In a blog post yesterday, Eric Sheninger, the highly-respected, highly-networked principal/leader of New Milford (NJ) High School, shared how to search for, how to court, and how to empower a teacher librarian/change agent:
In my opinion one of the most important roles in any school is that of Media Specialist. Over the years I have longed to create a position that would serve a multi-faceted role of librarian, media specialist, and educational technologist. The challenge for me though was that Shannon Miller’s, Joyce Valenza’s, and Gwyneth Jones’s don’t grow on trees. This mere challenge did not deter me in my search in the least bit as I had my eyes set on one such individual that fit this mold perfectly. That person was Laura Fleming, who in her own right has been blazing a trail in the transmedia world for the past couple of years. Once I knew I had this position available the courting process began.Luckily for me, but more importantly my students and staff, Laura jumped on the opportunity to become a part of the transformation that has been occurring at New Milford High School the past couple of years. Upon hiring Laura I challenged her right off the bat to embrace her new role as an innovative change agent in a space that is extremely outdated and to collaborate with staff in order to push their boundaries to authentically engage students. Our vision for her was to provide meaningful learning opportunities for our students while supporting teachers in the process of effective technology and media literacy integration. I told her to only come to me with solutions to problems and not excuses as to why something could not be done or implemented.
Eric’s post resonates with the writing and speaking of many other school leaders (among them, Patrick Larkin, Pam Moran, and Mark Edwards) who understand our potential.
Granted, not every librarian brings Laura’s killer transmedia storytelling skills to the table.
But Eric’s list suggests the type of innovative, connected, creative, collaborative professional principals in the market for a new librarian ought to scout for. And it illustrates the types of activities a school administrator should expect of a librarian who truly functions as leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher and program administrator for a digital age.
I write this post extremely proud that Laura has run with the autonomy she has been granted and has joined a cadre of NMHS educators and students who are constantly redefining what education should look like in the digital age. She has become a pillar of sustainable change. Here are a few highlights from her short tenure thus far:
- Created a digital badge platform to recognize informal learning being undertaken by NMHS staff. Check out this great article from the School Library Journal on this project. Currently she is now working on a similar program for students here.
- Collaborated with Mrs. Westbrook in the English Department on the school’s first virtual film festival. Students filmed documentaries based on the New York Times One in 8 Million film project. The film festival took place both in person and on Twitter. Student films were tweeted to #knightatthemoviesfall and as the films were viewed, students tweeted film reviews. Students were taught how to effectively tweet a film review and were encouraged to be smart, be positive, and to focus on content and technique. View the Storify here, which includes all films and tweets related to this festival.
- Facilitated a #mysteryskpe with a school in Georgia. Numerous NMHS teachers participated in this educational game. The aim of the game was to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions. This involved using online maps and doing some research. The purpose of this Skype was to expose teachers to a wonderful educational tool that they can use with their classes.
- Collaborated with business teacher Mrs. Vicari and her students on developing apps for their small businesses using iBuildApp. Students were introduced to the concept of mCommerce and how it can be used to leverage the marketing and promotion of their products in this digital age.
- Collaborated with special education teacher Mrs. Mackey and her students in beta-testing a new writing platform called Paperlet. Paperlet is an online participatory publishing platform that takes the existing traditional writing process a decisive step further by bringing the readers into the creative process too. Writers and readers come together in a uniquely combined effort. Writers gather feedback on their writing from readers and are then able to refine their stories based on this feedback. Paperlet guides students through the process of expanding their writing into this new media form.
- Created a Makerspace in the media center. Check out this nice article by the Center of Digital Education on the space that Laura has created.
- Collaborated with English teachers Mrs. Groff and Mrs. Westbrook on a research project related to CNN Everyday Heroes. Students researched heroes, curated their research using Pinterest and cited their sources using the online citation maker, EasyBib.
- Worked with the IT department to develop a procedure to sign out Chromebooks for any student to use throughout the school day as part of our BYOD initiative.
So thank you, Eric, for this list of new look-fors. Thank you, Laura, for your impressive contributions in your new position.
As I move on to pre-service education, I see your post as a challenge.
We must prepare professionals to hit the ground running in schools like New Milford. And we must prepare professionals to lead and inspire in schools that are not like New Milford.