: how did you know or find out about some of the people you draw for ? We hadn't heard of many of them!

Monday, November 13, 2017

AASL Conference Reflections Part 2

Here is the second part of my lengthy blog reflection about my experience at the American Association of School Librarians conference in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona.

American Association of School Librarians 18th National Conference and Exhibition

Beyond the Horizon: November 9-11, 2017 

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Cosplay MakerSpaces
Diana Maliszewski and Mary Maliszewski

Relevant Links

Summary: (taken from
You've heard the term "makerspace". Have you heard of "cosplay"? Often seen and admired at comic and anime conventions, cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game. Cosplayers often make their own outfits, so why not combine cosplay and makerspaces at school? This mother-daughter team will tell their tales of creating costumes and share potential ways to incorporate it into your established or emerging makerspace.

3 Key Points

1) Cosplay and makerspaces have a lot of commonalities.

2) Making clothes or costumes can lead to lots of "extra learning" (about social justice, eco-literacy, math, language, social studies, drama, etc.)

3) Issues surrounding cosplay and makerspaces exist but can be overcome.

So What? Now What?

This was the fourth time that Mary and I have given this presentation. (The other times in 2017 were the OLA Super Conference, the QSLiN conference in Montreal, and the MakerEdTO conference.) I have to confess that it is probably the best crafted workshop I have ever created. (A lot of that can be credited to ETFO's "Workshop Presenter's Palette", the engaging subject matter, and my wonderful co-presenter.) I'm unsure what my next steps will be.

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - Beyond Identifying Fake News: Providing Effective Media Literacy PD for Librarians, Teachers, and Parents

Relevant Links

Summary:(taken from
Fake news has real-world consequences, but the fact is, most adults see themselves as much more media literate than they actually are. How can we provide effective coaching for teachers and librarians so that they are more able to assess their own levels of media literacy and can provide more authentic and productive lessons for their students? Engage in a series of collaborative table discussions and develop a PD exercise to take back with you.

3 Key Points

1) Adults do not respond in the same way that students do when they are part of professional development / professional learning.

2) Using a strategy such as "World Café" helps acknowledge the expertise in the room while still getting people to attentively listen, think, and respond.

3) Media literacy is an important topic and we need to acknowledge our own biases, misunderstandings, and lack of knowledge.

So What? Now What?

I came in a bit late for this session, as it took a long time to clean up after my cosplay makerspace talk. I think my Media AQ course has been too influential on me because I asked the presenters afterwards about the conceptual underpinnings of media studies (i.e. did they use the 8 key media concepts or McLuhan's work) and they hadn't - the focus was more on how to provide PD for adults that may be your superiors or reluctant to learn. I liked the task of synthesizing the vast information (from another group) into 5 take away points - let me think about how to use that with my students.

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Light It Up Blue: Adapted Library Techniques for Students on the Autism Spectrum and Non-Categorical Disabilities
Heather Baucum

Related Links
(This leads to an adapted book flyer PDF)
(This is the slide deck)

Summary:(taken from
Regular library story time can be easy to achieve, but what do you do with your growing population of students who are on the autism spectrum or have non-categorical disabilities in their library time? Come learn some new techniques to adapt books and engage students on a sensory level to build a love of the library and literature.

3 Key Points

1) Don't lower your expectations just because a student has autism - they can do things even like green screen projects with the right amount of support and modifications.

2) It takes a village to educate children - be aware of their IEPs and strive to support their IEP goals through the library and your programming. Goals may be things like fine motor skills, attending, social skills, verbalization, following instructions, etc. Strategies to work on these goals can include very tactile tools like Velcro boards, Bingo boards, felt boards, and puppets; or deliberate choices like clear, uncluttered illustrations and books with songs, repetitions, patterns or about students' favourite subjects; or technology like Pebble Go, Super Simple Learning, Pink Fong, Pancake Manor, The Singing Walrus.

3) Be flexible. What works one day might not work the next. Your puppets or stuffed animals may "go walking" for a day. Your manipulatives may be manhandled, broken, or "loved to death". Don't despair and go with the flow.

