Leaders look to the future. They know what is good today won’t be so tomorrow, and they recognize as Jim Collins has said, “Good is the enemy of great.” If you are pleased with what you are doing but not looking to make it better you can never be great. With this in mind what does it mean to be “Future Ready?”
Future Ready is not an empty phrase. It has a solid foundation and is continuing to develop. Launched by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology in November 2014, Future Ready Schools . The homepage urges school superintendents to take the pledge to have their districts make a commitment to implement meaningful change “towards a digital learning transitions that support teachers, and addresses the district’s vision for student learning. Over 3,100 superintendents have made that pledge and you can check to see if yours is one.
The homepage is rich with resources, not the least of which is the Interactive Planning Dashboard which walks participants through a 5-step collaborative planning process. What I particularly like is that this process offers a “comprehensive approach and an action plan for implementing digital learning before purchasing anything, ensuring a smoother implementation and digital transformation.” The page has the ability for the team to save all their work in a password protected format making it easy to revisit and update goals, strategies, and implementation plans.
What has me excited is on the homepage there is a link to Future Ready Librarians. It says, what we have always known, that “School librarians lead, teach, and support the Future Ready Goals of their school and district in a variety of ways through their professional practice, programs, and spaces. If properly prepared and supported, school librarians are well-positioned to be at the leading edge of the digital transformation of learning.”
Follett formed Project Connect which is designed to help librarians work with their district leaders in creating Future Ready Schools and in so doing firmly position themselves as leaders. To this end they have developed online courses to “promote innovative models of school libraries|, and help librarians “cultivate powerful library and school leadership … with a future-ready approach.”
Future Ready Librarians came into existence in the summer of 2016. Follett is one of its strong supporters, and the indefatigable Shannon McClintock Miller has been named a spokesperson for it. On the homepage you will find a link to her presentation “What Does It Take to be a Future Ready Librarian.” In it, she explores the exciting challenge of Future Ready Schools.
So what does it specifically mean to be Future Ready? The core of it is shown in the Framework, consisting of seven “gears” surrounding Student Learning, which is at the center. (Changed to “Personalized Student Learning” in the framework for Future Ready Librarians—which is what we have been doing all along.) The gears and how they translate into the school library (and I borrow extensively from Shannon McClintock Miller’s presentation) are as follows:
- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment – You become a partner with educators to design and implement an evidenced-based practice curriculum integrating deeper learning critical thinking, information literacy, creativity, innovation, and technology. (Big job)
- Use of Space and Time – For school librarians this means designing flexible, collaborative spaces. Learning Commons are perfect for this, but you can achieve this goal in steps by taking a fresh look at your floor plan and seeing how furniture and shelving can be made mobile. Get help from high school design classes.
- Robust Infrastructure- In the library, you advocate for equal access to digital devices and connectivity in support of the district’s strategic vision
- Data and Privacy – Teach and promote student privacy.
- Community Partnerships – In addition to developing partnerships within the school, reach out to the community including parents, public and academic libraries, and businesses to promote engagement and lifelong learning.
- Personalized Professional Learning – Provides personal professional learning to develop awareness/understanding of the skills needed for success in a digital age.
- Budget and Resources– Leverages and understanding of school and community needs to advocate for the digital resources needed to support student learning.
Collaborative Leadership is an extra gear in the Future Librarians framework. It requires you to lead beyond the library. As I have been saying, if you stay in your library, no one really knows who you are or what you do. Participating on district committees is vital. One of the most important is any that sets a vision and creates a strategic plan for digital learning.
What can you do if your Superintendent did not sign the pledge and you are not in a Future Ready School? Talk to your principal. Show him or her the Future Ready Schools site and all the supportive resources it has. Suggest joining the Future Ready School Facebook group. Offer to do a brief presentation on it at an administrators’ meeting. (Definitely moving out of your comfort zone – but being a leader.)
Choose one or two gears that call to you and start working on them while you advocate for the district to become Future Ready. Join the Future Ready Librarians Facebook Group and attend the webinar Leading Beyond the Library on April 11.
Are you a Future Ready Librarian? What are you doing to show it? If you aren’t, what will you do to become one? How can I and other librarians support you?