“Why did you ever want to leave being the school librarian? It has to be one of the best jobs!”
I’m used to hearing some sort of iteration of the above question or statement regularly from my colleagues, family, and friends. After 10 years as a school librarian in a variety of settings, I had the opportunity to take on a leadership role in my current school district as a Technology Integration Specialist. Our district was about to go 1:1 with Chromebooks at the middle level and I would be working with teachers to help them implement technology and teaching strategies in their classrooms in a way that transformed their instruction and their students’ learning.
But wait, wasn’t I already doing this as a school librarian?
The short answer is yes. I was helping teachers use different technological tools, websites, and apps to assist them with their classroom projects. But I was also managing a school library program. I had to handle the budget, collection development, scheduling, readers’ advisory, information literacy instruction, and a host of other assignments school librarians take on. The idea of focusing solely on coaching the adults in my building with their teaching and learning while having a seat at the leadership table was enticing. Not only would I be a voice for my teachers, but I could also advocate for our school library programs in a time where so many districts were deciding to eliminate the role.
As a school librarian, I was often the de facto technology specialist in the building so I was already used to helping my colleagues by suggesting new apps and tools or by showing them how to navigate these resources. I already had the knowledge of many educational apps and tech tools along with the experience of working with adults, but what I was missing was expertise in designing and providing meaningful professional development. Lucky for me, I was slated to attend the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy the summer before my new position began. Here I would have the opportunity to connect with a variety of educators from around the country; many of them in an instructional coaching role similar to mine.
During the Institute, I attended a variety of workshops on best practices in delivering professional development and designed an inquiry project which included professional development opportunities for teachers. This experience and guidance gave me the confidence to start my new position with structure and purpose. Being able to ask questions of my peers and the Institute facilitators while having them share their knowledge and experience was incredible preparation for transitioning to this instructional coaching role. At the end of the Institute, I felt rejuvenated and ready to be a Technology Integration Specialist.
Now, as I am midway through my third year as a Technology Integration Specialist, I am still learning every day. I am endlessly learning about new tech via apps, tools, and sites. I am continuously learning about how to navigate the waters between being a teacher and an administrator. I am perpetually advocating for school library programs and all other digital literacy instructional opportunities in my district. I am helping my colleagues on a daily basis transform their teaching into something new and different and exciting. The URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy strengthened my skill-set to prepare me for my new role in adult education and professional development. I recognize that I am fortunate to have a voice at the leadership table and it’s my responsibility to speak up and keep educating myself, my colleagues, and my administration about the importance of digital literacy.
Carrie Kelly is the Technology Integration Specialist at Winman Middle School in Warwick, RI, working with teachers to strengthen their instruction by implementing technology in the classroom. Carrie is a member of the district teaching and learning team, curriculum writing team, and serves as her school’s state testing coordinator. Carrie teaches at the University of Rhode Island and was previously a school library media specialist in elementary, middle, and high school settings. Carrie graduated from Rhode Island College with a BA in History, the University of Rhode Island with an MA in Library and Information Studies, and from Providence College with an MEd in Literacy.