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Conference Roundup: Major Speakers PDF Print E-mail

audienceCoordinated by Sandy Kelly; Photos by Richard Curran

As one observer stated, “It was as good as any national conference I have ever been to!”  I would have to agree. The speakers were engaging, the authors wonderful and if you felt a bit overwhelmed and exhausted when it was over, you definitely got your money’s worth. I know what I will be doing on vacation, reliving the day by reading my notes, browsing through all of the handouts, previewing a myriad of websites and curating my new “School Library Scoop” website, thanks to Joyce Valenza.  You can follow me at

If you didn’t make it this year, mark your calendar for March 3-4, 2013 in Sturbridge. We are already lining up another well known author you will not want to miss. A special “thank you” goes out to our members who took their precious time to submit the following presentation summaries. On our own we are good, but together we are fabulous.

Ross Todd
Alan November
Joyce Valenza
Buffy Hamilton
Chris Harris
Michelle Luhtala

Keynote Speaker: ROSS TODD: "Living the Dream"
by Amy Bloom, MS Librarian, Natick, MA

I have always found Ross Todd to be one of the most inspiring speakers I have ever heard, and his talk, "Living the Ross ToddDream: The Library Connects it All and Makes it Happen,” was no exception.  The address focused on new trends in education and librarianship - transformations that are occurring at breakneck speed, and the school librarian’s role in integrating these new initiatives into the curriculum.  Todd’s strength is in research, developing questions that go to the heart of our profession. His latest study focuses on student learning in New Jersey schools, and the contribution that quality school libraries make to education in the state.

Key characteristics of a quality school library program were identified through an initial survey.  The most successful programs had similar attributes:

  • State certified school librarian           
  • Support staff
  • Responsibility for technical hardware support
  • High levels of cooperation, coordination and instructional collaboration with the teaching staff
Further investigation of those school libraries with high levels of collaboration, explored four themes:
  • In what ways does the school support learning through the school library?
  • In what ways, if any, does the school library contribute to learning?
  • What do students learn through their interaction and engagement with the school library?
  • How do they envision the future of school libraries
The findings of this study conclude that with strong administrative support, and a culture of collaboration, the school library program can have a huge impact on student learning. Some of the major takeaways for us to be considering in our practice included:
  • Collaboration with classroom teachers is a key mechanism for professional development: teaching our teachers- transferring and independence.
  • Being seen as an Information Learning Specialist
  • Enabling inquiry through information
  • Being on the cutting edge: educational landscape scanners: both strategic and programatic: in the areas of reading theory, learning theory, and information technology research.
  • Being present in forums where new developments/tools/learning approaches are made available (think Common core)

Ross’ research  identifies numerous ways effective library programs engage students, teachers and contributes to learning.  There is way too much information to relate here, in this overview. I would suggest that his presentation is required reading!

I would leave you with the qualities of Effective School Librarians as identified in this study:

  • Having high visibility as teachers and works to sustain this as a priority
  • Actively building a profile of the school library as an active learning center
  • Being non-judgmental with students and teachers
  • Building an atmosphere of open communication
  • Being willing to go the extra mile to be supportive of teaching and learning
  • Being sociable and accessible, inclusive and welcoming
  • Having a strong “help” orientation, this is about learning on the library
  • Focusing not so much on our libraries, but on their commitment to enabling learning needs to be met
  • Being solution-oriented
  • Creating an ethos of the library that is an invitation to learning: a place to be, do and become
  • Having high expectations for colleagues and for students
  • Liking and caring about young people and having flexibility in creating a learning environment that appeals to them
  • Being leaders and instructional innovators who are not afraid to tke risk, be creative, and do what best serves learners of all ages.

 Is this you?

Keynote Speaker: ALAN NOVEMBER:  "Librarians as Key Leaders"
by Laurie Lingham, Librarian at the Carroll School   

Alan NovemberAlan November described a lively and plugged-in future for librarians. With humor, asides, and many stories, he connected the numerous dots he examined in his anecdotes and challenged us to take a leadership role in 21st century information literacy.

The Internet has become a cut-and-paste, get-your-research-done tool; it has lowered critical thinking! Alan’s preference is to build and create content, to be an author (like early pre-Internet), not a consumer of content. The new role for the library is as a global publishing center for kids, creating meaningful content for the world. We should also work with teachers to do this. For example, screencasting software is really easy to use for broadcasting a message or lesson. It takes only seconds to create a tutorial. It is faster than note-taking. Librarians should teach teachers to teach kids to cover the curriculum that we  the librarians will then tag in Diigo ! He also recommends Jing and Skype.

