Nikki D. Robertson

President, ISTE Librarians Network

Librarian, Winkley Elementary School

Leander, Tex.

I particularly enjoyed the session presented by Colleen Graves and Nicholas Provenzano, “The Mad Scientist vs. the Mad Maker.” This session was presented in a creative, fun manner that highlighted some of the misunderstandings that educators have with regards to makerspaces and STEM/STEAM. It helped me to see that these two areas often overlap and support each other. I also learned some new makerspace/STEAM activities that I plan on bringing to my own school library.

Another great session was “Let’s Make a Deal,” done in the fashion of the TV game show and presented by a panel of EdTech experts: Adam Bellow, Jennifer Bond, Steve Dembo, Sherry Gick, Michael Medvinsky, Nicholas Provenzano, and Mary Wever. Rather than the traditional panel presentation approach, these innovative educators went all-out to create a game show atmosphere. Attendees were chosen to pick between what’s in the box, behind the curtain, or in the envelope. After the attendee picked and saw what they chose, a presenter would demonstrate the EdTech product. It was an incredible experience!

Sara Malchow

Digital learning specialist

Pulaski Community School District

Pulaski, Wis.

Although ISTE was amazing, my greatest takeaways came from the networking that happened “after hours” as I stayed in an Airbnb with eight Twitter buddies. It was the first time many of us had met face-to-face, and the time we spent each evening sharing what we had learned that day, and digging deeper into what we had learned, was invaluable.

If I had to pick a few of the takeaways from the ISTE conference, though, I would have to say that I really enjoyed learning more about coding and am excited to dig further into ScratchJr this year. I also attended a session on hyperdocs that left me with several ideas on how I can better utilize these documents for personalized and student-centered learning.

Nancy Jo Lambert

Librarian, UIL academic coordinator

Reedy High School

Frisco, Tex.

For me, conferences are usually first and foremost about connecting with members of my PLN [personal learning network]. They fill my bucket, they inspire me, and they keep me plugged in. Without them, I would have flamed out and become one of those dispassionate educators a long time ago. Because of these relationships and our connections through social media, I am a better educator. Getting to see them, hug their necks, and spend a little time with them “fills my heart meter,” as Nick Provenzano says.

Secondly, I go to conferences to learn from the best and most passionate educators and vendors in education. I get to learn from sessions, playgrounds, and poster sessions. I get to put my hands on the latest tools and technology and usually learn from another educator how they are being used and applied. There are few opportunities like this except at major national conferences. This year, I loved that ISTE tracked my “journey” using my badge. I got an email at the end of the conference listing every session and playground I went to along with any of the digital resources for them. That is an invaluable tool when it comes to sharing with others on my campus what I learned. I’m able to load that into my Google Drive and disseminate that information in a Doc, Slide, or Google Keep note to share when the moment arises during the school year.

This was my second ISTE, and I have recently joined the ISTE Librarians Network leadership team, and I can say without hesitation, my experience at ISTE this year has fueled my passion to be the change on my own campus with my teachers and students, as well as in the larger educational world.

Elissa Malespina

ISTE Librarians Network past president

Teacher librarian

Somerville Middle School

Somerville, N.J.

I am very excited to see ISTE and especially incoming ISTE board president Bill Bass publicly recognize the role that librarians play in schools by rolling out an entire page on its website devoted to librarians. I love this quote on the website: “Librarians are school leaders who advocate for student access to EdTech, curate tools and resources, and collaborate with students and colleagues to create meaningful learning opportunities. Educators charged with such diverse duties deserve targeted resources to amplify their practice!” And that is what ISTE has given us!

I am honored to have been asked to help work on the new Future Ready Librarians Crosswalk, which not only helps librarians understand how the Future Ready Librarian Framework and the ISTE Educational Standards fit together, but it also helps administrators understand the role that librarians play in schools.

I am also excited about the new ISTE U and Future Ready Librarians Professional Development Course that is being offered. I think it is a great way for librarians to learn more about how to implement the Future Ready Framework into their practice.

I also love the new updates to the Future Ready Librarian Framework because it puts the learners at the center of it and includes a new area, which talks about literacy and how librarians “inspire and support the reading lives of both students and teachers and create inclusive collections that acknowledge and celebrate diverse experiences and provide instructional opportunities to empower learners as effective users and creators of information and ideas.”

Sherry Gick

Director of innovative learning

Five-Star Technology Solutions

Frankfort, Ind.

Two sessions stand out for me. I went to a Future Ready Librarians panel and also attended the Epic Failures panel, which was an EdTech panel and it was all women.

My takeaways from both of those are connected to something presenter Traci Chun said during the Future Ready panel. She said that “brave before perfect” is her mantra before doing things. We talk about embracing “failures” in education. There will always be something new, there will always be something you don’t know, there will always be something that you aren’t comfortable with. That continuous learning, moving forward, and learning together as a team—that’s what the theme of the conference was for me.

Following that up was Joyce Valenza’s keynote at our ISTE Librarians Network breakfast. She did a This Is Us–themed look back at how our librarians’ group has evolved from its beginning. It’s reassurance that what we’re doing is working but also a reminder that your voice needs to be heard. We have to continue to advocate that teacher librarians are not a luxury, they are a necessity. Their role cannot be duplicated by an assistant, or by a teacher. It’s a unique training; it’s a unique job that is pivotal for success for students and for staff. And so we’re stressing the importance of continual advocacy in this role. That’s a role lots of people don’t want to embrace, but we have to.

Shannon Miller

Future Ready Librarian spokesperson

K–12 teacher librarian

Van Meter Community Schools

Van Meter, Iowa

One of the biggest things for me was the excitement around augmented reality and virtual reality. It’s a passion of mine, and it’s just so fun. I recently spoke on the phone with Jaime Donally [an expert in immersive technology in education] about it. She has a new book called Learning Transported: Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality for All Classrooms. ISTE has started a new series of books that is bringing new authors together and highlighting important things. I’m working on one with Bill Bass, about library leadership.

And we played Future Ready Librarian Feud! Two teams squared off to answer questions about the FRL Framework, our work as librarians, and fun topics, too, culled from a survey that librarians filled out before the conference. I served as a judge and the whole thing was broadcast live on Facebook.