Changes made to teaching and learning this past year have also meant changes in the way educators experience professional growth. More and more school librarians and classroom teachers turn to social media for professional development (PD). Many in-person events have turned digital. The Kentucky Association of School Librarians (KASL) has embraced virtual learning for its members. In July, our annual Summer Refresher conference was entirely virtual.Summer Refresher attendees tuned in to hear from keynote speakers. Fifty-minute-long concurrent sessions ran all day. Presentations focused on new ed tech, blended learning, inquiry-based teaching, reading promotion, and other support services. Presentations were recorded and later made available on-demand to KASL members through our Kentucky Librarians Mighty Network.
The success of KASL’s virtual Summer Refresher has influenced other online events. For the first time, KASL organized a Mid-Autumn Meeting. And you guessed it, the meeting was virtual!
The one-hour event was held on the evening of November 12. Planning began weeks in advance. The Kentucky Bluegrass Awards (KBA) Committee arranged for two 2021 nominees to participate in a live panel discussion. The participating authors were Lynne Kelly and Susan Hood. Both are nominees for the grades 3-5 KBA category.
Lynne Kelly is the author of Song for a Whale, a story of a deaf girl’s connection to a whale whose song can’t be heard by his species, and the journey she takes to help him.
Susan Hood’s book, Lifeboat 12, tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.
KASL engaged its members in the panel discussion by inviting them to submit questions in advance via Google Forms. Questions were compiled by KBA coordinators and shared with the authors.
Over the course of six weeks, the Mid-Autumn Meeting was promoted to its members on email groups, newsletters, and social media. By the time the event arrived, over 90 KASL members had registered! The event was conducted as a Zoom webinar. Webinars are useful when you have a large audience. The webinar format allowed the host and panelists to share their video, audio, and screen while the attendees were in view-only mode. Meeting organizers learned that the best way to keep participants engaged during a Zoom webinar is to enable the submission of questions and comments during the event.
During the Mid-Autumn Meeting, we provided KASL news and updates. It was a great time to talk about membership benefits, our mentoring program, a new online learning platform, and of course, Kentucky Bluegrass Awards. We also drew names for door prizes!
One of KASL’s KBA coordinators (@reneedhale) facilitated the panel discussion. Each author had 15 minutes to discuss their book and answer questions before joining in a group discussion. The gracious authors permitted us to upload the webinar’s recording on our organization’s YouTube channel. Registrants had three weeks to view the video.
At the conclusion of the virtual Mid-Autumn Meeting, participants were asked to complete a reflection form. Seventy-five percent of respondents gave the meeting a 5 out of 5, and 22% ranked it 4/5! Here is some of the feedback we received:
What did you enjoy most about Mid-Autumn Meeting 2020?
• I liked having the authors talk about books. It’s always nice to get a back story to share with students.
• Getting more info about KASL, and hearing interesting stories from authors.
• I loved hearing the backstory from Lifeboat 12! So interesting!
How can KASL improve its Mid-Autumn Meeting and similar events?
• I think it would be great if this could be offered in the spring with additional authors.
• Maybe breakout rooms to mimic the social aspect of these events when they are live.
• I almost didn’t attend because I’m a high school librarian, and neither of these authors’ books is on the KBA grades 9-12 list. I’m glad that I attended, though. I now want to read these two books. Could we possibly get a high school KBA nominated author in the spring for one of these meetings?
• Thank you for offering this to all librarians across the state.
• Fantastic job on this webinar! Transitions were smooth, the door prizes were fun, and the featured authors were relevant and fascinating.
• Thank you for putting on a great virtual event. It was seamless and just a really nice way to spend an evening during a stressful time.
The Mid-Autumn Meeting happened in November, but its impact lives on. KASL is excited to announce plans for a virtual Spring Summit in March or April. The spring event’s format will remain similar to Mid-Autumn Meeting, but the updates, panelists, prizes, and theme will change. A state-wide virtual event like a Mid-Autumn Meeting or a Spring Summit is yet another way to engage and support your association’s members.
Author: Sam Northern, Ed.D.
Sam Northern is a National Board Certified Teacher-Librarian at Simpson Elementary School in Franklin, Kentucky. He currently serves as President of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians. In 2014, Sam was selected for the Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminars Abroad Program where he spent four weeks in China. Since then, Sam has voyaged to Antarctica as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and worked aboard a research vessel on the Atlantic Ocean as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. From January to April 2018, Sam traveled to Finland as part of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program to research best practices for project-based learning. Connect with him on Twitter @Sam_Northern and Facebook @themisterlibrarian.