Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What's new at ISTE & ALA

I've been on the road, doing my summer learning. First it was searing San Antonio, and ISTE. The big thing there seem to be touch -- not only the Microsoft Surface product seeding classrooms nationwide, but the big, touch-enabled screens vendors used to play roulette for swag in the exhibit hall and hotels mounted for you to navigate to meeting rooms. It's not quite the move to kinesthetic computing, but the super-sizing of the now-ubiquitous touch screen has consumers navigating with gestures, and the move away from input is interesting.

ISTE is big.

The other big new exciting tech trend was augmented reality, which Aurasma has locked down, more or less. I have been watching this for a while, but really hope more teachers and librarians get in on the game with this. It's only one step away from having information pushed to us based on our location, which I'm convinced will become the new normal.

I still don't think that iPads are the way to go as far as educational technology is concerned. As a very wise librarian said, if they have a project, they want my desktops. I think about everything from multitasking to ergonomics to file storage and management and am all the more convinced. ALL our kids have smart phones -- one speaker said, at his low-income middle school, just over half have traditional Internet access, but all but two have data on their phone. I wish that educational leaders would appreciate this and provide opportunities for student to use more robust hardware in school settings.

The sessions themselves showcased the best of what teachers and librarians are up to. But, somehow, things hadn't changed terribly radically. I especially enjoyed hearing from Shannon Miller and Michelle Luhtala's administrators at the SIGMS forum. At my favorite session, Kristin Fontichiaro, Tasha Bergson-Michelson and Debbie Abilock talked about visual literacy, which tied into their ALA presentation on slowing down the research process. I am a big believer that drafting on paper leads to better searching and digital products, so it was right up my alley.

At the SIGMS breakfast, John T. Spencer, a middle school teacher, spoke very convincingly about the role of technology in his students' lives and our failure to take advantage of its opportunities for creative and constructive uses. Again, nothing new or relevatory, but so well put, and well-illustrated by Spencer.

It really punctuated how important building-level administrative support is for our profession. Steven Johnson, who wrote The Plague Map, spoke about density and its relationship to invention, which always strikes a nerve with me until I think about people like William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty -- genius isolated from the world writ large.

After traveling from San Antonio to Chicago, I kicked off ALA with my second USBBY board meeting. We're planning for the regional (which for USBBY means National) conference in St. Louis this fall. The author attendees and breakout sessions are rather dazzling, and I hear the renovated public library where the event will be held is something to behold. I had to cut out of USBBY for an preconference for AASL. I was fortunate to present with Deb Logan and Laura Pearle, and we focused on concrete suggestions for enriching your program whatever your circumstances.

Kadir Nelson at the Coretta Scott King breakfast
Saturday I went to Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session, then sat in on some of the YALSA Board meeting, since the blog report was on the consent agenda. Elizabeth Wein, author of my most favorite book of 2012, spoke at the USBBY program. She shared images from her childhood in England and Jamaica, speaking eloquently to the internationalism underpinning that group. I was thrilled to meet more of the terrific bloggers who write for YALSA at the social event, too.

Brian Selznick's Caldecott anniversary logo on white chocolate medallions
Sunday morning, I tagged along to the Coretta Scott King breakfast with the Little Brown contingent, where I met the lovely Jewell Parker Rhodes, whose books are just magical. At Council, I voted against the guideline suggesting ALA units limit themselves to a moment of silence, and I cannot imagine how the restriction would limit the tone of that particular event. It is one time I really think that ALA overstepped, becoming less inclusive if not actually infringing upon non-dominant cultures. I went to the OITP session on filtering, which has become such a tremendous issue in schools blocking the social networking tools that young people have used to construct their own learning environments. I went to my last Web Advisory Committee meeting, knowing I am leaving the YALSA representation there in good hands, before the Newbery/Caldecott banquet. The whole night was a celebration of 75th year of the Caldecott, and Brian Selznick's witty logo was everywhere. The highlight was Laura Ingalls Wilder medal winner Katherine Paterson, whose intelligence and common sense inspires me every time I hear her.

Alice Walker, from my spot on the floor
I managed get to the Alice Walker auditorium session, too, which was as politically charged as you would expect, but I had never hear her and was surprised as how soft-spoken she seemed. My own concurrent session was very last, an hour after the exhibits closed, and while I was a little exhausted, it was fun to share some ideas on using student-owned devices in different settings. After that, I darted from reception to reception -- the Friends of YALSA event for Printz winner Nick Lake, then AASL Director Julie Walker's retirement celebration, then back for the Printz speeches (Elizabeth Wein again!) and Nick Lake. Daniel Kraus was actually on the committee, so ponder that.

I threw myself out of bed early for Council III Tuesday morning, but I managed to lose my wallet some where between the cab to the Convention Center and leaving Council. Everyone at ALA, fellow attendees but especially staff, was kind beyond belief, but I was still facing almost a full day without identification or funds. A police report and two credit card cancellations later, I have scanned copies of my driver's license and passport, but plan to be out at O'Hare super-early tomorrow to battle any TSA hurdles.

I only have four nights at home before I leave for the National Endowment for Humanities summer seminar in Mississippi. Being so closed to so many bright people, even those I only saw in my twitter stream, makes the expenditure of money and time but most especially effort entirely worthwhile, even when I factor in the missing wallet.

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