Why I’m not going to ISTE this year, and why I think you should care

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Conferences, conferences.  Every professional has the opportunity to attend conferences for professional development.  Conferences are often run by industry groups or organizations. As teacher librarians, we are encouraged to become involved in various library-related associations (see 4 C  Blog “Top 10 reasons to join a professional organization” to understand why).  Encouragement for me has initially come from professors in my Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program through San Jose State University. Thank you, professors.   If you’re lucky, you have administrators that encourage you to take part in library-related associations.  I, myself, am a proud member of several of these.   First is the American Library Association (ALA), the big guns, along with two ALA divisions, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).  I am also a member of  the California School Libary Association (CSLA).  I have attended ALA and CSLA conferences, and will be attending the AASL conference this fall in Arizona. Yes, I know.  Sounds awesome.

I’m really not trying to brag, here.  In talking with other teacher librarians, I’ve found that most are part of 3-5 associations, and many of them even more.

Now, in my first post, if you read it, I talked about librarians wearing lots of different hats?  Well, one of the biggest hats we wear is the hat that I call, very unoriginally, “Tech go-to.”  We are that person at our sites.  As Steven Abram noted in his recent January 2017 Internet@Schools article titled, “What’s in the pipeline? Teacher librarians as STEAM vents,”  “The next phase of libraries will expand our role in schools and our communities into lending 3D printers, 3D scanners, drones, games, IoT devices, artificial intelligence and aug­mented reality tools, robots, robotics, and the full range of digital and other tools needed for successful learning.”  So yeah, better get up on all that. As a quick side note, Abram quotes the 2016 Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker article, “‘122 Things’ you will be able to do in the library of the future that you can’t do today,” which is a great read.  

See, inasmuch as the library associations mentioned heretofore help us connect, and actually do a good job in helping us keep up with technology, it’s wise to spread out and form professional attachments to groups that FOCUS on tech. To that end, I became a member of Computer Using Educators (CUE), the Silicon Valley offshoot (SVCUE), and the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE).  With CUE, I get out of the library box and into seeing how subject-area educators are using new applications.  ISTE pushes global awareness, and has developed up-to-date international student and teacher technology standards that echo the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner.

It’s hard to pick and choose which professional conferences you want to attend, if you’re lucky to even have that choice.  When I look over my year, I try to spread things out a bit, attending 1 library-associated conference and 1 tech conference.  I have experienced good and mediocre conferences.  The greatest takeaway at EVERY conference is network building. Yes, you learn about trends and technology too.  But if learned anything, it’s the acquaintances and friendships you strike up, because they will enrich you over and over again.

I’m not going to ISTE this year because it coincides with a much-needed family vacation.   Maybe I’ll go next year when it’s in Chicago.

Why should you care?  Well, if you’re interested in teacher librarianship, and you want to stay connected through attendance at conferences, maybe this post will pique your interest in the professional associations I listed above, but that’s not my main point.  My hope is that you, dear fellow teacher librarian, in your attempt to perch the many hats you wear atop your head AT THE SAME TIME, can read this little post and either say to yourself, “She’s such a lightweight!” or “Aha! I’ve found someone that’s just as involved as me.”  If you’re one of the former, I take one of my many hats off to you.  If you’re one of the latter, cheers!


Abram, S. (2017, January). What’s in the pipeline? Teacher librarians as STEAM vents. Internet@Schools, 24(1), 8-10. Retrieved from http://www.internetatschools.com/Articles/Column/The-Pipeline/THE-PIPELINE-Whats-in-the-Pipeline-Teacher-Librarians-as-STEAM-Vents-116124.aspx

Frey, Thomas. (2016, October 26). “122 Things” you will be able to do in the library of the future that you can’t do today. [Web log]. Futurist Speaker. Retrieved from http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/122-things-you-will-be-able-to-do-in-the-library-of-the-future-that-you-cant-do-today/

McClellan, J. (2015, November 5). Top 10 reasons to join a professional association. [Web log]. 4CDesignworks. Retrieved from http://blog.cccctech.com/top-10-reasons-to-join-a-professional-organization/


Learning from Mistakes

For more great, laugh-inducing, cringey mistakes, click on the image to visit cakewrecks.com

I’ve been thinking about making mistakes in relation to inquiry-based design.  As a high school teacher librarian who currently (pushing for change, pushing for change) has limited time with students in a classroom setting (1-3 lessons in a year per class of freshmen), I have felt like my biggest impact is in filling each minute with instruction.  However, I realized, in my pausing to take a quick breath and a sip of water between class periods, students were leaving my lessons looking like zombies.

