This week, we are joined by Shannon McClintock Miller, a teacher librarian, director of innovation of instructional technology, international speaker, and leader in future ready education. She joins us to talk about the role of librarians in our schools and how the Future Ready Librarians Framework impacts everyone in a school system. Shannon says, “Every person, no matter what role you are within a school, fits into the Future Ready Framework.”
The future depends on what you do today.
Mahatma Gandhi, political ethicist
- Become Information and Media Literate (article collection)
- Break Down the Classroom Walls (article collection)
- Empower Students Through Creativity and Choice (article collection)
- Explore Critical Reading and Viewing in a Digital Age (article collection)
- Help Students Take Ownership of Their Digital Lives (article collection)
- Strategies for Youth to Align Passion to Purpose and Education, with Jorge Valenzuela (podcast episode)
- The Power of Empowering Students, Part I, with Dr. John Spencer (podcast episode)
- The Power of Empowering Students, Part II, with Dr. John Spencer (podcast episode)
Leading Beyond the Library
The role of librarians in our schools has evolved significantly over the years. It has become so much more than curating a library collection and checking out books. Teacher librarians, also often called library media specialists, support multiple forms of literacy throughout a site and school system. They are heavily involved in reading literacy, technology integration, instructional best practices, professional learning, digital citizenship, and so much more.
Leadership in these areas means that the power of the teacher librarian extends far beyond the library itself. Shannon says, “One thing that I always want to make sure is that our library is throughout our school. It’s part of the community that we’re growing, and the library should be the heart—not only the school and your collection that you have but in what you’re doing. One of the biggest things that we can do as librarians is be a leader in everything that is going on within our building, and we’re so lucky because we know all the kids. We work with the families. We know our administrators.” The following are a few highlights from our conversation:
- About Our Guest: Shannon McClintock Miller is the K–12 Teacher Librarian and Director of Innovation of Instructional Technology at Van Meter School in Iowa. She is an international speaker and consultant, Future Ready Librarians spokesperson, Follet thought leader, ISTE author, and more.
- Pioneers in 1:1: Shannon was involved in one of the first programs to provide each student with a computer at school. She says, “We are one-to-one—one of the first districts in Iowa, and really across the country, to be able to not only get those devices into the hands of our kids but really change the way we were teaching, and supporting, and empowering our kids.”
- Future Ready Schools: Shannon loves being involved with this organization because it challenges educators “to create school systems where they were promoting innovative practices and improving the instruction they were doing with students.” Shannon says that a key question at the heart of this organization is: “How are we teaching, and supporting, and empowering our kids to not only succeed right now but to succeed, too, in the future?”
- Explaining Misperceptions: Shannon clarifies the role of a future ready librarian, and the current role goes far beyond what it once entailed. The role of a librarian should include supporting all forms of literacy, making sure that students and staff have equitable access to learning resources, leading effective technology integration, supporting individual and curricular learning goals, and leading professional learning, among many others.
- Supporting Literacy: “What is core to us, first and foremost, is that literacy concept—like how we inspire and support the reading lives of our kids, and not only of our students but our teachers and even our community, too. And then I think the next thing that is so important as librarians when we look at the Future Ready Librarians Framework is how we curate digital resources, how we build instructional partnerships, and how we empower our students as creators.”
- Supporting All Stakeholders: “We think about how we plan and how we facilitate professional learning, how we’re making sure that our kids have that equitable digital access, how we’re cultivating community partnerships . . . advocating for student privacy, designing collaborative spaces, and I kind of call it the umbrella of everything we do, how we lead beyond the library.”
- A Space for All Students: “One of my favorite parts of my job is making sure that all of my kids are heard, and seen, and have a place to fit within whatever their interests are, whatever they love to read, or whatever they love to create or learn.” She adds, “To make sure our kids are heard and to make sure that they know that we see them, and that we give them these great digital tools and resources they need to, not only to learn the things that they need to learn, but that they, especially as they get older . . ., have this toolbox to pull from to make sure their interests, and their passions, and the things that our kids need within their own learning is fulfilled.”
- Technology: “A big part of my role is the tech integration, and not just integrating the technology but supporting our kids when it comes to digital citizenship, and keyboarding, and coding, and using tech tools, and all that.”
- Aligning Tools to Needs: “Our philosophy too at Van Meter is to make sure that we were using the tools and resources that fit into the things that our teachers were already doing great. There are so many things out there, and it can be so overwhelming to them. But to support them in the ways that they needed to be supported, and showing them new things, and showing them new resources, but not just putting a SMART board in every classroom, you know, and thinking that they’re all going to use them because that’s not really realistic, or making sure that they’re all going to use the same digital tool, like again, it’s not realistic. And so, sitting more with the needs of what they’re trying to accomplish within their classroom and their curriculum with their kids, and then to see how we can support them with that, too.”
- Positives From the Pandemic: Shannon says that she is so proud of how teachers responded to the challenges of the pandemic. They tried many new things, like teaching on Zoom and Google Classroom. She says, “A lot of times, I felt like I was raising all these librarians, you know, because they were doing the things that we as librarians have done for a long, long time, and it made us better teachers. It made us better at our practice.”
- Pushing Forward: With the support of her administration, Shannon says, “We have been able to try things out, you know, get rid of things that don’t work, amp things up that do.”
- Makerspaces: Shannon defines a makerspace as a place that supports “open exploration for all.” She adds that it’s not just one space. “I see the makerspace all throughout our building, like our kids have materials within their classrooms to create, they have things that the teachers can use or borrow from the library or from our STEM classroom.” While makerspaces can be used with direct instruction, Shannon says, “I love when kids can come and they can have that open exploration of whatever they want to create . . . and have that place that they can go just to be themselves and foster that love of whatever they want to do within their creativity.”
- Looking Ahead: “Technology is going to get even more exciting with things that are coming out—you know, all the robotics, and augmented reality, and 3D printing—and we think about all these things too, and the role that we have, and I think the careers of our kids. And I love it when people talk about that we don’t even know the jobs that our kids that are little will have in the future, and so we have to be prepared for that, and make sure that we’re also learning as much as we can, and embrace those opportunities, too.” Shannon adds that future ready librarians are important voices that need to be at the center of learning moving forward. She says, “It’s not a time to sit back and wait for what’s going to happen in the future. It’s time right now to truly show what we have and what we can do as future ready librarians.”
If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:
- What is the role of the teacher librarian or library media specialist in your school or district?
- How do teacher librarians support students, teachers, leaders, and community members in your school or district?
- How do teacher librarians make your school better?
- In what ways can you or your school system better utilize the unique skills of teacher librarians and library media specialists?
- What insights have you gained from this conversation with Shannon?
- What new tech tools did you hear about that you would like to explore further?
- What parts of the Future Ready Framework most resonate with you?
- How can you help to ensure that our students and schools are future ready?