Tuesday, July 12, 2011


"You begin with the possibilities of the material." -Robert Rauschenberg

Less than a week after returning home from ISTE 2011, I set out again, this time for a reunion of friends in Missouri. Our hostess planned a variety of events for us, and, as is my habit, I jotted down ideas, and took photos of things that caught my eye or presented opportunities for further exploration. The following is a compilation of some of these points of possibility.

On Play and Time Travel
One of our stops was the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City. Signs there reminded us that "Dollhouses used to help teach household management skills" [hands-on learning through play] and that dollhouses can serve as time machines, showing us how people lived, what they wore, their sense of style BUT an ideal, not necessarily the reality. When my husband and I did historic reenacting, we studied 18th century paintings to learn about clothing, tools, and other artifacts appropriate to the time period. It is interesting to consider using dollhouses for the same purpose.
*photographs were not permitted in the Toy and Miniature Museum. The dollhouse room below is from the Knoxville Museum of Art

The History of Art
After touring the Toy & Miniature Museum, we had lunch at the Cafe Sebastienne, in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The walls in the cafe are covered with an installation of 110 paintings, specially created for this space by artist Frederick James Brown, who explains,
"This is a project of love. It is a tribute to art and artists throughout the ages...The works in this exhibition are my interpretations of the selected artists and/or art. No attempt was made, nor was it ever the intent, to reproduce or copy any works of art."
My companions and I had fun guessing at the artists represented, and I couldn't help but think what a great curricular unit this would make: identifying Brown's tribute pieces, discussing why he choose these particular works, then having students construct similar walls of art - or applying the concept to photography, music, etc.

Current Events
On a day trip to Atchison, Kansas, we had the opportunity to observe first-hand the magnitude of the Missouri River at high flood stage. Now running 30-35 deep, the river is not expected to recede significantly until early autumn. Among the concerns are the possibility of breached levees and disrupted transportation, with some bridges closed and railroad tracks in danger of flooding. Teachers in any part of the world might use this situation to discuss extreme weather, disaster preparedness, the Army Corps of Engineers and their flood control plans, long-term impact (food prices, the local economy), etc.

Library Digitalization
With so many ways to connect online, work sometimes spills over into vacation time. One of my friends had to reschedule some meetings related to a Mellon Foundation Award. Knowing my continuing interest in libraries, she shared with me information about a digitalization project being undertaken by the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium, intended "to integrate digital resources into the curriculum."
"The five objectives of the grant are to (1) help faculty to identify, build, and integrate digital collections into their courses through a partnership with librarians; (2) enhance access to scholarly endeavors of both faculty and students; (3) create a professional development program for library staff to enrich their technological sophistication and implement innovative efforts; (4) establish a digital infrastructure to improve support for new initiatives; and (5) develop a portal that will function as a gateway to digital collections and a site for accessing digitization procedures and training documents."
I look forward to following this project, since it certainly contains elements relevant to all types of school libraries, from K-12 through higher education.

On one leg of the plane ride home, I was seated next to a semi-retired school counselor on her way to a conference in North Carolina. We had an interesting discussion about technology use in primary and secondary schools, and she shared with me a nice Technology Tips page from the Missouri Association of Student Councils. It made me wonder how many other associations have valuable resources to share - and if there is a central registry somewhere with a comprehensive list of educational groups.

Echoes of ISTE
One of the highlights of my ISTE 2011 trip was hearing the five amazing teacher librarians, Anita Beaman, Buffy Hamilton, Cathy Nelson, Gwyneth Jones, and Shannon Miller, discuss their visions for school libraries. Buffy's visit to a New Orleans restaurant, Bouche, provided the central image for her discussion of participatory learning through Enchantment, with its elements of trustworthiness, likability, and a fantastic product or service. During my time in Kansas and Missouri, I encountered this type of enchantment on numerous occasions.

Justus Drugstore provides a unique dining opportunity: innovative food served in the most unlikely of places, a converted drugstore. Wait staff was not just attentive: each person with whom we interacted took the time to explain, suggest, and add little touches that enhanced our overall experience. The chef visited our table, recounting the history of the business (his family ran the original drugstore) and sharing his passion for local products creatively combined to please the senses. I was delighted that the little hors d’Ĺ“uvre we were served is known as an amuse-bouche ("mouth amuser")...if I hadn't been thinking of Buffy's enchantment before, the name of that delicious tidbit certainly brought it to mind!

The Indian restaurant I visited on my last day in Missouri had some of the design elements of Bouche in New Orleans. By simply draping fabric and hanging curtains as visual barriers, the owners created little private pockets for dining that gave the feel of intimacy in an otherwise open room. I couldn't help but reflect on how much my students would have enjoyed this type of separation in parts of our library, spaces to read and think and dream a bit.

Many of us have had the "virtual vs. real" discussion with people who denigrate the value of online relationships. I first met the two women with whom I shared my Kansas/Missouri adventures on the social networking site, Plurk. We discovered similarities in our lives and shared interests, and last year we met for the first time face to face. We weren't strangers, even then; we were friends who already knew a lot about each other. This happens more frequently than I could have imagined when I first hesitantly tried interacting with "strangers" online. Some of my dearest friends are separated from me by geography but close in the ways that matter.

The possibility of finding these kindred souls may be the greatest possibility of all.

"Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude." -Alfred North Whitehead

"Morning Has Broken" by dmcordell
"American Summer Kitchen" by Knoxville Museum of Art
"Frederick James Brown "The History of Art" Cafe Sebastienne - details from window wall #3 installation" by dmcordell
"Flooding along the Missouri River" by dmcordell
"Justus Drugstore" by dmcordell
"Indian Restaurant" by dmcordell
"Tres Pals" by dmcordell

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