Why I Became a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert by Alpha S. DeLap

As school library jobs continue to evaporate, I consider myself extremely fortunate. Like most, if not all, of the readers of this post, I work for an independent school which has the funding and ongoing investment in my position, my programs, and my collections. I spend my time building new initiatives, maintaining important traditions, refining my teaching practices, and expanding my professional reach through collaboration and cross-disciplinary pedagogy. I am privileged to think broadly and deeply simultaneously without fear. However, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t ask myself,

“Am I living up to my professional potential? Am I taking advantage of all that I have been given, in terms of budget, administrative encouragement, and professional development?”

Last summer, one way I answered that question was to apply to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (“MIEE”). I wanted to continue to explore those ways in which software applications and hardware innovations would allow me to be a better teacher-librarian. If you know me, you know two things and technology: 1) I love to try new applications and computer tools and 2) I will never continue to use them if they aren’t in the best interest of the students and their learning goals. My application was successful and I was afforded a number of wonderful opportunities.

Over the year that I have been an MIEE, I have been able to use Microsoft technologies to extend the classroom using Skype in order to discuss primary and secondary resources with a food historian at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I was able to create another channel for expression using FlipGrid– recording individual vlogs related to favorite books and authors to share with students in Scotland. I used Microsoft Teams to help my students and I communicate and manage project deadlines for a print newspaper as well as my school’s Debate team. Finally, I collaborated on layout and photographic design using OneNote for a yearbook elective.

My job as a teacher-librarian is to straddle the line between print and digital, between information and entertainment, in order to encourage engaged reading, innovative research, creative expression, intentional consumption, and critical thinking across a range of real and imagined spaces.

My participation in various MIEE forums, including in-person and online, have allowed me to explore new technologies while at the same underscoring the need for our expertise as librarians especially in the realm of digital curation. One of the applications that the MIEE world is most excited about is Wakelet, I describe it as if Pinterest and Vimeo had a child and its cousin is Scoop It. Trialing Wakelet made me realize that there is a great opportunity for teacher-librarians to take a lead role as information guides and research experts within MIEE conversations. I hope that many of you will read this post and put in an application, if not this year, then next. Our librarian voices are critical in the ongoing conversation related to educational technology integration and refinement and I want us all to participate in as many discussions as possible. I look forward to hearing from other MIEE independent school librarians and develop ways to collaborate in the future!

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