Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blog Interaction with Maria Savoldi - Mon. Sept. 28 to Wed. Sept. 30, 2009

Maria Savoldi has work experience as a classroom teacher, a media specialist, and as county director of instructional media and technology - - much of that employment with the Glynn County School System, Brunswick, GA. She has a wealth of experience in designing and delivering professional learning courses (staff development, teacher training) that foster effective technology integration.
Like most of our guest experts in the field, Maria often presents sessions at state and national conferences and has served in various governance roles in professional organizations. She is a former President of the Georgia Association for Instructional Technology (GAIT) and the Division of School Media and Technology (DSMT) of AECT. For a number of years Maria also worked as a trainer for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in the Library Media certificate area.
Maria now works for the Georgia Virtual School where her current role is technology support specialist. Learn more at


  1. Maria-
    In the past couple of years, I have had to help present and teach software that I am just learning myself (Wireless Generation's palm pilot to assess Dibels and Math). I notice that when trying to teach my colleagues I feel a bit intimidated and frustrated that not everyone is ready to learn something new. Especially when this type of assessment and progress monitoring is state mandated. I know that it's just, "one more thing." But, we have to learn it, so why the lack of motivation? I guess what I am wondering is how you get those you are training to really listen? Thanks,

  2. Hi Maria,

    Little by little I've been taking technology workshops "here" and a software inservices "there" to try and improve my own technology skills. As a future media specialist, I know I will be the go-to person for these kinds of questions, so I want to be as prepared as possible.

    Could you suggest some websites, resources, organizations, etc. that would help a new media specialist keep current and continue to grow in the area of technology? Thank you.

    ...And if I could interject one idea for Jessica (above) regarding motivating staff during training sessions...What about motivating them the same way we motivate our students in the classroom? Interject a game or a competition of some sort during the training. Maria: What's your thought on that? I find adults get just as excited about prizes (even simple little fun prizes...M&Ms, a pack of sticky notes, etc.) as kids do. Just a thought...something to try.

    Thanks again. -Kelly Hladek

  3. M. Savoldi
    I get overwhelmed sometime with all the technology available and all the updates. How do you keep up with the changes? What periodicals help keep you current? How involved do media specialist need to be in technology troubleshooting?

  4. Carol8:26 AM

    When I first read that you worked for the Georgia Virtual School, I thought it would be a single school. I was surprised to learn that it is for the Georgia Department of Education. I had not heard of state depts. entering the online (virtual) education field. Is this a recent development in State Departments across America? Is there other states that you draw from their experience and share knowledge with?

  5. Hi Jessica,
    You are NOT alone and I have been in your position many times. We barely have enough time to unpack equipment or software and learn to utilize it but then we have to teach others, all the while trying to get them excited about how they can (and probably should) integrate it into their instruction!
    With regard to the feeling of intimidation. Try to remind yourself that you don't have to know a piece of technology inside and out in order to instruct others. In this day and age, with the rapid development and deployment of new technologies, it is just impossible and you will make yourself crazy if you try to master everything! Focus on learning the basics and then find one or two teachers who tend to embrace new technologies and ask them to become the resident experts. This kind of partnership not only takes some pressure off of you but empowers others by instilling a sense of pride and ownership.
    As for getting your colleagues to "really listen"... When classroom teachers see other classroom teachers effectively using technology, it tends to become contagious. It may be slow to spread but it will spread! A personal example I'd like to share is when our school received SmartBoards. I first met with grade level team leaders, role-played a few short lessons (got them excited!) and then gave them time to experiment with the boards. Next, they took a board to their classroom with the promise that they would develop, implement and refine at least one lesson that utilized the board. Lastly, we partnered up and presented more hands-on lessons to the teachers on their team. Although it was a bit more work on me to meet with each grade level separately, working with the smaller groups made for a more meaningful and worthwhile session and the bonus is that it enriched my relationship with the teachers. By the end of the semester teachers were clamoring for the boards and I'm happy to report that each classroom now has a (permanent) board installed and they have been used extensively and effectively! Having trouble recruiting a willing volunteer to adopt, utilize and/or demo a new product? Then start a bit smaller by telling/showing your colleagues what's in it for them and their students (i.e., how it will save them time in the immediate future and/or long run, improve student achievement, etc.)
    Above all, just know that you will never have a group that is 100% enthusiastic and motivated. (It's just not human nature.) The best you can do is consistently offer your service and support. Not everyone will want or be able to adopt a new technology at the same time or to the same degree. For some folks it takes repeated exposure to gradually warm up to that "one more thing". Just be there to lend a helping hand when they finally "see the light". ;-)

