Monday, November 13, 2017

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!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, so much fun! I'm so sorry I wasn't able to be there, getting to see some of my favourite people present on topics I care a lot about! I am going to Melanie's workshop at OLASC, so I will get at least some of the joy!