How Librarians, Instructional Coaches, and Teachers Are Leading Innovation in Schools
How Librarians, Instructional Coaches, and Teachers Are Leading Innovation in Schools.
See this exciting collaboration in action and get ideas about how YOU can build these partnerships in your school.
Kelsey Aske, Instructional Technology Facilitator, Vancouver Public Schools (WA)
Traci Chun, Teacher Librarian, Vancouver Public Schools (WA)
Mark Ray, Future Ready Librarian Advisor, Director of Innovation and Library Service, Vancouver Public Schools (@_teacherx)
Dr. Lisa Spencer, Director of Instructional Technology & Support, Prince George’s County Public Schools (MD)
Dr. Sarah Thomas, Future Ready Instructional Coaches Advisor, Regional Technology Coordinator, Prince George’s County Public Schools (MD) (@sarahdateechur)
Jason Amos, Vice President of Communications, Alliance for Excellent Education
On February 28, 2019, the Alliance for Excellent Education held a webinar as part of its celebration of Digital Learning Day. In school districts across the county, innovation and collaboration between librarians and instructional coaches and teachers is happening every day. During this webinar, Prince George’s County Public Schools (MD) and Vancouver Public Schools (WA) showcased their innovative partnerships.
Sarah Thomas discussed how instructional coaches facilitate learning experiences, where students and teachers “learn by doing” through creating and collaborating. Also, Lisa Spencer shared several school- and district-wide digital learning initiatives.
Mark Ray explored ways in which librarians can lead, teach, and support schools both on their own and in collaboration with instructional coaches. Traci Chun and Kelsey Aske discussed their work at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Washington.
The panelists also shared:
- Ways in which coaches and librarians collaborate with colleagues and leaders in schools and districts
- The instructional role of coaches and librarians to ensure all students are successful learners
- Why a team approach is essential to ensure equity for all students
Please direct questions concerning the webinar to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are unable to watch the webinar live, please register to receive the video archive directly in your inbox.
Future Ready Schools® is a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those underperforming and those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. www.FutureReady.org
If you are interested in renting the Alliance’s facilities for your next meeting or webinar, please visit our facilities page to learn more.
Jason Amos: Hello, and happy Digital Learning Day. I’m Jason Amos, Vice President of Communications at the Alliance for Excellent Education. We’re so glad that you tuned in today. Here at the Alliance for Excellent Education, we’ve spent much of today watching and engaging with educators across the country who are sharing images and video of their schools and classrooms. Here are a few of our favorites, courtesy of Twitter.
Here’s a look at Digital Device Night held at Minnevale Elementary School Library in Woodridge, Virginia. So I’m not sure if you’re seeing our tweets or not, but – okay, so here we go. Sorry, bear with us just a little bit. We’ve got some technical difficulties. So here we are again. It’s showing up very quickly. I’m sorry you can’t see them, but I tell you what, you can go to #DLDay on Twitter and you can see tons of great examples of teachers, librarians and students engaging with great content around the country. In fact, we had over 2,000 events on our official Digital Learning Day map, so we really appreciate everything that educators are doing out there to let us into their classroom and giving us a window into what they’re doing in their schools, classrooms and libraries.
And if you haven’t shared what you’re doing yet to celebrate Digital Learning Day, you can still do so using the #DLDay. We’ll be retweeting and liking our favorites, so be sure to include the Digital Learning Day Twitter handle @Official DLDay. Even after today is over, we’ll continue to share out your DL Day videos and images, so keep the tweets coming. And if you haven’t added your Digital Learning Day activity to the official DL Day map, you can do so at DigitalLearningDay.org/map. While you’re sharing out what you’re doing, also see what some of your fellow educators are doing across the country, and don’t hesitate to ask them a question or ask what went into a lesson that caught your eye. Digital Learning Day is about sharing and celebrating, but it’s also about connecting, collaborating and learning from fellow educators, which brings us to today’s expert panel.
Joining me in the studio from Prince George’s County Public Schools in nearby Maryland are Dr. Lisa Spencer, Director of Instructional Technology and support, and Dr. Sarah Thomas, the Regional Technology Coordinator for the district. Sarah is also a future ready schools instructional coaches advisor. Welcome to you both. We’re very happy to have you today. Also joining us in the studio is Mark Ray, Director of Innovation and Library Service for Vancouver Public Schools in Washington State. Mark is also a future ready schools librarian advisor. And finally, joining us via Skype from across the country are two of Mark’s colleagues from Vancouver Public Schools: Kelsey Aske, an instructional technology facilitator, and Traci Chun, a teacher-librarian. Welcome, Mark and Kelsey and Traci. Thank you for joining us remotely.
We’ve already received several questions from our panelists, and we’ll get to those shortly. If you have a question you’d like to ask, please use the box below this video window. Before we get into our discussion, you probably noticed that I referenced future ready schools when I was introducing Sarah and Mark. Future ready schools is an initiative of the Alliance for Excellent Education that provides school districts with resources and support to ensure that local technology and digital learning plans align with instructional best practices, are implemented by highly-trained teachers and leads to personalized learning experiences for all students, particularly those from traditionally underserved communities. Within future ready schools are five different programs that focus on school district leaders, school principals, tech leaders, instructional coaches and librarians. Earlier this afternoon, we held a webinar for district and school leaders that you can watch at DigitalLearningDay.org/DLDayLive.
