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AASL: The unconference report
Friday night a team of teacher librarians, and a few friends, hosted AASL’s first unconference.
It all started with a conversation with Susan Ballard at a CiSSL Retreat at Rutgers this summer.
I wondered if AASL would consider the idea of a participant-driven unconference event.
Sue said, why not? and that she’d check on it with the folks in Chicago.
By the time Susan got back to us with a yes–we were delighted by the support and faith of AASL leadership–our core group grew to around twenty leaders with serious momentum. And that team went into high gear planning a three-hour, late night event, designed around informal, peer-to-peer learning, PLN building, and sharing.
I believe that the proof-of-concept proved the concept.
The room was packed till nearly midnight. And it was packed with an YALSA-like mix of 20 and 30-something librarians, many of whom shared powerful, energetic voices even though they may not have had the courage to apply to present a year ago.
The event generated enormous energy, with participants engaged in productive conversation and sharing and co-learning. Our AASL and ALA leadership not only visited, they participated. Among them were immediate Past President Susan Ballard, President Gail Dickinson, AASL Executive Director Sylvia Norton, Deputy Executive Director Allison Cline, and ALA President Barbara Stripling.
Especially lovely, was that there was room in our the traditional conference for open space, participant-driven conversations, based on the traditional unrules. Those conversations ranged from kindergartners and research, to school libraries as safe spaces, to maker spaces, to CCSS, to augmented reality applications.
Led by edcamp co-founder Dan Callahan, the Sucks/Rocks session was lively–especially the genrefication debate.
And, after some initial shyness, Smackdown participants kept on coming up to the mic to share best discoveries.
Drs. Ross Todd and Lyn Hay (all the way from Sydney) shared a thoughtful, alphabetical reflection of the three hours.
At its essence, this was a team effort. I am truly grateful for the hard work of the entire unconference team and those who joined in spontaneously!
Gwyneth Jones created our art/branding. Nikki Robertson created our app. Mark Ray DJed. Dhaivyd Hilgendorf offered original music and our closing sing-along. Dhaivyd and Sherry Gick developed our conversation grid and the Google Docs archive. Our vendor friends generously shared swag.
Our core team included: Sara Kelly Johns (NYLA President), Shannon McClintock Miller, Dhaivyd Hilgendorf, Gwyneth Jones,
Sherry Gick, Carolyn Foote, Michelle Luhtala, Matthew Winner, John Schumacher, Tiffany Whitehead, Doug Johnson, Nikki D Robertson, Dan Callahan, Mark Ray, Jennifer LaGarde, Tamara Cox, Ross Todd, Brenda L. Boyer, Elissa Malespina, and Polly Callahan, but so many others contributed.
In my mind, what worked best was how this event nurtured networking around shared ideas and emerging issues and observing the engagement of all participants, especially so many of our younger colleagues.
If there is a next time, and I so hope there is, we’ll need to find a strategy for physically spreading our conversations so that voices can be better heard above the din.
This Storify captures a taste of the #aasluncon buzz:
About Joyce Valenza
Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza
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