So what is the result of my teaching?  It’s probably not heads filled with educational, information-rich, meaningful learning.  If anything, they probably paid attention at those moments when I said, “Okay.  This is really important, and you’ll want to write it down.” Beyond that, I’m lucky that their teachers have me teach on a yearly basis in the remaining three years of high school to get refreshers.

So if learning comes best, as most teachers are aware, by doing, and if we are encouraged to collaborate and function as facilitators in order to support student learners in the 21st century (see AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner), then we must seek to transform our practice, as educators like Patricia Montiel-Overall suggest in her 2013 LMC article, “Students as global citizens: Educating a new generation.”

This transformation requires some shifts that may be pretty darn uncomfortable. Speaking from my own experience, I decided that my impact was being undermined by time constraints.  Thanks to help from a fellow educator, and from an inquiry-based lesson on data literacy by Tasha Bergson-Michelson at the 2017 California School Librarian Association conference, I decided to pull back on content.  I took Tasha’s lesson and modified it for my purposes, creating an inquiry-based lesson on evaluating resources.  I’m not going to go into the full plan, but suffice to say, it was an uncomfortable transformation.

Mistakes were made.

If I learned anything, it was this: the cake may look bad, but that doesn’t mean it tastes bad.  In other words, after that first lesson was taught, I thought, “Well, at least they gave me a round of applause, and there was that big ‘aha!’ moment when the students came up with the list of traits a good resource should have.”  But it felt weird, too.  I didn’t have that tidy, all-wrapped-up feeling like I usually do after covering content.  It felt more like observing chicks hatching, or a newborn calf standing up for the first time.  The key word is observing.  I wasn’t wiping my hands and saying to myself, “good job.”   I was telling the students that.

Diana Laufenberg, in her November 2010 TEDxMidAtlantic talk titled, “How to learn? From mistakes,” notes that “always having the right answer doesn’t allow students to learn.”  She was talking about students learning from their own mistakes, but I’m here telling you that they learn from yours, too.  AND IT’S IMPORTANT!  It’s not only important to make mistakes, but it’s important to admit that your lesson is sloppy, or that you need a hand.

In “Learning from mistakes: Confessions of a flawed librarian” by Linda Braun in the April 2016 issue of the Voice of Youth Advocates journal, the author notes that “Most people would agree that everyone–even professionals–make mistakes, and most would agree that some of the most significant and profound learning comes from those mistakes” (p. 40).

If we’re to make transformation happen, where students come out of our lessons feeling like they have learned something, we need to embrace the messiness of the transformation.  Our mistakes benefit those 21st learners.


Braun, L.M. (April 2016). Learning from mistakes: Confessions of a flawed librarian. Voice of Youth Advocates 39(1), 40-41.

Laufenberg, D. (November 2010). How to Learn? From mistakes. [Video File with transcript]. TEDxMidAtlantic.  Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/diana_laufenberg_3_ways_to_teach

Montiel-Overall, P. (2013). Students as global citizens: Educating a new generation. LMC 31(3) 8-10.  Retrieved from School Library Management, 7th edition [Kindle version].




This is my newest blog, and this time, it’s about making connections.  I have another blog, Bibliocity, where I do reader advisor book summaries.  I call it Bibliocity for two reasons.  First, most people are familiar with the Greek root “biblio” which means book.  I chose “city” because it means “a place or situation characterized by a specified attribute” (Google definition).  Combine the two together, and you get a place for book summaries.   Second, I was a teenager in the 80s when The Police came out with Synchronicity and Bibliocity made me think of great music AND connecting things.


For Bibliodidaskalos-ity (biblio-di-das-ka-los-ity), I inserted didáskalos, which means teacher in Greek.  To get technical, I think I am a didáskalissa, but that would have meant the blog’s name, which is already crazy, would end in “issa-city”  and I prefer the sound of “os-ity”.

So connections.  Teacher librarians have to be really good at this.  They connect students to information, teachers to information, and often wear other hats besides.  They are tech coaches, professional development leaders, curriculum developers.  They have to be up-to-date with subject area standards and technology.  They are reader advisors, champions of all kinds of literacies.  That makes them superstars and superheroes on school campuses.