Saturday, April 9, 2016

My #AAIM2016 Conference Reflections

Each time I attend professional conferences, I come home overwhelmed with ideas. Hearing keynote speakers share their best practices while also issuing growth challenges is always thought provoking. This year, the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media (AAIM) Conference was held in Springdale, Arkansas. I want to share some of my most important takeaways from the conference.

Dr. Joyce Valenza

Dr. Valenza was the first keynote speaker of the conference. I have been following her on Twitter for many years; and it was great to hear her speak and meet her in person! Her first general session had many points that resonated with me. Her thoughts about our online presence being our "business card" was big! Here are some questions and thoughts that I'm still considering after her talk nearly a week ago:

  • What footprint (business card) are we creating on social media?
  • Our Twitter account/ feed is our new business card.
  • What are we teaching students about this?

We are encouraged to talk to students about Internet safety, but how often do we teach them how to create a positive footprint? We talk to them about what not to post on social media, but do we tell them what they should post? How often do we model this for them? 

I have been working hard for several years to establish a digital footprint for our library program, but I rarely share these strategies with students. Valenza challenged us to help students create LinkedIn accounts with links to their best school work. I can't help but wonder, why I haven't already been doing this? I could write many more paragraphs about Dr. Valenza's sessions, but this was my biggest takeaway from her keynote. I need to do a better job of teaching and modeling social media presence to my students and teachers. 

Over the past two years, social media has impacted me in ways that I cannot even completely express in words. We are all being watched on social media, and our presence is our identity. A strong presence in a niche can provide many opportunities and connections. One thing I learned is that we never know who is reading our material and evidence. While visiting with Dr. Valenza and Jennifer LaGarde (aka Library Girl), they brought it to my attention that for every one person that comments on a blog, 100 other people may have viewed it. We need to share this with our learners and help them build an online presence!

The other part of this concept is that we need to consider building a strong social media presence for our school library programs. If we don't tell our stories on social media, how will people find out what we are doing for learners? Social media has helped our library program receive support from stakeholders. It has also helped us connect our learning community with distant places. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of possibilities. Dr. Valenza's presentations changed my thinking for my students and learning community.

I learned lots from Joyce Valenza!

Jennifer LaGarde (Library Girl)

I enjoyed Jennifer's keynote on the second day of the conference. She plainly stated there are two types of librarians: Zombies and Zombie Fighters! Her talk brought many best practices to the table. In an effort to be relevant to our learning communities, LaGarde urged the audience to be transparent. I love this concept! If we share our best practices on social media (wherever our users will see), imagine how this might change how people view school librarians. This is our opportunity to help change stereotypes. This can and will happen if we make an effort.

It was great to meet and visit with Jennifer!

I agree with Jennifer on working to "reimagine, redefine, reinvent, and remodel" all things library and librarian! This is not an impossible task. An example of this happened today when a parent came to spend some time in our facility. She had actually filled in for me earlier in the week when I was off campus attending the AAIM conference. She helped decorate for our 11th grade Great Gatsby collaboration yesterday. Today, while subbing in another building, she was reassigned to us to complete her day. This was very helpful since we held the Gatsby event today. She saw how hundreds of students came through the library facility and how it impacted them. At the end of the day, she shared how this changed her perception of the school library program. This parent is now a supporter of our library. She is a walking billboard that will tell our story to other parents and community members. Jennifer LaGarde said in her keynote that "everyone that comes in the library is a potential advocate". The parent visit today is proof of this statement. How many opportunities do we miss each week to grow more support for our programs? 

Jennifer said if we are not on Twitter by now, we are just being "stubborn". After witnessing the power of Twitter and being a connected educator since the summer of 2014, I agree with this statement. If we refuse to embrace these technologies, we are denying our learners many undiscovered opportunities. There are so many new connections awaiting us on Twitter. Without Twitter, I would have never met Elizabeth Hutchinson. Elizabeth is a librarian on the island of Guernsey which is located in the English Channel. Elizabeth arranged for us to have our first International Mystery Hangout with a school on the island of Alderney. Since then, we have connected with her two additional times (once for a professional development meeting and the other time was to connect with our primary school library). What other connections await our learning community?

A conference crowd contains endless potential for change!
Jennifer's message was heard by Arkansas' library media specialists. By the end of the week, the AAIM listserv was buzzing about Twitter. Librarians have been exchanging connections on social media and following each other. There has even been talk this week of establishing a monthly Twitter chat for Arkansas librarians. Ripples of change are flowing through our state. This is what should happen as a result of an inspiring conference experience. I have no doubt that these ripples will become great waves of change. Thank you Dr. Joyce Valenza and Jennifer LaGarde for challenging us to do a better job for our learning communities! I'll be reflecting on  AAIM 2016 for many months to come.

Follow Joyce Valenza on Twitter: @joycevalenza
Follow Jennifer LaGarde on Twitter: @jenniferlagarde

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  1. Wow - powerful stuff! Thanks for sharing. I am in Perth, Western Australia, and doing a workshop soon on the power of social media & using it to model to students a positive digital footprint. I will be sharing this post!

    1. Thank you for this encouragement, friend! I really enjoyed hearing Joyce and Jennifer speak! They changed my thinking. I hope this reflection helps others!

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