Twenty eight librarians and over one hundred Special Education teachers from Christian Schools across the province gathered at Meadowlands CRC in Ancaster last Monday. The church served as a venue for two engaging events—the OACS Special Education Conference and the first annual OACS Library Conference, hosted by the OACS Library Advisory Council. Both occasions provided attendees with the chance to learn and excel in their areas of expertise.
“It was wonderful to see attendees sharing ideas, learning new things, and building connections,” says Margaret Grift, Librarian at John Knox Christian School in Brampton.
She adds that it was also gratifying for the OACS Library Advisory Council to share some of the projects that the group had been working on during the last year, including the OACS Library Core Values Statement and the OACS Virtual Library website.
The goal of the inaugural Library conference was to equip OACS Librarians, by providing them with networking opportunities, with time to dialogue and with the chance to learn from experienced, forward thinking presenters. In their session about the Purpose and Vision of OACS libraries, Ingrid Scott and Marion Dieleman explored the “information revolution” that has prompted many libraries to re-evaluate their identity and modify their vision for the future. Attendees also had the chance to discuss core values statements, and to participate in a range of OACS library virtual tours.
As librarians collaborated and conversed, Special Education Conference attendees participated in a dynamic workshop led by Peg Dawson, an internationally recognized psychologist and author. Dawson explored how to best address the learning needs of children who inspired the title of her book, “Smart But Scattered”. Participants came away from the day with a wide repertoire of strategies to help students who struggle with poor work habits, time management, task initiation, and decision making. For the past thirty years Dawson’s research has focused on executive skills, the brain-based cognitive processes behind those capabilities.
“I appreciated the expertise that Dawson brought to the topic of executive skills. She brought clarity to what they are and how we as educators can more successfully implement intervention plans,” reflects Edith van der Boom, Director of Learning at John Knox Christian School in Oakville.
“The conference was an excellent opportunity for resource teachers and educational assistants to learn more about how to teach the students we work with who have learning exceptionalities,” she adds.”It is a wonderful venue in which we can encourage and challenge each other to engage in effective research-based strategies.”
Prior to Monday’s conferences OACS librarians and special educators made efforts to dialogue, ask questions and share resources online. Over the last few months members of the OACS Special Education Advisory Committee used their OACS eCurriculum group to explore a wide gamut of relevant issues: From the latest iPad apps, to the need to support paraprofessionals, to the importance of emphasizing inclusive education during regional district days. The same can be said for the OACS Library Advisory Council—members of which used their eCurriculum group to share resources about information literacy, the changing role of technology in student research habits, and the big questions that surround library culture for 21st century learners.
The 2014-2015 school year has only just begun. As educators, administrators and assistants plan for the months ahead, it will be important for them to feel supported by their colleagues. Both of Monday’s conferences invited members of the OACS community (many of whom work in quiet corners of their schools, or behind the scenes) to be inspired by the dedicated professionals working alongside them in their field.
If you have ideas to share about special education, consider joining the the Edifide EHE Special Ed group, or contributing to the good conversations about Differentiated Instruction. Interested in the role of the library at the secondary education level? Take a look at the High School Librarians group! These public eCurriculum groups are playing a dynamic role in in the ever shifting professional development culture of OACS schools. Let’s continue dialoguing together before, between and after conferences!