  6. Hello Kelly,
    Congratulations on having the foresight to improve your technology skills. While school library media specialists wear a myriad of hats in the world of instruction, a bulk of the work involves some form of technology! There are dozens of resource suggestions I could offer but don’t want to overwhelm you so I’ll offer my thoughts and suggestions as well as a few specific resources.

    If you haven’t already, be sure to join your state’s library media organization! The membership fee is usually reasonable and in addition to offering useful resources throughout the year, most sponsor an annual state-wide conference that includes an emphasis on instructional technologies. Great conferences give a lot of bang for the buck and leave me feeling inspired and rejuvenated! If your school’s budget won’t allow for this and you can’t squeeze out the dollars yourself, never fear! There are other ways to to keep up-to-date and learn about new technologies. Websites such as offer free videos and tutorials. Example: Photoshop - And Jane Hart’s blog gives you the down and dirty on all the latest tools for learning!

    There are some great learning opportunities and resources available through national and international organizations such as ISTE, AECT and AASL.

    I can’t emphasize enough the value of networking as it can lead to terrific learning opportunities! When I worked in a media center we had a district-wide listserv that was used heavily each day as well as a state-wide listerv. More recently, a blog was created by the state organization (Georgia Library Media Association) and members find it very useful. It is at: - be sure to scroll down to view all of the resources. On a national level, I urge you to subscribe to LM_Net! - - This listserv has been around for a long time! You can learn so much from its subscribers. If you don’t want to feel flooded by email, you can subscribe to the daily digest version. You can also visit: for some great resources!

    A couple more websites with lots of links to support you as a school media specialist are at:

    Virtual School Library Media Specialist Resource Center -

    Resources for School Librarians -

    Teacher Librarian Ning -

    Second Life Librarians (if you're feeling adventurous) -

    School Library Journal Mobile -

    To support your teachers’ instruction:

    I apologize for this lengthy response, and I’m sure there are things I’ve left out but I hope you’ll find some of these suggestions, resources and websites to be useful!
    And regarding your question about rewarding adult learners with little prizes – absolutely! Your suggestions will help a lot of folks to maintain focus! Another suggestion for a prize - if your principal will support it – give a little quiz or task to complete and the first person who completes it correctly may earn the right to leave 30 minutes early one day, or park in a special place or some other coveted privilege.

  7. Maria:
    Wow! What a great list to explore. Thanks for passing along that information to me and my classmates. :-)

    I have another situation I'd like to bounce off of you. There is a possiblity that a retirement at one of our district's high schools will create an opening for a media specialist next year. I would like to position myself to be in the running for it, but I know I'll be "competing," so to speak, with media specialists at the other schools in the district who have seniority and may want to transfer.

    If you were doing the hiring for this position and conducting the interviews, what "must-have" technology skills would you hope to see on a candidate's resume? (This is a secondary ed. position if that makes a difference.) Thanks again.

    -Kelly Hladek

  8. Laura4:18 PM

    I've been reading everyone's comments and this popped into my head:

    The media specialist is sometimes the person who is "in charge" of the technology at school. In your district did someone dictate what technolgies the school received or was technology chosen by the media spcialist?

