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By Amy Shaw and Christie Riegelhaupt

As editors, we love to get out of the office and go to industry events! So the two of us were super excited on June 26 to attend a free event hosted by the the Florida Association for Media in Education--the 2nd Annual FAME Unconference at Palm Beach Gardens High School, FL.

An unconference is a meeting that is informal and loosely structured so attendees can learn from one another on a peer-to-peer level through teaching, sharing and collaboration. This is an awesome way to learn new technologies and best practices and falls in line with FAME's mission:

FAME advocates for every student in Florida to be involved in and have open access to a quality school library media program administered by a highly competent, certified library media specialist. FAME is a collaborative, responsive, dynamic network for Florida library media professionals.

The unconference started with us gathered as a group to shout out what we most wanted to discuss. Then we broke out into smaller groups for in-depth discussion and collaboration (see photo at top: Dynamic discussion during FAME Unconference; Credit to Michelle Jarrett). Insights were recorded on poster boards and tweeted at #FAME14 (see photo below). No need for notes--just take a pic with your smartphone. (This is our kind of note taking!)

Attendees hailed from various regions of Florida and included those who oversaw elementary, middle and high school libraries. Regardless of differing locations, grade levels, and available budgets, we witnessed a group of professionals with one quality in common: a passion for their craft. They all love their jobs as the information leaders in their schools.

Because of their passion and a vulnerable school budget climate, advocacy was the most important topic of the day. When there are budget cuts in school districts, this group wanted to make sure that media specialist jobs are not cut or replaced with volunteers. As many in the group explained,  the only way to ensure job security is for education administrators and legislators to be fully informed of the essential role a media specialist plays in the school. Media specialists don’t just check out books and read stories to children. A media specialist offers valuable resources and support for the classroom and curriculum, teaches students how to critically evaluate online resources, aids in transforming students into lifelong learners, and so much more.

ALA and AASL's advocacy pages were recommended as excellent resources for media specialists to build awareness of their pivotal role in education.

Other topics discussed included ebooks, makerspaces, benchmarks, QR codes and success stories. A thread throughout each topic was a keen interest in acquiring the best resources for their school, and then promoting those resources so they are utilized and meet the needs of students. One example was a tip to use QR codes in card inserts in the stacks to promote ebooks. Another popular best practice was to give out necklaces where students can earn one charm per each book they read. Even in high schools, students wore their necklaces proudly.

The media specialists spent a hot summer day in South Florida and left with some hot tips they can take back to their media centers this fall. The students at their schools are very fortunate to have such dedicated educators working on their behalf!

11 Jul 2014

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