FAME Annual Conference will take place October 21-23, 2015 and for those who have already attended FAME, we are looking forward to the time to focus on our professional practice. If you haven’t heard, FAME presents the only professional development conference specially designed for school library media specialists. But, while we know what we will receive in benefit by attending, our administrators may not. I still face the dilemma that every media specialist has when embarking on a learning expedition off-campus, "But why, are you going for three days? Isn't one day enough?" This is the resounding question as I prepare to leave my media center closed for three days, since we no longer have assistants, or other staffers willing to manage the space in our absence. The answer is yes, I need all three days and here are the best reasons I can give for my three days of attendance.
(Please feel free to use this post as evidence when negotiating your attendance.)
1. Media Specialists live and work in a bubble, the media center. The conversations and contact we have happens when someone walks into the door of our media center, on the phone or email, or on the rare occasion that we break from tradition and exit the door into the mysterious world of the school outside the media center. If you are lucky, you have a district that provides a regularly meeting PLC for media specialists, (I do in Osceola County) but this may only be once a month or once a quarter. We know we simply can't learn everything we need to know in those few stolen moments for a couple of hours 3 or 4 times a year. We need more opportunities to be exposed to learn the best practices of other professionals working in this field.
On Wednesday of FAME Annual Conference, thought leaders will provide intensive 2-4 hour paid workshops to engage media specialists in better library practice.
2. Media Specialists are called upon to be literacy leaders in their schools and communities. How do we make this experience “new” every year? What new ideas, programs, products, apps, concepts that are out there that I have not heard about yet? The sessions on literacy at FAME offer the ideas that I need to continue to be a leader in my school.
Media Specialists are often asked to fix a technology usage problem after an implementation in the classroom has been attempted without the assistance of the media specialist and a failure has occurred. It is at this point that we are consulted for a strategy that will repair the breakdown in learning and a strategy for restarting the learning so that the instruction may move forward.
(Yes, I just described media specialists as the auto mechanics of the instructional world, and YES we are.)
So, I am happy to see that John Long will be again hosting a technology hub on the main conference floor that will be jam packed with ½ hour sessions that specifically focus on the use of and embedding of digital strategies. Every moment in the hub will be a learning experience.
3. Nearly every day, a teacher comes into the media center and wants to use an old school technique in the classroom that requires materials that we no longer purchase.
Ida Teacher: Mrs. Tune, I am going to need 150 pieces of 20' x 30' bulletin board paper and 3 boxes of markers so that my students can make informational posters about the causes of crop failure.
Media Queen: Uhm, Ida, we no longer have markers and I am afraid we no longer have any light colored bulletin board paper for writing on. May I suggest an alternative way to complete the lesson?
Ida Teacher: Mrs. Tune, I really don't have time to change my plan.
Media Queen: No worries, how about we book some time here in the computer lab and we have students use TACKK to create informational pages. The students can use a computer or they can use the TACKK app on their personal device. I will instruct the students on using TACKK and you will have a chance to learn it, too. Did you know that it is compatible with EDMODO? Here is some info about TACKK (handout given to teacher) and I am going to book you and your students for Thursday and Friday. See you then.
Ida Teacher: Okay, Mrs. Tune, but if this doesn't work, you owe me some markers.
Media Queen: You got it.
In that moment, I convinced a teacher to allow students to step into the 21st century and use technology in their learning. I learned about TACKK at a conference in an introduction of apps...at FAME, you will hear about the best practices of library media specialists, the APPS that they are using, and what really works as opposed to what is new and exciting.
Develop Digital Literacy
4. We used to say, if you want to know how to (insert knowledge point here), ask a teacher. Our society considered educators in the know of everything. Now, many will say, "You can find that on Google." Hmmm, can you really? I am sure I can find a number of tutorials that explain how to do any number of things, but which one is right for me. It could take weeks, and most of us do not have this time, to find the correct tutorial that applies to our situation. However, at FAME, when we attend a how-to session, we know we are getting information that is tailor-made for our learning environment. Administrators are unsure as to whether or not their media specialist is truly transliterate, (and you know what, I am not sure either). We need to be out there making sure we understand the basics of all digital literacy as well. I am looking forward to the many sessions that will enable me to be on the forefront of digital literacy.
Explore Technology and Ideas Across the Curriculum
5. Another hurdle that we media specialists face in providing technology or library instruction is the misconception that they is not for every subject or for every classroom. We still have teachers today that believe technology, apps, computer usage, multimedia has no place in their curriculum. It is part of our job to change their minds and assist them with moving to technology integrated instruction and show them what can be learned in the media center.
Exposure to Trends
6. As a media specialist, I can say that I am keenly aware of new trends that are affecting education through the emails and literature that I receive, but are we embracing those trends in our own school environment. Are our students missing out or benefiting from what could be a new innovation in education, if we are paying attention? The maker movement has taken education by storm in the last three years and shows no signs of waning anytime soon. I know I will see sessions at FAME that will give me insight into the latest trends.
Exposure to World Class Authors
7. Where in our day to day lives will we be exposed to some of the greatest writers who are writing for the generation that we see every day? This is my opportunity to share with authors what my students are interested in reading about and it is their opportunity to share with me their love of literature. We are dependent on each other and this is one of the few places we will ever be able to connect.
Informal Meet and Greet Opportunities
8. Sometimes, when we attend a conference we get lost in the dazzle of the big, the new, the exciting. It is the informal meet and greets, the coffee breaks, the hallway conversations that keep us grounded and reflecting on our purpose for being there. It is our opportunity to hear what is happening and what will you and others take away from the experience. It is also a great time to share your ideas and hear the reflections of others.
9. I know many media specialists who approach the exhibit hall in one of two ways, with a mission or with a plan of discovery. You know my friends with a mission. They have taken the map of the exhibit floor and have marked every booth with a giveaway, a freebie, and a prize drawing, and they are going to hit everyone in the hopes that they will take back to their school some free piece of technology, a bag full of pens, pads, stress balls, magnets, chotskies, etc. to show that they have made the most of the exhibit floor. They navigated the big hall and they survived.
The other type of media specialist explores the exhibit hall with a plan of discovery. They ignore the booths of the products that they already use other than to say a quick hello to the sales representative unless they are presenting a new innovation. They walk the lanes to find out what products are worth the investment of time and money in which to pay attention. Trust me, the vendors are listening to you. The vendors are looking for the explorers. They are looking for the media specialist who will spend five minutes listening to their demo and who will ask questions and tell them what they want out of their product. This is your chance to make clear what is missing from the products you use or want to use. Make use of the time wisely. You won't get another opportunity and you simply don't get the same experience from a catalog in your media center.
Vendors look for me because I tell them why I use their product and what improvements I would like to see. They know I can be counted on to be honest and be their biggest advocate for use when their product works well. Take a chance and work with your vendors.
The Leadership Experience
10. Finally, (epic closing music begins here) attending a conference is a growth opportunity for any media specialist and every attendee in general. You have chosen to give your time to an epic learning adventure. There is no specific destination. You have a view of the open road before you. Armed with your Road Map (conference schedule) and a sense of wanderlust, you are embarking on the great scavenger hunt that will change you and your practice. Jack Kerouac would be proud.