If you had asked me at the beginning of my graduate program what my end goal was in terms of a library job, I would not have known to list Technology Integrator at a Middle School. However, upon getting a part-time library job at an independent school in Brooklyn that eventually turned into a full-time opportunity, that is the role I ended up in. As I prepare to start my third school year in this position – with a pandemic and pivot into full-time remote learning facilitation in the middle – I am now so immersed in EdTech tools, hybrid learning, and device troubleshooting that I have acquired an entirely new language and skillset that many may not even associate with a library degree.
Of course, the reality is that most school librarians at this point have added a menu of digital skill integration (from basic digital citizenship lessons to media literacy) into their job descriptions. I am fortunate to work in a school that values technology as an integral part of 21st century education, and that provides a platform for meaningful tech integration in the classroom – to the extent that they employ not just a school librarian, but also someone in my position of “Technology Integrator.” We even have a required class for all grade levels called Digital Essentials, with an intentional scaffolded curriculum that includes such aspects as basic email etiquette (5th grade), coding (6th grade), research skills (7th grade), project-based tech skills (8th grade), and much more. I’ve talked to more than one school librarian who is envious of this provided teaching space!
Beyond Digital Essentials, which I currently teach for the 5th and 8th grade, and the 1-on-1 tech support I provide for the student body, the thing I love most is developing curriculum, and in some cases even co-teaching in the classroom when there is a heavier tech component involved. For example, last school year I integrated Google Slides best practices into the 5th grade solar system unit; helped make 6th grade “Reading Bingo” work over Zoom; shared podcasting resources with 7th grade Humanities teachers; and taught 8th graders the 3D modeling program SketchUp as part of their engineering unit, as well as the design program Canva for climate change infographics. All of these projects came from a need for creativity due to an often complex hybrid learning environment, but I am excited to carry the collaborative spirit into what we all hope will be more “normal” school years to come. The ability to place intention behind which tech tools are being used, and how they are taught (in each case, these all became instances of practical, project-based learning) has provided a versatile model for collaboration.
Rather than separate myself from what one traditionally thinks of as a school librarian, I now consider my role as a bridge that connects the library and technology. I value working in a team with our excellent Middle School Librarian, and the Director of Educational Technology – two people I work daily with on both student, and faculty development. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that my desk (known as the “Knowledge Bar”) is physically located in the library – something that not only helps students see me in a crossover role, but also allows me to escape tech every so often and bury my nose in a book.
Manuela Aronofsky a member of the ALSC Children and Technology Committee, and she is the Middle School Technology Integrator at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, NY. Beyond her job, her library interests include: expanding inclusivity and cultural competency in the school library environment, coordinating volunteer work with the Prison Library Support Network, and teaching the act of reading as a community-building experience.
Thanks for sharing about your experience becoming a tech expert in your school! I am currently taking classes to become a school librarian and the idea of becoming the de facto tech leader in schools in daunting! I like the idea of designing a “Digital Essentials” program for my school and wonder if you would be willing to share in more details about that program and what skills are considered essential.
I really appreciated how you shared some examples of how you seamlessly integrated technology to support specific learning outcomes and offered some flexible options for staff to integrate tech into their units.