What a fantastic event!
I was privileged to be invited to speak at the 2010 Independent Professional Development Conference for school librarians to give a perspective from a university librarian. The theme of the event was digital natives, and we had a host of different speakers giving different perspectives; a school media specialist, school librarian, resource suppliers, hardware suppliers, an independent consultant, and myself.
Before I talk about the sessions, I have a slight confession to make; ever since my first experience in a library (which was at a local secondary school), I’ve been longing to go to a school librarian event. I absolutely loved my time at the school library, and worked with a fantastic school librarian who ignited my passion for librarianship. Since then I have worked in mainly university libraries (and a public library), but I’ve always followed some of the work going on in school libraries. So I was delighted when Rachael Guy, who organised the conference, contacted me to see if I would be interested in giving a talk. I jumped at the opportunity and really enjoyed putting together my presentation. I’ll do a separate blog post about the subject of my presentation, but wanted to share a review of the whole day first.
The day was opened by the host school (Berkhamstead School), and we were introduced to Sacha van Straten, ICT director at the school. I found it particularly interesting to hear about the emphasis the school place on digital literacy (which tied in very neatly to my presentation!); they are using technology enhanced learning to engage in collaborative learning and to promote digital literacy. They use Moodle as their VLE, but initially had some issues with adoption. Following a rebrand (including renaming it The Learning Platform), improving the Internet connection at the school, and implementing single sign on, adoption is now more widespread. They have also worked with an external company to improve the look and usability of the system, and integrated Google Apps to utilise the mail, docs, calendar and sites. This has the added advantage of being able to be used across multiple platforms including smartphones. I was particularly impressed with the idea of live marking in Google Docs so that students know when you will be marking their work and can view it live – enabling them to make amendments or comment on the feedback.
Next we had a demonstration from the energetic Nicola McNee. I have been following Nicola on Twitter for a while now, but not had the opportunity to meet before so it was good to see her in the flesh today. She shared her findings from a survey she ran with her Yr10 students about social networking. The key findings that stood out for me were that only 15% felt that email was essential (no surprise that over half felt texting and Facebook were essential), and many access the web on mobile devices (when I was that age I didn’t even have a mobile, how things have changed in a little over a decade!). Nicola shared with us some of the things she has been doing in her school to introduce students to online web tools and develop their digital literacy skills, using things like Voicethread and Livebinder. She also shared an interesting experiment using Facebook to record a school mock election earlier this year. Check out her blog for more ideas.
After a brief break we heard from JISC Collections for Schools (JCS) about how their deals can help save money and deliver multiple advantages for schools, and from AVerMedia who demonstrated one of their visualisers which can be used in many different ways (for example to record audio/video from a lesson as well as the more usual functions).
After a lovely hot lunch (very much welcomed by all as the venue suffered in heating throughout the day!), we heard from Chris Meade from the Institute for the Future of the Book (If.Book) who discussed the changing nature of books in the digital age, and asked some pertinent questions about what defines a book, and why reading is often seen as something which is a break from everything else. He used some examples of digital media being incorporated into reading (e.g. interactive picture books such as Alice for the iPad), and talked about some of the projects he has been involved in concerning the future of reading. He discussed one concept which I’m still a little unsure about – that of the “unlibrary”. He refers to the unlibrary as an area for creative space rather that a room full of resources. I agree there is a need for this type of space, but I think a library should be utilised in this way rather than having a separate entity to meet that need. I’d rather see us changing the way libraries are used to reflect the needs of society. Definitely something to think about anyway.
Then it was my turn, and as I mentioned I will write more about my presentation in another post, but as a brief overview I talked about what digital literacy is, and how school librarians can support the development of such skills. I approached it by using a case study of a typical student straight out of sixth form and went on a journey covering the first month of their university life. We watched a video to understand more about what life as a student is like today, and then discussed different stages of that first month, each time identifying ways school librarians can help them develop skills to ease the transition to university. It was great to hear from school librarians about these issues, and I was really pleased that people engaged with the topic.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Rachael and IPD for organising such an excellent event, it’s certainly one I’d recommend attending in future (and hope I might be able to attend again too!).
And as a tip to everyone, I really recommend trying to go to a conference in a slightly different area to your own – it could be a (shock horror!) non-librarian conference even, that would be novel wouldn’t it?! Seriously though, even if it’s just something slightly out of your remit like another sector of librarianship, once you go outside your little echo chamber you’ll find there’s a lot you can learn. I’m hoping to continue to widen my experience by attending different events – whether they are on different subjects, or from different sectors within the information community, or in different countries (but that’s another blog post!).