During this webinar, we’ll focus on innovation and collaboration between librarians, instructional coaches and teachers. So let’s turn to our panel. Mark, why do future ready schools need future ready librarians, and what skills do they have?
Mark Ray: That’s a great question. I would say that future ready librarians are unique, like coaches, because they serve every student and every teacher in the school. So they – their responsibility goes beyond the classroom, and they work and collaborate really on a very broad basis. So like a principal, they really have that responsibility. My boss, Dr. Steve Webb, in Vancouver Public Schools uses the term ubiquitous leadership. In the future ready framework, we have the term collaborative leadership, and there’s just a recognition that coaches and librarians really have an opportunity to lead beyond the library or lead beyond their coaching role, not only at the building level, but also even at the district level or system level. I think librarians are really well-positioned from the skill set standpoint to look at 21st century literacies. In the new future ready librarians framework, we have the word literacy now in the middle of that framework, and those literacies include things like the ability to curate digital resources, digital citizenship and computational thinking are just some examples of some of those skills. And so I think that librarians are just in a great position because of their responsibility and because of that skill set to really articulate what future ready looks like in school.
Jason Amos: That’s great. Thank you, Mark. So, Sarah, instructional coaches. Kind of a similar question for you. What do instructional coaches bring to schools? What skills do they have?
Dr. Sarah Thomas: Well, I definitely wanna reiterate what Mark was saying and also what you were saying in the introduction about how we have the different stakeholders that all work together to drive education forward. So definitely a future ready coach would be someone who has a strong sense of collaboration and ability to work together. In addition, I would say that a self-directed learner makes the best type of future-ready coach. Someone who is hungry and curious to learn more about different things that are out there, also being forward-thinking, so in the know to anticipate what might be coming in the future. I would also say that future ready coaches, we are educators by nature, so one of the things that we do is we teach everyone. We teach students, we teach staff, and we’re trained in personalization and the ability to meet people where they are and give them what they need when they need it.
Jason Amos: That’s great. Thanks to you both, and we’ll be having more discussion on that in just a minute. But first, as part of its connection to Digital Learning Day, future ready schools ran a film festival competition asking schools, districts and educators to submit a very short two-minute video showcasing what they’re doing to be future ready. For our school category, I’m happy to say our winner is Burling Moran Elementary School in Charlottesville, Virginia. Here is their video.
[Video playing from 0:07:30 to 0:09:53]
Jason Amos: So great job. I know we had the Oscars just a few days ago, and I’m not sure if that video made it in time for consideration this year, but certainly I’d put it up against the competition next year. Tremendous job.
Mark Ray: Impressive special effects.
Jason Amos: Absolutely. So in that video, we saw a few educators working together on assessment data and changes in their lesson plans. I mentioned earlier that Digital Learning Day is about connecting, collaborating and learning from fellow educators. That’s a goal for Digital Learning Day, of course, but we wanna see it every day as well. So on that subject of collaboration, we have a question from Liza in Colorado. She asks how do I as a librarian help increase and support the collaborative culture in my building? How do I help my colleagues understand my support does not take away time but rather adds richness to their classes? So, Mark, I’d love to know what you’d say to Liza, and then, Traci, I’d love to get your perspective as well as a teacher-librarian.
Mark Ray: Yeah, this is actually another question I think where the librarians and the coaches probably have a similar answer. I think the advice – I do quite a bit of work with librarians, both in my district and around the United States, and this question comes up often. And it’s really this question of are you holding a hand out to ask for something or are you offering a hand to shake and an opportunity for collaboration? I think that’s really kind of a critical piece. I think a lot of us are really excited about digital tools and resources, and we tend to be advocates for it. So it’s like, oh, you’ve got to check out this new tool or this new resource or such. And I think what we need to do is kinda step back from that a little bit and listen to the needs of the teachers and the students and respond to that. And so I think about, you know, in a hotel, you have concierges, and I think in many ways, we need to be more like digital concierges where we respond to the needs of the people that come to us rather than necessarily being an advocate for it. And, Traci, you might have some other things to share on that.
Tracy Chun: I think too is don’t wait for people to come to you. I think you need to be able to meet them where they are, and sometimes it’s intimidating for a teacher who maybe is not very tech-savvy or is – doesn’t think they’re very innovative. Maybe they’re a little nervous to approach the coach or the librarian, and I think sometimes you have to go out to them and let them know that you don’t – you’re not judging them at all, you’re just trying to help them get those students where they need to be and provide engaging and awesome learning experiences for their students and you’re there to be their partner and to help guide them. But I think sometimes it means you have to go to them, and that’s the beauty of collaboration. If I collaborate or Kelsey collaborates, we collaborate with the teacher and we go in and the lesson bombs, we’re willing to take the hit and they get to keep their credibility with their students.
Jason Amos: That’s great. Kelsey or Sarah, anything else you’d like to add to that question?
Dr. Sarah Thomas: As far as collaboration goes, definitely recognizing the strengths that everyone brings with them and having them demonstrate that and incorporate that into the work that we do together so that everyone has their ownership into it. A lotta times we talk about student ownership and student agency, but the same goes for all of us as learners. So when we’re able to bring in our own piece that we can use to support one another, then that’s a win-win for everyone.
