“Creating a Culture and Conditions for Innovation and Change” in Professional Learning

ISTE Coaching Standard 4 provides three benchmarks for technology coaches to conduct needs assessments, develop technology-related professional learning programs and evaluate the impact on instructional practice and student learning. My focus is on performance indicator b: Design, develop and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning and assessment.

My Question

How can we assist administrators in “creating a culture and conditions for innovation and change” in professional learning to support technology-based learning initiatives (U.S. Department of Education, 2017)?

My Resolution

For this module, I investigated my question through the lens of the role I will be seeking to play in my next work environment: a teacher-librarian with a technology leadership role. I’m going to extrapolate that the relationship between a school’s principal and [insert title of any teacher leader] is the foundation for “creating a culture and conditions for innovation and change” in professional learning to support technology-based learning initiatives (U.S. Department of Education, 2017).

Principals and librarians already have a few things in common: often, they are both the only person in their role at a school; and they are both responsible for learning outcomes for all of the students at the school (assuming the librarian plays a teaching role). A big difference is that while the school principal is decidedly seen as “administration,” which in some cases is served with allusions to “the dark side,” the school librarian is viewed as a member of the faculty (“one of us” to teachers). As such, the librarian is in a unique position to bridge the divide that sometimes gets in the way of building the trust necessary to “creating a culture and conditions for innovation and change” in professional learning (U.S. Department of Education, 2017).

Mark Ray, a librarian-turned-administrator in Vancouver, WA, public schools, advises librarians: “Seek out win-win opportunities. Identify what keeps principals up at night and then offer to help. Right now, three big trains are barreling down the tracks—Common Core, new teacher and principal evaluation systems, and 21st-century student skills. In addition to running a school, principals are accountable for these vaguely defined and game-changing reforms. Choose one, learn as much as you can about it, and then offer to help your boss. Join them on district or regional teams. Offer to provide leadership in your building. You’re likely to be surprised at just how enthusiastically they say yes” (2013).

The school library should serve as a hub for 21st century learning, where librarians, teachers and students meet to create a dynamic learning environment. Mary Alice Anderson advocates for creating “a welcoming environment” that “makes the media center a place [teachers] and students want to be” (2011). The library’s reach should extend into the classrooms where librarians co-plan and co-teach with classroom teachers in order to achieve positive student outcomes in 21st century skills, increase standardized test scores, and work toward digital and intellectual equity. The library program goals will be aligned to whole-school curriculum and strategic plan goals for literacy in all academic areas. Librarian Bekci Kelly writes, “By harnessing the power of our Professional Learning Network, and looking for ways to build community within our building, the library becomes the hub and the librarian becomes the heart of the building.  Your administration will take note and will come to rely on you for your ability to be a unifying force with students and staff – take advantage of this role” (2013)! Principal Todd Samuelson describes how the librarian at his school transformed the school library into a “learning commons” where all members of the school community come together to learn and collaborate. Samuelson reports, “The LC [Library Learning Commons] is a place to collaborate. The space has specifically designed areas for this purpose and is utilized by students, classrooms, teachers, professional learning communities and a variety of committees and departments. The one time computer lab and librarian office has been transformed into technology rich learning and collaboration spaces (2015).”

Photo of spumoni-flavored ice cream, which is layers of different fruit flavored ice creams with candied fruits (cherry, pistachio, vanilla and chocolate are popular flavors)

Spumoni-flavored Ice Cream (CC0 1.0 Universal)

David Loertscher compares the possible leadership role of the teacher-librarian to “spumoni-flavored” ice cream, “The spumoni-flavored school library program is headed by a learning leader known throughout the school as a learning expert in the information- and technology-rich world. Teachers realize that every time they create and teach a collaborative learning unit with a teacher-librarian, a higher percentage of learners succeed. The smart teachers get on the teacher-librarian’s calendar” (Loertscher 2006). Anderson advises librarians to “Support technology initiatives throughout the school and empower others by being the “go to” person when teachers have questions about technology or need ideas for a new way to use technology. Understand district and school technology plans and policies. Participate in technology decisions made in the school and district” (2011). Doug Johnson illustrates the importance of the teacher-librarian’s role in professional development, especially for educational technology in his article, “The Why, What, How and WHO of Staff Development in Technology: The Growing Importance of Teacher-Librarian’s Role in Helping Create Technology-Savvy Educators” (2007).

In order to assist my school principal in “creating a culture and conditions for innovation and change” in professional learning to support technology-based learning initiatives (U.S. Department of Education, 2017), I will engage in the following activities:

  • Maintain a library blog and Twitter account
    • Posts targeted to administrators, teachers, students, and parents
    • Highlight school library program & technology initiatives
    • Provide resources that support school technology initiatives
  • Monthly “Tech Tidbits & Book Bytes” infographic
    • Promote new books & technologies
  • One morning/week: Info Lit/Tech Coffee
    • F2F connection with teachers builds trust
    • Provide “just-in-time” resources
    • Provides continued support lifeline for long-term goals
  • One afternoon/week: Info Lit/Tech Lunch
    • F2F connection with teachers builds trust
    • Provide “just-in-time” resources
    • Provide continued support lifeline for long-term goals
  • As often as possible Info Lit/Tech PD
    • Introduce and provide continued support for long-term technology initiative goals
    • Showcase librarian-teacher collaborations
  • Digital Education Program Leadership
    • Develop and implement cohesive school program
  • Digital Citizenship Program Leadership
    • Curriculum adoption and integration
  • Computer Science Program Leadership
    • Curriculum adoption and integration (new standards for WA State!!!)

Works Cited

  1. Anderson, M. A. (2011). Every day best practices. Library Media Connection, (November), 49-50.
  2. Johnson, D. (2007, July 16). Why, what, how and who of staff development. Retrieved from http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/why-what-how-and-who-of-staff-development.html
  3. Kelly, B. (2013). Developing a strong librarian-administrator relationship. Retrieved from http://www.psla.org/blog/developing-a-strong-librarian-administrator-relationship/
  4. Loertscher, D. (2006). What flavor is your school library? The teacher-librarian as learning leader. Teacher Librarian, 34(2). Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=eebe76f9-27a2-433f-a078-2eb54c0a8148%40sessionmgr120&vid=10&hid=124&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwJnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=23396512&db=a9
  5. Samuelson, T. (2015). The teacher-librarian/administrator relationship. Retrieved from http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/11623
  6. Ray, M. (2013). Making the principal connection. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2013/01/opinion/the-same-difference-mark-ray-asserts-that-principals-and-librarians-have-a-lot-more-in-common-than-you-might-think-and-he-should-know/
  7. Howard, J.K. (2010). The Relationship between school culture and the school library program: four case studies. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol13/SLR_RelationshipBetween.pdf

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