Carolyn Foote is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.
Providing our students opportunities to be prepared for the future is crucial. Across the nation, thousands of dedicated educators and librarians are leading the charge to help students investigate, create, collaborate and communicate effectively, and to reach beyond the walls of their own schools.
I am honored to represent a large community of connected librarians across the nation who play a uniquely significant role in assisting teachers as they become comfortable with new technologies, and who link teachers and students with the tools and resources that help them become “connected” learners. While librarians have always been resource mavens and curriculum specialists, our roles have broadened to include the technology tools and strategies that prepare our students for an always connected future. That can mean connecting our ASL students via Skype so they can teach a Canadian student sign language, hosting a robotics makerspace in the library, building a list of web resources for our Vietnam memorial project, or discovering new devices that will aid student research.
When tablets entered the commercial marketplace, for example, I was eager to pilot them in the library in order to determine their efficacy for our teachers and students. As an early adopter, I began with just six tablets to gather information on their usefulness for student learning both within the library and the classroom. Three years later, with the dedication of a tribe of people, we are now a one-to-one tablet district k-12 and are entering our third year hosting an annual conference for tablet users across the country.
As a librarian (in concert with technology staff), I supported the initiative in many ways: redesigning the library to include a tech “help desk”, building lists of appropriate apps, developing projects with students and teachers, and documenting our initiative on a campus blog. I have networked with librarians around the country as they grapple with similar issues from e-books to library redesign; even when we redesigned our own library six years ago, many of the future-friendly features that make our library a vibrant hub were inspired by other colleagues online.
As a librarian, I play a vital leadership role with my unique expertise about research and literacy. But I and other librarians cannot develop our skills in a vacuum. Wired librarians across the globe have banded together to build resources for one another, like the Teacher Librarian Virtual café. This program, led by volunteers, hosts monthly online programming and supports weekly Twitter chats. I also engage with Texas librarians during the weekly Texas Library Twitter chat and network during national events like the Connected Educator month with Secretary Arne Duncan, and the free K12online Conference, which gave me the first thrilling taste of connecting with educators globally.
These ongoing connections have imbued my own practice with the most empowering professional learning I have ever been a part of; I can wake up chatting with educators in Australia, connect with colleagues on campus during the day, and go to bed having chatted with colleagues on the West Coast. Rather than work alone, librarians have grown wide networks of colleagues that both support and challenge us, and we, and our schools, are better for it. For me, this incredible honor to be named as a Champion of Change is a recognition not only of my own work as a “technolibrarian”, but more importantly of all of my connected colleagues and their incredible dedication to better our profession. We care fiercely about educating our students and about moving our schools forward. And these connections make our work much richer. Thank you for recognizing that “connecting works” and thank you for this honor.
Carolyn Foote is the district and high school librarian at Westlake High School in Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas who is fascinated by the intersection of technology and libraries.