FETC: The rising importance of library leaders in K-12 schools

Featured speaker Shannon McClintock Miller will lead discussions on collaboration, choice boards and leadership.
 is the innovation director of instructional technology and library media at Van Meter Community School in Iowa.
Shannon McClintock Miller

The Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in January features five tracks for attendees, and one that is generating a lot of interest is Library Media Specialist.

Few roles in school districts have become more dynamic, more hands-on and more vital than that of the librarian since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020. These leaders have shown unmatched flexibility in support of teachers and administrators, whether it’s planning, providing digital solutions, assisting with technology or helping with instruction.

Their innovative approaches and positive attitudes have lifted the spirits of educators and families during the crisis, keeping students engaged while providing the spaces and tools, in-person and online, to help them achieve their goals.

Shannon McClintock Miller has been at the forefront of the librarian power shift, as both the Innovation Director of Instructional Technology and Library Media at Van Meter Community School District in Iowa and as an advocate for others through her work with Future Ready Librarians. An author of 12 books, including one with former ISTE president Bill Bass called “Lead from the Library,” Miller is again one of the featured speakers at this year’s FETC (Jan. 25-28, 2022 at the Orlando Convention Center). She will lead seven sessions, including a kickoff summit with librarians as well as an orientation with Dr. Rosyln Washington, the Digital Learning Specialist of Literacy at Atlanta Public Schools.

“I’ve presented so many times online and it’s rewarding and fun, but I’m ready to see people and learn from others about all the great things that they have learned,” Miller said of FETC, which will be live for the first time since 2020. “In so many schools, the librarians were the heroes. They were the ones who found ways to be those leaders in the digital space, the community space, that connection to parents and building communities, whether we were at school or online. That was so inspiring to see.”

Her overarching message will be one of continued empowerment for librarians—from serving as resources on everyday tasks to being collaborative forces that can bring together a school community. One of her sessions, Sharing Your Story, Creating a Brand and Advocating For Your Library will offer librarians strategies to bring their own “library stories to life.”

“This is our time to shine,” Miller said. “We have this huge opportunity, and that’s gonna stick. Librarians are going to be seen in that leadership role. And not just being a leader within your library around literacy and a love of reading, but also integrating innovative ways through technology, through different ways of learning and through things we give our kids, like virtual field trips or connecting with an author or reading online.”

FETC Live 2022

The Future of Education Technology® Conference takes place live and in-person Jan. 25-28, 2022, in Orlando.

Miller plans to tackle a range of other topics in those sessions, including one with Bass, now Innovation Coordinator at Parkway School District in St. Louis, on digital-age mentorship and guidance for teachers and librarians. Miller also plans to address the power of collaboration, which can “enhance learning, creativity and student voice, and develop empathy and kindness.”

Two sessions that can’t be missed for those looking to gain unique and fun ideas to bring back to their schools are these two-hour workshops:

  • Let’s Bring Literacy To Life Through Making and Technology!, which will dive deep into Makerspaces, digital tools and apps that can be used along with picture books and chapter books to create unique projects, and
  • One of Miller’s specialties: Choice Boards, Curation, Creation, Collaboration, Sharing and More! She has been one of the champions of choice boards and plans to show participants how to get the most out of them.

And there will be the opening four-hour Library Media Specialist Summit, in partnership with Future Ready Schools, which will provide an opportunity for librarians to network and learn how collaboration can be the linchpin that drives positive outcomes in schools.

“This year was a big moment for all of these light bulbs to go off throughout the school because of collaboration,” Miller said. “At Van Meter, we’ve been 1:1 for a long time. But by the end of the year, I felt like I had raised all these little librarians, because the teachers, they understood. They were taking on digital tools by themselves. Those are the skills that we want our teachers to latch onto to be successful.”

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