Posted by lpearle on 29 June 2009
For years, I’ve been hearing about the annual NECC conference: all the cool people went… it is the conference to go to for computers/education… you’re going to learn soooo much at NECC… etc. Unfortunately, the timing often competes with ALA’s Annual Conference, and many of us are forced to choose between the two (not to mention forced to try to convince our schools/districts/wallets that we can afford to go to two conferences in two cities so close together time-wise). This year, ALA is later than usual, and NECC is close enough to NYC that I decided to bite the bullet and attend. Expectation levels are, of course, very high… higher than it was for ISE2006.
Yesterday was the opening event, the Member Welcome/Conference Orientation. I’d found Kristin Fontichario as I was heading in to register, and we decided to check the event out together. Luckily, we think a lot alike, so the following reflects one’s comments/thoughts as amplified by the other:
- The set-up for the room was auditorium-style, with a Big Screen up front. On the screen was an Oscar™-style card and Oscar™-style music was blaring from the speakers. K and I wondered if ISTE had paid for the rights to all that… and wondered again when a StarWars theme appeared (the music, the opening crawl, the MC dressed as Darth Vader). We weren’t just being cranks, it was honest concern about copyright and fair use and the conviction that we, as leaders in our schools, should be doing the right thing, not the convenient thing. (sorry, Doug, but that’s just how I feel).
- Unfortunately, the space was not large enough for the crowd, and the Twitter feed had a number of comments from people that were turned away at the door. This has happened at a number of different conferences and I just don’t get it. An opening event, a popular speaker, an information session for newbies (not to mention ticketed events with pre-sold tickets): how do you not plan for overflow crowds??? Organizers, listen up – you’re creating bad will from the get-go when you do that stuff.
- One of the goals of this event was to introduce ISTE’s leadership. Great! Would it have been too much to ask that these leaders spent a little time looking at their speeches, so as to not appear to be haltlingly reading from their scripts? Or that someone coordinate the scripts so that the same information wasn’t repeated over and over redundantly? It’s a quick, easy way to lose audience interest.
- We kept hearing about the great ISTE presence on social networking sites – but nothing that made it easy to find them. How easy it would have been to say “we’re ISTECONNECTS on Twitter”, etc.. And there was an over-heavy, over-promotion of Second Life and the ISTE Ning. Now, I’m not opposed to either of those social sites, but I’m not going to go there, either. Why? Because at some point, you have to say “enough”. I read a lot of blogs and other professional literature. I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I’m involved in my local and national associations, and I’m keeping up with the help of a great PLN. And I just don’t have time, energy or desire to add different Nings to that mix (I can think of four that I’m “supposed” to be active on, including this one). There are only so many hours in a day, and I’ve allocated all I can to this thing I call being a school librarian. If that makes me a bad person, if that means I’m not one of the cool kids, well… I’m totally ok with that.
- While I understand that many attending a conference may not have the same comfort level that I do with technology, that they may be newbies to the conference, and that they may need a little hand-holding, there are certain limits. One basic expectation should be – must be that attendees can read and follow directions. (And don’t throw ADA at me, ok, I’m talking about the vast majority of attendees and not the few that have legitimate problems). If a group of teachers, administrators, technology personnel and librarians cannot be expected to read what’s on a slide, well, I just give up. Kill me now, ok? Yet time and time again, that’s what happens. At this event, to increase audience participation, they had remote voting devices and at several times the MC would say “pick up your response card and vote for…” and then read the words on the Big Screen Overhead. Maybe it’s me, but if the majority of people in that room couldn’t read, education is just doomed.
- Finally, and perhaps most important, there was a lot of talk about past-tech and future-tech (eg., a few minutes spent comparing StarTrek’s technology to the stuff we used today, or asking how many remembered Atari). But there was nothing – nothing – about assessing technology, reflecting on its use. Technology is not a goal, it’s a tool. Our role is to help evaluate the tools, deciding which will work best in our particular circumstances (Kristin, for example, works with elementary students and her needs are vastly different from those of my Upper School students). To celebrate technology “just because” is doing us all a great disservice.
Ok, that’s a pretty long rant/tirade. My hopes and dreams are that the sessions I’ve planned to attend are filled with interesting ideas, provocative thinking and inspiration. One opening session does not a conference make, right?