So What? Now What?
I must admit, although I was keen to attend a session related to ASD, the title worried me because of my somewhat negative opinions of Autism Speaks. I shouldn't have worried - or rather, I should have been more worried about my laptop, which suddenly refused to let me take notes about 3/4 of the way through the talk. (I have notes from sessions all over my laptop and phone, which made collecting the artifacts interesting.) Heather has a son who is autistic and obviously cares about her students, as she peppered her talk with references to specific children. I appreciated that she provided us with two already-made Velcro Board tasks. If I spend time making these kinds of boards, I am going to have to get over that huge hurdle (for me) of "letting go" if the pieces get stolen or destroyed. My next step is definitely to go and look at the IEPs of all the students I see regularly and see how I can alter my program so that I'm helping them with their IEP goals.

Heather's introductory slide

Some of the books and props used by the presenter

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 3:10 p.m. - 4:10 p.m.
Addressing White Privilege and Unconscious Bias in the Classroom: Becoming an Ally
Jody Gray and Gwendolyn Prellwitz

Relevant Links n/a

Summary:(taken from
Begin to explore how privilege and unconscious bias shape the classroom experience. This session will provide some insight into identifying how our personal identities impact the education experience for students of color. We will introduce ways to explore and challenge our social identities and become allies that contribute to the positive impact of student experiences.

3 Key Points

1) Being an ally is not an identity - it is an ongoing process.

2) A helpful analogy for understanding white privilege is one about boots and sandals. Privilege is like wearing heavy boots, so weighty that you often can't notice when you step on someone's toes. If you can reframe your response when you are called out for a micro aggression by remembering the boot and sandal analogy and tapping into empathy, this will be beneficial.

3) Unconscious bias is part of the reason why education has the desire to be more equitable but often that has not translated into actual progress.

So What? Now What?

I want to be an ally but I think I stink at it. I need to surround myself with those who are better at it (Michelle Solomon, Rusul AlRubail, and Jennifer Brown immediately come to mind) and look at ways I can be proactive instead of reactive and dismiss the erroneous notion some have of colour blindness.

Jody and Gwendolyn

Stay tuned for more AASL related thoughts on this blog page.

AASL17 Conference Reflections - it's Worth the flight to Phoenix Part 1

I'm tired but also triumphant; content and curious and contemplative. I just got back from the American Association of School Librarians conference in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a fantastic three days of learning, networking and discovering. In the tradition of my previous conference reflections, I'll attempt to share my learning and consolidate my thoughts - not necessarily an easy task while still recuperating from an overnight flight and jet lag!

American Association of School Librarians 18th National Conference and Exhibition

Beyond the Horizon: November 9-11, 2017 

Thursday, November 9, 2017 - 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Treasure Mountain Transfer

Relevant Links

 Treasure Mt. is a group of school library researchers and practitioners that met beginning in 1989 In Park City, UT at the base of Treasure Mountain in conjunction with the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City. This group has met irregularly, usually in conjunction with AASL national conferences almost 20 times over the years and has usually been organized by David Loertscher and Blanche Woolls, although Danny Calison has organized several.  

3 Key Points:

1) Dr. Ross Todd, who provided the opening keynote on micro-documentation, wants to encourage us to collect data on what matters to your specific school and your community to help with your evidence based practices. By consulting with existing research (papers and tools) and connecting it to real issues related to your students, you will show that teacher-librarians and school libraries are essential.

2) Dr. David Loertscher, in comments similar to those made at Treasure Mountain Canada, compels us to make creating just as key as consuming in our school libraries (slide 3). Not only can we have students read a book, we can have them write a book. Not only can students watch a video, they can film a video. It's been around for a while, but the LIIITE model (Literacies, Information, Inquiry & Discovery, Instructional Designs, Technology Boosts, Expertise & Leadership) and the UTEC maker model (Using, Tinkering, Experimenting, Creating) can be our guides to deciding what to document and what to focus on.

