How do you squeeze an ISTE experience into a blog entry? What do you focus on? Themes, sessions, educational companies, trends, sponsors, exhibitors, keynotes? How do you encapsulate almost a week long opportunity to connect and learn face to face with close 20,000 participants and exhibitors, and even student presenters, representing 73 countries?
For me, it is the people. Sharing the joys of teaching with Facebook and Twitter friends is an opportunity that technology cannot replace. Whether giving one another quick high fives in the Exhibition Hall, hanging in a Playground, sitting on a panel together, grabbing a bite and a cup of coffee, socializing at an after party, or sharing a room together attending conferences help us to rejuvenate our spirits so that we can be active participants in the global community of educators.
Having been to my fourth ISTE, I’m not a newbie so I have learned to make reservations early, pack lightly, and plan for a flexible schedule. But I’m not yet a veteran. I know the names of “big” people, am friends with a few of them, and become a nervous teenage fan when I meet most of the others. Almost a decade ago, my former district’s teacher trainer mentioned ISTE to me. He knew I loved learning about new technologies, even though we had only a few computers in our library. And so I went, and I discovered that there was a world of professional development beyond my classroom, my school, my district, and even my entire state. I went because I had been invited to the table, and I accepted the invitation.
At my very first ISTE in Philadelphia in 2011, I saw Kathy Schrock. And I was star-struck! I say saw, because I was too shy to actually introduce myself to THE Kathy Schrock. Years earlier, I had stumbled on Kathy’s Schrockguide on DiscoveryEducation.com while I was still a 7th grade English teacher. When I needed to find a website to teach my students how to write a research paper, cite their sources, and avoid plagiarism I didn’t use Google. As the saying goes, I went to a librarian, “the original search engine.” I went to Kathy. Kathy Schrock is a name that educators from fields other than library science recognize. Kathy Schrock was at ISTE because she understood that being a librarian means helping readers to navigate text, whether print or digital. She is a teacher librarian.
What stood out for me this year at ISTE were not the new and not-so-new “Kathy Schrock,” librarians like Shannon Miller, Joyce Valenza, Nikki Robertson, Gwyneth Jones, Jennifer LaGarde, Laura Fleming, Sherry Gick, Elissa Malespina, Colleen Graves, Diana Rendina, Andy Plemmons, Heather Lister, Jennifer Lussier, Michelle Colte (I could go on and on and on and...). What stood out for me were my library colleagues who were attending their first or second ISTE. Not just Facebook or Twitter friends. They were librarians who teach on Long Island with me who made the plane trip from New York to Denver. They came because they wanted “a seat at the table.” Whether encouraged by a supervisor or motivated by their own desire to learn and connect, these friends discovered a world beyond their bookstacks.
A librarian cannot be categorized by just one Dewey call number. You see, a librarian has many roles, the most important of which is to be a researcher. We research ways to support our administrators, our teachers, and our students. We leave no stone unturned. Even if we aren’t the curriculum expert, we know how to find the information. But what brings us to conferences? We need human connections. We want to see for ourselves what we can bring back to our schools. We want to want to make new friends.
Seeing my local colleagues experience ISTE for the first time made me realize that as long as there are librarians who are “invited to the table” or “pull up a chair” themselves, libraries will always be the center of learning. Our strength is our appreciation of all subject areas, and how learning is interconnected. As Lady Bird Johnson once said, ““Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” Attending conferences such as ISTE, helps us to connect with educators whom we might not meet normally. It helps to branch out and to learn about trends in other subject areas. And it helps others to realize the importance of well-funded library programs staffed by certified librarians, no matter what title we have.
My local colleagues, the inspiration for this blog post...
Kristina A Holzweiss