Posted in Conferences, Rants | Tagged: NECC2009 | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lpearle on 24 June 2009
It’s conference season, and for the first time I’m off to NECC and ALA (usually the overlap and the timing is just wrong). Yes, I’m excited to see friends/colleagues and to have the opportunity to learn from experts and share with peers.
But, of course, there are downsides. Here are three recent you’re kidding me moments:
- From a vendor wanting my business: As you may know, we are offering free access to any academic subscription database throughout the summer months when you order by June 30! The sooner you subscribe, the longer your students, faculty and staff can enjoy unlimited, multi-user access courtesy of [vendor]. You won’t be invoiced for your renewal until August 2010. Great! I’m… undewhelmed. Why? Because my faculty and students won’t be available until September. So this wondeful summer freebie isn’t helpful. At. All.
- From one of the divisions, trying to grab members’ interest: If you’re in a session, liveblogging provides a great back channel for audience participation. Missed a great line from the speaker? Someone else in the room could be tweeting it right now. Wish you could see the video that just got mentioned in passing? Oh, look–one of the editors just plugged it into the liveblog. Thanks, but no. For me, liveblogging doesn’t work. As I said to @wsstephens, “ok – call me a Luddite – I’d rather read one good, summative post w/analysis than a bunch of in-session tweets!”
- And from other divisions, there are book awards and summer reading programs to excite students about great new books. The problem? School librarians can’t participate. Why? Because the programs aren’t ready to go in time for most of us to start getting the word out, and they end too close to the start of school for us to really rally the troops. A great opportunity lost, if you ask me. But another example of school librarians being the redheaded stepchild at ALA.
Posted in Conferences, Rants | Tagged: ALA2009, NECC2009 | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lpearle on 23 June 2009
When danah boyd asked her tweeps to submit questions for a conversation she was having with teens, I asked Do they really care about/use school library websites? Twitter? Pageflakes? Libguides? or only if teacher insists?. The response? Nope, they don’t. All but Twitter are categorized as school tools and are only used when absolutely necessary and Google won’t suffice.
That doesn’t surprise me. Does it dishearten me? Sort of. Many of my friends and school librarian colleagues spend time creating LibGuides or Netvibes or great sets of Delicious links, and I’ve made updating our on-line resources a summer project; Joyce argues you can’t be a good school librarian without knowing all about 2.0 tools and methodologies.
Therein lies the paradox: we’re learning and doing all the things we’re “supposed” to, yet the students don’t care. They’ll go to the pages if teachers insist but not as a first resort on their own.
This isn’t a “so why bother” post, it’s a “what can we do to change that perception” post. Honestly, I don’t care if my peers think I’m backward if my students are receptive to what I’m doing. Am I doing this so that librarians in California or Iowa can see what resources I provide and how cool and 2.0 things are at MPOW, or am I doing this because I’m trying to connect students with resources? We’re already rethinking shelving and cataloging, and there are teachers that are excited about the other tools we’re using. If they can get excited, perhaps that will trickle to the students.
But again, how do I get past their only used when absolutely necessary mindset? Is it about being always relevant, with updates on current events? Is it about having a Facebook page that constantly invites students in, asking them to try new tools, see new resources? Is it creating a Twitter account that does the pushing? Or is it something else, something undefined? Alice used to have a “cheat sheet” for Northern Exposure available after every episode. Is that the hook – popular culture?
No matter how great my PLN, no one has an answer to the question of how do you reach students. It’s not all bad news, and there will always be students who do get what we’re doing and who realize that our resources are better than Google/Wikipedia. I just worry about the others, those that don’t quite “get it”.
Posted in Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lpearle on 16 June 2009
I’ve written about our changes in shelving (some of which may have inspired Buffy’s shelving upgrade). Next step: more rethinking cataloging. We’re not going to get rid of Dewey, but we may use WordThink or BISAC categories to complement Sears/LCSH.
Why? Because students (ok, adults too) don’t think in complicated subject headings. They think in terms of “mystery” and “European history” and “cars”. Isn’t part of our job to make things easier for them to find? To create as many access points as possible so that the right book gets to the right reader/researcher?
This angst about adapting is beyond my comprehension. Dewey’s not god. Tinkering to help our patrons is good. Yes, it’s more time out of our lives to make it happen. Yes, it’s not The Way Things Have Always Been Done. But remember: it’s not about us, it’s about them.
Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »