This has been an interesting year. Not only have I moved to a new school in a new country, but my actual teaching position (21st Century Literacy Specialist) is also brand new (both to me, and to the school).

I count my lucky stars every day to be working in such a forward-thinking school, but I have to admit that stepping into an entirely new position in such a large school, with complex protocol and history, has certainly been a challenge. Good thing I enjoy challenges!

So, after almost a full year working in a sometimes nebulous position, I think I’m finally able to start defining what I think a 21st Century Literacy Specialist would do here at ISB. A lot of what I’ve been thinking about is based on my previous experience as a technology facilitator, but with the focus of bringing technology and library together.

I see this role as a bridge between the library and technology, and therefore, a key aspect of this position, which makes it different than a traditional technology facilitation position, is the strength of collaboration between all three teams. Although they may be a natural fit, I am finding a real need to highlight those connections, to bridge those gaps, and to bring together the three (in my opinion) most exciting and most promising positions in the school.

Generally speaking, I spend the majority of my day either co-planning with teachers or co-teaching in the classroom. I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule which enables me to work wherever the need is greatest – from setting up a specialty celebration wiki, to developing our 21st century literacy framework, to planning and teaching with our students and teachers.

It has been my experience, as a technology facilitator, that personal (and personable) support in the classroom is the key to the success of any technology-rich program, and 21st century literacy is no different. My focus is always on making students, teachers and parents comfortable with new tools that can support and enhance student learning. Collaborating with our Media Specialist and Technology and Learning Coordinator enables our team to reach far and wide through the school – as we each have our own strengths and weaknesses that seamlessly and effectively blend together.

Of course this is still a work in progress, but here are my thoughts so far:


The 21st Century Literacy Specialist position combines the process and best practice approaches of successful technology facilitation with the wealth of resources available in the library. ISB is actively seeking to build a Learning Hub that successfully blends the traditional role of a library with the requirements of the 21st century global student. The role of the 21st Century Literacy Specialist is to bridge that gap. The focus of this position is to help core subject teachers utilize web 2.0 technologies in the classroom, to create a global and collaborative approach to learning. The design of authentic and engaging international projects which incorporate social networking, blogs, wikis, and podcasts, and whatever comes next, is paramount to the success of this position. The 21st Century Literacy Specialist works in collaboration with the Media Specialist and Technology and Learning Coordinator to ensure a seamless transition between traditional and digital literacy skills.

Job Description

The 21st Century Literacy Specialist is responsible for the successful integration of 21st century literacy skills across the curriculum by:

Teaching and Instruction

  • co-planning, co-teaching, co-assessing units of inquiry which authentically embed 21st century literacy skills
  • assist in differentiation for highly able or struggling students through the use of technology, including independently teaching smaller groups of students when needed
  • ensuring 21st century literacy enduring understandings and guiding questions are authentically embedded into curriculum at each grade level
  • closely collaborating with the Media Specialist to ensure seamless transition and use of both traditional and digital literacy tools

Leadership and Curriculum Development

  • continue to develop, define, promote and share vision and framework for 21st century learning at ISB
  • promote ethical use of technology, and develop authentic projects that actively work towards developing digital citizenship among staff and students
  • collaboratively work with administration, curriculum and technology coordinators, Media Specialist, and grade level teams to further develop ISB embedded 21st century literacy program

Professional Development

  • provide regular professional development opportunities to help build teacher’s understanding around 21st century literacy
  • coordinate and run mentor program to help classroom teachers understand the paradigm shift of 21st century teaching
  • work with staff to develop and promote use of 21st century tools for efficiency and productivity in their jobs

Communication and Collaboration

  • promoting and sharing successful 21st century literacy projects with wider school community
  • document teaching and learning experiences in a central place for all faculty and parents to access
  • developing a truly 21st century approach to learning and teaching by working in partnership with:
    • the Technology and Learning Coordinator to coordinate hardware, software, and school-wide infrastructure so that focus can be on pedagogical support
    • the Media Specialist to coordinate and support traditional literacy

What do you think? Would this work in your school? Is this realistic?

Tags: 21stcentury, 21st century literacy, collaboration, framework, embed, technology, job description, role, specialist,

18 thoughts on “Defining the Role of a 21st Century Literacy Specialist

  1. Hi Kim,
    You’ve just described how I see my role, but I’m working as a Teacher-Librarian and also have to manage the Library staff and run a literature program and teach year 7 English and be their pastoral care teacher. No wonder I don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day. It seems to me that international schools have it all over us in terms of acknowledging the need for a position like yours. I wish I could focus on this part of my job instead of all the layers there are presently. Really like the way you articulated the role – can I use it to support my position in my school?
    Jenny Luca.

