The job title “21st Century Learning Specialist” does not give the same clear picture to many people asÂ the title of 2nd grade , Librarian or Spanish teacher might. I get many blank looks when I answer the innocent question of “So, what do you do?
I blogged about my last Job Title “What Does it Mean to be an Technology Integration Facilitator” before. Maybe it is time to post a description of a day in the life of a 21st Century Learning Specialist.
My students are not only the ones that have the “official” title of “Students” at our school. I consider all teachers, assistants, educators, administration, parents, and staff as my students.
My classroom is the hallway, the school’s office, the faculty lounge, the computer lab, the principal’s and school office, a virtual Skype room, the library, the staircase, an officially designated classroom, anywhere on campus and sometimes on the cell phone too…
I wear many hats, since learning in the 21st Century happens anytime, anywhere and in so many different forms. When I tried to “categorize” what I do, I came up with the following diagram.
- Parent Education
21st Century Skills & Literacies:
- Basic Literacy
- Information Literacy
- Media Literacy
- Network Literacy
- Global Literacy
- Digital Citizenship
- Web based tools
- Basic Troubleshooting
Social Network Channel:
- School Website
- iTunes Podcast
- Curriculum Mapping
- 21st Century Teaching & Learning Voice
So, how does a typical day of mine look like?
I am usually in my office at 7:30 am to take advantage of the quietness that only a school can have, shortly before students arrive. This allows me to catch up on e-mails, Twitter, write my “famous” to-do lists for the day after checking and updating my Google Calendar that is shared with faculty and administration at school.
The morning hours are sometimes the perfect time bracket to skype another teacher from the Eastern Hemisphere (timezones!) to plan future collaboration. Sometimes it is the perfect time for an early meeting with a colleague to start planning a new project, coach them as they are venturing out to use web 2.0 tools or just sit beside them as they are exploring Google Apps or other communication and collaboration tools.
Typically, I will go into classrooms to observe or support a teacher’s lesson by leading “just in time” discussions about 21st Century skills and literacies or give an introduction to various tools. Observations in the classroom usually lead to a planning time with the teacher on how to upgrade a lesson, start or participate in a project, co-teach a future lesson or a 1:1 tutoring time on a specific tool. Discussion time with students usually lead to follow ups to future classroom visits, searching for further resources for students or their teacher and ideas for involvement and collaboration of (global) projects.
I might also meet with teachers and their classes in the computer lab to support them as an additional “hand on deck” as students are working on projects, such as wikis, voicethreads, digital storytelling, etc.
I document my work as much as possible by maintaining the 21st Century Learning Blog of the school. This requires me to keep up to date with writing blog drafts, take supporting images or videos of the progress of projects and post updates. I spend a regular portion of my day working on storing, categorizing and editing media (images/video/audio) taken around campus for marketing purposes or student projects.
Most days, I have at least a few Skype calls scheduled throughout the day. These calls usually fall in the category of making initial contact with subject matter experts, potential connections for classes, collaboration and planning calls with participants of various projects any class is participating in and calls to foster, support, nurture and maintain my Professional Learning Network. My PLN has become a vital part of the work I do. Without this network of professional educators around the world, I would not be able to connect to, collaborate with and disseminate my students’ learning to an authentic audience. The contact to my PLN via various Social Network sites keeps me up to date with the newest trends, content experts, tools, educational discussions, projects and professional support.
My day is sprinkled with meeting various teachers for 1:1 or small group Professional Development opportunities. Some of these meetings are scheduled weekly (with great success) or on an as-needed-bases. Some of them are with a pre-set topicÂ (blogging, podcasting, RSS, SmartBoard, etc.) while others are impromptu in nature and guided by current units of study. I also prepare small group or whole faculty PD workshops throughout the year
Preparation for and follow up for these meetings in terms of collection of resources, step by step tutorials, making authentic global connections, set-up and maintenance of collaboration platforms (wikis, google docs, blogs, VoiceThreads, Professional Development Ning etc.) for teachers and students are also part of my daily work.
Debriefing and collaboration sessions with my colleague and other half, Andrea Hernandez, about projects, grade level curriculum, school visions, and curriculum upgrades regarding 21st Century Teaching & Learning is vital to coordinate school wide involvement, support and advancement of vision. I am also part of a technology team by attending meetings and lending guiding support to technology related matters.
Another one of our coordination efforts includes the area of Parent Education. We have successfully implemented a monthly Parent Coffee Talk. Every month we offer a different topic for parents to be exposed to/ learn about 21st Century learning and/or have hands on experience with web 2.0 tools/platforms. In the future we want to expand our offerings to different days and times (morning/evening) in order to appeal to a wider variety of parents.
The power of connecting is one of the pillars of 21st Century skills. Communicating with your students, parent community, school community and global community by using different social network platforms is quickly becoming a necessity. The development, supervision and update of the school’s Social Network Channels (School’s official website/blog, Classroom blogs, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, Flickr, etc.) are part of a daily routine. Pushing out information, as well storing, documenting, tagging and connecting in “the cloud” is simply a way of 21st Century working.
I am hoping that I am not omitting any special hat of mine in this “Day in the Life of a 21st Century Learning Specialist”. My job has become less a list of duties and responsibilities and more the way we simply teach and learn.