Did you know that ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education) has dozens of educator networks within it, and that the school librarian PLN is among the largest? Did you know that our own Donna Sullivan MacDonald was president of this large PLN for the past year and will serve as Past President of the ISTE Librarians Network this year ? Well, neither did I, so this June I travelled to Philadelphia to the ISTE 2015 Conference this (June 28th-July 1st) to see for myself what Donna has been talking about.
First off, if you love Dynamic Landscapes & Vermont Fest, and you thought that AASL 2013 was huge, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This year, nearly 16,000 participants packed the halls of the Philadelphia Convention Center (1,000,000 square feet). And still others attended via ISTELive and recorded sessions. Over 149,00 tweets were made to #ISTE2015 alone, not to mention those to #ISTElib and others. The conference mobile app made navigating this overwhelming experience very manageable. I found that the only tool I really needed was my iPhone; each session had a space for recording and emailing notes built right into the app.
The were four types of sessions based on learning styles and labelled as such on the app. This enabled participants to attend the right mix of sessions. What’s your learning style?
Listen & learn: lectures, presentations, keynotes, panels
Participate & share: forums, interactive lectures, “posters,” forums
Explore & create: playgrounds, workshops, bring your own device sessions, learning academies
Engage & connect: meetings, social events, birds of a feather, sponsor activities
The most popular events are the Keynote Speakers and the Ignite! Sessions. Ignite! Sessions are several 3-5 minute quick lecture presentations, and they can be highly inspirational. Posters are large halls filled with people sharing their real life classroom activities, PLNs for networking, students demonstrating their work, teachers sharing products and apps they love, etc. Similarly, playgrounds are filled with teachers sharing hands-on opportunities to try new things. The Librarians’ Playground, coordinated by Donna MacDonald and incoming president Sherry Gick, was hopping busy for three and a half hours on Monday morning. (I got a hug from Joyce Valenza there, too.)
Networking events ranged from Twitter, livechats, and blogs to breakfasts and dinners, Karaoke parties and receptions with live bands. There are opportunities to get licensed trainings onsite as well. There are also a lot of fascinating pre-conference trainings and unconference opportunities, notably the Hack Education forum the day prior to the conference opening. What’s not to love?
I attended a variety of sessions: global connections, motivating reluctant readers, maker spaces, after-school maker clubs, library playground and networking breakfast, keynotes and Ignite! sessions. The most provocative session I attended was “Is it time to give up on computers in schools?” where leading thinkers in Educational IT argued that schools have been turned into markets for technology tools without seeing real change in the teaching and learning process. At the Librarians’ Network Breakfast, library leader Shannon Miller spoke on Student Learners, Student Voice: Social Media in Learning. She made giving students voice look simple and doable. I met students at poster sessions who showed me their LEGO stop-motion animations and green screen book talks. I brought home a list of new ideas, websites, and apps that could take me all year to explore. My favorite sessions were… all of them!
My biggest take-aways are that librarians have a big voice in the ISTE organization, that Twitter is a good tool for networking with those librarians, and that I should gather my courage and “just do it!” whether it be maker activities, making global connections, or any other new venture. As I frequently heard around me, “These are my people!”
And most importantly, I learned that every school librarian I know must attend a national ISTE Conference in the near future. Hobnob with the leaders in the field and discover what a powerful force we are in the world of Ed Tech. ISTE 2016 Denver, here we come!
ISTE Librarians Network Breakfast
ISTE Librarians Network Board of Directors June 2015
ISTE 2015 Fun
ISTE Librarians Network Dinner