  2. It would be heaven to have be a technology and learning coordinator as you describe. I am currently the teacher librarian and IT mentor but there is no one to cover the library when I go out to do a cooperative lesson in classrooms. It’s my dream for the future!

  3. I think this is amazing…I want to be a 21st century media specialist! The school I teach at is so in need of someone to bridge the gap between technology and the classroom. It seems that most of our teachers think that technology is taught in the computer lab and that is where it should stay. Sadly, I think our students are missing out on a lot of the 21st century skills they will need as well as missing out on rich authentic learning. Nice job!

  4. Thanks for defining your job so clearly. Looking at your job description helps me clarify my own role as a tech coordinator. I hope you’ll write more about how you do the co-assessing. What does that look like? Is it all informal or are there formal pieces to it? Working with so many classes and so many students, how to you record and organize your assessment data?

  5. This job description of our 21st century literacy specialist is a great start. However, it can only be a “temporary fixed position” as we continue evolving the job description to meet the ever changing challenges of education. Our flat world with it’s wealth of information and opportunity will drive us to the edge of learning and change.

  6. Hola, Kim-ita. Jim Stratton here from Academia Cotopaxi (AC) over in Quito. Or, as J. Medved would call me, “The Jimbot”. The 21st Century Literacy Specialist position is in a word, “outstandingfantasticjustwhatthedoctorordered”!!! This is my first year as the Tech Director of AC, and I am attempting to shift, reorder, realign the instructional side of the AC Tech department to move toward your approach–in terms of 21st Century Literacy and in job assignments. The stones of traditional alignments/assignments of teachers are well entrenched here, so unearthing and mobilizing without causing the foundation to crumble will be quite a feat of educational engineering… At any rate, great stuff here that I will share my people at AC!
    All the best,

  7. HI Kim,
    Excellent- what makes it so strong is the lack of the word “technology” in the document and clearly puts the focus on our student’s education and their future.

  8. Hi Kim,

    I really like your thoughts on the role of the 21st Century Learning Specialist and the thoughts you shared following the ECIS Librarians Conference.
    Actually, we probably need to review the terminology of Librarian – its outdated. Any bright ideas?

    My bright idea is that I need to work with you more closely in the future Kim!

  9. Kim, you are lucky to teach in the school you are at, but I am also sure that they are lucky to have you as well. . I am amazed that a school in Thailand is just so progressive and the leadership team at the top must be so supportive of you. I love reading what you are doing via your blog posts, twitter and I thank you for sharing the blog posts that you send meTo answer your question, yes it will work and we have to make it work as education must move with technolgy.

  10. Jenny,

    Absolutely! Please feel free to use anything you need! I didn’t mention it here, but I’ve been doing lots of the library management things this year as well. I’m working on clarifying the fact that one person can’t do both things, which is why I finally wrote this job description. I do think we’re pretty lucky in international schools, but it has been a challenge to be kind of “between worlds” this year…


    It’s so hard to get more staff in schools, isn’t it. If you’re not teaching classes all day, every day than why are you here? It’s amazing the amount of work every facilitator I know ends up doing on a daily basis – we are certainly worth our salaries, that’s for sure!


    I am all too familiar with those struggles. I’ve been through this process in three schools so far – in every school it starts out the same. You can definitely make a difference though, just by educating your admin and setting a good example. Good luck!


    Thanks! I’d love to see a description of your role if you have one. I’m trying to focus only on my position, but I am curious about what your job description would look like. SAS is similar enough to ISB that it would be really interesting.

    I have to admit, I have not been focusing on assessment this year – mostly on helping teachers understand the concept of 21st century literacy. That will be a task for me next year. But, I did a lot of assessing at MKIS and MIS, so I can share those experiences with you. Lots of paperwork!


    Glad it’s a good start! I want to make sure that my role is clear to the school and myself ;)


    Thanks! So glad this is helpful for you! I would love to hear more about AC as my previous principal and colleague spent about 5 years there before moving to Malaysia. I heard so many great things about the IT department while they were there – it’s always interesting to get a new perspective!


    Thank you! I was really conscious of not making this about technology. I’m glad it came through!


    I do think the concept of librarian is changing, just very slowly. I’m actually really interested to see how the profession changes over time.


    Thanks! Yes, I am very lucky to be at such a forward-thinking school! International schools in general are fortunate to be leaders in educational change because they don’t have to meet/follow as many national standards (that so often slow down the process of positive change).

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