Monday, November 9, 2009


I'm on the way home from Charlotte, thinking about the series of days that made up the 14th Annual AASL conference. It was one of the best experiences, personal or professional, I’ve ever had.

I eased into things by going for the Wednesday night paddleboat dinner cruise on the Catawba Queen around Lake Norman. Despite the full moon, it was difficult to see much beyond the powerplants ringing that man-made body of water. But the dark night provided an opportunity to talk with local North Carolina librarians as well as some from Connecticut, Arkansas, and Illinois. There was an especially anticipatory air as five of the eight women at our table were attending the conference for the first time.

Thursday, the Blogger's Cafe kicked off, and I actually acted as a guinea pig, sharing my own students' accounts of what they do online (slides linked from here) in the cafe's first session. Many people wandered in from the registration area and listened to a little or chimed in with their own observations, and I was able to share some of the teens' favorite sites for online content creation and consumption. That Blogger's Cafe, a stone's throw from the requisite Starbucks, was an amazing experiment where anyone could stop in to hear some fresh ideas in an informal space or get some hands-on help with online tools. Over the four days, I learned about Intel's online site to promote visual thinking, scenario-based online netiquette, and my own personal favorite, Robin Williams' amazing work melding real life and virtual worlds in video.

I have long been a fan of danah boyd's ethnographic research talking with young people about social networking, so it was especially terrific to see her is person at the opening session Thursday afternoon. I spent part of Friday volunteering, counting heads, passing out evaluation forms, and mostly trying to keep latecomers from crowding into the already-full session on electronic note-taking.

Midday Friday, I helped with the Web 2.0 smackdown, sharing digital storytelling strategies along with Brenda Anderson and Shonda Brisco, while other amazing progressive school media specialists talked about information fluency, digital citizenship, and reading promotion. The most exciting portion of the presentation was the audience participation, via the microphones set up for that purpose or via twitter and chatzy.

A quick trip around the exhibits revealed debut novelist Carrie Ryan signing her debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a current fave among my students, I especially enjoyed a late-afternoon session from a group from the University of Georgia on the role of class in children's literature, The panel touched upon a range of depictions of non-Western cultures, affluence and poverty, and labor issues.

The Ethics in a Web 2.0 World session Saturday morning used table-talk to present a range of scenarios, most based on real life, challenging our understanding of everything from intellectual property to student privacy to censorship involving read/write wrinkles. I also spent some time talking about my own doctoral work on the recursive and reiterative nature of new literacies with other doc. students and faculty.

After Marco Torres' closing session, the gala at the ImaginOn children's space gave everyone an opportunity to dance, talk, play, and explore an amazing space full of media. Every nook and cranny of the space offered opportunities to engage young peoples' creativity at this combination library and theater. The video production space, along with the stop motion cameras, has me more determined than ever to explore the free online storytelling tool Scratch.

Sunday, authors Linda Sue Park and Richard Peck spoke at the author's breakfast, both with much laudatory to say about the role of school librarians. That was a sort of relief, since much of the conference being shot through with anxiety about the future of the profession. Park's description of bookstores in Korea, which serve as de facto libraries in a culture where libraries are usually associated with higher education, was particularly striking when contrasted with her own childhood access to libraries in the U.S.. Despite the baseball theme, her Keeping Score is something I cannot wait to read. Peck was hilarious, provcative, and profound.

I feel lucky to have been part of the conference technology subcommittee producing content behind-the-scenes to share the experience with those who has purchased the bThere pass or for those looking for backchannels to connect with like-minded media specialists. I uploaded photos to flickr (mostly the work of my friend Cyndy) and tweeted almost compulsively about the goings-on. For those of you without a track pass, the tagged conference content was aggregated onto another site by Donna Baumbach. 21st century librarians can be clever like that.

Sunday, I headed away from the conference center to swing by the Levine Museum of the New South, currently housing Changing Places, an exhibit on multiculturalism and cross-cultural understanding. It was a really pleasant ending to a stimulating five days full of new and old connections.

AASL will be in Minneapolis in 2011, and I hope that its conference's organizers take a page from this one and remember that learning is always more fun when participatory and inclusive.

1 comment:

  1. Wendy,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reflection on AASL 2009. Every time I read someone else's reflection, it jogs something in my brain that I remember as well! I thoroughly enjoyed the smackdown and appreciate your contribution to that as well as the Blogger's Cafe. Unfortunately, I spent so much time in the concurrent sessions, I didn't have much time for the Blogger's Cafe, but I know you guys were prominently situated and well-received!

    I added you to my GoogleDocs Blogroll for AASL Conference Reflections. Check it out!