Recently I had the opportunity to attend a conference at Radford University called The Innovative Library Classroom, or TILC. Radford University which is in, yep, you guessed it, Radford, Virginia, is about 270 miles from Williamsburg; therefore, road trip! The route from Williamsburg went along Interstate 64 and then south on Interstate 81. The main thing you should know about Interstate 81 is how scenic it is. There are mountains, livestock, and countryside. As long as you're not driving and having to watch out for the abundance of semi-trucks you'll enjoy the ride.
TILC had two parts: a pre-conference reception and poster session then the full conference. The pre-conference reception, held the night before the conference, was a chance to meet and socialize with Librarians from across the country; indeed, there was a Librarian all the way from Santa Barbara, California! The pre-conference reception is meant as an Icebreaker to the conference. It's a casual setting where attendees and presenters get to meet one another over hors d'oeuvres. There were 10 posters on display with ideas and examples of library instruction, outreach, research, and more. Here is a poster by Faith Rusk from the University of the District of Columbia about teaching source analysis using political cartoons in a library instruction session:
The conference on the next day began with a talk from keynote speaker Jennifer Ferretti. She spoke about countering the "neutral" classroom with pop culture and social justice. She is a Library Journal 2018 Mover & Shaker and created the viral Beyonce's Lemonade and Information Sources LibGuide. I enjoyed hearing about how innovative she is and she gave us plenty of ideas to use in our own libraries. The rest of the day was filled with presentations and lightning talks. My favorite was the "The Net is Not Neutral" talk by Alyssa Archer, Liz Bellamy, and Lisa Dinkle of Radford University. They spoke about the hidden biases we all have when it comes to internet use. To demonstrate this they began with an Icebreaker where we all wrote our top 3 recommendations from Netflix. Then in a group we categorized our recommendations and discussed the patterns we saw. This Icebreaker is a great segue into discussions about the hidden algorithms in search engines, like Google, which create filter bubbles of distorted information, like the ones found in our Facebook feed. Then we can talk about digital literacy and how to do smart researching.
These conferences are more than just a chance to mingle with professionals in our field and to get free swag. It's a chance to learn about the fun and interesting ways people are being innovative in the classroom. It's a chance for us to put ourselves outside of our comfort zones and imagine how we would teach a new theory or use a new approach. The ways that people are learning hasn't stopped changing and neither should our teaching methods. When other people present their successes and failures via posters or lightning talks we all benefit: the Librarians, the campus, the students, and the community.