From Librarians are from Venus; Technologists are from Mars. Technology Connection, May 1998
My dean just asked me to provide her with a 'mini lesson' on the growing trend within K-12 to look for "Digital Learning Specialists" versus "Media Specialists". I have my opinion of the difference but would appreciate some input from others. She would like to get a sense of what it is and what is may mean in connection with our School Library and Information Studies program. Question to AASL Forum, 4/27/16
How would you define a Tech Integration Specialist? How do you describe the work they do that is so much more than tech support? What would you say to someone to share how powerful of an influence a TIS has in a school? MN-ITEM on Google+, 4/25/16
How are the jobs of tech integration specialist and library media specialist alike and different? It's a question with which I have been wrestling for 30 years. And each year, the question seems to come up again.
As I reflect on my work with librarians both in the districts in which I've worked and in the professional organizations I've helped lead, it feels like I have spent most of my career trying to turn librarians into tech integration specialists. And somewhat successfully, I like to think.
Now, due to funding sources and a paucity of licensed librarians, I find my career from here on out may be ironically different: turning technologists into librarians. My current district is hiring "Digital Learning Specialists" to teach K-5 students digital literacy skills, provide embedded professional development in technology for teachers, and to help manage library resources, especially digital resources. These folks have been selected from the ranks of our best and most progressive classroom teachers, but only one has a library science degree.
Starting with their respective roles as teacherscis a good beginning point in comparing/contrasting these positions. In 2008, both ISTE and AASL released new standards that described what their organizations felt students should know and be able to do. I created this comparison.
Granted, both these sets of standards have been superseded with new ones, but I would argue that more similarities still exist between the new standards than dissimilarities. Yes, librarians might emphasize reading and literature in some lessons; tech integrationists more tech specific activities. But by and large, critical thinking and problem solving, information literacy, digital citizenship, communication and teamwork are all shared between the standards. And most districts that I know, use both sets to construct their own specific curriculum.
By and large, both librarians and TIS can and should be teaching and supporting the adults in their buildings as well. What skills and what support are increasingly determined by building/district goals and challenges. For example, next year we will want strong support for our learning management system (Schoology), a new collection of e-books (MyOn Reader), and Chromebook use and management for our teachers. Will formal training in the masters degree programs of either tech specialists or librarians prove to have been useful for any of these tasks - especially if the degree is more than a couple years old?
There are three primary areas where library science skills and understandings are critical for this position, however. First, a good librarians will have had classes in materials selection and children's/YA literature. We need someone in our schools with those skills. Second, library training emphasizes the information literacy and problem-solving as a life-long skill which includes personal evaluation of sources of information.
And finally, and most importantly, we need professionals in our buildings that bring some foundational library values to decision-making processes including intellectual freedom, the broadest possible access to information and ideas, and equity of access to information. Will the "digital learning specialist" know how to deal with a materials challenge? Will he/she be able to determine what is filtered and what is not in a school? Will there be advocacy for student personal interest being a driving force in what students can find in their schools? Will all points of view whether political, religious, or cultural be represented and available to our learners?
Perhaps there are skills and understandings that folks with technology specialist degrees and certification bring to jobs like these as well, that I am missing. I hope readers enumerate these in the comment section.
The name of the position will never be as important as the person who fills the position. I am optimistic that our new position will be of great value to both our students and our staff.