Because of the Internet we have the opportunity to find classrooms all over the world for authentic conversations. Epals is great; use it to collaborate with your choice of country. It is the largest student database in the world. The fewest participants are from US. The US has more connectivity than any nation in world, but Americans do not reach out because we have so little empathy. Empathy is the single characteristic that separates the great employee from the average, according to the CEO of the world’s largest bank, HSBC. Librarians to the rescue! Librarians can show teachers how to design assignments where kids must reconcile points of view.

Librarians have critical thinking skills. Librarians are more important than the databases in their libraries. Students do NOT know how to use the Internet, so they need librarians’ critical thinking and question-asking. Critical thinking on the Internet is the single thing Alan would teach every year. He gave many great examples that are covered in his book, Web Literacy for Educators. Conversation with /direction and input from the librarian is missing now that students go directly to Internet; the mad rush to devices such as iPads (with their incredible ease of use) bypasses real learning. What flows through the wires is more important than the wires. The real revolution is information and communication. Librarians can ask, “what information do you want?”  A device does not ask. Kids need to ask the smart questions. That’s critical thinking. The teacher/librarian’s role is to pose smart questions (the Socratic method).

There is little tolerance for innovation or transformation in US schools; plenty of technology, but not real change in the US.  Not so in China and other countries. CIPA The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) creates too much fear of losing control! Alan assured us that CIPA will be replaced with more critical thinking. He told us of the Clintondale School using the flip model of learning  
See also Teach Less Learn More ,  which has replaced the spoonfeeding model of knowledge-transfer with inquiry-based problem-solving, question-asking, and critical thinking.

We should apply video games to learning. Study them! The 4 strategies used in creating them are:

  1. immediate feedback.
  2. rise to the level of your capacity.
  3. positive reinforcement; no penalties.
  4. mastery is built in.

Keynote Speaker: JOYCE VALENZA: "10 Big Things"
by Marnie Bolstad,  Library Teacher at  Newton South HS

Joyce ValenzaIn one hour Joyce Valenza covered, in rapid-fire fashion, 10 Important Things Librarians must Teach using 320 slides! While addressing each of the “10 Things” Joyce introduced numerous digital resources that will help library teachers teach 21st century skills. To view the presentation and link directly to the resources she introduced, view her presentation on Author Stream .

1. Digital Citizenship:
Our libraries are becoming centers for digital learning and our students are using numerous types of media (in other words, they are becoming transliterate). How responsibly they use digital media is another matter. With this in mind, Joyce stressed the importance of teaching students to be ethical and socially responsible users of media; that they understand the importance of using common sense and appropriate behavior. Students must understand they leave “digital footprints,” and learn to manage their e-reputations. As part of this process, they must be aware of how colleges and prospective employers investigate digital footprints and what can be done about it.

2. Copyright Education, and 3. Best Practice and Fair Use
The use of digital media makes it easy for students to plagiarize materials created by others. We need to teach students the concepts of fair use and intellectual property. In so doing, we should emphasize the use of sites such as Creative Commons and Flickr. Students should be aware they can license their own work on the Creative Commons-type sites. Also, they should know there are numerous online citation tools they can use to create bibliographies with annotations, note cards, outlines and more.

4. Research 3.0:
Traditional written papers are no longer adequate in today’s electronic environment. Students should be encouraged to develop e-portfolios which make their learning “transparent, interactive, meaningful, and original.” Depending on the nature of their research, students should learn to use online survey tools, Twitter, and other forms of social media, as they compile data for their research.

5. Curation:
Library Teachers are already curating resources for students through the use of pathfinders and LibGuides. Students should become part of this process. They can assemble the resources they use for projects on sites such as and Scoopit. In so doing, they use critical thinking skills and become “knowledge citizens.”

6. Keeping Up with the Search:
Many students rely on a small number of resources and utilize the same approach each time they do a research project. They should be encouraged or make use of Google’s unique features or, better yet, move beyond Google. We need to increase students’ awareness of sites such as Mashpedia, Duck Duck Go (which doesn’t track their searches), Wolfram Alpha (a knowledge search engine),, Quintura for Kids, Searchy Pants, etc. These sites can generate different types of searches with different points of view.