Mark Ray: I think raising that point about the students as well is I think we immediately think of coaching as being responsive to teacher needs or principal needs, and very often the needs are actually really at the student level, and so you really need to have your antenna up to kind of understand what those needs are and potentially do a little bit of advocacy on the part of the teacher and say, hey, kids really wanna do this, what’s a way that we can make that happen?
Jason Amos: That’s great. So just another side tangent real quick. Another category in our future ready schools film festival is innovative educator, and our winner comes from Lincoln Elementary School in Talladega, Alabama. Here’s their video.
[Video playing from 0:14:02 to 0:16:13]
Jason Amos: Another great job. This video’s a great inside look at how a library can really be converted into a maker space. So in our earlier Digital Learning Day webinar, we heard from Dr. Suzanne Lacey, Superintendent of Talladega County Schools, about how to add maker spaces and other technology on limited budgets. She gave the superintendent perspective. I’d also appreciate hearing from our panel for their perspectives, and so would Renee in Georgia. She asks, “What specific strategies do you recommend for libraries on a limited budget, particularly in small districts, to change the perception of just kind of being a library to one of being a media center or a learning commons?” Mark, let’s start with you, but I wanna open this up to our whole panel.
Mark Ray: I think Traci’s gonna have a great story to tell on that. I think one of the things, watching the video, there was – that was kind of a shaggadelic library. I mean, the carpeting was from a different era, and with all due respect to Talladega, my library was similarly somewhat dated. I didn’t see that library as being somehow special. It was really about a change of mindset, and I think that that really is one of the critical components is it doesn’t really cost that much money to change your mindset, your philosophy, the vibe of the library, and I think that that’s really a critical first step. My sense is, in that district, you have a librarian and librarians that say, hey, makers, I wanna make my space something where students don’t just consume things but create things. And from that, then, they were able to put some things in place. But I know for a fact that Traci did that transformation in her library at Skyview.
Tracy Chun: Yes, so we basically took an old computer lab that was no longer being used simply because we were fortunate enough to be in a district and a community that went to one-to-one devices. And so we had a computer lab that students weren’t really accessing anymore, and really had to think about how to make the space transition to a space where students could use it for all kinds of learning, not just physical resources anymore. So digital content, digital resources, but also how do we support that? And having my instructional coach partner with me and being right next to me has really helped kind of give a different lens into the space. Having Kelsey’s expertise from also being a classroom teacher and then moving into the instructional coach role, really kind of figuring out what are things we can introduce to the space and change the space so that students are supported in all kinds of learning, whether it be green screens or tripods or even things like taking out all your computers and just providing them a giant open space that they can use to collaborate.
Like Mark said, it really is about a mindset. I think we get so wrapped up into terminology like technology or making and maker spaces that we forget that it really is about – it’s just about a mindset. If you have a library and you are open and accepting and willing to support whatever it might be, whether it be a craft project, taking donated computers and letting students take them apart, if you’re doing things like that in your space you’re providing students, then your library really is transforming into a learning commons.
Jason Amos: Kelsey, anything you’d like to add?
Kelsey Aske: I think that Traci’s – like over the last couple years, she’s done a great job of just sort of like if you build it, they will come. She puts out a lot of different resources, like the green screens, the take-apart station, different craft materials, and it’s there for the students and they know it’s there and they come, they use it. And so, yeah, if you build it, they will come.
Jason Amos: And that’s in a high school where everybody’s too cool to be at school, and so I think you’ve done a really nice job, Traci, of kind of disrupting that attitude, and I know that you do after-school activities where they make wallets out of duct tape, and it just – I think there’s a perception that there’s a cost associated with maker spaces, and there are lots of shiny _____ things out there. There’s wonderful tools out there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that has to be where you start.
Tracy Chun: Right. Kelsey’s always talking about technology and about – that it’s – what is your saying?
Kelsey Aske: Oh, you don’t have to be techie to be innovative.
Tracy Chun: And so, for example, today in our library, we have students who are using tripods and Play-Doh that most of it got donated, to do – Kelsey went into the classroom and taught the teacher and the students how to use iMotion, and they’re doing a biology project creating iMotion movies showing what happens to a cell using Play-Doh and iMotion. So completely different way of showing student learning. Kids are engaged, they’re having fun, but they’re still meeting their standards and it’s very innovative and really low cost.
Kelsey Aske: Yeah, a lot of the materials that we’ve been able to use in the maker space have been donated. When the community knows that there’s a need for things, you know, lots of people have random things in their craft rooms that they love to donate to something like this, so it’s been a really cost-effective way to have those materials for the students.
Jason Amos: Great, and I think that’s a wonderful point at the end about donations. I mentioned earlier when we had Dr. Suzanne Lacey from Talladega on our earlier webinar and she had a similar question, and she talked a lot about partnerships, community partnerships. We have a question from Hal in Texas who asks, “Has anyone teamed up with community organizations?” So just think about that question for a minute and I’ll get back to what Suzanne was saying about, you know, thinking differently about how you approach how you serve your students, she talked about adding Wi-Fi to their school buses, which I think several other districts have done around the country, and, Mark, in just a minute, let me get you to tell your story about that. But the other thing that they’re doing that I had not heard of before is they were also putting a tutor on their bus and they were also providing snacks on their bus, and they were using the money that they would normally use for their after-school program on the school grounds in the school bus. So just an innovative way to think about community partnerships. She also talked about an organization in the community that served families and how she could reach out to them and have them kind of partner to support students after school.
