What a whirlwind 24 hours I just spent in Indianapolis with some incredibly passionate people! Five librarians from across the country were invited by Evanced Solutions, a Demco company, to participate in a day of conversation centering around children and reading. We already knew each other through Twitter, and have all met face to face before at AASL 13, but it was great to all be in the same space!
Matthew Winner, Sherry Gick, Andy Plemmons, Shannon Miller and myself had all met Lindsey Hill during the Wandoo Planet Banish Boredom Tour. After this tour it was decided that we would all fly to Evanced headquarters in Indianapolis for a "think tank" session! We were excited about the opportunity for sharing ideas and having conversations about children & reading (two of our most favorite things!)
Before we arrived, a sign was created and our group was named the Wandoo 5! We LOVED this and it became our hashtag for the trip! You can search #Wandoo5 on Twitter to read about our day!
Lindsey, the lead for Reading Engagement Innovation for Evanced, picked us up from the airport and then became our tour guide and hostess for the evening. We all were able to visit and catch up with each other, and then enjoyed dinner with president and co-founder of Evanced, Rob Cullin and his wife, Kim Bolan Cullin. A fun fact is that BOTH of them have been named to Library Journal's "Movers & Shakers" list. Add Matthew & Shannon, and half the table had made this list!
The next day was eye-opening and inspiring! The day had been well planned to maximize our time together.
A common mindset for most of us in the room seemed to be that we aren't afraid of failure. We might not like to fail, but the fear of failure generally doesn't keep us from attempting something new. We talked about how we could influence others to try new things, and as Andy says, "Expect the miraculous!"
Matt Sheley, Vice-President of Evanced, shared with us the focus and vision of Evanced and their products. The five of us are all familiar with Wandoo Planet, a reading engagement tool that we have Beta tested and enjoyed, but we also learned about Wandoo Reader, a reading tracker in a gaming format that is being marketed to public libraries to enhance their summer reading programs. As kiddos log their reading, they will have the opportunity to build robots, even earning game codes that allow them to unlock additional parts. An added bonus to this new product is the data collecting capabilities that can possibly connect the school and public libraries. And guess what is right in the center of this new idea... you guessed it! Children and reading, of course! :) These two reading engagement tools are interest driven and geared to readers 6-14 years of age, although due to the gaming aspect, it could be something even adults could enjoy with their children.
The marketing department was also on this floor.
Notice the variety of seating! This was an unexpected "take-away" from the day. I noticed the different areas for collaboration and conversation. I thought about how I could implement these types of spaces more in our library. I was fortunate to have even had a few minutes to talk with Kim Cullin the night before about library design, something I think about often due to our changing needs in the library, and something that she is an expert on.
During our working lunch, we learned even more about Wandoo Reader. It was obvious that they really wanted our thoughts and feedback to ensure that the product they had created was a viable resource for librarians and even teachers and an engaging tool for readers. We talked about components that teachers might want and ways to make it fun for kids. They listened as the #Wandoo5 shared their thoughts of this game. You could tell who the real gamers were in the room as they discussed different gaming aspects.
On a side note, it was very interesting to watch the young lady from Evanced sitting next to me who drew some incredible sketches during our day. I just wish I had snapped a picture of one of her sketches. She is very talented!
This was another take away from the day: everyone in that room was passionate about what they were doing. Whether they were a teacher-librarian, a game creator, or a leader of the company, people were doing what they loved! A quote that was mentioned during the day was
I felt this during our day together! Even if we experience failures or frustrations from time to time, we are passionate about what we do and this is what brings us happiness!
Here is a prime example of passion and doing what you love. These are Matt's notes about Wandoo Planet!
After lunch, we saw some possible improvements/changes that were being looked at in Wandoo Planet. I was so happy that my students had been Beta testers, and the company listened and improved the program based on feedback. One thing I really liked was how the interests the students really loved were placed in a hole and a tree grew from it. Students could really see how their trees grew from their loves & interests. My students have enjoyed using Wandoo Planet to find books and movies based on their interests. It is a tool that I have reminded them of this summer as I am sure parents are already hearing, "I'm bored!" :)
The day ended with each of us sharing our "Why" and this was probably the most moving and inspiring part of the day for me. I already knew that the librarians in the room with me are incredible, and this just reinforced it. Matthew explained how his why is the children, it always will be. Shannon shared about how we have the power to change a life when we listen to our students and provide opportunities for them to feel success. Sherry expressed how her why is making sure that the library belongs to her students, that each of them finds a home there. Andy talked about creating a participatory environment, with all kinds of activities, so that every student can find their interest or passion. After listening to each of their heartfelt explanations about their "Why" I was reminded of why I follow each of them on their professional journey, and learn from them every time I connect with them. They are my mentors and I want to be just like them when I grow up! ;)
And just as important as our "Why" is Evanced's Why. Rob, Matt, Lindsey and everyone else with Evanced, showed us that day that WE are their "Why." Rob said he can't do what we do, but he can solve problems. That's his "Why". Their passion is supporting libraries and librarians and creating programs that encourage students to read. They know that reading is a key to future success, and that by creating programs such as Wandoo Planet and Wandoo Reader, they are helping students connect reading with their interests.
It was an experience I won't soon forget! Thank you everyone at Evanced for an AWESOME day!! Maybe we should make it an annual event!