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EdTech Update





Librarians or tech integration specialists?

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.


(Click on image for a larger jpg image. For the same diagram as an Inspiration file, click here. Or as a pdf file.)

Granted, both these sets of standards have been superseded with new ones, but I would argue that more similarities still exist between the new standards than dissimilarities.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.


BFTP: Are good teachers also good librarians?

f your boss is seen as a librarian, she becomes a resource, not a limit. If you view the people you work with as coaches, and your job as a platform, it can transform what you do each day, starting right now. "My boss won't let me," doesn't deserve to be in your vocabulary. Seth Godin Moving Beyond Teachers and Bosses

Godin sees teachers as limiters, not enablers:

We train kids to deal with teachers in a certain way: Find out what they want, and do that, just barely, because there are other things to work on. Figure out how to say back exactly what they want to hear, with the least amount of effort, and you are a 'good student.'

He says we form the same relationship with our bosses when they act as teachers.


Do classroom teachers need to start performing more like librarians? I've thought so for a long time. Fifteen years ago, when the Internet was just starting to be used by students in our schools, I watched as some boys looked up information about the Ebola virus at the Center for Disease Control using a library computer. To me, the ramifications were astounding.

When those boys returned to their classroom, they were suddenly the content experts on this topic, not Ms Anderson, the teacher. If Ms Anderson had always viewed herself as the content expert and dispenser of that content, she was in for a rude awakening. 

But if she sees herself as a process, rather than content, expert, Ms Anderson still has a valuable place in the information age. When those boys came back from the library, she needed to be able to ask questions like: 

  • Where did you get your information?
  • How do you know if the information is reliable?
  • Is the information important for others to know?
  • If so, how will you communicate this information?
  • And how will you know you've done a good job?

The teacher is asking the same kinds of question, performing in the same kind of role as the librarian.

With an increasing number of students carrying Internet-connected devices, they don't even have to leave their seats to be "content experts." This shift from content to process expert is accelerating, not diminishing.

And librarians ought to be helping teachers make the transition. 

Good librarians have always also been good teachers. Are good teachers also good librarians?

Original post April 7, 2011


12 reasons why e-books are inevitable

Heathorn, RJ 1980 Learn with Book.In: Hills, Phillip J., ed. The Future of the Printed Word. Greenwood Press.
 "A new aid to rapid - almost magical - learning has made its appearance. Indications are that if it catches on all the electronic gadgets will be so much junk. The new device is known as Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge. The makers generally call it by its initials, BOOK.
Many advantages are claimed over the old-style learning and teaching aids on which most people are brought up nowadays. It has no wires, no electric circuit to break down, No connection is needed to an electricity power point. It is made entirely without mechanical parts to go wrong or need replacement …" via Stephen Krashen in e-mail to AASL Forum

The resisters are plentiful. Scattered research on comprehension is worrisome. Pricing and compatibility and copy protection are problematic. But the future of books, textbooks, and other educational resources is digital, especially in schools, and here are a dozen reasons why...

  1. E-books do not get lost or stolen or damaged.
  2. E-books can be updated, revised, corrected.
  3. E-books can be accessed at any time from any place.
  4. E-books do not require physical storage space or labor for shelving.
  5. E-books have assistive/adaptive features for readers including built-in dictionaries, text-to-speech, translations, font-size adjustments, etc.
  6. E-books do not stigmatize readers by having covers that may indicate reading abilities or tastes.
  7. E-books are transportable and always on hand if read on tablets, phones, and other devices that people seem to always have with them.
  8. E-books can be supplemented with multi-media resources like video and sound and animations that help illustrate and explain concepts.
  9. E-books and digital resources can be easily curated and linked to courses and lessons in learning management systems helping differentiate instruction.
  10. E-book highlights and notes can be easily created, found, and exported.
  11. E-book completion can be tracked, recorded and analyzed.
  12. E-books mean never running out of something to read.

I suspect when the automobile was introduced, horse lovers compiled a good number of reasons why these noisy, slow, unreliable, gas-dependent, road-dependent, and uncomfortable machines would never replace Ned and Nellie. History is on the side of e-books. Get over it.

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