Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Growing Lifelong Learners Through the Library: A Conference

When I write, I treat my brain like a computer. I give it instructions, tell it what I have to write about, put in information about the topic, and give it plenty of time. Much to my delight, sooner or later my brain comes through with an angle or slant, a way into a topic. Since I want to write about what happened today, my brain hasn’t had much time to process the angle part. So I’m writing this off the cuff.

Four of us INKers. Susan Kuklin, Deborah Heiligman, Sue Macy and I, spoke at a conference in Brooklyn, NY today sponsored by the
NYC School Library System. The theme of the conference was “Growing Lifelong Learners Through the Library” and our session was entitled: "Keeping Kids Curious: Nonfiction Authors Share Their Secrets." Although we all write in different subject areas and we didn’t really know each other before this blog came into existence, it’s amazing how we’ve all adopted pretty much the same work habits. So we decided to divide up our subject to prevent repitition. Susan Kuklin talked about networking to find the people to interview who have first-hand knowledge of her subject. Deb spoke about her approach to doing research. She tackles subjects she knows nothing about and starts by reading and reading. She doesn’t begin writing until she feels she’s read enough and learned enough. Deb willl write a blog on how she takes notes. Sue Macy likes to put herself physically in the environments she writes about even if the subject of a biography, for example, is no longer alive. So she’ll visit Annie Oakley’s hometown or go to reunions of a long disbanded women’s baseball league to make her writing come alive. I do all those things, too but when I write hands-on science, I make sure that I do it from first-hand knowledge. I have performed every experiment in my books. Deborah Heligman, Sue Macy, Susan Kuklin, Vicki Cobb

The classroom we presented in was standing-room only and we did get a conversation going with our attendees. One woman said that she was the only teacher in her school to teach nonfiction. Another said that there was very little communication between the library and the classroom. Still another told me that teachers are so pressured with paperwork and teaching to the tests that they have no time to take advantage of the resources available in the library. We asked, “How can we help to bridge this abyss?” We’ve got a few ideas but we need to get a dialogue started. Any suggestions from you, out there in cyberspace, are welcome.

When I go to a conference I like to hear the main speaker. Today’s keynoter was
Dr. Ross J. Todd who gave his vision of the library of the future, which will be designated a “knowledge center,” not an “informational place”. School librarians will help students using guided inquiry and build collegial relationships with teachers so they can tap into the many sources of thought available in the library from books to Web 2.0 tools. BTW, I learned a new phrase “Web 2.0,” which means blogs, diaries, wikis, multimedia downloads, videoconferencing, etc. With this blog, we’re already doing it and I didn’t even know it had a name. (So I learned something new today! Yay me!)

Technology is changing our world. We want to teach our students to have productive “habits of mind.” For all of us, teachers, authors, parents, librarians, there is no way to keep up with the changes unless you learn new skills. We authors ARE life-long learners. We can bring our hard-won knowledge and ability to show how we got there to the digital age. We're doing it now on this blog. Fasten your seatbelts, everyone. Prepare for an exhilarating ride!

1 comment:

Dorothy Patent said...

All the changes in knowledge technology are coming on so hard and fast it's difficult to keep up, but all of us--authors, teachers, librarians, and parents, have to do what we can to learn how to navigate the world our children and grandchildren are growing up with and to figure out how to use it to help teach and guide them. It's great to see nonfiction authors invited to be such an integral part of a conference like this--your participation will help keep us "in the loop."