NYLA-SSL 2014: Post-Conference Recap

One of my favorite things to do after a conference is to sit down and force myself to recap my big “takeaways” while the information is still fresh in my head. This serves three purposes: 1. Writing things down helps me to solidify them in my brain; 2. Revisits to the blog post often result in: “Oh, remember that great idea you had three months ago?” when I find myself back in the routine of things; and 3. It serves as a more accessible outline for the copious notes I’ve taken over the course of the conference. I also hope that there’s a fourth benefit: for those that couldn’t attend the conference, I hope this post helps disseminate some of the wealth of knowledge I’ve been privileged to bring back with me. The only drawback? It’s gonna be a long one, friends.

My biggest ah-ha moment at this conference was the realization that text sets, while not necessarily a new concept, are the next big wave of library integration into the Common Core. Many people were speaking different dialects of the same language at this conference, from Andrea Williams and Paige Jaeger presenting on using “mentor texts” to create connections between the library and the EngageNY modules, to Marc Aaronson speaking about creating text sets, to Sue Bartle describing the new “Common Core Lens” nonfiction evaluation tool that allows librarians to submit and search nonfiction texts by text feature/purpose. This was a special “ah-ha”, since I’ve been very interested lately in the use of non-traditional text types as information sources within a text set (see also: my post about defining text).

Text sets are an amazing opportunity for librarians to move beyond the cart of resources into purposefully planned, tightly aligned sets that meet specific curricular goals. The process of building a text set highlights the instructional prowess of librarians: pretty much anyone can gather an exhaustive, unvetted bunch of books about birds or explorers or what have you, but a LIBRARIAN can find interdisciplinary texts that scaffold up, build knowledge and lead students down a path of self-directed discovery, feature specific text features that align to the skills of both the CCLS and the Empire State IFC, include opportunities for differentiation, and if you integrate multimedia, even touch on media literacy skills. Whew! Plus…this process screams for collaboration. Really, truly, absolutely — you get all of these benefits from text sets. That’s not to say that this won’t take a whole mess of time…but if you can do it, and do it well…well, wow!

Note: I’ve been trying my hand at this. Yes, it’s time consuming…but it’s also massively fun. Promise.

The other biggie from this conference  really only needs two words: Richard. Byrne.

If that’s not ringing any bells because you don’t stalk his blog the way I do, perhaps this will help: FreeTech4Teachers.

Basically, if you were ever wondering about any educational technology tool that’s free to use and will positively impact your instruction, chances are Richard has written about it. I spent all of Saturday attending the sessions by Richard, furiously writing notes and tweeting colleagues and searching the tools he recommended.

This one blew me away: Infuse Learning is a device-agnostic program that allows teachers and students to collaborate on a common platform. During Richard’s presentation, he demonstrated posing the question, “What did you have for breakfast today?” Using any and all of the devices in the room, participants were able to join a common “room” through Infuse Learning, and answer the question by drawing a picture. There are a number of question types:

Screen Capture from http://teacher.infuselearning.com/

Question Types

Teachers can create class rosters to further customize their students’ interactions.

Perhaps the most exciting feature is the ability to auto-translate teacher questions in a number of foreign languages for students. For example, the question could display  in English, but students could hear audio of the question in a different language. What an amazing feature for ELL students!

Screen Capture from http://teacher.infuselearning.com/

Customizing Student Profiles

Check out this Storify for some other tools worth exploring:

I hope this recap inspires you to explore further and integrate something new into your toolbox–I know I will be!

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