It’s Saturday in Minneapolis and you last heard from me after the first day of the Treasure Mountain retreat. That was Wednesday. It hasn’t calmed down much since then!
Thursday morning continued to be amazing. We spent some time with Joyce Valenza talking about our role as curators in a digital library world. The biggest thing that I took from her session was the level to which she takes the tools she uses. There were few tools that demonstrated that I’d not used before or heard of, but she is able to get through the glitter of the packaging and use these tools to a level that they become game changers. Her message was that in this digital world, it is our job in the library to help filter and make sense of it all. In a school library it is our particular job to teach students the skills and tools to curate their own information to generate meaningful knowledge for themselves.
Howard Rheingold Skyped in to talk about his thoughts on the online learning environment. Of particular interest was his comments on the social nature of learning. His use of the term “peerology” in place of pedagogy and the concept of the teacher being the “expert learner” in the class rather than the fountain of knowledge resonated with many members of the groups.
Further table talks and closing summary by Ross Todd of Rutgers brought the sessions to an effective close. The balance of researchers and practitioners was what made this, and I’m assuming all, Treasure Mountain retreats particularly effective. The smaller group that was able to reflect on each others work made this a relevant discussion for both types of attendees.
From Treasure Mountain, we all raced downtown to the Minneapolis Convention Center for the official start of the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) convention. There had been a number of pre-conference offerings but the sessions officially kicked off with a wonderful speech by Nocholas Carr, author of The Shallows. He was able to present what I thought was a fantastically balanced view of the pros and cons of technology in our modern lives. While he recognizes the benefits of fast access to the Internet and all that that can bring, he is also deeply concerned about the way a connected life can harm our ability for deep reflection and the type of prolonged concentration that is required for reading books. It is unfortunate that there seemed to be members of the pro and anti-tech camps that claimed him for their own ignoring the half of the argument that didn’t support their “side.”. Personally, I will be reading his book and buying copies for the school library as well. The day ended with a trip to Hell’s Kitchen for dinner (highly recommended) and making new friends from Ohio, Georgia and Florida at the Independent Schools Social.
Friday morning started with the much anticipated session by Buffy Hamilton. Like Joyce Valenza, the day before, she took a bunch of concepts and tools that I was already familiar with and gave them new depth. Buffy’s session, Framing Transliterate Learning trough inquiry and participatory culture, put the research behind what many are already doing and the rest should be. Transliteracy is, as she explains, a convergence of literacies. It is the concept that there are commonalities in the myriad of high and low tech ways that we communicate and that a literate citizen is fluent in multiple literacies while understanding the connection between them.
From there I moved on to a session on RDA, the new cataloguing language that will replace AACR2 and a couple of sessions on ebooks and eresources. The second session on eBooks was one that I’d been looking forward to for a while. One of the panelists, Tom Corbett, is the director of the library at Cushing Academy in MA. This is the same Cushing Academy that is known for discarding a large number of physical books to go digital. It was interesting to hear him ask the question, what books do we need in the High School library? His point revolved around the point that every situation demands different resources. Although Cushing’s mandate is to become a highly digital environment, this is not necessarily appropriate for all situations. There are situations were physical resources are more appropriate than digital and places where digital is more appropriate than physical. A good discussion with good input from all four presenters.
Dinner with my new friends from Ohio meant a great trip to Dancing Genesh. Great food and great conversation, followed by a trip to the Brit Pub to hang with Canadians and then to the Target Mothership.
The final day of the conference began with another session around the library web space that reinforced concepts of student curation and the fact that the library is becoming the educational technology centre of the school environment. Anne Zarinnia and Eileen Schroeder gave some great background and tips to the new tools of the trade. My final two sessions were around Graphic Novels and Minnesota’s Research Project Calculator. Both great sessions on unique topics that will have practical use in my library.
The conference closed with a closing keynote by Mimi Ito and dinner on the Mississippi.
Now, I’ll have to admit, it is no longer Saturday. In fact, it is a full week and a day later. Sunday involved squeezing in as much homework as I was mentally able on the planes on the long trip home through Phoenix. Much of this past week has been in catch-up mode both at work and in my studies. I’m not sure that it was entirely a wise thing to take a week to head to Minneapolis while working full-time and starting a Masters, but I do not regret the trip in any way. Both Treasure Mountain and the AASL conference have reaffirmed a number of thoughts already bouncing around in my head, given depth to a series of others and introduced many more ideas. My biggest challenge will now be to make the most of all of this learning and new connections to make my school library the absolute best environment for my students. Now, back to homework!