AASL’s Fall Forum Focuses on Transliteracy and School Libraries
Renowned author and media studies scholar Henry Jenkins set the tone for a weekend of dedicated learning at the opening of the 2012 Fall Forum of ALA’s American Association of School Librarians (AASL), held October 12–13. Jenkins characterized school librarians as central figures in the movement to reshape education. “You can change things in a high-tech way, low-tech way, or no-tech way and make a difference,” he encouraged the more than 250 attendees, who participated both onsite and virtually through simultaneous broadcasting to satellite sites in Doylestown and Homestead, Pennsylvania; Richardson, Texas; and San José, California.
Joined by facilitators Kristin Fontichiaro (clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the school library media program at the University of Michigan’s School of Information) and Barbara Jansen (chair of educational technology and library services and upper school media services director at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas), Jenkins provided a comprehensive overview of transliteracy—the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media. His opening and closing sessions focused on helping attendees develop strategies to effectively integrate transliteracy skills into subject areas across the curriculum. With his guidance, attendees participated in a group activity centered on the children’s book Flotsam by David Wiesner and constructed stories of their own.
This year’s Fall Forum, themed “Transliteracy and the School Library Program,” followed the format of AASL institutes: It was a professional development event that focused on just one topic of importance to the school library profession in order to maximize the amount of time attendees have to network with their peers and create action plans for their programs and professional careers. In addition, each presenter stayed onsite throughout the forum and worked with attendees to make for a more meaningful experience.
Fontichiaro helped participants deconstruct the complex concept of transliteracy, defining the term as “a meta-literacy—the mother of all literacies.” After attendees built definitions of the concept and a supporting vocabulary in order to better connect curricula to the multimedia world of their students, Fontichiaro posed a question: “Is transliteracy the right term for school librarians to use when referring to the work of their programs?” She then led a rigorous assessment of lesson plans with the goal of developing a school library program that is at the center of participatory culture within the school.
Building on the concepts and strategies presented by Jenkins and Fontichiaro, Jansen shared practices she has used to create and promote a participatory library program. She also recommended strategies for starting conversations with teachers about using new media tools and resources in rigorous and meaningful ways in order to build subject area knowledge and develop 21st-century skills. Jansen went on to challenge participants by asking them how school librarians can plant in teachers a seed for higher-level thinking while also emphasizing that all educators have a common goal: maximizing student learning.
“Attendees at the AASL Fall Form demonstrated that they are on the cutting edge of research and best practice and truly members of a participatory culture as they thoughtfully engaged with world-class presenters and content centered on the topic of transliteracy,” AASL President Susan Ballard said. “It was a singularly spectacular opportunity to deeply explore the concept and reflect on how school librarians are uniquely qualified to lead efforts in this area in their learning communities.”
JENNIFER HABLEY is manager of web communications for ALA’s American Association of School Librarians.