Many teacher librarians find ways to provide leadership through their teaching, programs, and facilities. As the recent Pennsylvania study confirmed, effective school library programs positively impact student learning. While library leadership is essential, it may not be enough. We must think bigger. As information professionals, we have the expertise, connections, and skills to extend our leadership beyond libraries and make ourselves invaluable to principals, district administrators, and other decision makers. We can help plan, articulate, and implement major programs that will define schools in the future. In this new column, which will appear six times a year, I’ll identify pivot points—opportunities for librarians to leverage our profession’s strengths to lead, teach, and offer support.
The Pivot: BYOD
Until recently, most schools didn’t allow students to use their own technology devices in the classroom. Despite students’ use of mobile devices elsewhere, many districts impose strict policies that force children to power down as they enter the classroom. Enter BYOD. Bring Your Own Device programs offer students and teachers access to the Internet and the permission to use those devices in the classroom. Some districts see BYOD as a strategy to fill technology gaps, while others see it as a way to better prepare students for college, careers, and life. Unlike 1:1 programs, BYOD classrooms include anything from smartphones to laptops. BYOD is about flexibility with students working and learning in a variety of ways—not unlike a high-functioning library.
Digital citizenship. Personal devices require personal responsibility in the form of digital citizenship. With the flip of a switch, schools can shift from aging computer labs and a “no cell phone” policy to students and teachers using almost any device at school. While teachers retain the ability to define when those devices can be used, the need for students to understand appropriate uses of technology is suddenly everyone’s business. Many teacher librarians have long promoted digital literacy, responsibility, and citizenship, often to the bemusement of other teachers. As personal devices come to school, teacher librarians can parlay this experience into an opportunity to collaborate with teachers, helping to solve a new challenge that all educators must confront. Whether integrated into library instruction or articulated with classroom content, expertise in digital citizenship becomes a vital asset in Bring Your Own Device schools.
Leadership. Teacher librarians can inform and guide decision making whether a district is considering BYOD or is well on its way to implementing a BYOD program. As digital citizenship connects teacher librarians with teachers, it offers a similar opportunity to connect with IT, curriculum, and other departments. BYOD requires districts to shift thinking about teaching and operations. Teacher librarians can locate and curate best practices, ideas, and resources for the benefit of both district leadership and teachers. When administrators seek out other districts to inform decision making, teacher librarians can tap into librarian networks to connect with kindred districts. Teacher librarians can also help review or develop digital citizenship materials, curriculums, or communications connected to the implementation.
Test beds. Finally, school libraries can serve as test beds to explore the use of personal devices in schools, offering administrators, teachers, and the public a safe way to examine a BYOD program. By providing proof of concept, a successful BYOD pilot in a school library might lead to a broader implementation. Overnight, your library can become the focus of the school and district, representing forward thinking and innovation.
Great school libraries have always been about providing access to both technology and resources to create a learning commons. BYOD extends this ethos to the entire school. As others follow our lead, teacher librarians can play a valuable role, supporting educators for whom this brave new world represents change and uncertainty. We know change and uncertainty. And we know digital citizenship, digital literacy, and educational technology. BYOD offers teacher librarians a choice: Do we step in to lead, teach, and support learning? Or do we leave our patrons to their own devices?
Mark Ray (Mark.Ray@vansd.org) is the manager of instructional technology and library services at the Vancouver (WA) Public Schools.