Scholarship Recipients – FY17

Continuing Education Scholarship Reports – FY17
Articles from recipients of scholarships awarded in FY17 (7/1/16-6/30/17) – you can apply for one by clicking here!

2017 ISTE Conference – Paula Hansen
So many things to see, do and connect with others at the ISTE conference. From the exhibit hall which was downright overwhelming with the hundreds of vendors to the keynotes, presenters, playgrounds and sessions. ISTE is truly an experience. Jennie Magiera was a keynote speaker. She talked about her journey to how she got to be the tech leader she is today. She was so inspiring and interesting to listen to. I went to a session by George Couros. He talked about the importance of teaching students to use social media responsibly and in a positive way. He commented on how we always are looking at social media as a negative instead of a positive. He encouraged everyone to make the positives so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear. He brought up a very important point that employers of the future will be looking for your positive online presence. He certainly is a dynamic speaker and I felt that I want to make it my mission to stress the positives with students on social media.

One of my favorites in the exhibit hall on this trip to see was the 3D doodler pen . Just being able to create an object with something that looks like a glue gun was so fun and I could see all the possibilities of things we could do with them. I also stopped by several of the furniture places that had models of furniture that could make flexible spaces. 3D printing and makerspace activity booths were also there in abundance. There is always a fair amount of swag given away at these things from tshirts to frisbees. I loved stopping by the area where new apps are highlighted to see what is new and upcoming. It was also encouraging stopping at the Follett booth to get some posters on future ready libraries highlighting the vision of where our profession is heading.

The ISTE affiliate group had some great ideas to add to future conferences like identifying and focusing on a different group of tech leaders so there is a better understanding of tech coaches, tech leaders etc. One state suggested a media contest and having the winner present the video at the iste conference. Another suggestion was to have students create a video during the conference and show it as part of the closing ceremonies.

The playgrounds and poster sessions were some of my favorite parts of the conference where you could watch a mini session ask questions and even play around with whatever was being shown. This is where I saw and talked to a district tech leader from Missouri who had a great idea on badging and allowing people to do PD in their pajamas. A rep from Flipgrid was in the playground which renewed my interest in the product. There were many sessions about google and google applications. A session by Leslie Fisher is always informative and has a ton of take aways. She always talks about liking the fact that she doesn’t work for any specific company then she can fairly evaluate all products out there. I like the fact that she also brings up the apps and things that are updated and talk about what is new with them.

The whole conference was awesome and it was amazing how well they accommodated 21,000 people. It was truly an experience of a lifetime that was so worth it.

Paula Hansen
Lakeville Schools


2017 ISTE Conference – Dawn Nelson
The theme of the 2017 ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education) conference was ‘Embrace the Extraordinary’ and that was my full intention, starting with Saturday’s Hack Education Unconference led by Steve Hargadon, who is passionate about students and learning and is a leader in bringing his vision through virtual and physical conferences. I was planning to attend the unconference in the morning and Mobile Learning Network events in the afternoon but the discussions at #HackEd were rich and varied and aligned with what I was seeking at the conference. I focused on resources for personalized learning, the power of wonder in learning, and explored a secondary interest of equality and diversity in education. But one of the most beneficial parts of that entire day was an introduction to the Participate Learning Platform which allowed us as a group to share our learning and which is available for other professional learning opportunities. I began sharing my learning from the ISTE conference before it even began as I told several people about the Participate Twitter chat feature ( ) which not only provides a great listing of professional Twitter chats but organizations such as MLA or ITEM could submit their chat schedules and be included in the list.

The opening keynote by Jad Abumrad, host and creator of public radio’s “Radiolab” was an inspirational beginning to the official conference with his message of focusing on the questions, taking risks, and perseverance as we approach the challenges of teaching and learning with students. Those ideas led my choices for sessions that were stretching throughout the conference. Coding and computer science was one strand of interest and my current work to bring coding to elementary students in our school was affirmed as many speakers noted the current shortage of job seekers in many technology areas, especially women. The percentage of women in the computer science field has actually dropped and that theme went throughout many sessions, including the closing keynote by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, with her message of equipping young women to pursue careers in the computer science field. Since 2012 over 40,000 girls have gone through the program.

Abumrad’s message of taking risks was not lost. My primary task was my own presentation, Jumpstart 1:1 Instruction with Online Resources, during which I had the opportunity to share resources that I have been using regularly. As most will agree, preparing a presentation often leads to the greatest learning and this opportunity confirmed that. Determining the best resources and communicating their use effectively both reinforced my instruction and, more importantly, provided the opportunity to choose to set others aside, something that is important in any practice.

One observation of the conference in general was that school librarians are showing up in greater numbers but that the schedulers haven’t quite caught up to that yet. My own experience and the reports of others were that nearly all of the sessions focused on school librarians such as one on Future Ready Libraries were full and closed well before the sessions started. The school library playgrounds were very active and provided many opportunities for networking.

