I’ve just returned from the American Association of School Librarians National Conference in sunny Reno, Nevada. While there, I attended a number of great sessions of interest to YALSA members. Here are some highlights:
The opening general session featured speaker Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation, and a contributing editor of Wired magazine. His take-home message was that the world now needs and values adults who are artistic, empathic, and inventive. It’s no longer sufficient to (merely) be skilled in logical, linear, and analytical thinking to achieve economic success. Pink was a dynamic and entertaining speaker. He described how his attendance at law school permanently and profoundly improved his earning power â€“ because law school was where he met his wife. His less than stellar academic performance there â€œmade the top 90% of the class possible.â€
I attended two very good sessions on Web 2.0 tools in school libraries, one by Annette Lamb and the other by the team of Shayne Russell and Sophie Brookover (Sophie was unable to attend in person). Annette emphasized that it’s not necessary to use a lot of new tools. Rather it’s more important to use new ways of thinking about the tools. We should think in terms of moving from e-learning to c-learning – using Web 2.0 tools for connection, cooperation, collaboration, and so on. She suggested that we give Second Life a couple more years to become easier to implement before we really see its potential in school settings. Shayne’s presentation made me impatient to get home and try out some things now. She shared concrete examples of using resources like Flickr, del.icio.us, blogs, and wikis to transform and improve student learning. Shayne and Annette both emphasized the benefits of using free and open source applications whenever possible. I wasn’t able to attend Joyce Valenza’s inspirational presentation on Web 2.0 and information fluency, which was so oversubscribed that a second session was arranged for the next day.
YALSA’s own Francisca Goldsmith did a stellar job presenting ideas for how to celebrate the upcoming Teen Tech Week (TTW) in school libraries. She took a low-tech approach to the event, reminding participants that we need not be limited in our celebrations by a lack of expensive technology. Even paints, pencils, and hand-cranked ice cream makers involve forms of technology. A few members of the audience described their own programming from last year’s inaugural Teen Tech Week. One participant sagely advised the group: “If you are going to plan a graffiti wall, don’t tell your principal in advance.” Others were concerned that the upcoming TTW, to be celebrated the first full week of March 2008, would be taking place during peak standardized testing season in their schools. As a member of the TTW committee, I assured them that TTW was bigger than its assigned week and could really be celebrated at a time most convenient for their schools.
A major event of the conference was the release of AASL’s new Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. The four standards are prefaced by a set of common beliefs. Each standard is accompanied by a set of skills, “dispositions in action,” responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies. I went to one of the sessions given by task force members Cassandra Barnett and Barbara Stripling, who walked participants through several examples of standards implementation. The new standards replace the standards for student learning published in Information Power, published in 1998.
For more coverage of the AASL conference, check out the AASL blog.