Monday, March 11, 2013
MSLA 2013: Monday Sessions
I attended three break-out sessions. The first was iPads and Free Agent Learning with Deborah Froggatt and Allegra D'Ambruoso. Next year, my school is going 1:1 with iPads. We had iPad carts this year (nightmare, iPads are NOT designed to be shared devices). There are mixed feelings about this switch, and I was hoping to get some insight into regular classroom use, maintenance, things like that. Unfortunately for me, my school is further along with using iPads than the presenters were, so I wasn't able to get a whole lot that was new out of it. However, I think it was great for people who are just starting, or considering brining iPads into their schools or libraries.
A major issue, however, was that the wifi was not working in the room! That made showing off iPad stuff quite a bit harder, so that was unfortunate. Deborah talked about free agent learning - student's being self directed who then learn and share their knowledge. She uses the iPads to put more focus on learning ready, rather than college ready, which is an idea that I like a lot (but think many people would have issues with).
Allegra stressed the importance of not using the iPads just to use technology. Teachers need to think about what they want their students to end with, and then decided if the iPad can help the students get there. It shouldn't just be used because it's all shiny and new.
The tools they mentioned were Verses Poetry, Skype, Prezi, Nearpod, Socrative, and Animoto.
The second session I attended was my favorite. It's very long title was Why Multicultural Literature is Important: How to Move it off the Shelf and into the Hands of Readers and was from Chris Swerling, Patricia Karam, and Rachael Lundquist of the Newton Public Schools. It was excellent, and they had been working on this topic for a while and it showed.
What they most wanted to get across was this was important and how to develop a criteria for selection. Chris talked about windows and mirrors. For some students, a book is going to be a window - it allows them to look in on something that they haven't experienced personally. For other students that same book could be a mirror - it allows them to see themselves. Both are important. Windows increase empathy and broaden a person spectrum. Seeing yourself reflected increases self esteem and feel like a valued, excepted part of the library and community.
They talked about studies that had been done, starting in the 60s, that showed that minorities were not seeing themselves in literature, and when they were, they were stereotypes. Today, 65% of the U.S. population is white, but a shift is coming. By 2050, 47% of the population will be white. Things are improving, and there are more authors of color and more books written with characters of color, but it still a startlingly small number.
A good multicultural book is made up of many aspects. It celebrates the culture. It accurately portrays that culture's values. It has a universal theme that anyone, whether they're part of that culture or not, can relate to. It should be stereotype free. It should foster empathy in all readers, and much more. You can see their presentation on the MSLA website. Also check out a TED Talk from author Chimamanda Adichie on the danger of a single story. I really enjoyed this session and it gave me a lot to think about.
The final session for me was Controversial Topics in Teen Fiction from Sharon Colvin, teen librarian at Chelmsford Public Library. This one turned out to be less a discussion about controversial topics and more a series of book talks on books that might be consider controversial. What I really appreciated was the when Sharon looks at a book and decides what a good age range is, she's not just looking for sex, drugs, violence and profanity. There are so many more aspects that can make a book difficult for a reader - abandonment, sacrifice, identity, racism, survival, homelessness, loss, solitude and on and on.
Since dystopia is so hot currently, and also brings up many of these issues, Sharon focused her book talks on dystopian books. She's an incredible book talker. So enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the books. Gets you interested but never gives anything away. She categorized the books into three groups: tough - tamest category, appropriate for most middle school readers, tougher - slightly more challenging, geared toward high school readers, and toughest - best suited for mature high school students and adults.
For each book she gave the age range that a library publication had recommended, the genre, and then the issues the book brings up that might make it a difficult read. In many cases the age range was way, way off. Like Ashes by Ilsa Bick said it was for grades 7 and up. Sharon had put that one in the toughest category.
Really, the title of this session wasn't accurate. It wasn't so much controversial topics in teen fiction so much as figuring out what kind of issues make book more difficult to read. It was good one though.