7. Gigo (‘”garbage in, garbage out”) or, Joyce’s words, “Developing a filter for crap.”
We all need to recognize that it is becoming increasingly difficult to evaluate digital media. Students should learn to keep their antennae up as they conduct research. Sources that may appear to be valid must be verified against other sources. And, library teachers, need to recognize that Wikipedia may be a good source, if the information can be verified. Annotating resources helps students evaluate and defend the credibility of their sources. Joyce recommends students address the following questions in their annotations: Who wrote it? Why did they write it? How does it help me answer my questions or make my case?

8. What is a Primary Source?
We must teach students to be skeptics. They should be aware that what is represented on the Internet may not always be true. Remember, for example, that the ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ turned out to be an American male.

9. Creativity
We need to give students permission and the latitude to “geek out” and use/experiment with multiple forms of delivery.There are many resources available to them to use when producing their work. The resources range from digital story telling to cartoon writing to poster makers, etc. As students are allowed to use different media, we need to develop new ways to evaluate projects.

10. “The Network is the Learning.” (George Siemens)
Students live in a networked world. We need to take advantage of that by linking classrooms and authors on Skype, using eBooks that “promote interactivity, connectivity and access,” creating online book clubs, etc. We must recognize and embrace that “learning takes place outside the doors of our school and library.”

11. And, New Rules for our Practice
In Joyce’s view, this is the best time to be a library teacher. We all need to ”imagine our role and create a 2020 vision.”

Whew! Joyce covered a lot in a short period of time. I hope I have done justice to her presentation.

BUFFY HAMILTON: "Participatory Learning"
by Deborah Sweeney, Dennis-Yarmouth and Sandy Kelly, Carlisle School        Buffy Hamilton

“Participatory learning is a lens to help us see the possibilities and create a context for crafting a shared vision of library in learning communities.”

How can being in the library be like an archeology experience where one excavates and discovers? Libraries are a catalyst for participatory learning and culture.  They are communal places and the shared story of the human experience.

Confronting the challenges of participatory culture, we must develop empathy for each others ideas and work by sharing and publishing and exhibiting. Members of a participatory culture feel some degree of connection with each other and they believe their contributions matter.    

Librarians can be the spark to larger change in the learning ecosystem. It is empowering for students and shows others what goes on in the library. Kids love it!

The librarian is an essential part in the student learning network. We can change students from being knowledgeable to knowledge able.  Right now we have a system of education that devalues inquiry. Buffy is really focused on her role as a teacher.

Transliteracy is a “convergence of literacies.” Media literacy, digital literacy, technology literacy and information literacies become blurred when individuals become consumers of information to producers of content. Transliteracy focuses on the interaction among the different literacies. Characteristics of participatory learning include motivation and engagement, a learning ecosystem, co-learning, relevance and creativity. It encourages play, social interaction with home, school community and the world. This does cause resistance because students aren't used to this type of learning They are used to sitting there and regurgitating information. It makes demands on time. It provides opportunities to create and solve problems. It will not work without a strong bond between teacher and student built on trust, mutual respect, care and an ongoing effort to get to know each other. Social media and Web 2.0 tools can help develop conversations for learning.

There is not a “one size fits all” model for participatory learning. Students must connect by building on prior knowledge. Then develop questions and wonders by reading, brainstorming  and collaborating. The next step entails research, gathering and organizing information, synthesizing and reflecting. Finally they must construct new knowledge and understanding. It is the act of creation that distinguishes the student from the scholar.        

You can follow Buffy Hamilton at

Christopher Harris, "Reading beyond Print"

by Julie Farrell and Sandy Kelly

Chris spoke with his usual wit, skepticism and broad knowledge of digital media.
The best take away from his presentation was, "People don't buy an eBook reader, they buy books." One of the hot topics in the ebook world right now is digital rights management. Access vs ownership, what should the model for libraries be?  Currently there are three models.  In local ownership the library owns the copy of the eBook but there are questions concerning how many times the book can be circulated before the eBook evaporates and must be repurchased. Some publishers will allow as many as fifty downloads at the same time and most only one. Some publishers stream the books which are hosted on the company’s servers. The eBook/econtent from Gale, Capstone and Rosen, among others are provided this way. This is the format generally used in a database. The third type of ebook is downloaded. This is what is done with Overdrive. There are pros and cons to consider when deciding what to purchase. Additional considerations include the selection of books, package deals, very expensive overhead. Two major library vendors have their own products. Mackin as VIA and Follett has Follett Shelf. Each company has their own interface for school libraries.