    Also, is there someone from the tech department in your district that will train media specialists first before sharing that information with the teaching staff?

  9. Hi Sue,

    As you probably noticed, my previous post addresses the ways that I keep abreast of the latest trends, best practices, etc. With shrinking library budgets it is often difficult to subscribe to print media and so I encourage you to access those online when possible. In addition to School Library Journal there is Library Media Connection - Although online publications don’t usually include all of the articles contained in the print publications, you can benefit from some of the ideas and information they contain. A money-saving suggestion is to have your district purchase the most useful professional periodicals and then circulate them amongst the library media specialists in your district.

    With regard to your question about the involvement of the media specialist in technology troubleshooting, it has a lot to do with availability of human resources as well as the policies and procedures your school leadership wishes to follow. In the district I worked in, the media specialists in the elementary schools were typically “first responders” and would handle very minor troubleshooting such as printers (not printing), data projector display issues, etc. If the problem could not be resolved in a short amount of time, the teacher was advised to submit an online helpdesk ticket at which point a district level technician would come and repair/correct the problem. The online ticketing system was very helpful as all involved parties could login and check the status of the ticket and follow up as needed. A full-time technician or networking specialist was housed at each middle and high school and in those cases the media specialist was involved very little in troubleshooting. Suffice it to say, it varies tremendously from school to school and district to district.

    If you are in the situation where you are responsible for troubleshooting, I’d suggest you employ a free (or almost free) online helpdesk ticketing system (if you don’t already have one) and schedule a specific time of the day to troubleshoot. (I usually did this toward the end of the day. It was less disruptive and it didn’t take away from the media center during the busiest times.) Of course, emergencies will come up but setting aside time will keep troubleshooting from monopolizing your day!

    Let me know if that didn't answer your question or if I can provide additional information. :-)

  10. Maria,

    I noticed that you have been involved in a lot of volunteer professional organizations/events. I'm wondering how you learn to balance your work position with the other opportunities. I am currently a half time teacher/half time librarian at the Indiana School for the Blind. I just wrote a paper that I would like to submit to a journal on teaching the visually impaired, but I cannot seem to find time to place it in the right format etc. Could you explain how you focus your time to include both on the job and off the job professional activities?


  11. Anonymous7:54 PM

    Hello Maria!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of our questions. The list of resources you gave is wonderful. I can't wait to take a look at some more of them more in-depth.

    To give you a little background, I recently took the a media specialist position in a K-4 elementary school. I am lucky enough to have a media secretary and technology aide on my team.

    My situation...
    In the past the media specialist supervised both the tech aide and the media secretary. Just this year, my corporation hired a technology director and he works along side the media director. The new tech director has made it clear that the building principal is the tech aide's in-house supervisor.

    Being new, I don't know what was expected of the tech aide in the past. I have asked for a job description for the tech aide, but haven't gotten one yet. I know that my role as media specialist involes quite a bit of technology. We have two computer labs that need to be supervised, as well as quite a bit of technology within the classrooms.

    What do you see as the role of a technology aide within a K-4 building? I am really struggling with this because I am noticing a lack of initiative in the tech aide. She doesn't make herself available. I feel as though she could be searching for excellent websites to pass on to the teachers, and readying the lab for classes (have the websites up for younger students). Do you have any suggestions to help my situation?

    Elissa Ellis

  12. Budgeting is always and issue, it was mentioned that you are able to tele-work where ever you go. Do you think this is where media specialist are going? Will MS start taking the materials and the technology to the classrooms instead of the children coming to a media center? My daughter teaches in Georgia and I am impressed with the collaboration she has with her media specialist. The state seems to be very forward in the collaboration between the two areas. Unfortunately, I do not see that in my area.

