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I learned lots of things at ALA, but one thing I learned almost right away: bring numerous pairs of comfortable shoes. I had heard people say that, and my standard-issue brown slip-ons are *kind of* comfortable (and hey! they go with everything! I only have to pack one pair!), so I mostly ignored all of the advice. After walking all over downtown Chicago, around the massive McCormick Place conference center, and from the conference center back to my hotel on one ill-advised 3.5 mile afternoon stroll, my blisters became a constant reminder of my hubris.

Here are my top three things from #ala2013, in no particular order:

ACRL Immersion Teaching with Technology

You may have heard of (or even participated in) the ACRL Immersion program for information literacy instructors. Usually, participants stay together in one place for a few days in an intensive workshop environment. I’m lucky enough to have been selected as part of the inaugural class of the Immersion Teaching with Technology (TwT) track, run by Immersion faculty Char Booth and Tiffini Travis. TwT is a whole new model: the 60 or so of us spent all day Friday engaged in a rather intense face-to-face workshop, but we’ll be spending the next five weeks in an online community as we design projects for our libraries. The idea is to instill in us a design mindset when it comes to instruction, instructional technologies, and accessibility, and to connect us to a greater community of practice. The first day was awesome–I connected with some amazing librarians who are doing some really cool stuff. My project will be to create an online course (in this case, the Parents Online Learning Community we’ve been talking about) using Char’s USER model of instructional design. Excited isn’t the word.

Talks about MOOCs and Online Learning

As you might expect, I’m very interested in the library’s role in massive open online learning. Literally no one was talking about MOOCs at ALA last year. This year, I heard of at least five sessions (my poster (PDF) and discussion group being two of them) talking explicitly about MOOCs, but I’m sure there were plenty of others. I heard some really interesting thoughts, the best of which, in my opinion, came from Kevin Smith at Duke. In a SPARC discussion group that Molly dragged me to (thanks, Molly!), Kevin countered the arguments of those who claim MOOCs are too expensive and offer too little return on investment, when he challenged us to think of MOOCs not as potential revenue streams so much as doing research on pedagogy. Viewed in this light, MOOCs are cheap when compared to other research fields.

Connecting with People

I have a really bad record when it comes to picking sessions, but I somehow manage to bat 1.000 when connecting to new people. And I connected (or reconnected) to lots of really amazing people. There’s Bill Marino, the elearning librarian at Eastern Michigan University, who is building an online course for graduate students that’s almost exactly what Molly and I want to build in a project we’re just staring to work on. There’s Tasha Bergson-Michelson, a search educator at Google, who has to have one of the coolest jobs in the world, and who was really jazzed to hear about ZSRx. And there’s Laura White, an LIS student at UT-Austin and former student employee at the University of Missouri Libraries, who credits me with inspiring her to go to library school when I was her student supervisor.

That last part made the blisters worth it.