Mark Ray: Yeah, I think parents are another really strong ally, not only for materials. You talked about – Traci and Kelsey talked a little bit about the donations, but you have a lot of parents, even at the high school level, that are willing to come in to the school and share their passion, their expertise, whether that’s sewing or carpentry or robotics. You know, I think that’s an overlooked collaboration, I guess, as we’re talking about collaboration, is ways in which we can connect those parents to the work and it’s not necessarily the scary math stuff or the scary science stuff that may be over their heads, but it’s hands-on activities that they can enjoy and you can kind of cross that bridge between being a parent and being someone that’s contributed to the school.
Jason Amos: Anything else anyone would like to add on the panel about outreach to community, community partnerships?
Dr. Lisa Spencer: One of our communities actually has their own maker space area where one of our former teachers is now running that program. So our students get a chance to actually go to that community outreach area where they’re actually delving deeply into doing a lot of the maker space activities, which is awesome.
Jason Amos: So we had a question – a similar question from Jean in Wisconsin. I think she was asking for suggestions on leading innovations in schools where the budget is slim or almost nonexistent as well. And I think we talked about a few of those. Is there any kind of non-library answers that you would add on for Jean? I think we covered library very well, but any kind of classroom or – Sarah, you’re nodding your head. Anything you’d like to offer?
Dr. Sarah Thomas: Well, sure. So one of my passion areas is digital equity. So when it comes to equity then, a lotta times we think of the devices, we think of the access. Another form of equity that often gets overlooked initially is the ability – or I’m sorry, the access to transformative learning opportunities. So that is something that we can model with our own lifelong learning, our own lifelong learning and we can help to deliver these high-quality professional learning experiences to our colleagues and to our peers. And there’s ways that we can do it for free. There’s ed camps, there’s social media, there’s webinars such as these, so there’s so many resources out there, so it’s really a very exciting time to be in education right now.
Jason Amos: And, Lisa, we were talking a little bit earlier about your mobile STEAM lab. Can you – I think this is a great point for you to just talk about that a little bit.
Dr. Lisa Spencer: I’d love to talk about it. Actually we have a bus, a former school bus, that we are working to transform that bus into a mobile STEAM lab. There’s a lot of school districts that actually have done this project before. The one thing that separates our project is that we are utilizing our students to actually transform this bus into a mobile STEAM lab. So the caveat for us is that we’re not just utilizing our students, but we’ve got a group of students in our school that’s actually an alternative high school, so our students who aren’t able to really succeed in a traditional high school but they’re in an alternative ed program, and these are our students who are actually utilizing their skills that they’re learning in the CTE program that they’re able to put to work and actually use that work time and, I mean, you go out there and you see them using the saw, you see them measuring the boards and then you see them put ’em down as they’re building a subflooring on the bus. So I am so excited about this bus. I can’t wait until we’re ready to roll it out. And the fact that our students who are actually working on it are also excited, they’re like here’s the board, I just measured it, and they’re putting it down, and yeah, it’s – it’ll be nice because we will also have the maker space activities. We’ve got a lot of buy-in from our vendors, who have donated our VR kit, so we have our Google expeditions that we have to set up. We’re partnering, of course, with our STEAM coordinator in the county as well as our CTE coordinator, who is assisting us in helping to map out a program that the bus will be able to service students from K-12. So it’s gonna be awesome.
Jason Amos: Kelsey, you mentioned just a minute ago of another kind of low-budget way to bring technology in the classroom from just Play-Doh and donations, as you mentioned. Is there anything else you’d like to call out?
Kelsey Aske: Yeah. I think another strategy, and sometimes we wanna pull in outside groups to do trainings for our teachers, but really a cost-effective way to train our teachers is to build teacher leaders within our schools and then they can train each other. So that’s something that we’ve been doing in our building for the last couple of years is building up teacher leaders and then giving them time after school about once a month where they can actually train each other. So – without having to go to an outside source to get that training for our teachers.
Jason Amos: Great. And, Mark, I saw you write a note about students as designers. Why don’t you elaborate?
Mark Ray: Lisa was talking about the student-designed maker bus, or the STEAM bus that you have, and I think that that’s really a critical component of what we’re doing in Vancouver and what I’m hearing as I talk with other districts is that shift from adults being in control to students being in control and having some really authentic ownership of the design and the building of these components. I think one of – that’s one of the transitions. I know that in the libraries across the United States, those have traditionally been places of consumption, and the video that we just saw where you saw the students doing all those amazing things in the elementary library, it’s a shift for those students being designers and creators, and I think that’s a really critical piece of this digital – kind of this – the Digital Learning Day I think needs to be about student creation.
Jason Amos: Absolutely. So, Lisa, Sarah, we heard just a little bit about your district. Now I wanna learn a little bit more about Prince George’s County Schools. I know you brought your own short video about Oxenhill High School there in the district, so let’s take a look at that now.
[Video playing from 0:30:07 to 0:31:51]
Jason Amos: So that’s a great behind-the-scenes look at the magic underwear at Oxenhill. That’s for sharing it. Lisa, we saw a lot of great technology in that video – 3-D printers and a robotics program. What would you say to educators watching who are interested in starting a similar program in their schools?