  13. Hi Carol,

    Currently, there are 34 state-led virtual programs. Like Georgia, most work in partnership with school districts to supplement face-to-face offerings. Georgia has many rural and poor areas and students who attend school in these locations would not have an opportunity to participate in an Advanced Placement course were it not for Georgia Virtual School (GAVS). (We also accept private, home and out-of-state school students.) In addition to over 130 college preparatory courses, GAVS currently offers 21 AP courses and I’m pleased to report that we have no trouble filling the seats! There are actually 44 states that offer supplemental online learning programs but 10 of those are not state-led.) GAVS has been in existence for about 5 years and is considered to be on of the “older” online K12 programs. Florida has a very large online presence and has been offering a full-time curriculum for over a decade.

    There is a lot of support and collaboration amongst the states! Thankfully, there is a terrific organization (iNACOL) that supports our efforts. For a quick overview, I encourage you to visit their site at: - Scroll down and click on Fast Facts. There is a lot of research to support K12 online learning and it is growing by leaps and bounds. Additionally, we help each other out one-on-one. It has been thrilling to be a part of this relatively young movement. It has allowed me to grow in new directions professionally and it is very rewarding to witness students taking advantage of such a rewarding learning opportunity!

  14. Maria,

    I read your bio that Dr. Johnson provided and I saw that you created a virtual meeting place for educators to collaborate on best practices. Can you give more information on that? Can any educator participate? I would be interested in learning more about that.

    Thank you,

    Kristine Arthur

  15. “Must-have” technology skills? That is a loaded question. Truly! ;-)

    If I tried to make a list, I would surely leave something out since these skills are ever-evolving but since I hate the idea of not offering any ideas, I’ll include a few with the disclaimer that it is very general. “Standard” software aside (MS Works, PhotoShop, etc.), I believe you should get as comfy as possible with the Web 2.0 tools and open source products (i.e., Moodle), that will best support students and teachers. If you haven’t had a chance to explore and experiment, now is the time. A few goodies:,, and - The latter, Google tools, can go a long way on a short budget! As I mentioned in a previous post, I would urge you if you aren’t already, to attend technology conferences on an annual basis. Find a couple of great blogs like Jane’s eLearning Pick of the Day ( and visit them whenever you get a chance.

    In an interview setting, if given the opportunity, discuss how you would integrate available technologies rather than focusing on a specific skill-set. The ability to think outside of the box and engage your learners will give you and edge! Good luck! :-)

  16. Maria-Thanks for sharing all the resources tips and website links. We appreciate your support and interest. -Kelly Hladek

  17. Hi Laura,

    Regarding decision making at the district and school level – In the district I worked in, computers and networking equipment are purchased by the district according to their desired specifications. There is a district-level technology committee that is made up of administrators, networking techs, media specialists, teachers, students and parents. Their primary purpose is long range technology planning. Each school has a media/technology committee and they are responsible for the short and long-range technology plans of the school. Based on the school improvement plan, curricular objectives, etc., this committee makes recommendations for technology purchases. In just about all schools, the media specialist is the chair of the committee. This works well as he/she has a strong knowledge of needs, etc.

    I’m not sure if I understand your second question about someone from the tech dept. training the media specialists. If you are referring to being trained on a piece of equipment or software – that rarely, if ever happens. Their job is really just to install it. At least that is how it is at the district I used to work at. I did work in a school system where there was a “bridge” person who had a strong technical background and would conduct training for media specialists and other teachers as needed. Then the media specialists would re-deliver the training. This is more the exception to the rule in my experience. If you are lucky enough to work in a school district that has several schools (and several media specialists) you can share the job of learning a new technology and then educate each other.

