EARCOS 2012 Reflection
March 28-31, I attended the annual EARCOS Teacher’s Conference, located in Bangkok, Thailand, this year. I arrived one day early in order to attend the Library Pre-Conference session featuring Doug Johnson, the director of media and technology for the Mankato Public Schools and highly respected in the field of school librarianship. This was the first time in its 10-year conference history that EARCOS has offered a library strand. It was well attended and there are plans to offer the strand in regular rotation (every 3 years).
This was my fourth attendance at an EARCOS Teacher’s Conference and I come away each year with three general feelings: pure exhaustion, pleasant surprise by what is available in terms of professional development here in Asia, and a plethora of ideas that I want to implement yesterday!
LIBRARY STRAND: PRE-CONFERENCE
Doug Johnson came with the correct assumption that we are all facing the same thing: change in our libraries. We have the opportunity to be leaders in our schools as 21st Century digital literacy skills are incorporated into the curriculum. Our 8+ hour conference titled “Facing Our Challenges in Positive Ways” was divided into 2 major sections: Dangers and Opportunities: Challenges for Libraries in the Digital Age and All Aboard! Plan and Report to Built Library Support.
Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has a line that says, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Wikipedia). Similarly, Doug claimed that “doomed libraries are alike; every successful library is successful in its own way.” Being a successful library at Faith Academy in Manila, Philippines, will look different: different from our Faith Academy Mindanao library, different from the Morrison Academy library, different from any other school library. It’s important to consider and actively pursue the things that will make THIS library successful. It means rethinking the physical facilities, working to remain the expert as we change from an information desert to an information jungle, being a team player to contribute to the success of students (not just the success of the library), being the digital resource guru, providing quality digital resources, diversifying our offerings, and closing the divide between the students and the school.
The second session of the day focused on creating long-term change in the school as a whole, not just the in the library. How can the library support and be a leader for the grade-level, divisional, campus, and school-wide goals? Doug challenged us to think about which quadrant we are spending our day in: Q1: important & urgent, Q2: important/not urgent, Q3: not important/urgent, Q4: not important nor urgent. I realized that I spend much of my day in Quadrant #1: crisis-mode. How can I be that support here at Faith Academy when I am not assisting in the long-term goals? When more of my day is spent in Quadrant #2: prevention, relationships, and assessment, the library positively affects student achievement.
The publication of that role the library plays in student achievement was highlighted at the end of the day. Doug explained that librarians could be one of the most suspect individuals on campus. With discretionary funds and discretionary time, it is vitally important to provide an accounting. Doug provided some very valuable, practical tips in this section. The unifying message in all of these tips was to stay upbeat! Under that overarching tip were: use the results of your formal reports, give the principal a quarterly written report, constantly inform your principal of the positive things happening in the library, make the principal’s goals your goals, be visible outside of the library, advocate for library users, send out a monthly faculty newsletter, provide a fun year-in-review, be a presence in school parent newsletters, keep the library program front and center with blogs or other school communications.
LIBRARY STRAND: CONFERENCE SESSIONS
Job-Alike Session: We had a full room for this session! In fact, we decided to split into various groups to talk about some of our more specific interests. I sat with a group of 20+ librarians to talk about e-books. The general consensus was that everyone was just waiting, waiting to see what would happen in the e-book world, waiting to see the response of staff/students. Some have deployed iPads, Kindles, or online books. Some have deployed all three. There is not a perfect solution at this time. Some ideas that I would like to pursue (but not all at the same time) include: iPads for online magazine subscriptions, iPads combined with an Amazon Kindle account for popular books, Follett Shelf for e-book files that can be used on a computer or on a student’s tablet device, Mackin Via for online non-fiction reading.
Destiny Quest: Following this session with Tara Ethridge from the International School of Bangkok, I am convinced that we need to switch to Follett Destiny this summer for our circulation system and include Destiny Quest as one of our buy-in’s. Destiny Quest would allow for students to write reviews and send book recommendations to their classmates. Not only would students be tracking their own reading lives, Destiny Quest would be a forum for demonstrating many of the Schoolwide Learning Results: creative and critical thinkers, self-directed learners, proficient collaborators, and skillful communicators.
Teen Advisory Groups: I met Stephanie Wallis at Learning 2.011 last September and had a little preview of her session. Each year, she has a group of students who serve as her advisory board. They both provide Stephanie and the library at the New International School of Thailand with the student perspective on library programs and the library collection, while at the same time serving as advocates for the library to their peers and to the wider community. They make reading recommendation lists and designate books as TAG-recommendation books. Twice a year, they accompany Stephanie to the large English-language bookstore in Bangkok to make purchases. They have lists of books that they’ve lobbied for inclusion into the collection. In exchange, they have first dibs on the books when they are processed. The success of TAG instigated another group in Stephanie’s library: mother-daughter book clubs.