To stretch learning for myself and for new insights into tools for students I chose several opportunities to deepen my understanding of maker spaces and learn more about AR (augmented reality). The students in my school are highly engaged in the limited maker activities already offered and both hearing reinforcement for those activities and gaining information about adding to them effectively was helpful. In addition, after discounting the impact and importance of AR with elementary students I found a great deal of information on effective learning activities for even young primary students and I have chosen that as my learning focus for the summer. I plan to meet with two primary teachers to collaborate on some learning activities using video and green screen.

I am excited to build my skills with AR. It will take some time and effort but I believe that it is just one resource that provides opportunities for students to show their learning with more options for student voice and choice. When we have some examples of successful projects, I look forward to sharing the opportunities with others on the journey of digital learning. But the biggest thing I brought back from the ISTE conference was energy and excitement of networking with others, seeing some new and exciting things, and importantly finding again the ‘why’ of teaching with technology – the lasting impact it has for students.
Thank you, Metronet, for the opportunity and support.

Dawn Nelson
School Library Media Specialist
Oak View Elementary School
Osseo Area Schools


2017 ALA Conference – Antonio Backman (Steltzner Scholarship)

Thanks to the Lars Steltzner Scholarship provided by Metronet I was able to attend the 2017 ALA conference in Chicago. It was an incredible experience to go and to learn about a variety of issues and trends that libraries are facing. I went to as many workshops and sessions as I could and talked to librarians all over the country.

The very first session I attended was an informal sharing session between librarians. I talked with several librarians from California, Colorado and the Netherlands about what they did for maker spaces and making programs. In Colorado, the Pikes Peak Library District connected their maker spaces with their business resources and services. The library made sure to get sponsors like Comcast to help pay for the equipment and have volunteers help staff the areas. As for the people who used the spaces it turns out that they were often business owners and entrepreneurs using the maker spaces to make signs, and products that they sell. In addition, a lot of people use the library tools to repair or make clothes (including a wedding dress!) and soon the library is opening a kiln for ceramics. The making tools are so popular that the library holds a maker fair that thousands of people attend. Lastly, the library is rolling out an online certification that people will need to earn to operate the making equipment thus lessening the need for staff to conduct in person training workshops. The librarians from the Netherlands have a mobile maker bus, the FryskLab, that they take to schools. They mentioned how kids preferred maker tools like laser cutters and Micro Bits that created things quickly as opposed to 3-D printers. For making ideas they highly recommend the website Tech Will Save Us. And all the librarians mentioned bringing their STEM kits and maker equipment to schools or festivals so people would become more aware of what the library could offer.

Gene Luen Yang was one of the keynote speakers and the most interesting thing he talked about was the reasons why librarians should care about kids reading comics. Comics are a multimedia medium (text and images) which is not only reflective of the society children live in but teaches kids to think in that “21st century way”. Comics are great for teaching concepts to kids (like coding or algebra) because the reader can determine the rate of information they consume and they can go backward or forward if they need to. This paired well with another session I attended where librarians talked about how students utilize their visual literacy skills with comics and if there was teacher or parental push back against comics then librarians can say how ‘acclaimed education institutions like MIT have graphic novels in their English Literature courses because great literature also includes graphic novels’. Also, Common Core and other state education standards require students to read graphic novels. Finally, there is a criticism where students read graphic novels too quickly. Since those kids will reread those stories they will see more and understand more as this repetition gives them time to practice understanding words, themes and character arcs.

The two most powerful sessions I went to were the Solidarity in Action: Combating Xenophobia and Islamophobia and Libraries are not Neutral Spaces: Social Justice Advocacy in Librarianship. The first session was led by author Deepa Iyer (We Too Sing America) and talked about how libraries can be both “safe and brave spaces for inclusion”, how the idea of a post-racial society is a myth and the refusal to recognize the underlying problems of racial stratification could only harm our society. A library can be up to the task by having a visible statement of values (having detailed points of inclusion), conducting welcoming campaigns (both in the library and online), and talking with ethnic media and community organizations. By going beyond cultural competencies into Anti-Racism training (Center for Social Inclusion and Race Forward both were cited as good resources) and by creating staff who were community liaisons, libraries may have a great positive impact. This felt connected with how the next session’s panelists viewed the library. Those librarians talked how there was institutionalized racism baked into the library (referring to subject headings; how a story about Noah’s Ark is in the religion section while creation stories from Indigenous people here in America are placed in folklore) and the necessity to be open about race in story time. For instance, it’s fine to point out racial differences, and that it is weird when you ignore it. It can be as simple as saying, “Look this baby on the cover has brown skin” which can normalize racial differences for kids. Plus, it’s good to bring in those diverse stories throughout the year for story time not just during one month. For more information, I would highly recommend looking at the tweets with the hashtag below and at the linked article on critical librarianship. You will find excellent people to follow and more great information about critical librarianship.

Finally, there were some highlights from the exhibit hall and ALA Play that I wanted to include.
– Google and ALA talking about Ready to Code, Be Internet Awesome and Google CS First: which are free programs that librarians can use to teach kids computer science and digital safety.