  18. Hi Dayna,

    Time management is the toughest part of the profession as far as I am concerned. I wish I could offer a recipe for how to keep all the balls in the air and your sanity intact but I’m still trying to figure that out! I should start by saying that I do not have any children and my husband is a saint! ;-) My first tip is to NOT burn the candle at both ends or you WILL burn out! However, participating in professional organizations, contributing to journals, mentoring, etc., is so worthwhile that you just have to make it a priority at some point. Typically, if my work-day at school ended at 3:45 p.m., I would stay until 5:00 and either teach professional development courses or do some work related to my professional organizations – conference planning, etc. Next, I suggest setting realistic goals. Don’t try to do too much or take on too much in a short amount of time. Ask for help! Others would be pleased to offer suggestions, proofread papers, etc. Involving colleagues is also a good way to keep yourself on track since you have to prepare prior to meeting with them. Lastly, enjoy what you do! If you are passionate about the work then it is more a labor of love and that is never a burden. Hang in there!

  19. Hello Maria~

    I wrote earlier about what you feel are the roles of a technology aide in a K-4 building.

    In my opinion the students needs and the teacher needs are a top priority. Of course, fixing problems with technology is also a top priority too!

    Just yesterday, there was a teacher in the computer lab working with her students on a spelling website. The tech. aides desk is right outside this particular lab. I was outside the lab and heard the teacher struggling with getting all of her students to the right spot.

    If I were a technology aide, I would have hopped up and helped, but unfortunately this didn't happen. I went in (due to not knowing the boundaries because my position no longer supervises the technology aide of whether or not I should say something) and helped. I later found out that this teacher had requested the webpage be put on the desktop for easier access. The response from the tech aide was "it's on some of them".

    I don't want this to come across as complaining. I guess I am just wondering if I am off base as far as if that should have been something she should have handled. (Come to find out she definitely knew they were struggling because she thanked me for dealing with that teacher.)

    At other schools I have been to, the technology aides would have gotten the lab ready and had the site pulled up for the teacher. They have also been there for a second set of hands, especially because you are dealing with 6 year olds.

    So again, I am just looking for the roles and responsibilities you feel a technology aide in an elementary school should fullfil. Thanks in advance for you help.

    Elissa Ellis

  20. Maria- Thank you for your response! It is frustrating to teach colleagues who are not open to new ideas. I have seen lots of great resources you have listed here on the blog and I can't wait to check them out:) If you had one piece of advice/website for Kindergarten and First grade teachers to use with their students (teaching or learning)what would you recommend for us? I know there is so much out there, but a simple starting point may be more appealing to those unable to tackle large projects and programs when it comes to adding new technology. Thanks!

  21. Maria,
    Do you work a lot with children with challenges? What technology is a must in the media centers to meet their needs? Are the media centers now starting to be available to the community, are their programs that are opening up to adults?
    Thank you for your responses,
    Sue Reber

  22. Hi Elissa,

    You are in a challenging situation. My first suggestion is - don’t be shy! It doesn’t matter that it is your first year as the media specialist. You are a trusted professional! I suggest approaching this challenge from the “team” angle. Let your principal know that in order for the school to run like a well oiled machine, get the most bang its buck, and fully support teachers and students, it would be most helpful to know the expectations of related positions (media secretary, tech aide, media specialist, etc.) so there is no unnecessary overlap in services. Good leaders want harmony and efficiency. ;-) When I was asked to perform duties that fell under another person’s job description, I complied but let my principal know that each time I was performing another person’s duties, it was taking away from the media services I was hired to provide. I was specific. For example, “Yes. I will troubleshoot those 6 requests but then I will be late to the leadership committee meeting this afternoon.” You can do this with a very positive tone – and mean it. Demonstrate your willingness to be a team player. You may try teaming up with the tech aid and offer a training session for staff. This may boost her confidence and help her realize that she is a valued part of the instructional team.

    As for the role of a tech aide – that can vary greatly depending on the needs of the school population. You may want to see how other schools in your district utilize tech aides. And if the opportunity arises, be ready to offer suggestions. Best wishes to you!

  23. Anonymous7:24 PM

    Thank you for your suggestions. I actually was able to speak with the technology director today and we talked through a few of the issues. He agrees that the needs of the students and staff should come first. So I am very happy we are on the same page on that issue. Thanks again for your insights!


