Monday, July 29, 2013

One crazy summer

I was at home only a few days after ALA before I left for Cleveland, Mississippi, for a week studying Delta history at that university's Delta Center for Culture and Learning, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I stayed in a dormitory, ate as terribly as the natives, and listened to some incredible music. I had a marvelous conversation about Faulkner, probably the best abut literature I've had since my English M.A., the sort of thing which feeds me spiritually for months. I had scheduled the seminar as a sort of treat and was really glad I took a break from my usual library-based concerns. I'm re-reading Native Son now, coincidentally, thinking about the Thomas family's migration north, so typical for that era.

Both juke joint and home, a former sharecropper's cabin.
In his 70s, Monkey works the fields by day and opens his home to music lovers on Thursday evenings.
I was back just another few days before we left for our vacation. This was the fourth time we've been in Key West for Hemingway Days, and the presence of so many heavy, gray-bearded men -- there's a look-alike contest, with a "running of the bulls" of all the participants -- is always surreal. It is also a relaxing time, with bicycling to the beach, watching movies at the Tropic Cinema, eating at some of our favorite places. This time, it was extra restive because my husband got sick towards the end -- swimmer's ear from too much snorkeling. Pity, all the more time to read.
There are more than a hundred of these past and aspiring Papas at Hemingway Days
So this summer has slid through my hands like so much sand at the Fort Taylor beach...I still have a transitional library to make workable before school starts ("Where does one begin?" asked a teacher friend, taking in all the boxes when I popped into school last week. Good question, that.), a dissertation to polish up and defend before October (drop-dead deadline, if self-imposed), and a bunch of other projects on the go. The two classes I've been teaching for Jacksonville State University end today and tomorrow, I have some article revisions due today, and a reception for my retiring superintendent this afternoon before the JSU class meets. I'm busy, but it's good busy. I'm feeling particularly blessed.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Flying without ID

Tuesday, July 2, I lost my wallet somewhere between my bleary 7:30 taxi to McCormick Place and the shuttle back to Michigan Avenue two hours later. The American Library Association National Conference was winding down, so I couldn't hold out much hope a kind librarian would find and return it, but I did find the series of events that unfolded at the airport the next morning fascinating and potentially useful for other people.

Within an hour of realizing the loss, I'd called the non-emergency number for a police report (done over the phone, to my surprise). I canceled my American Express and Visa. I called the TSA, then O'Hare TSA. 

"People forget their ID all the time," said the weary-sounding agent. "We have a procedure. When you get to security, tell them exactly what you told me."

When I revealed to the screener that I didn't have ID, a brisk man came out from the back of the security area. I knew he wasn't the airport supervisor, because I'd heard HIS voicemail message about being on vacation until after the holiday, but this guy was undeniably in charge.

"None of this exists," he says, waving away the black and white printouts of my passport and new driver's license that I made from the ALA computers. "We can't take reproductions."

He is younger than me, but constantly harangues the other officers. "Who's on break? Anyone not on break needs to give me an explanation why the line is so long. And why weren't these people with their bags?"
"You pack it, you deal with it," he said. "This is what pisses me off."

He asks what I have with me with my name on it. I find my Alabama Education Association card and Council of Leaders of Alabama Schools card, both nested with my loyalty codes instead of in my wallet. "What are these?" he asks.

"Union cards," I respond.

He says that while I don't have government issued ID, I have ancillary ID, so he would let me through.

He starts using codes with the army of agents -- DID (don't have ID?) and "modified female assist," which ended up being terribly thorough. To her credit, the officer did clarify just what she'd be doing, and check that it was okay she do it out in public. She explored every inch of the seams of my white Gap skinny jeans.

Without my wallet, I had been worried about not having enough money to check my bag. I could give them the scant $25 in borrowed and found cash I had. But what if it is was over weight? I spent Tuesday night condensing my belongings. But I shouldn't have worried. I actually didn't touch my bags again after I revealed I didn't have proper identification.

The officer in charge moved them through the x-ray machine himself, using the plastic cups for wallets and jewelry to isolate my bags and gives a coded instruction, "between the bowls."

After my pat-down, he starts inside my bags. He opens the zippered compartments holding high heeled shoes, hardback books, documents in Sanrio folders. He pokes at my clothes, largely combinations of purple, silk and floral, with an Isadora Duncan-esque quantity of scarves. It is then that he says to me, "You don't happen to be one of those librarians, do you?"

"Oh, wait," says another officer walking by, smirking ever so slightly "You're coming from that library conference, too?" 

The search was markedly lessened in ferocity. 

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.