Hanging out took on a completely new meaning Friday afternoon in the Networking Uncommons at the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.
Board members and colleagues belonging to the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) took advantage of a block of unscheduled time between more formal events to gather around a table and share stories. Those stories, of course, revolved around the ever-changing face of technology in libraries. And, as if to prove how quickly our tech environment is changing, the conversation soon became a multimedia extravaganza as soon as colleagues learned that LITA Parliamentarian Jason Griffey had brought along a Google Glass (2:30) that he had obtained two days earlier.
Harford County (Md.) Public Library Technical Trainer Maurice Coleman immediately pushed the conversation into the tech stratosphere. First, he encouraged Griffey to use his Google Glass to take a photo and tweet it out. The resulting photo of Coleman not only showed all of us how easy it can be, but also made us aware that plenty of examples from Google Glass users are already available on Twitter via the automatically generated hashtag #throughglass.
Then Coleman wondered aloud whether the device could be used to conduct a conversation via a Google+ Hangout—a challenge Griffey agreed to explore then and there. Within a matter of moments, what had been a lively face-to-face chat among friends evolved into a conversation that blended face-time with colleagues who were online via a variety of mobile devices: smartphones, tablets, and the Google Glass itself.
The experiment was far from flawless. For example, Coleman was unable to use his iPad to initiate a Google+ Hangout through Griffey’s Google Glass. And my own Samsung (Android-based) tablet chose that moment to require a reinstallation of the Google+ Hangout app that would have made me part of the impromptu Hangout. But learning opportunities rarely are anything less than messy. And make no mistake: Peer-based learning and playfully messy exploration was what this was all about—as are many other moments we experience and share at ALA Midwinter and other collegial gatherings across the country. Learning about the technology that is so rapidly finding its way into our workplaces, our social lives, and so many of our more personal moments. Learning from colleagues we trust, cherish, admire, and adore.
With no advanced planning, no upfront assessments of our continuing-education needs, no instructional design efforts, and absolutely no rehearsal time, all of us in the Networking Uncommons collaboratively and collectively created a wonderfully memorable learning opportunity that met our immediate needs. The experience made us aware of some of the challenges library staffers and users face as innovations such as wearable technology continue to insert themselves into libraries.
It reminded us that we work, day in and day out, in learning organizations. It reminded us that learning opportunities are among the many gifts ALA provides, nurtures, and sustains through meetings, conferences, and many other offerings. And while the Association can create an environment for such learning exchanges, it’s up to us to seize these opportunities and utilize them for all they are worth. Which, when you get right down to it, is quite a bit.
PAUL SIGNORELLI of Paul Signorelli & Associates is a writer, trainer, social media strategist, and consultant. Email him at paul[at]paulsignorelli.com
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