3) Vi Harada from Hawaii, during one of the table talks, described how place based learning lends itself well to collaborative inquiry. She provided a specific local example (the journey of the Hokulea, a double-hulled canoe created using traditional Polynesian building techniques, and how the schools partnered with many organizations and how the teachers [with teacher-librarian help] ramped up their regular curriculum units to tie it to these culturally relevant events) but she also stressed to us that there are special stories in every community we live it and that we must discover these stories, document it, and place them in our own schools. Listeners to Vi's talk provided their own examples (including my tale of Dean Roberts' involvement with the Taking IT Global project on transporting oil near our school).

So What? Now What?

I presented a table talk session with my daughter, Mary, on "Role Playing Games and Collaborative Intelligence". We only had one participant, but Connie was absolutely phenomenal. Connie had a basic understanding of RPGs already, from watching the students in her school library use the space for their games, and seeing how they transferred their gaming to the public library when she changed positions. I wish I remembered all the great points that were made, but my "now what" is to make sure I keep in touch with Connie through social media.

Another consideration is how Treasure Mountain will change now that there is someone new at the helm. My friends Melanie Mulcaster, Alanna King and I spent a long time over dinner (on the patio, outside, at a lovely restaurant called Fez) comparing and contrasting Treasure Mountain with Treasure Mountain Canada and pondering how the American version will change 

Ross Todd shares work by his colleague in Qatar

Vi Harada says place based learning makes students want to do more

Alanna engages with Frances at her table talk on eLearning

Melanie describes her MakerSpace Masters of Education journey
Mary and Diana with the first slide from their table talk

Friday, November 10, 2017 - 10:10 a.m. - 11:10 a.m.
From De-Silencing to Empowering Discussions about Race and Culture with Diverse Books
Nick Glass and Heather Jankowski

Relevant Links:

Summary: (taken from
Handing young people diverse books is a fine beginning, but what makes it empowering is meaningful, culturally relevant conversations about their literacy experience. How do facilitators deepen insights into these cultural journeys while feeling confident taking on difficult questions and considering their own roles and biases? Participants will learn to bring culture and race to the forefront of literary conversations, and acquire strategies to successfully facilitate authentic, contextualized discussions about race, culture, and diverse books.

3 Key Points:

1) Who teaches you can be extremely influential - Nick's advisor during his studies was the renowned Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings (author of The Dreamkeepers) and it has influenced his career goals ever since. He recommended reading an article called "Still Playing in the Dark" (slide 8) and Ladson-Billings' thesis, based on some work on having teacher candidates use The Watsons Go to Birmingham with their students, that many teachers don't feel comfortable teaching directly with diverse books. It is not enough to have these books in your library - it is imperative to give teachers strategies to engage with them directly with students, not just to have readers log minutes in a log and not consider the content.

2) The free section of Nick's site, has audio clips of authors themselves describing their books - let the authors themselves do the talking and practically invite students into their books. (The audience heard John Lewis describe his book, March).

3) Places such as the Anti-Defamation League have resources that are ready to use with discussion question starters and we need to be directly involved in these hard conversations, sharing our own experiences even if they differ from our students, because they don't want us to just be on the sidelines when discussing amazing literature.

So What? Now What?

I want to examine my choices of read alouds. I made it an informal goal of mine this year to make sure that I read aloud to my students at least once a month. (You'd think that'd be easy as a teacher-librarian, but with STEAM projects, book exchange, MakerSpace exploration and research skill instruction, "just reading" can get pushed aside.) I want to make sure that I'm providing a diverse selection of experiences. I also plan on exploring Nick's website more.

Friday, November 10, 2017 - 11:20 am - 12:12 p.m.
Teacher-Librarians: Oiling the Gears of the MakerSpace Movement
Alanna King and Diana Maliszewski

Relevant Links:

Summary: (taken from
School libraries are at the forefront of the making movement. It's a wonderful and natural transition and teacher-librarians around the world are building it into their programs and spaces. Discover how the Ontario School Library Association and pivotal documents such as Together for Learning, the Canadian Library Association Standards, and the TALCO/OSLA Inquiry poster help provide making opportunities in schools of all shapes and sizes.