Dr. Lisa Spencer: I think that, aside from the mindset and just being open to what the possibilities are, funding would be an issue at some point, but if you have the motivation and you have the support of administrative staff and the teachers, the students are willing and already ready to receive these activities. So I would definitely advocate for perhaps grant funding, writing their own little grants or just going out for the vendors that you have access to in the community. I think that there are a lot of businesses around in the area that would be more than willing to support student learning. So I would say go start knocking on those doors and asking. It won’t hurt. All they can do is say no.
Jason Amos: And I know you get a lot of proposals from principals and others who are trying to get some more technology in their school or technology in their classroom. As you’re evaluating those, what are the things you look for where you’re like, okay, this is a great idea or maybe this needs a little bit of work?
Dr. Sarah Thomas: That’s a good question. Actually we just recently received a proposal from a school requesting to become one-to-one, and everyone wants to become one-to-one, and then when you ask them why, it’s like you can’t become one-to-one just for the sake of having a device. What are your plans to deal with it? So basically when I get the proposal, I wanna see exactly what’s the vision of the leadership there? What are they trying to do? What issues are they trying to solve and how is technology going to help them? If they can’t explain that to me, then automatically they’re not ready because technology is not – we don’t wanna give technology just for the sake of giving it, especially if you’re not gonna use it or not utilize it in an effective manner. We want our staff prepared and able to use the technology.
So I received a proposal from one of our middle schools, and I had a chance to go and walk – go to the school yesterday, as a matter of fact. I was pleasantly surprised – or I was just very pleased with what I saw from administrative staff down to their students. They were very ready. I was extremely pleased, and actually before leaving out, I actually said you’re on the list. But basically they were more than ready only because the principal had already laid the groundwork, the principal had already set the expectations, and everybody knew exactly what was expected of them. Everything was already in place, for the most part, and the teachers were ready. Principal’s more than open for the training that’s required and needed for the teachers to support them and using the technology in an effective manner so that our students are well able to use it in activities that are rigorous and challenging.
Actually one of the teachers who received a brand new smartboard actually had a creative way of using that tool where she was actually recording her entire lesson in the evenings and then she brings it back in and she presents that lesson on that board, but that lesson is basically her walking her students through the activities. The students are listening to her voice, they are seeing exactly what she is expecting them to be monitoring or looking at while the lesson is going on, and she’s walking around, she’s monitoring what they’re doing, and she’s able to see those students who need help, and students are able to say, hey, I’ve got a question or I need help here or whatever, but the fact that she was using it in a very unique manner and she said that the students were actually – she had noticed a progression of at least 40 percent growth in her students as well as the work that was being turned in significantly improve.
And one of the things that I asked her was why do you think that. And she was saying that she has a great relationship with her students. This is a seventh grade class, by the way. She has a great relationship with her students, and one of the things she had noticed was that her kids are always watching her, noticing everything, as all kids do, but she said that the one thing that she was able to take away is that the students are no longer watching her while she’s talking to her or telling them what she wants them to do, but they’re able to focus on the actual activity, and she’s able to walk around so that she’s not the sage on stage, so to speak, but the students hear her voice, they see what she’s expecting them to do, and she’s there to make sure they’re on task. And it was great. I mean, the kids were awesome. I mean, they were totally on task at all times, and this is a 72-minute period, and it was wonderful.
Jason Amos: That’s great. And it’s funny you talked about one-to-one _____ device, but in this situation, it’s the teacher getting the one-on-one time with the student and that personalization that she may not be able to deliver from the front of the classroom. So that’s – I think that’s just a tremendous use, and you know, at the Alliance for Excellent Education, future ready schools and Digital Learning Day, we always say you just can’t go out and just hand out devices. You just can’t go out and buy something without a plan for what your needs are, for how you’re gonna use it, for how you’re gonna bring your educators on board, and I think that’s just a perfect example. So thank you for sharing it.
Dr. Lisa Spencer: You’re welcome.
Jason Amos: So, Sarah, we have a question I think is really great for you, and certainly others should weigh in for well. Gina in Illinois asks, “As an instructional coach, how can I help teachers buy in to new ways of using technology to engage students?” I think a lot of times there might be some fear there around trying something new and what if it doesn’t work and you don’t have a librarian you can blame. What would you say to her?
Dr. Sarah Thomas: Right, well, Gina, thank you so much for the question, and that’s a great one because really the mindset is probably one of the most important things, to be open to trying these things for our students. So I just wanna piggyback on our friends in Vancouver, and I love the idea of building capacity within the staff. So educators leading sessions for one another when they learn something new, that is amazing because one of the things is that when you do that thing, then you leverage that beginner’s mindset. Like if someone were to explain something and they were very far removed, then you kinda have to make that conscious thought, oh, I need to make sure to cover this base, this base, this base and not take anything for granted that my learner may know. However, if I just learn something and I turn around and teach it to someone else, then you know, I’m thinking through the process and I’m remembering it as a beginner, so that’s one of the things.
So another thing would be modeling the way that you would want learning to take place in the classroom. So you would wanna have learner-paced professional learning opportunities, hands-on, authentic so that people would actually be able to say, okay, this is something I can see myself doing with my students. So maybe bringing in a piece of what the teacher hopes to accomplish and just modeling how that may look with the effective integration of technology.
