4 ways library media specialists lead digital transformations in districts

Kristen Whitworth, Library Media Specialist, Dover High School & President, New Hampshire School Library Media Association

During the pandemic era of “emergency teaching,” school systems across my state and around the country made deep investments in edtech resources.  However, as we move into what some call the post-pandemic era, education stakeholders are searching for strategies to ensure that edtech investments continue to pay dividends.

In New Hampshire, library media specialists are playing a key role in driving edtech ROI. The state Department of Education has made excellent investments in edtech resources, and together with iLearn New Hampshire, has rolled out the Canvas LMS by Instructure, the Kaltura platform for media hosting, Zoom video conferencing, and Discovery Education’s digital K-12 platform to schools statewide.

Led by the NH Library Media Specialist Association, the state’s K-12 library professionals have engaged in dialogue around how they can ensure their school system can maximize the state’s edtech investment in their school system. Each participant approached this conversation assuming everyone else in the group had it all figured out or worked in a district that did. However, what we quickly discovered was that we were all grappling with the same issues. So, we worked to identify some common approaches to maximizing edtech ROI in our own district or school setting.

Here are the four most popular recommendations that came out of those discussions.

1. Create building-based digital tool coordinators

Databases, lists, websites, newsletters, and the like are all excellent ways to share information about digital tools and drive usage. Consider also having someone serve as the central point person for edtech resources your school. Establishing and using this role can be a great help in getting educators to the right person for targeted support, getting the word out, coordinating training, and so much more.

Library media specialists are excellent candidates for this in their leadership role, because they support all the educators and students in a school. Added benefit can result when library media specialists meet as a district team periodically. Digital learning specialists/technology integrators and coordinators are also excellent candidates. Whoever takes this coordinator role will serve their school better if they are members of school leadership teams and have the flexibility needed to support educators while they are teaching.

2. Incentivize use

Educators frequently seek administrator guidance for what they expect to see in the classroom or in use by students. Library media specialists can work with principals and curriculum leaders to foster digital tool adoption by making sure they know what different tools can do, highlighting best practices, sharing fun examples, and advocating for time for educators to play with and learn new tools. Creating fun challenges that leverage engaging digital content and interactive learning activities that can be shared, copied, and edited is an excellent way to foster use that is rewarding, rather than establishing mandates that simply seek compliance.

In New Hampshire, all preK-12 schools have access to high-quality digital content through the NH DOE.  This content includes instructional activities that educators can use as-is or edit to meet their needs. These resources can be shared and tweaked to support all learners and tailored to meet specific learning goals. This type of sharing and collaboration reduces stress and saves educators’ time. Now that’s incentive! This process can also alleviate confusion about what tools educators should select.

3. Keep technology staff in the loop

Depending on district and school technology acquisition policies, your tech team might not be aware of what you’re acquiring, what it does, who it’s for, what it requires, and if it complies with district or state regulations such as student data privacy and data protection. Go beyond those basic tech requirements and show them what the tool does, how it works, and what integration it requires (with Student Information, Learning Management, or Single Sign On Systems).

This can also be done by your edtech partners. In New Hampshire, we have statewide access to the Discovery Education platform and the DE Manager coordinates between technology staff in the district and the company’s technology integration team. This creates a partnership and provides an opportunity to ensure technology staff learn about the system. By informing the tech team, they are more likely to understand the impact when services are impacted or unavailable.

I’m incredibly proud of the work New Hampshire’s library media specialists are doing to drive the ROI of digital resources now available to educators. I believe they are equipped to serve as leaders during your school’s digital transformation by ensuring communication gaps are closed, technology teams are informed and engaged, and that educators are supported with clear expectations, shareable examples, and exciting ways to engage learners while saving time.

4. Solidify professional learning for edtech

We get it, we know there are so many initiatives that districts must address such as compliance training, new challenges around social emotional learning, competencies, new curricular initiatives, and accelerating learning for all students due to factors from the pandemic. By building a strong facility in navigating and leveraging edtech, administrators empower educators to work towards all these goals.

As leaders with a whole-school focus, library media specialists are poised to assess and address professional learning gaps and opportunities. Let your library media specialists help build PD plans, plan PD days, and play a leading role in building internal capacity among educators to help them help their peers. Training on digital tools does not need to happen in a vacuum. New learning in SEL can be delivered through schools’ learning management systems. Resources for competency learning can be built with digital tools, both the competency process and edtech training are happening at once. Combine your PD goals!

The days of solving one problem at a time are behind us. Let your library media specialists lead your school’s digital transformation through edtech coordination, motivation, information, and education.

eSchool Media Contributors