There are also concerns with different eReaders such as the Kindle or Nook.

In our library we buy content and we loan out content. With ebooks we don't own anything. We have access to econtent but no ownership. That econtent can be altered or taken away. If the ereader breaks, we need to buy additional access to content.

Some questions to ask before investing in ebooks-

  • What format do you need or your patrons want?
  • What purpose will the econtent serve?
  • Ownership of the content?
  • Are you reading the book?
  • Are you studying the text?
  • Is it a one time purchase or a subscription?
  • Will the content change?
Chris Harris purchases ebooks regionally. He feels pooling resources and sharing the benefits will widen access to econtent. In his district $6.25/student is budgeted for library resources and $1.25/student is set aside to pool the resources.He also mentioned a program called - pledge to start projects. Groups within the region can bid how much of their budget will go to an eBook. This may be a way for districts with limited budgets to raise funds to begin or expand their ebook collections.


by Ken Mullen, Social Studies Teacher at the Pioneer Valley Regional School

Michelle Luhtala did a brilliant job of presenting the issues facing school libraries when it comes to banning web sites. She opened the presentation by discussing the numerous ways to contact her or access her multiple resources on the web,

Michelle LuhtalaShe then discussed her findings after analyzing the Common Core, ISTE/NETS, P21 and AASL standards to see what skills the four have in common.  Her findings looked at which words most often appeared in each of the four. Her findings were charted using a word cloud and then further analyzed.

Michelle looked at the most common words and found that the most used words fell into four categories (the four C’s).

  • Category- most common words from ISTE,P21, AASL,CCSS
  • Collaborate-partner
  • Communicate-argue, listen, read, speak, write
  • Create-decide, innovate, plan
  • Think Critically-evaluate, identify process, prove, reason, solve, think

Michelle then focused on websites that allow students in the same school to achieve these “four C’s”. By utilizing web sites, students can collaborate without meeting in person. Michelle cited the example of Shannon Miller, a school librarian from Iowa, who utilized social media like Twitter & Skype to provide her rural students a much more worldly experience and bolstered class offerings as well.

Michelle was then quick to point out that the opportunities that Shannon provided her students in Iowa couldn’t be duplicated in many US schools since so many districts ban social media sites from students AND teachers. Michelle cited a recent survey of high schools that found 87% of schools block Facebook, 67% block YouTube and 15% even block the search engine Google! These bans obviously hinder the ability of students and teachers to collaborate, communicate, create and think critically.

Michelle was proud to point out that her current school, New Canaan HS in CT, allows their student access to all of the websites listed above. She screened a video that starred her outgoing seniors that was made for the incoming freshman. The main theme was that the school TRUSTED the students to make the right choices with these sites that had been banned in their sending middle school. What a novel concept, trusting kids to do the right thing instead of expecting them to do the wrong thing!

Michelle discussed numerous rich and authentic lessons she had done with her students and teachers that utilized web sites and that helped students complete the four C’s. She showed an anti-bullying video that students had filmed and edited using their smartphones and then uploaded to Youtube and Facebook. The video was then watched by other students who were able to offer critiques and feedback.

Another project about revolution utilized twitter feeds that related to tweets related to Arab Spring. The students looked at various tweets as well as news articles and analyzed them to look for bias and discussed the difficulties in finding the “truth” on the Internet.

Another project Michelle touted was examining gender roles using ads from Life magazines from the 1950’s. The students took smartphone pictures of ads that portrayed women very differently than today. The pictures were then uploaded to Facebook groups that were able to post comments and discuss how much had changed in the last 60 years. This was then incorporated into a Catcher in the Rye unit that the same students were covering in English class.

One prominent theme that ran throughout the presentation was “Banned Websites Awareness Day” which had widespread support from groups like the AASL, ACLU and NASSP. She was a big factor in getting this day into the national press. Michelle pointed out that schools should be helping students learn how to use sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube as effective tools for collaboration and innovation. If this is left up to the students and parents, the result may have an impact on the students’ choices after high school since 70% of colleges take a students Facebook profile into consideration before accepting them. She also noted that CIPA rules do not stipulate that YouTube must be blocked. Many tech admins do not want to take the time to sift through the regulations and prefer to just block with a broad brush.

Michelle’s main theme of using these banned sites to help students collaborate, communicate, create and think critically was well presented and clear. She is clearly passionate about her work and has done a great deal to raise awareness both at the school and national level.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 29 April 2012 )

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