Social Media Institute 2016: I Tweeted, I Tumbled, I Taught



Social Media is increasingly the communication lifeblood among educators, librarians and creators passionate about children, their literature, and their education.  To address the growing power and influence of social media, the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books kicked off 2016 with its annual CTCB Institute with a focus on Social Media. This event, sponsored in part by the Pajeau Foundation and in partnership with SCBWI and SCIRA, brought together nine diverse and dedicated voices all speaking to the power and problems in our online lives.


The event opened with a comprehensive and frequently hilarious keynote talk by Julie Danielson, creator of the “Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast” blog.  Julie offered our 60+ attendees a glimpse at the relatively brief and frequently bumpy history of social media among educators, librarians and creators. She then shared her personal highs and lows along her own social media path.


Following Julie, our first panelists addressed our morning theme, “Social Media as a Creative Force.”  The three-member morning panel—teacher and prolific blogger Colby Sharp, teacher, blogger and recipient of the Apple Distinguished Educator’s Award Mike Lewis, and Evanston Library Collection Development Manager, author and blogger Betsy Bird—was mediated by Andrew Medlar, President of the Association of Library Services for Children, a division of the American Library Association and Assistant Chief of the Chicago Public Library. Colby and Mike each shared examples of how they use social media in their own classrooms to connect their students with larger themes as well as with authors and illustrators—as Mike described it, “revealing the inner workings of the world of books”.  Betsy expanded the talk to encompass the scope and depth of using social media in a library setting as well as the rewards and challenges of striking the balance between personal and professional life in the online public eye.

The afternoon panel tackled the challenging theme of “Managing Internet Culture,” a topic mediated by Dean Rob Muller, Dean of the National College of Education, National Louis University.  Our panelists represented diverse approaches to this theme:  Chicago attorney Darcy Proctor, Associate Superintendent Laura Beltchenko, Research Librarian and blogger Edi Campbell and William Teale, University of Illinois at Chicago University Scholar /Director of the UIC Center for Literacy and incoming president of the International Literacy Association. Our attendees were taken on a journey that encompassed a multitude of challenges related to using social media: from legal concerns for educators and school districts to integrating social media into teacher training and preparation programs, and from ethical and social responsibility in social media for marginalized people to the changing face of professional organizations in the internet age.  

Each panel was followed by breakout sessions, where attendees divided into smaller groups with individual panelists and CTCB mediators. These breakout sessions proved to be valuable opportunities for attendees to connect with panelists and other attendees, by exchanging ideas in a relaxed format.  

Attendees were also treated to two lunch time speakers thanks entirely to social media and Skype. As attendees relaxed and enjoyed lunch, Chicago school librarians and CTCB Friends Board Members Patrick Gall and Elisa Gall interviewed the creator of the “Let’s Get Busy” Podcast Phil Bildner.    Panelist Betsy Bird then  dug deeper into the role of social media for creators with author Matthew Winner, adding new perspectives to our day’s discoveries.


At the end of the day, however, what did attendees and panelists take away from this day, so full of divergent and at times conflicting perspectives on social media?   The feedback was as consistent as it was promising—that social media has far more potential to expand and deepen learning, librarianship and creating than many of those in attendance thought possible.  Attendees, panelists and CTCB members made their way from today’s event actively engaged in conversation, still exchanging ideas long after the microphones and projectors had been turned off.  



by Christina Moorehead