“You’ll become a more interesting person if you’re interested in learning and sharing ideas from fields that are much different from your own.”
– Carmine Gallo Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the Word’s Top Minds
This year NYSCATE (New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education), a affiliate of ISTE, celebrated its golden anniversary in grand style. From November 22 to 24, the red carpet was rolled out at the Riverside Convention Center in Rochester. The Oscar-themed 50th celebration featured a “Volunteer Stars” walk of fame and a banquet showcasing grant and award winners with musical selections sung by Central Valley Academy Chamber Choir from the Broadway shows Jersey Boys and Sister Act. Educators and administrators were inspired by keynote speakers Margo Day (Vice President of Microsoft Education), David Pogue (technology columnist), Jaime Casap (Google for Education), and Tom VanderArk (CEO and Founder of Getting Smart).
In addition to the pre-conference workshops and presentations, there were ample opportunities to meet and share professionally through meet-ups and social media. Moderating the social media lounge were author and blogger Tom Whitby, and host of “Coffee With a Geek” Andrew Wheelock. As a “maker librarian” with a makerspace and Genius Hour program in our library, I was excited to attend two events that featured hands-on interactive learning, the Rochester Mini Maker Faire and the NYSCATE xSTREAM Showcase. The 2nd Annual Rochester Mini Maker Faire, open to NYSCATE conference attendees as well as the general public, took place the day before the conference. Local makers and schools showcased their talents in areas from crocheting to computers. Although on a much smaller scale than the World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science, the Rochester Mini Maker Faire exhibited the familiar vibe of the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.” Librarians will be glad to know that the NYSCATE committee acknowledges the importance of librarians and information literacy through the additional letter “R,” thus transforming the traditional STEAM into STREAM (science, technology, research, engineering, art, and mathematics). Educators demonstrated technologies employed in their districts such as Dot and Dash robots, the MakeyMakey invention kit, and the Osmo interactive iPad learning tool. A crowd favorite was the “Bling Your Badge” activity where attendants used LED lights, coin batteries, and other craft materials to personalize their conference name tags.
Popular sessions at the NYSCATE conference focused on communication, collaboration, and creation skills and how technology can transform them for 21st century students. With Microsoft in Education and Google Apps for Education web programs students can create documents, share, and collaborate with their peers. Learning management systems such as Edmodo, Schoology, and Google Classroom help to flip learning and to provide virtual extensions to the classroom. Educators can bring the world into their classroom through Skype and Google Hangouts. Unlike a few years ago where the focus on conference sessions around the nation was concerned with the Common Core Standards, now more open learning opportunities are explored.
Educators at NYSCATE learned about makerspaces and Genius Hour programs that promote personalized, independent, student-centered learning through discovery and exploration. Educators of all disciplines clamored to learn how to integrate gaming, robotics, iPad apps, and Chrome extensions into their curriculum to promote high order, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Considerations in growth mindset and teaching the whole child have educators thinking about new ways to teach their subject matter through low and high tech ways. With this renewed focus on the process over the project, school library media specialists will find that the educational climate is fertile for the informational literacy skills that we are certified to teach.
The metaphorical pendulum is beginning to swing, and we must be prepared to support our students, teachers, and administrators in the new educational revolution. Library advocacy can be achieved through advertising, by demonstrating to stakeholders the importance of school librarians and library programs to prepare our students to become active participants in our global community. How do we do that? By attending and presenting at conferences in disciplines other than library science, we can learn about the trends and concerns faced by other educators. With this information in mind, we can develop new ways to support our colleagues to promote opportunities for collaboration. Through conference presentations, we can also demonstrate how student learning can be transformed through robust library programs. Examples of library-related workshops at NYSCATE included “Using NYS NOVELny Online Databases With Your Students” by Jim Belair (Coordinator of School Library Services, Monroe 2 Orleans BOCES), “Connecting Technology With World Languages” led by Maria Muhlbauer (Library Media Specialist of Pioneer Middle School) with colleagues from her foreign language department Christine Marshall and Brenda McKenzie), and “Gallery Walks, Incentive Programs, and Technology Tidbits: How You Can Support Curriculum in YOUR Library” by Laura Penn (School Library Media Specialist, Akron Schools). Gina Seymour, school library specialist (Islip High School) and I also presented “Got SLIME: Adventures in Creating a Maker Expo), and I presented individually “Student Videos as a Means of Creative and Persuasive Expression.”
The time is now for school library media specialists to get involved in local, state, and national conferences that offer opportunities for professional development beyond the bookstacks. Now is the time to demonstrate our expertise in integrating print and digital resources in the classroom. Advocacy begins with students, parents, educators, administrators, and other stakeholders realizing the value that robust school library programs add to learning.
Like many school librarians from across the United States, I had an awesome time learning from and connecting with my colleagues during the AASL Conference this past weekend in Ohio. I learned new about resources and strategies for creating guided inquiry lessons, Genius Hour programs, makerspace activities, community outreach programs, and writing centers. Meeting authors, learning about new books and web tools, and discussing current issues in school libraries are always staples at an AASL Conference.
The resonating topic during workshops and casual meetups was the ever-popular "A" word: ADVOCACY! For the rest of this school year I challenge you to not only advocate, but ADVERTISE! We all can learn from one another, but we are preaching to the proverbial choir. WE know what we do...we need to SHOW others what we do. Because, if a school librarian creates a dynamic program and no one knows about it, does it make an impact?
Here are some ideas:
1. Read and share the most current research supporting the effective of school libraries: School Libraries Work!
2. Visit SchoolLibraryAdvocacy.org regularly to learn about innovative tools and resources to develop your advocacy skills.
3. Join and support library organizations such as ALA, AASL, YALSA. Also join the ISTE LIB SIG group.
4. Attend events such as school board meetings, PTA meetings, Curriculum Nights, and Open Houses whether you are required to or not. Help key stakeholders to put faces to names. Wear your school colors and advocacy t-shirts when your colleagues do. We are all in the same union, and we are part of the team.
5. Create business cards and thank you notes to share with other teachers, administrators, parents, community members, board members, and educational companies. Hang a banner in your library highlighting your mission.
6. Learn a "new" language and speak it. Use the current buzzwords such as STEM, ESL, Common Core Standards, differentiation, guided inquiry, and Genius Hour to help your listener to understand how you can support classroom instruction. Embed information literacy skills in the current curriculum, and demonstrate how these skills are essential to 21st century learning.
8. Attend and present at conferences that are NOT related to the library profession. I once presented at a math conference. My participants looked at me puzzled, "Why is a librarian presenting to a room of math teachers?" I soon won them over when I began to share web tools and apps that they would find useful. We have all been trained to find information, evaluate it, and glean the nuggets of gold. Share them!
9. Connect through social media with not only other librarians, but content area educators around the world. As school librarians, we are Jacks and Janes of all trades. Join groups on Facebook, follow trends on Twitter, and engage in conversations on Voxer. Don't wait for your invitation to arrive. Check out these links curated by CybraryMan to get you started:
10. Write for anyone and anywhere about the importance of libraries, especially your program: blogs, magazine articles, books, PTA and school newsletters, the local newspaper, flyers stuck to telephone poles (that one is a joke, but you get my point!)
Kristina A. Holzweiss
Ed Tech School Librarian