Saturday, April 1, 2017

Computers in Libraries 2017


Back in the fall of 2016, my friend Tracey Wong asked me to present a session with her at the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, D.C. Tracey is a school librarian in New York. I was very excited about this opportunity since I had never attended an out of state library conference. This was a chance to attend a national library/ technology conference and share our best practices!


Tracey had her session, "Game Design as a Catalyst for Learning", accepted by the conference. We both applied for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEExpert) travel program and were accepted. (Read this earlier blog article I wrote about being an MIEExpert if you want to know more.) With the travel program, Microsoft would send us to the conference and provide for our travel and room accommodations. Now we were ready to start creating our content.

Brainstorming Content

Both of us had cool tools we wanted to share. Tracey had been using VR Quest as a way to teach her students about virtual reality game creation. She and I had also both been using Minecraft with students in our school libraries. We decided to focus on both VR Quest and Minecraft in our presentation.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my first experiences with Minecraft with students in summer school. I also wrote a post about how several of our learners took the lead with Minecraft. This was one of my favorite articles to share because a few of the students created screenshot videos of them describing why they like Minecraft as a learning tool. I decided I would focus on a few of these examples from the current school year. Tracey and I also thought it would be great to Skype with one of my students during the session. We began to create and curate our slides and other content for the presentation.

Flying to DC

The jet that took me to Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport
In my lifetime, I've only flown a few times. While serving in the 106th Army Band in the Arkansas Army National Guard, I flew on the big C-130 aircraft a few times during our summer annual training missions. Flying has always been a bit scary for me. I knew I wanted this opportunity to share our student's stories more than the fear of flying, so I hopped on a plane at the Clinton National Airport that took me to Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport. From there, I flew to Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C. The two flights took half of the day, but it was a pleasant experience.

Meeting New Friends

Upon arriving at the hotel, I had a chance to finally meet Shannon Miller and her husband Eric Fitzgerald. This meant the world to me since Shannon had inspired me to create this blog in 2014 when she spoke at our state Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference! We had a pleasant visit. I was also able to visit with another important mentor to me, Joyce Valenza. The next day, I had the privilege of meeting another teacher-librarian I follow on social media, Michelle Luhtala. I love attending professional conferences where I can meet important school library thought leaders face to face (even if it is only for a brief time).

Our Session

On the day of our session, we arrived early to check that all our technology was working. We weren't sure how many might come to the session. 20 minutes before starting time the room began to fill up.
Approximately 110 people attended the session. We were excited about the turnout since there were about 1300 attending the conference! Tracey started the presentation by talking about VR Quest and the potential for deeper student learning through the creation of games. She brought her VR setup and asked for a member of the audience to assist. To our good fortune, there happened to be a young person in the session named Alex. He jumped at the chance to demonstrate the VR Quest device. The audience could see on the projector screen what Alex was viewing through the VR headset.

Tracey helped Alex with the VR Quest headset
 After this, Tracey gave a brief overview of Minecraft. She described the basics of the game and provided some additional resources and tutorials for attendees. Following her part of the presentation, I shared about our first experiences with Minecraft last summer and how two students (Jared and Shawn) built the library in Minecraft. Later this led to both of them presenting to our entire faculty prior to school starting! I also shared about how a student created a puzzle based on the Plymouth colony for the history department. (This was part of a student-led BreakoutEDU session.) I couldn't pass up talking about LHS 8th grader, Jordan, and his castle built in Minecraft. Each example showed the possibilities of using Minecraft to teach math, science, electronics, problem-solving, and more.

Jordan presented via Skype!

During the final 10 minutes, we Skyped with Jordan back home in Arkansas. I'm very grateful to my colleague, Kaitlyn Price (@Kait_Price11), for helping set this up for us. He and the attendees exchanged waves and greeted one another. Jordan seemed so fearless as he shared why he liked using Minecraft as a learning tool in the classroom. After a few moments of sharing, it was time to begin wrapping up our 45-minute session. The crowd gave Jordan a wonderful round of applause! After this, we answered a few questions and allowed attendees to try on the VR headset.

Highlights of Other Sessions 

I attended many sessions during the conference and learned many new concepts from each. These were some of my favorite sessions:

Smithsonian Museum in a Box

I attended a session shared by Sara Cardello, Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, D.C. She shared that the libraries have been working with a company called Museum in a Box. She shared that the pilot program intends to allow photos and artifacts to be sent to schools anywhere. Students can hold the artifacts near a box with a computer in it. The computer inside the box would then play audio that provides more information about the specific artifact to the users. She showed us several examples! I hope this program becomes a reality soon. Our students and teachers would love it! Watch the sample video on the Museum in a Box website. (They are the London-based company that the Smithsonian Libraries are using for this program.) I also noticed that Shannon Miller wrote about this session on her blog.

Evolving With Evidence

I attended a session by Joyce Valenza, Michelle Luhtala, and Shannon Miller. They showed us a variety of ways to collect and share evidence with library stakeholders. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that simply showing our classroom use statistics or circulation numbers are not enough. We must strive to show how library use is impacting student learning and ways it is changing the learning community! I'll share more thoughts on this in a future newsletter.

Transformation & Community Engagement

I attended a session by Dr. Tod Colgrove, Head, DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library, University of Nevada, Reno. I frequently wonder about makerspaces in public school libraries and what that can look like beyond the K-12 environment. Dr. Colgrove gave us a glimpse into his world through a science and engineering lens. He shared how the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library has numerous innovation tools that students are constantly using. He told a story about a learner that taught himself how to create things with the 3D printers. He also learned how to solder connections and code. Over time this student built a fully functional robotic arm and hand while using innovation tools in the university library. The student has now launched his own business and builds such innovations for his living! This is what I hope our school library innovation spaces will help students create... a bright future! I'm so glad to see we are on the right track in public school librarianship by supporting student innovations.


A pic I took over Dallas/ Fort Worth
This trip allowed me to see what it is like to travel to distant conferences! Many thanks to Tracey Wong for inviting me to collaborate with her on this session. Thank you to Microsoft for sending me on this journey to share our students' work with Minecraft at a national conference. Thank you to my administration and co-workers for allowing me to attend. Tracey and I have already been approved to present at the ISTE conference in June 2017. I can't wait for this next opportunity to share our students' stories!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Our Civil War adventures in the library.

How our students took the mic at a TLChat webinar.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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