– Drones – Space is a premium in many libraries so large maker spaces aren’t always realistic but small drones (perfect for outdoor programs) have dropped down in price (50 to 200 dollars) and are now more resilient than ever so they can better handle being crashed into the ground. Also, they are very fun to fly.

– We Need Diverse Books have a great app that you can use for FREE to find more diverse stories. Paid membership will get you even more programming resources.

-Escape Rooms – The Mysterious Library Box was a very intriguing example of a simple escape room a library could do. Escape rooms encourage problem solving, cooperation and communication skills, creative thinking and would be a fun time for teens and adults. For more info, check out the website below.

– If you are looking for fun games for kids and teens then try out the Mad Libs card game, the giant-sized Tsuro board from Peachstate Hobby Distribution and Happy Salmon (Happy Salmon is perfect for playing inside libraries as it can be fun being played loudly or quietly).

There is so much more information I could write about but for the sake of brevity I will end with how incredible it was to attend the 2017 ALA Conference. I was able to bring back so much information and knowledge to not only use for myself but to share with my coworkers. I am extremely grateful to Metronet for giving me this opportunity.


ALA Midwinter – Sara Zettervall

Every conference is a surprise—I find no matter how carefully I plan, I end up following new directions onsite. This time was no different. I was grateful to fulfill the purposes I outlined in my Metronet application, but I what ended up engaging me the most were the many conversations about how our profession should respond to the new Trump Administration. I also covered part of my time at Midwinter by writing for Cognotes, the conference newspaper, which you can view at

I was able spread the word about my upcoming book on library-social work collaboration and begin to recruit panelists for our Annual Conference session through the many interactions I had with other participants at Midwinter. Thank you for supporting that activity. The most significant thing I was able to do along those lines was meet with three co-authors for a related article on Whole Person Librarianship. Because we were all in attendance, we were able to have a deep planning discussion and make a lot of progress in our planning in a much shorter amount of time than we could at a distance.

I also represented Librarians Build Communities (LBC) to the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Implementation Working Group (EDI-IWG). At the time I applied for this funding, the LBC was planning a volunteer event at Midwinter, which didn’t end up happening. We’re at an important juncture with determining the future of the group right now, though, and being part of the conversation at Midwinter will help us define our new direction. It was also very meaningful to me to be able to be a part of the EDI-IWG in-person meeting and get to discuss and plan with people from all over the country. We met with the senior lobbyist from the ALA Washington Office to talk about how they promote social justice values and made plans for how our group can work more with them in the future. I was also part of an EDI-IWG session at the Future of Libraries Symposium where we shared our progress to date and got some feedback from colleagues about their priorities for incorporating EDI across ALA (mainly that there’s more confusion than we anticipated, so we have some work ahead of us about our message).

The session that will probably stand out for me the most, though, was the town hall meeting hosted by the ALA Executive Board and Council. I hadn’t ever been at a Council session before, so just seeing the room where they get things done was new and exciting (it looked an awful lot like the United Nations!). For an hour and a half, ALA members got up and spoke about their opinions either as individuals or subunit representatives about how the ALA as a whole should approach working (or not) with the Trump administration. This was prompted by a strong negative reaction last fall to a press release from the ALA Washington Office that they would work with the Trump Administration. The town hall itself didn’t resolve anything but raised some important questions that are going to have to be addressed. Many people feel that cooperating unconditionally is selling our soul for federal funding, while others believe the only way to make good things happen is to find commonality wherever possible. My own professional reaction has been to schedule a strictly nonpartisan “Civic Engagement 101” session at my library to help patrons of all opinions learn more about how to become politically involved.

Thanks very much to the Metronet Board for supporting me. It means a lot to me personally, and I’ll encourage other librarians to apply in the future. I came back from this energized and ready to do more work!


Minnesota Library Association Conference – Gretchen Benson, Anoka County Library

Thanks to Metronet’s scholarship I was able to attend the Minnesota Library Association Conference 2016, in Duluth, MN, for the first day of the conference. I was the only person from my branch of the Anoka County Library system to attend, and being able to share what I have learned has generated new conversations at my branch, and ideas for the system.

I focused on diversity, inclusion, and outreach for the sessions I attended. I learned about communities and different ways of reaching your Patrons (and potential Patrons). I also attended multiple sessions on the importance of diversity and inclusion in programming, story time, and library practices. The branch I work at in Anoka County has the most diverse residents as well as Patrons that come from other systems.

Some examples of what I learned at the conference:

  • When using Social Media you should tailor each post to the type of app you are using
  • Instagram = photos
  • Twitter = a bit of everything
  • Facebook = more formal information
  • When making community connections, don’t go in expecting to get something, but find out what they can give to your organization (see them as an asset that helps you)
  • Sometimes you can fill a need temporarily (pop-up library that exists for 2-3 hours during a community event)
  • When making a connection with a community group, spend time learning about their culture and create open communication
  • If we believe in the every of ‘Every child ready to read’ than we must be inclusive in our story times and in our practices for children
  • Mistakes are ok, we all must remember that as a profession we are all going through changes in outreach and inclusion and we are learning together