And one more thing that I always, always, always preach is to leverage the power of social media. It’s been a huge game changer in my own life, in my own career, personally, professionally, and I’ve learned so much. And we have – you know, there’s face-to-face opportunities which are wonderful, but those come sporadically. When you have the access to Twitter, to Voxer, to Facebook, to Instagram, there’s so many communities of educators, and you get that like on demand. So when you need it, it’s right on time for you and you get to customize what you wanna learn about, so I would say those things.
Mark Ray: I know that there were several questions from small districts or rural districts, and I think that’s one way you can kind of overcome that isolation is the professional learning community is a really great asset because you are not isolated because of where you are. In Washington State, we have – the west coast is Seattle and these huge megacities, and then our east side of our state is very rural. And so that’s been one of the challenges in our state is just trying to how those individual districts that are on the east side are able to kind of keep up with the Redmonds and the Microsofts and so on. And the social media, really I think, and the professional learning network is really a critical component of that. I know, Traci, you – that’s how you got started with the maker spaces I think was largely through social media, wasn’t it?
Tracy Chun: Yes, and actually I was gonna add too, always ask your kids, going back to when we built our maker space, I had kind of a student committee of mostly boys at the time who were kind of guiding the space, and they’re the ones that said you really need a sewing machine. And I – do either of you know how to sew? And they said, nope, but you have to have one. They said somebody here is gonna want one. You need to have a sewing machine. And so listening to that student voice, and ask kids in terms of technology, what do they see coming, what do they see their future having, what are the skills that they need to learn and what do they – how do they wanna show you that they’ve learned it? I think sometimes we forget to ask those kids. They know. They know a lot more than we do.
Jason Amos: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. In our earlier webinar, our new president, Deb Delisle, was talking about how when she was I think visiting a district, they had your tech team, and it’s a group of teachers, but in this school, they actually had a rule that you had to have a student on the tech team as well. And the students who are on the tech team were a lot of the times the students who were getting sent to the principal’s office, who were getting in trouble, and they were getting on these tech teams and they were finding themselves engaged and they were getting to school early and pulling out laptops and engaging with teachers and their peers and just completely changed the lives of these students. So I think that’s a great point, the student voice, checking with your students. Certainly the things that kids can do with technology today, they’re more early adapters than we are, so they’re, I think, a great resource. Lisa, anything else that you would like to add?
Dr. Lisa Spencer: Yes, definitely. Speaking of a student as a resource, we have – we started our Gen Yes program this year, which is actually where our teachers are working with our students and training them to become our student technology leaders. So they will be the ones, or they’re going to be the ones who are actually supporting not only our teachers but also working with their peers, being able to mentor them and helping them with their technology use. So that’s definitely another way of utilizing students and listening to what they have to say and empowering them. Because I think that it’s extremely valuable for us to do that, but I’d like Sarah to tell a little bit about our _____ that we did with our students. I think that giving students a chance to voice and share what they’re thinking is extremely powerful.
Dr. Sarah Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. So digital citizenship is definitely something that we are supporting in our district, and there was a digital citizenship summit that we did last February, I wanna say. It was almost a year ago. And so originally it was gonna be a summit for educators. So we had – we partnered with the Dig Cit Institute and Mary Alice Kern came, and she was gonna do a workshop for the teachers in our district. However, we had one too many snow days and that day got taken away from us. However, it was kinda serendipity that we were able to pivot, and it became a student event. So part of that was a student panel, and that was actually the plan from the beginning to have our student panel in there as well, but they shared so many amazing takeaways, so many amazing insights, and just hearing their perspective, hearing their voice, it was such a powerful, powerful moment.
Jason Amos: So what kind of reaction did you get from the students?
Dr. Sarah Thomas: They were very excited about it. There was one young lady who came up to a member of our team who said that she wanted to actually do something like this for her middle school. She was a ninth grader, so she wanted to put that into effect for her previous middle school.
Jason Amos: So we have a few more questions coming in from viewers that I wanna get to. Remember, if you have a question for our panelists, you can ask it in the box below this video window. So this question comes in from Christine in North Carolina. So we focused a lot on, I think, you know, school solutions. She wants to know if you have any instructional technology facilitators that are involved in leading innovation in the district as well.
Dr. Lisa Spencer: Actually, yes, we do. I’m fortunate enough as instructional technology leader or director in the district, I’m fortunate to have a training team, which I know that a large number of school districts do not. I have instructional technology specialists who are responsible for servicing their school. So we offer technology training sessions, but we also provide the support, so our trainers are able to go into the schools and work with the teachers, and for those teachers who are willing, even working with doing co-teaching lessons. So if we have teachers who are at varying skill levels of technology usage, so for those novice teachers, those teachers are a little anxious about using technology and having it fail on ’em and having someone there to fall back on and know that if the technology doesn’t work properly, you don’t have that student technology leader, perhaps you have your technology trainer who’s available to support you in that technology use and even assisting you with developing a lesson where you’re truly utilizing the technology and it’s thoroughly integrated throughout your curriculum while you’re delivering your instruction to the students. But we had those – I’m fortunate in having that, so I am very thankful for Sarah as well as my rest of the team.
