Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's in a Name?

Update: The conversation continue here and here.


  1. As a school librarian I am on board with this--and even though I model using social media, share resources regularly, and promote personal driven prof dev from social tools for educators, many teachers are content to "allow" me to drive the vehicle, and they merely get on for a ride here and there. Even as AASL has released 21C standards, until schools (admin and curriculum folks alike) also show the importance of such tools in PD and learning contexts, I think teachers will continue to dismiss it as unimportant. If I asked my teachers to rank social media's importance in education they would rank it low (and test prep as high.) This is true despite my daily modeling of the value. This also despite our district leader promoting the use of Nings and blogs as great for education and students, and leading a Dan Pink Book Study last summer.

    As long as principals and teachers feel the pressure to score well on state mandated tests, social media as a vehicle for learning will continue to take a back seat. The NCLB philosophy is driving the PD and learning in every context. Sad. LMS's tend to embrace what their school's feel are important--and if schools are zeroed in on test scores, then the use of socail media, no matter how deep an LMS gets in it, is considered unimportant. LMS's tend to look at the big picture. If their school is not interested in social media for learning purposes, then despite their best efforts, there will be no change. Why pick on LMS's?

    If teachers are reluctant to embrace social media, are they at risk in three years? I know Im probably taking that off topic, but I see local, state, and national initiatives that are having no impact on librarians all around. But I would wager the same percentage of teachers are not on board yet either. Im glad my district and state (SC) have initiatives to immerse LMS's (and teachers) in social media for educ'l purposes. But I also understand the low buy in has nothing to do with complacency, but rather the priorities of schools, which right now seem to be all about testing.

    Also, I am very much into promoting and immersing my faculty and staff into the stream of social learning, but I do not blame the ones who are reluctant to do any more than sit on the side and look. Current focus on scores is to blame for that. Not the lack of vision on the part of a library media specialist.

  2. Karl, Thanks for putting this conversation all together in one post. I am new to Twitter and joined this conversation because the new Director of Technology for our new school district started it.
    What I learned from reading all of this and several of the associated links is that like other 21st Century learning technologies, it will take the efforts of multiple stakeholders to effect change. These ideas will take time, effort, opportunities for failure, encouragement for success, and a celebration of the victories. I don’t believe, however, that the solution is hiring new people to execute a new idea.
    I agree with several of the comments to provide training and set time limits on progress. I also agree that those who are not on board with the direction a school or district should consider their alternatives. (I had a conversation with a colleague the other day about the need for principals to hire and fire at will: something that is common in nearly every other profession, but often missing from the operations of schools, both K-12 and higher ed., but that is another conversation.) I know the media center is and should be the crossroads for this kind of innovation and education. But I don’t think requiring a librarian/media specialist is always the most effective method for sharing this information and training other faculty and students to use this technology.
    In my admittedly limited experience in education, I have learned over and over again that more often than not, the resources needed to accomplish a task are located in (or at least in close proximity to) the school. If a librarian is unwilling, unqualified, or unable to meet the standard, why not solicit help for his/her colleagues? I would love to see a faculty meeting that started with an administrator saying something like this: “Our goal is to have all students using social media tools in all classrooms by the end of the year. Our Library Media Specialist has the hardware that will be needed to help accomplish this, but we need a team on our staff to help us all meet this goal. Who can help?” Then, give them the time to accomplish what you are asking of them. If a school isn’t close to that point, create teams that research these tools over the course of their summer vacation (one group all sets up a blog, one gets Twitter accounts, one joins Facebook, etc.) and then share what you learned with everyone else in September. I believe that if you tell your colleagues that you are looking for creative solutions to meet this goal that they will rise to the occasion.
    Most of this goes to the root of what I see as a bigger issue in education. Too often, we look to others for the solution rather than trusting our own and our collective creativity and being determined to solve the problem on our own.
    My first year of teaching was in 2000. I figured out really fast that no one was going to do my job for me; that if I wanted something done, it was up to me. I heard a great quote just last week that crystallized this idea for me: “You can’t wait for your fairy godmother to come, you can do this by yourself.” We can do this on our own. It takes a little vision and leadership, but the resources are in place, we just have to be willing to take the time to look for them, nurture them when necessary, and provide the time and ongoing training needed or requested.
    Thanks again for your blog, sharing your thoughts, and encouraging conversations like this.
    Jared (@wardjhs)

  3. Karl, (and Darren) thanks for sharing this twitter discussion for those of us who missed it.

    One model that interests me is what Kim Cofino's position is like.