Libraries in the Cloud: Doug Johnson delivered this presentation. I found much of the information in this session to be good reminders rather than a lot of new ideas. Many of our library resources are in the “cloud” already or I am aware of how to put them into the cloud even if I haven’t done so yet.
iPadding Along in the Library: Ann Krembs from the International School of Beijing shared her experiences with adding 26 iPads to her elementary library. These have become e-readers as well as supplementary aids to curricular goals. The iPads do not circulate out of the library space. This has allowed her to manage the devices more easily as well as increase the collaboration time that she has with teachers and students. A highlight of the acquisition of the iPads was the student advisory group that was created. These 10 4th and 5th grade students not only help with the general upkeep of the iPads, but they also work with the librarians to make recommendations for what apps should be added to the devices.
DIGITAL LITERACY STRAND: CONFERENCE SESSIONS
Google Apps in the Classroom: Jeff Utecht changed my life 4 years ago at EARCOS by setting me on the path to becoming a digital guru. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the impact that he has made not just in Asia but in the education world. While much of this session was review for me, there were a few things that I definitely am considering adding to my Google Apps repertoire as I teach research skills in the library. We spent a lot of time looking at the realities of a Google Search result: paid advertisements, popularity of the result by other Google searchers, the time factor, and the choosing of sites with links leading out to other sites. Jeff recommended painting a wall of the library with a world map with county domain codes so students can focus in on sites from the country where they want their results. Not sure I’m there yet, but it’s definitely a bold idea!
New Media Narrative Crash Course: I didn’t get quite what was I expecting out of this session either. Jason Ohler discussed pushing students to the next level in their creation of media storytelling and bringing them across the line of media maturity. He wants students to create deliberate, well-articulated media and, as teachers, we need to have those high expectations of them. So often, we fear assessing the reality of the media creation put in front of us. We think, “I can’t do that so it must be good” rather than considering all of the elements of literacy – the digital media, the art, the oral, and the written.
Digital Citizenship: The Forgotten Fundamental: Wow! This was everything that I wanted out of the conference session! Kim Cofino shared what Yokohama International School is doing to help their students and staff explore digital citizenship. The first two school days of the new year are dedicated to a digital citizenship orientation. During these two days, students in Grades 6-12 participate in a variety of sessions related to their technology devices (including their school-issued laptop), such as: going over the CLC handbook, sitting in on digital citizenship court (learning the fate of students who break the rules), learning how to find balance between the technology and the rest of life, managing their laptops, and other over-the-top lessons. Building and maintaining community is key in everything that they are doing at YIS, from their Digital Dragons curriculum, their new school year orientation, their Digital Citizenship week in April, to their Parent Technology Coffee meetings. I love that much of what they are doing is framed in the positive. Rather than a negative litany of “do not’s,” their students are learning how to be good digital citizens who are not afraid of the digital world but who are capable and eager participants.
Connecting Your Community: Developing a Blogging Platform for Teachers and Students: Another great session from Kim Cofino at YIS. They are embracing the digital world that we are encountering. Rather than shirking away in fear, they are actively teaching their teachers and their students how to participate. One way they have done this is through building a blogging platform for their teachers and students to use. Using this quote from Chris Betcher, “Your digital footprint will carry far more weight than anything you might include on a resume,” the blogs combined with their digital citizenship curriculum is allowing students to create a positive digital footprint. One thing that stood out to me was that blogging shouldn’t be homework; blogging should be a reflection of your learning. This is in opposition to what I currently do in my World Literature classroom but it makes complete sense. There’s a personal ownership with blogging. It is a place to share your learning. It creates the community learning environment. And quality over quantity is praised.
Kim provided some very practical tip for getting a blogging platform off the ground and running based on personal experience and reflection on what worked and what didn’t. They began with a soft launch in the first year with their teachers and gave them time to get used to the idea. Then in the 2nd year, they began the official launch of the school blogging platform. Parents could expect to find the information they were looking for on a teacher’s page, on the principal’s page, or on a department’s page.
KEYNOTE: DR. CATHY R. DAVIDSON – How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way that We Live, Work and Learn
- We are in the 4th Information Age and the same complaints are being lobbied against digital devices: lack of focus, distracting, brain damage.
- We are teaching our students the skills for last century jobs, for the last Information Age and not preparing them for the skills and jobs for the 21st Century, the current Information Age.
- Collaborative learning is key!
KEYNOTE: DR. STEVEN LAYNE – Balcony People: Teachers Make a Difference
- Everyone who remembers their own educational experience, remembers the teachers, not the methods or techniques.
- “Nothing works for every child, but something works for every child.”
- “In the midst of my brokenness, I have something to offer.”
- Who are the people sitting in your balcony, cheering for your successes, pushing you on to what they believe you are capable of doing?
- And then whose balcony am I sitting in? Who am I a cheerleader for? Who am I confidently pushing on because I know that they can succeed?
MY CONCLUSION or THE NUTSHELL THAT I WANT TO REMEMBER
It’s hard to put the 4 days into one nutshell. There were so many fantastic ideas that I want to consider, so many pieces of advice that I want to implement. I’m not going to do it all this year, or even next year. But I can choose to make small choices to make those bigger things possible: work in Quadrant #2: the important but not urgent, advocate for my library users and their needs, celebrate and share the successes and the progress that we make in the library, practice reflection, and, above all, stay upbeat!