February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

ISTE Honors School Librarians as Tech Leaders


Cathy Knutson

Two librarians earned a nod from their peers as tech trailblazers in their schools—winning recognition from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) members as part of its 2015 Professional Learning Network (PLN) Award Honorees.

“The library media specialist role is so far beyond how we used to think of librarians,” says Jessica Medaille, ISTE’s chief membership officer, based in Eugene, OR. “They’re helping their students and teachers understand how to collaborate by providing a learning experience with technology.”

Cathy Knutson, media specialist at Oak Hills Elementary School in Lakeville, MN, won the Librarians Network Primary Award, with Diana Rendina, media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL, taking the Librarians Network Secondary Award. Both were selected by fellow librarians.

“ISTE has been a game-changer for me professionally,” says Rendina, who is in her fifth year at the school as a media specialist. “I’ve met other librarians and connected with great people and been inspired by them.”


Diana Rendina

Knutson and Rendina were among 11 honorees ISTE recognized from its PLNs. The educational non-profit also awarded an honor for an outstanding research paper, “Infusing Educational Technologies in a Teaching Methods Courses: Successes and Dilemmas,” which ISTE says has the ability to reshape teacher learning.

For the Library PLN category, both public and private school librarians were invited to submit applications. Each was asked to submit details on how they had encouraged a collaborative technology project with students, influencing teachers and learning while serving as tech leaders in their schools.

According to Medaille, Knutson stood out to judges for her ability to build connections between the school and her district, increasing her own tech and social media skills and then teaching them to her colleagues. Rendina had embraced both STEM and STEAM, notes Medaille, reaching students through projects ranging from a catapult building competition to working with Arduino and using Google Hangouts with her students, allowing them to show each other their work.

“They really enjoyed that part,” says Redina. “They shared their projects with kids that, otherwise, they would never have met.”

This was the first year the Learning Networks organized its own awards, and members looked for “excellence in innovation for their peers,” says Medaille. ISTE’s Librarian’s Network has 2,400 members, making it one of the largest of its more than 25 Learning Networks, she says. An extremely active group, Medaille says they host webinars and Twitter chats and will be hosting a digital library playground at ISTE’s annual conference in Philadelphia, PA, June 28 to July 1. Both Rendina and Knutson will be recognized at ISTE, and their tools and processes shared.

“A lot of the emphasis was finding those who were doing the most amazing stuff and leverage that knowledge,” says Medaille. “This is real peer to peer recognition.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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  1. Congratulations for providing the much needed leadership in relation to technological solutions in schools. High techn leaders is what the learning institutions and schools need.

  2. Pete Moran says:

    Tech teacher just moved over to include library media specialist. Looking for advice and help for the 2015-16 school year. This group sounds great.