November 29, 2023

Flipped Classrooms, Librarians as “Defenders of Wisdom,” and the Hottest Tech Tools | ISTE 2013


Gwyneth Jones, Shannon Miller, and Michelle Luhtala at the SIGMS Forum, ISTE 2013.

 By Tiffany Whitehead

The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference in San Antonio from June 23-26 offered unique opportunities for educators to interact, learn about the latest ed tech resources, and hear new ideas from education leaders. At a conference this size, it is impossible to see and do it all, but here are the highlights that librarians can take back to their schools in the fall.

Opening Keynote

Jane McGonigal, gaming expert and author of Reality is Broken, delivered the opening speech for the conference, “Learning is an Epic Win.” Gamification is a hot topic in education.  With over a billion gamers around the world, gaming is becoming a great way for educators to capture and engage their students in learning.

The New York Times best-selling author identified ten positive emotions that gamers tend to seek through play. They are: creativity, contentment, awe and  wonder, excitement, curiosity, pride, surprise, love, relief, and joy. McGonigal also shared research showing how gaming affects the brain and increases engagement of active players. As educators, we are looking to tap into the same emotions as we work with our students to create meaningful learning experiences.

SIGMS Digital Age Media Center Playground

The ever-popular Digital Age Media Center Playground gave attendees the opportunity to discover lots of new sources in a short amount of time. Visitors browsed various stations where presenters gave demonstrations and shared ideas about using their favorite tech tools with students.

Popular station topics included:

  • Nearpod: This app allows teachers to synchronize multiple iPads in the classroom with interactive presentations.
  • Aurasma:  An augmented reality app.
  • Videolicious:  A video creation app.
  • Puppet Pals Lets you create lip-synced animations with fun puppets, props, and backgrounds.
  • MentorMob  Allows users to create learning playlists.

Resources from this session are available on the SIGMS wiki.

Your School Library: Flipped, Mobile, and Curated

Presented by five teacher librarians, this panel drew a large crowd looking to learn more about how to do just what the panel name describes: flip, mobilize, and curate their library resources. The panelists were Dr. Joyce Valenza, teacher librarian at the Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, PA; Shannon Miller, district teacher librarian and technology specialist at the Van Meter (IA) Community Schools; Michelle Luhtala, library department chair, New Canaan (CT) High School; and Brenda Boyer, teacher librarian for the Kutztown (PA) School District.

“Curation is the new search,” said Valenza. She explained that curation is defined not by what a library owns, but by what students need and use. Panelists shared their favorite curation tools, including, MentorMob, Pinterest, Symbaloo, Thinglink, EduClipper, and EdCanvas.

Speakers encouraged attendees to choose one or two of these tools to be a “parking lot” for library resources rather than trying to use all of them. Making resources easily accessible on mobile devices is also essential, they said, as many schools are adopting BYOD policies or implementing 1:1 initiatives.

Participants then described how flipping instruction and curating resources allows librarians to make the most of the time they spend working with students.

A resource from this session is here:

SIGMS Forum: School Librarians and Admins: A Powerful Name

Miller and Luhtala were joined via Google+ Hangout by their administrators Deron Durflinger, superintendent and secondary principal of Van Meter Community Schools, Janelle Thompson, a teacher at Van Meter Community Schools, and Dr. Bryan Luizzi, principal of New Canaan High School,  to form a panel for discussing the dynamics of a strong relationship between librarians and administrators.

Moderated by Jones, group members discussed their vision of how a teacher librarian can play a leadership role within a school. Miller and Luhtala are themselves fine examples of this leadership model, as they work closely with their administrators to create a technology-rich learning culture built on trust.

Asked about the best strategy for a teacher librarian to approach administrators with a proposal or new idea, Miller and Luhtala offered a useful tip. They suggested that librarians bring along a classroom teacher who supports the project and would be help initiate it as a smaller scale pilot program.

SIGMS keynote by John T. Spencer

Spencer, a sixth-grade ELL teacher in Phoenix, AZ and author who blogs at Education Rethink, described teacher librarians as “defenders of wisdom.” The heart of this keynote was the idea that people matter most, and that librarians cannot be replaced by technology.

Technology alone does not foster wisdom in students, Spencer maintained. That’s why the role of the teacher librarians is still essential. “When I think of the things that formed me, I don’t think of Google,” he said. “I think of people.”

Spencer also outlined seven skills that teacher librarians should engage in their students: connect, create, collaborate, curate, contextualize, think critically, and communicate strongly. In his concluding comments, he said, “Librarians are defending wisdom in a culture where it is becoming extinct.”

ISTE and SIGMS business

ISTE announced a rebranding campaign and unveiled their new logo.  A video providing an overview and introducing the image can be found here: In addition, the SIGMS (Special Interest Group for Media Specialists) annual meeting announced new officers and plans for the coming year. The 2013-2014 the SIGMS Leadership Team will be:

  • Tiffany Whitehead, president
  • Maureen Sanders-Brunner, past president
  • Donna Sullivan-Macdonald, president-elect
  • Jenn Hanson, communications chair
  • Jenifer Gossman, professional development chair

In the coming months, SIGMS will also explore a name change to better reflect the titles and roles of school librarians. SIGMS members will have the opportunity to weigh in on this important event.

Next year’s annual ISTE Conference will be held in Atlanta, Georgia on June 28-July 1.