    I personally think that the idea of hiring a "information specialist" of sorts--a combo library media person and technology person would be ideal. And I can move to Utah almost immediately ;)

    Seriously, I do think finding someone who can mesh those two skills would be really ideal.

    Another option--hire two people in tandem--a library information coordinator, and a tech social networking coordinator but hire them as a team. Then you'll get what you are looking for.

    I have to point out of course that our experiences are colored by the people we work with. There is as much variety in teacher-librarians as there is in teachers themselves or in tech coordinators.

    So many librarians do what you are asking for--they bring in stakeholders, they know the curriculum, they're excited about the tools, and they're knowledgeable about working with people effectively.

    I also have to say that I think if the district library coordinator has the vision, the librarians will get the sort of training they need to become more active with social networking if they are not.
    So having an able person in that type of position is quite important.

    As far as Karl's question about "how long do we give someone" to get more engaged--I do think laying out those expectations for all the librarians in a district is reasonable, given that there is a method for them to get there. For example, our district is requiring all new hires earn a master's degree within a specified period of time, but they have avenues that can afford that. Likewise, I think it's a wonderful expectation for librarians in a district, and people can make the choices they want at that point.

    But from what I know of many librarians, even if we think they don't know the tools--they like to help teachers and students. And if it's clear to them how tools will do that, they'll find that of interest.

    I do think if we base our decisions on stereotypes or on the potential for individuals that are not progressive, then they aren't necessarily the best decisions.

    I do sometimes think there is need for an innovative blending of the roles somehow. That's something many districts with both types of roles struggle with--how do you balance talents and interests?

    But I do think there are people out there with a multiple set of skills.

    I'd also ask--what do you want to accomplish? What would teachers want from this position? What would other staff want?

    My two cents worth at the moment...

  4. Wow! Thanks for putting this together. So much to comment on, but want to focus on the concept of job descriptions.

    Why in education are our job descriptions often the same as they were, say, thirty years ago? Are we stuck in a time warp?

    Just because you were hired for a position that had one description in 1991 does not mean that you can expect that description to stay the same. Times are a-changing and we must change with them.

    In the perfect world, everyone would love the challenge of learning new skills and technologies, but this is not a perfect world. So, how do we ensure that educators keep up with the times?

    Most have to take graduate courses or professional training to keep their certificate up to date. If administrators are not going to insist that educators take technology courses and then use their newly gained knowledge in instruction, we are just spinning our wheels here.

    Do we allow doctors who began practicing in 1991 to only use the technology that was available to them then? So why do we allow teachers who were hired in 1991 to teach as they did their first year when many schools (at least in my state) were not equipped with classroom computers?

  5. @Cathy Nelson – Very true, I think it’s very difficult for LMS’s not to support what their school’s feel is important, that’s part and parcel of the job. But I also think it’s part of their job to influence what their school’s think is important, especially in media-related areas, which is what we’re talking about here. Which gets back to the whole “they need to be social media specialists” as well as “traditional” media specialists (whatever that means).

    And yes, I don’t leave teachers out of this equation either, but this particular twittersation was spurred by Darren’s question, so that was the focus (and what I’m still continuing to think about).

    @Jared Ward – I’m excited for you that you’re in Darren’s district – you’ve got great leadership in this area. Again, I agree that it’s not just the media specialist’s job to figure all this out, it’s all of our jobs. But I still see a major role for a “point person” in a building, and I think the media specialist position is ideal for this. And certainly, if we’re going to have media specialist positions, than that position must encompass social media as well.

    @Carolyn Foote – Agreed, none of this conversation (at least my part) was meant to imply that there weren’t many, many media specialists who have embraced social media and are at the forefront of trying to figure out how this works in education. But I think we can all agree that it’s not all, or probably even a majority, of media specialists that are there at the moment, and that’s very problematic.

    @booklover472 – “How do we ensure educators keep up with the times?” Yep, that’s a great question. For me, a big part of the answer lies in a mindset shift, a shift to “teachers as learners.” We’ve given lip service to “lifelong learning” in education for quite a while now, perhaps it’s time we start living it.

  6. You know the irony in all of this?

    I was just asked oversee ALL of the media coordinators (both elementary and secondary) in our district. Translation: I should have enough budget to have a Social Media Specialist AND the Media Tech Specialists I had originally planned for. :)