I’ve long believed that staff development is an important role for media specialists. Technology staff development isn’t receiving the attention it once did in professional journals or at professional conferences, but the need hasn’t gone away; it has simply shifted along with technology and our roles. Staff development continues to be an important role for us because, as an Illinois language arts teacher explained, "not all teachers are on board with technology." She added that, to such teachers, "incorporating technology into instruction is someone else’s job, and the skills are either not taught or [are] fragmented." Teachers are also now expected to use instructional management tools in more ways, such as understanding student assessment scores. Quite often if media specialists don’t assume a leadership role in providing technology staff development, it simply doesn’t get done.
Each August I am privileged to be able to facilitate a media center and technology session for new teachers; the 90-minute session is tucked in a weeklong orientation session. It’s a part of orientation they look forward to. They have many questions and often arrive early to start asking. My goal is for the attendees to have time to explore media center information technology resources and learn what our school media programs offer. I typically find there are other questions and needs at the top of their lists, among them reading assessment software, saving to the server, and placing content on the website.
A misperception is that the new staff will be tech savvy and won’t need much tech training; this has been far from true. The highly skilled young teacher may not know your district’s email system; he or she will not be familiar with your student management system, or other software unique to your district. My most recent experience was also a reminder that not all new teachers are digital natives; one new teacher (returning to work after years away from education) had no keyboarding skills, and much of the technology terminology I used was unfamiliar to her.
With a shortage of teachers and an abundance of teacher retirements anticipated, we are likely to see older adults alongside younger ones entering our schools as new teachers. A teacher transferred from another district chose to spend her free time the first few weeks of school in the media center because she knew there was someone there who would help her. Our August new-teacher orientation is not in-depth enough, but it’s a start, a catalyst for future collaborations, and more than some districts offer. At least two media specialist/classroom teacher collaborations grew out of that brief session and led to several sessions to help teachers learn how to place content on our district website.
Teaching Skills and the Human Touch
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