Monday, September 25, 2017

Conferences Long Ago and Coming Up as Practical PD

When I was cleaning up the garage this summer, I found written summaries I provided to my administrators at the time about my learning from OLA Super Conference in 1998, 1999, and 2000.
(You can see the scanned pages at the end of this blog post - I love how I explained that I couldn't attend a session because of my newborn daughter - she was just weeks old and I was on maternity leave when I went to Super Conference that year!
I've attended Super Conference for most of my career in education. as a participant and presenter. It is THE conference for library professionals in Ontario.

In recent years, there's been a trend towards school-based, job-embedded professional learning. "Parachute presentations" - where an expert arrives from elsewhere, gives a talk, then leaves the learners to fumble with the ideas on their own - are out of favour. Professional learning such as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are supposed to give more "bang for your buck" - and this is true ... for regular classroom teachers. For specialist teachers, such as teacher-librarians, they do not always have the chance to be part of a PLC. The specialist teachers in my school this year will have a PLC together this year, for which I am extremely grateful. However, as the only person with my type of job in the building, it is helpful and necessary to gather with other teacher-librarians to share best practices and new concepts in the field. This is where a conference is particularly useful. I like learning from those near to me, but it is exciting to meet other school library professionals from far away to discover new ideas and perspectives that I may not have encountered locally. My virtual Professional Learning Network (PLN) does a good job of sharing, but nothing compares to meeting people in the flesh.

The difficulty with conferences is that they cost quite a bit of money. This is why I decided that for this school year (2017-2018) the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) conference in Phoenix would be my only big library conference. I am paying all the expenses associated with attending AASL myself (flight, registration in ALA, registration for the conference, accommodations, and food). That's a lot of money, especially considering that my daughter will be accompanying me as a co-presenter! I was willing to sacrifice other conferences so that I could go to AASL just this once. Like going to Jamaica for the International Association of School Libraries (IASL) confeerence way back in 2011, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; I won't be able to afford to do this regularly!

It's funny how the best-laid plans can go on different tangents. Membership has its privileges and being a volunteer pays off in unexpected ways. I was at the Ontario School Library Association (OSLA) Council meeting on Saturday and it turns out that neither our president nor our vice-president would be able to attend the Treasure Mountain Canada 5 (TMC5) library symposium in Winnipeg. As the temporary past-president (a long story), I was asked if I'd be willing to attend as the OSLA representative. I also wrote a paper for TMC5 but just didn't expect that I'd be able to share it in person. Thankfully, OSLA provides funding for representation at a couple of these library conferences and TMC5 is one of them.

So, this fall looks like it will be a busy one, with TMC5 in October, AASL in November, and my Media Part 1 AQ course from October to December. As part of my regular practice, I'll share what I learned from these conferences here on my blog so that the learning isn't fleeting, but long-lasting.

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