3 Key Points:

1) It's helpful to think in terms of metaphors. (Teacher-librarians are the oil, the spark, the gears themselves ... and so much more!)

2) It's mind-broadening to consider documents and standards from other countries.

3) Making fits so well with what teacher-librarians already do in terms of inquiry, creativity, collaboration, etc.

So What? Now What?

This was the first time that Alanna and I have ever presented together, and it was magical! All of the planning was online, yet our in-person synergy fit like a (steam punk) glove - and people loved our outfits! My next step is definitely to find another opportunity to work with Alanna (and I will be, as co-chair of the OSLA section for the SuperConference planning committee). 

Friday, November 10, 2017 - 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Beyond the Conference: Keeping the Momentum between Professional Development Experiences
Carmen Belanger, Polly Callahan, Dedra Van Gelder, Jacob Gerding, Sarah Gobe, Bethany Thornton

Relevant Links (this links to a PDF of their presentation)

Summary: (taken from
Back to life, back to reality! You spend the conference collaborating, networking, and learning. As it comes to a close, you are energized and excited to return home and implement the ideas. Then, life gets in the way. Learn how school librarians in one district came together to create a dynamic professional learning community. Attendees will leave with over a dozen strategies to keep inspired and spread the energy to other librarians in their district.

3 Key Points

1) Do not underestimate the importance of conference socializing - it can be during the "fun talk time" that the deep learning happens. You make the most out of the conference when you meet new friends, conference buddies, or bring other people from your district and socialize with them during a conference.

2) Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are easy ways to stay in touch, keep discussing what you discovered, ask for feedback as you try things you heard about at the conference, get and give encouragement, involve others who weren't at the conference (like administrators). Remember that not everything works - there are "tried and died" attempts but don't give up on finding a method that works for you and others.

3) Find other ways for school librarians to lead with personalized invitations (e.g. Dedra sent an email to one of her teacher-librarians outlining exactly why she thought she should present at the School Library Journal Summit); by encouraging others to present at district, state, regional and country-wide conferences, as well as at non-library events, the learning keeps growing.

So What? Now What?

I will get a postcard from this team of Maryland librarians in the spring as encouragement and a reminder of what I learned. We used to do this with Tribes and I should send more hand-made, hand-written letters and notes because they mean so much to the recipients.

Friday, November 10, 2017 - 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Maker Space Your Literacy and Numeracy Program
Melanie Mulcaster and Diana Maliszewski

Relevant Links

Summary:  (taken from
Some people worry that with the recent focus on school libraries as makerspaces, that the role of reading promotion and the love of literacy will be reduced. Why does it have to be either-or? This hands-on workshop will illustrate how to combine both, with a healthy helping of technology, to foster critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creation, innovation, and ingenuity in your learning commons. Come willing to read, make, and think!

3 Key Points

1) Making isn't enough unless you have deep conversations with others (aka constructivism).

2) Think about your target - sometimes it's big and sometimes it's narrow (i.e. focused on a specific curriculum expectation). It's okay to have different sizes, but remember to vary them.

3) Through a "3-4 part lesson" format (Minds On, Let's Read/Let's Make, Let's Connect and Reflect), you can integrate reading, writing, and communicating with your makerspace tasks.

So What? Now What?

This was also my first time presenting with Melanie, and what a joy it was. I hope in the future to get the opportunity to do it again. For my own teaching, it's about time I started incorporating some squishy circuits in my library makerspace - it's so easy, inexpensive, and accessible!

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Writing like this takes a lot of time and thought and I can't finish before my self-imposed Monday deadline. This is a rare occurrence, but I'll actually post Part 2, which describes the sessions I ran and attended on Saturday, November 11, 2017 (as well as follow-up posts on "the people who were with me in spirit" as well as "new connections) on a day that's not Monday!