Fueling a Passion for Inquiry, Learning and Literacy
Reading Specialist to Media Specialist
Why the switch to library media science? Ten years ago, I became a reading specialist because I wanted to be on the cutting edge of literacy and learning, helping engage students and teachers with newest tools for reading, writing, creating and exploring. But over the past several years, the job has become more about testing and numbers than people and connections.
The role of the media specialist, however, provides exciting opportunities for me to collaborate with students and staff as they learn content in new ways, along with using technology effectively, efficiently and creatively. As an instructional leader and partner, I can build programs and activities designed to strengthen student learning while also increasing rigor and engagement. I will be on the forefront of preparing our students to act as critical consumers of information while also nurturing their abilities to develop original content.
Why High School to Elementary?
Although most of my tenure has been with middle and high schoolers, I do have experience working with younger students. While I enjoy teaching older students, I want to reach students earlier, helping them fuel that enthusiasm and curiosity for learning. Breaking through the barriers of ambivalence built throughout the years is challenging. I want to share my creativity and excitement for learning, exploring, creating and building. And I believe an upper elementary audience would be a great fit!
How I Spell "Success" with Three Cs
The most important goal of any specialist is to make connections. Building relationships with students, staff and the school community requires careful listening and taking advantage of any opportunity to learn from others.
Although there are many programs I can develop and maintain independently, the best evidence of an effective media program is found through collaboration. Research proves that student achievement increases when the media specialist works closely with teachers and students to enrich and support the instructional goals of the curriculum.
The word "collections" not only refers to the physical materials located in the media center, but also the digital resources and lessons that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, support curriculum-based instruction and meet the interests and needs of our school community, staff and students.
- Common Core Lifesaver
- Poet's Perch
- T-Ro Readers
- Connect @ your library
- Appy Hours/Power Hours
- Sy Montgomery: Passport to Adventure
- American History Idol
- Google Apps for Education
- Can You Dig It?
- Poetry, CCSS and Primary Sources
- Parlez-vous Français? Voicethread
- Re-Energize with Resources
- Tech Evaluation/BYOD grant
- The Multimedia Review Crew
- Research LibGuides
A1: I use several tools for evaluating the media program. Hard data may be in the form of circulation numbers that show what resources are being accessed or underused. It also may come from informal and formal assessments of student learning. Records and plans indicating collaboration and interdisciplinary lessons may also provide valuable evidence. Surveys and inventories of staff, students and stakeholders also provide feedback. Finally, I would say that my program is a success if my media center is a hub of activity, churning with exciting programs that welcome all students, staff and community members throughout the day.
Q2: How would you promote reading and use of the media center?
A2: Reading promotion is multifaceted because it should be embedded in every single day. Reading promotion extends beyond the media center and into the classrooms and homes of all of our students, staff and community members. The underlying foundation is based on research showing that literacy matters. Beyond that, it's creatively yet carefully planned programming that taps into the interests and needs of students. Reading promotion ranges from skyped-in authors to advertisements, blog entries, videos and tweets created by students to weekly "power hours" to lengthy contests and group meetings.
Q3: What technologies have you been using or are interested in sharing with students and staff?
A3: Technology is a fantastic tool, and like any tool, it has a place and purpose. We must work together with students and staff so they pick the best tool for the job. While technology always changes, the skills necessary for using it effectively do not. For example, if students don't understand how to pull out the most important information from a source, they won't be successful with a digital database or an old-school encyclopedia.
Currently, I have been using the following apps and sites: Google Apps for Education, Schoology, Quizziz, Flipgrid, Playposit, Wixie, Symbaloo, KidBlog, Padlet, Smore, etc. AASL is a great resource for learning about quality tools.
Q4: How does the role of the media specialist support School Improvement Team goals and student achievement?
A4: The media specialist should be an instructional leader, specializing in helping the school community access, understand and use information. All content areas depend on this. From attending department meetings and being an integral part of the teaching team in the classroom to developing a quality, relevant collection of digital and print materials, I am highly trained to support the diverse needs of students and staff.
Q5: How can you as the media specialist help students and staff fully meet the expectations of the Common Core State Standards?
A5: The Common Core State Standards embed informational literacy throughout the content areas. They place a greater emphasis on nonfiction, research, inquiry and technology, all areas of expertise for media specialists. Our role includes helping staff and students navigate these more challenging waters. We also continue to collaborate with all content areas in creating engaging, rigorous activities and explorations that include perseverance, close reading and problem-solving.
Q6: What digital tools would you purchase for your school?
A6: I would approach this question as a student of inquiry, meaning that I would model the same steps I would want my students to take before making a decision and spending a lot of money on something so important. First, I need to determine the needs and current uses of staff, students and school community. I also would seek out "experts" in our county and in other school districts, seeking valuable advice.
Q7: How would you ensure you have a "lean and mean" collection?
A7: Monitoring your collection is essential when managing materials, whether they are digital or print. Part of this monitoring involves examining publication dates, circulation, relevance, currency, variety, biases, needs, etc. It also involves being well-versed in the curricular needs and stakeholder interests. Finally, as the media specialist, I have a responsibility to ensure that I not only weed out unnecessary materials but that I am selecting the most practical, highest quality materials to replace them.
My "Official" Media Specialist Portfolio (Currently being updated!)
By visiting my portfolio website, you can examine evidence of my effectiveness as a media specialist. While the site's structure is built around the American Library Association's five standards for school librarians, I also have included a "What's New Page" and "An Administrator's Quick-Guide" for those who are short on time. Click to visit my site, shawnleescarr.weebly.com.