Dr. Sarah Thomas: Thank you, and I’m thankful to be on the team and to –
Jason Amos: We’re all thankful.
Dr. Sarah Thomas: Yeah, to work with such amazing people who have played such a huge role in my own journey as an educator. And the question about innovation in the district, there’s several initiatives that have come from the team. One of them that I’ll talk about is a Google boot camp. So in our district, we do a Google-certified educator boot camp for Level 1 and Level 2 just to kind of prepare people in the district to take the test, but I wanna say probably the strongest piece of that is the community aspect because there are some people who come in and just out of the gate they’re just – their skills are very high. And we ask them sometimes, you know, what are you getting out of this, and they say the community aspect. So learning communally with other educators in the district, so we’re actually gonna be doing a session at ISTI about that, about making PD go viral. So that’s one of the things.
And I also wanna say that we collaborate with other stakeholders in our district. So for example, we’ve been talking a lot about maker spaces and our creative arts – Barbara Leedahl on the creative arts team was talking about the maker movement that was gaining momentum and how beneficial it’s been for our educators and for our students. In addition, the student film festival showcases work created by the students and is actually shown to industry professionals so they get feedback not only from their peers but also from industry professionals. And with our library media specialist, then, she also spoke a lot about digital citizenship and rolling out curriculum, a scope and sequence to just – to have increasing depth and complexity to demonstrate that. And so she – in doing that, she collaborated with Baltimore Public School system and she was able to develop that scope and sequence. So working with all of our stakeholders in our district together just to – once again to drive the learning forward for our students.
Dr. Lisa Spencer: And, Jason, I’d be amiss to not bring up our – since we’re here for Digital Learning Day, we also kinda joined forces with our Digital Learning Day and Read Across America, and one of the events that we’re working – my team – the team is working very hard at right now that I’m very proud of is our Stream Across the District. So instead of the Read Across America, it’s basically a streaming across the district. So we actually have our central office readers or just other people who are actually coming in to read for us and read for our students. We’ve actually recorded the reading and streamed it across throughout the district via Google Hangout. And my team has actually, based on the book, developed technology –rich lessons where teachers, grade level appropriate, can select the activities and actually implement the activity after watching the reading that’s being streamed across the network. So I’m extremely proud of that event. I think that it has evolved and it continues to evolve where we start at first using the polycoms and just one classroom reading to another classroom. We now have it so that we actually have local writers, or local authors who have come in to read for us as well as some quasi-famous people who have come in to read, and we’ve streamed the book reading across the network and our CEL, of course.
Jason Amos: That’s great. I hope you put it on the Digital Learning Day map of events. If you haven’t.
Dr. Lisa Spencer: I’m sure we will.
Jason Amos: Future ready librarians, steal that idea. That’s a million-dollar idea. Traci, I wanna go back to you just for a second. We were talking before the webinar, and this team approach got me to thinking about kind of the future ready schools team approach, and that’s something you talked about before the webinar. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
Tracy Chun: Yes, so in our school, and really in our district, we really have kind of a team approach. So in our building, we talk about having a teach team. We have a similar setup where it’s a principal, instructional coach – Kelsey – and myself with some other teachers and tech support. But really we call it a team approach to future ready, and it just depends on – we did a whole presentation earlier on it. It’s like it’s a train and, depending on what – we’re trying to always keep that train moving towards getting our students future ready, and it depends on what situation and what initiative we’re working on. It depends on who’s driving the train. And sometimes _____, you know, based on when it’s required that it’s the leader of the building saying, hey, we’re moving forward, we’re doing this. Sometimes it’s Kelsey who’s driving the train and she’s leading PD at a staff meeting where she’s organizing something that’s amazing, and so sometimes it’s me, depending on the topic. So it really takes a team, but what’s great is, in a building – we’re in a comprehensive high school of about 2,000 students. What’s great is by knowing that it’s a team that they can – anyone on our staff or our students, they know that they can approach any of us with a topic of technology or innovation, and maybe they’ve seen Kelsey in action, maybe they’ve seen me or maybe they have a relationship with the principal. Knowing that we’re a team and we work together, they can go to anybody with an idea or a question or a problem and they know that we’re gonna work together to solve it. I think it’s really empowered our staff. I think it really has given them – having the leadership permission to fail, permission to try new things, permission to innovate.
And going back to kind of that district leadership, I am really fortunate in that I have Kelsey. Most of the time, we have here in building, but she also is doing some work at the district level. We had a – we create – it’s an hour of creation where elementary school students had an opportunity that they have – her team, as district instructional coaches, they have taken the idea and made it a whole day. So do you wanna share just a brief little thing about day of creation?
Kelsey Aske: Sure, yeah. So we have a – we’re fortunate enough right now to have a team of about 15 ed tech coaches that provide in-building support but also PD at a district level. So this year we started a new collaborative effort with the librarians and teachers where we sort of take over a school, an elementary school for a whole day and every classroom gets a lesson during the day from our ed tech coaches. We call ’em instructional technology facilitators. And they deliver lessons that integrate technology, creativity, literacy and social-emotional learning all intertwined. And the ed tech coaches deliver the lessons and the teachers get to watch. And then at the end of the day, there’s some PD around that where the teachers get to reflect on how the lessons went and kinda talk about next steps, how they would continue to do things like that in their classrooms, so that’s something that we’ve been doing this year that’s been going well and there’s a lot of enthusiasm around that.
