Where Do You Find Great Tech Tools?

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We all know how important it is to stay abreast of technology trends, but how do you do that? In this article from our Jan.-Feb. issue, Dr. Maria Cahill discusses our latest survey question:

Which Is Your Favorite Source for Learning about New Technology Tools?

Survey results two

To fulfill the role of information specialist, it’s imperative that a school librarian stay abreast of the latest trends in education and technology. Doing so enables the school librarian to integrate emerging technologies and tools into learning and teaching scenarios across the school environment and curriculum (AASL, 2009) which, in turn, facilitates the development of digital literacies of students and teachers and positions the school librarian as an instructional leader. Recognizing the power of technology expertise, we wondered where school librarians learn about the latest and greatest technology tools.

More than 400 school librarians responded to the question “Which is your favorite source for learning about new technology tools?” As reflected in the chart below, more school librarians prefer professional conferences over any other source for learning about new technology tools. Indeed, with accessibility to pre-conference workshops, concurrent sessions, hands-on spaces for interactive learning, vendors of technology tools, and colleagues with whom to discuss, professional conferences do tend to be ideal venues for learning about technology tools. In fact, a recent analysis found that more than 20% of offerings at professional conferences targeted to school librarians support the information specialist role (Moreillon, Cahill, & McKee, 2012).

School librarians also report learning much about new technology tools through informal conversations with other school librarians conducted across electronic channels. These conversations include Twitter chats such as #TLchat, #VASLchat, and #KYLchat convened on recurring schedules, and email discussion lists such as AASLforum, Texas Library Connection, and LM Net, which are accessible 24/7.

Professional development workshops and curated lists round out the sources of technology tool learning identified by more than 10% of the respondents. AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning and AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning were far and away the curated lists most frequently identified by school librarians. Others pointed to lists developed by state-level professional associations, Edutopia, Common Sense Media, and Kathy Schrock as additional sources for curated lists.

Effective school librarians use evidence for, in, and of practice for continuous improvement (Todd, 2009). As always, we hope that the School Library Connection One Question Survey pushes school librarians to think deeply about topics of importance and to use the results as catalysts for continued professional learning and school library advocacy. We hope that some school librarians might have encountered new sources for technology tool learning as a consequence of this survey, but we also believe that the results from this month’s survey might serve as useful evidence “for practice” and position school librarians to advocate for additional funding to attend professional conferences.


Works cited

American Association of School Librarians. Empowering Learners. American Library Association, 2009.

Moreillon, Judi, Marie Cahill, and Rebecca McKee. “State Library Conferences as Professional Development Venues: Unbalanced Support for the AASL-Defined Roles of the School Librarian.” School Library Research 15 (2012). http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol15/SLR_Conferences_as_PD_Venues_V15.pdf

Todd, Ross J. “School Librarianship and Evidence-Based Practice: Progress, Perspectives, and Challenges.” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 4 (2009), 78-96. http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/4637/5318

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.

Maria Cahill, MLIS, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky in both the School of Information Science and the Department of Education. She received her master’s degree from the University of South Carolina and her doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee. She is author of numerous papers in such journals as Knowledge Quest, School Libraries Worldwide, and School Library Research and has served in numerous professional leadership positions, including on the Educators of School Librarians Section of the American Association of School Librarians and the American Library Association’s Literacy and Outreach Services Committee.

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