Mark Ray: And I remember hearing some feedback from the teachers. They were surprised at, oh, so you can teach. I mean, they were just – it was kinda crazy. It’s like of course we’re teachers, but I think that’s one of the things that often coaches and librarians feel that kind of they don’t get cred for being teachers, and I think that’s something that just needs to be reinforced is, you know, you have those conversations with your staff. These people are great teachers and they’re also great librarians and great coaches.
Jason Amos: Yeah, that’s a great point. So I’m afraid we’re nearing the end of our time. I wanna invite each of our panelists to offer a closing thought. Is there anything that we didn’t get to in our conversation today that you wanna make sure you cover with our viewers? So we’ll go here, three on set, and then we’ll go to our two friends in Vancouver. So, Mark, why don’t you kick us off?
Mark Ray: I think the thing that I keep hearing is you can’t do it alone. Collaboration is about working, that a lot of us as educators are used to being the one that has to be responsible for the classroom. And as leaders, librarians and coaches, the only way that you’re gonna be successful is to create partnerships. So working with a coach in your classroom, working with teachers, but we also, in our conversation, talked about kids being a really critical partner as well as parents. And so I think when we think about doing any of this digital learning innovation is that you can’t go it alone.
Jason Amos: And just one more thing, Mark, you mentioned earlier about kind of leaders in plain sight. Can you talk just a little bit more about what you _____?
Mark Ray: Yeah, well, I think in our district, I’m really proud. Our superintendent, Steve Webb, another name drop there for him –
Jason Amos: He better be watching.
Mark Ray: He better be watching. Anyway, he identified librarians very early on as being really critical people to move future ready forward in our district. The instructional coaches, the ITFs, have also been a really critical piece of that. And you know, he has this concept of ubiquitous leadership is that there are leaders hiding in plain sight, and the only way that you can do future ready in a school, it’s a team effort and you have to really leverage leadership in some different places. And so librarians and coaches are very logical people to do that work.
Male 4: Yes, and just piggybacking on what Mark just said, leaders – we’re all leaders, and I think that as long as we’re viewing each other as leaders, even our students – especially our students – I think that will have more success in terms of implementing technology throughout instruction. And I think that when we empower others, then it only enhances what we’re trying to do. So as a technology leader in our district, I want more and more technology leaders because I don’t want everyone looking to me. I wanna be able to look to you and everybody else because I think that that’s where the power is. It’s when everyone is involved, collaborating towards that one goal, we’ll find success.
Dr. Sarah Thomas: Absolutely, and I would also second everything that everyone has said and jump in and also say helping to cultivate that student agency is key. Generation Z, we have a powerful group of students on our hands right now, and just the change that they have already made when they get just a little bit of support and a lot of room to pursue their dreams and their goals. I’m thoroughly impressed every time I see a young person stepping up and taking control of his or her destiny. So a couple of ideas to just kinda throw out there for any viewers are student-run ed camps might be a good thing to look into, or student-educator ed camp collaborations. So definitely co-learning with our students and having them lead the way.
Tracy Chun: I would just add for librarians and for coaches too is that really create a space that is for students and for what they need, not necessarily what is best and most convenient for us. And I think one way to do that is by actually using an instructional coach. I’m fortunate, like I said, that Kelsey sits right next to me, but invite somebody into your space to have a look at your program and provide you with some honest feedback. What do they see when they come into your library? Sometimes it’s hard to hear, but it can really impact your program and make changes for the better for your students.
Kelsey Aske: And I would just kind of echo the team theme. If you don’t have a designated team for tech or innovation set up in your school, I would do that. Set aside time when you’re actually going to meet and work together. And then as a team, make sure that you’re just always modeling resiliency, I think when it comes to technology, because I think with innovation there’s always gonna be bumps. And if the coach, the librarian and the principal are modeling, that’s normal and it’s okay and things are gonna be rocky sometimes when you’re trying something new. Innovation is about trying new things, and it’s not always gonna be perfect the first time. It’s probably not going to be perfect the first time. So as coaches and leaders, if we can model that resiliency and just show that it’s okay, that things aren’t always gonna go right the first time, try something new, that just kind of trickles all the way down to the teachers and to the students, and I think just helps to create that culture in your building that it’s okay to try new things and it doesn’t have to go perfect at the start and you can just keep going, even when things are a little bumpy.
Jason Amos: That’s wonderful. Thank you, all, for those parting words, and thank you to our audience as well for joining us. If you missed any of today’s webinar or a webinar from earlier in the day for school district leaders and school leaders, visit DigitalLearningDay.org/DLDayLive. Before we go, remember to tag @OfficalDLDay in your Digital Learning Day tweets, and add your Digital Learning Day activities to our Digital Learning Day map at DigitalLearningDay.org/map. We have over 2,000 events around the country. Take some time, explore the map, there are a lot of really great ideas. Get on Twitter, search for the Digital Learning Day hashtag, #DLDay. There’s a lotta really great ideas out there, and we talked earlier about the power of social media and just the ability to connect with people. So there’s a wonderful world of educators out there sharing ideas and looking forward to connecting with you. So thanks again for watching. Have a happy Digital Learning Day, and thank you for everything that you’ve done out there to make today such a great day for educators, and especially for students. Thank you.
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