  24. Hi Sue,
    Sorry for any confusion I might have caused. I am no longer working as a media specialist. I tele-work for Georgia Virtual School (GAVS) as a technology specialist. GAVS does have a media specialist for the virtual media center and she provides support to students who have research questions, etc. However, bricks and mortar schools will be around for a long time to come and I’d like to think the planners and decision makers will be smart enough to retain a qualified media specialist at each site! The media center will change. It will shrink as resources become more portable but the skills needed to locate and evaluate information will still need to be taught.

    Georgia has had excellent media leadership over the past few decades! Our state organizations participate in the annual Library Legislative Day held in Atlanta. It is our opportunity to bend the ear of our legislators! We inform them of the impact strong libraries and media centers have on students and encourage them to continue funding needed programs. Many years ago, a handbook was developed for media specialists in Georgia and while it is somewhat old, it has proven useful! You can check it out at: - The GA State Dept. of Education also offers a good deal of support. More info at:

    I believe the two things that have made for strong media programs in Georgia are the emphasis on collaboration and the willingness of the media specialists to take on technology responsibilities. With flexible scheduling, collaboration is ensured! And showing that you can be flexible by working with old and new technologies, makes you a valuable part of the instructional team! Rome wasn’t built in a day so maybe you can start small and eventually show others how important your role is to the success of the school!

  25. Hi Kristine,

    The virtual meeting space I was charged with creating was for GAIT – the Georgia Association for Instructional Technology. You can see the “front page” of it at - - Some of the pages are public and others require a member to login. An organization that most GAIT members belong to is GLMA (Georgia Library Media Association). I am pleased to see that they have an active blog where most folks tend to migrate. You can check it out at:

    If your state doesn’t have anything like the above examples, take the lead and create one yourself. You’ll be surprised how many people appreciate such a resource!

  26. Hello Elissa,

    I have been in this position. I feel your frustration and understand where you are coming from! I can offer you a couple more suggestions. The first will be a hard one and that is to not step in unless you are specifically asked to. At appropriate times, you may want to encourage the teachers to make use of the resource provided – the tech aide. If they asked that a lab be set up a certain way and it isn’t, then it is their (the teacher’s) responsibility to report the problem to the aide’s supervisor. In this case the principal.

    Is the tech aide at your school new? Maybe she just hasn’t been trained. If that is the case perhaps she could shadow for a day, an experienced aide at another school. Shadowing for a day can do wonders! Is the aide overwhelmed and “shutting down”? At my last school, we had student tech aides. We trained them to properly clean the computers, do very basic troubleshooting, load printer paper, etc. Each morning it was their job to make sure all of the computers were turned on, running properly, etc. If they had any trouble, they reported it to the tech aide and that way she had more time to plan for the classes that would be visiting the lab that day.

    If you’ll send a note to my personal email address (, I’ll be happy to send you a couple of job descriptions. But do remember, the best thing you can do is allow the computer lab users to express their needs and problems to the principal so the issues can be addressed directly. Good luck!

  27. Hi Jessica,
    A friend of mine used to train teachers and they would contribute their favorite sites. This page is sorted by grade level. One of my favorites is Star Fall so be sure to check it out -

    My favorite websites for teachers and students:

  28. Hello Sue,

    I have worked with some special needs students but not extensively. This is an older site but does a nice job of giving an overview and suggestions:

    More info:

    As for school media centers being accessible to the community, I see this happening more as public library budgets continue to shrink. If there is proper security and supervision, allowing the community to utilize the school media center can be a positive thing! In my previous school system, the high school media center was open from 4:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. A media specialist and school resource officer were both on site during this time and students and parents were very appreciative of the opportunity to access the Internet and materials without having to travel across town to the public library.

  29. Thank you for all the great questions. I appreciated the opportunity to share my experiences with you. I think I addressed all of the comments and questions but if I missed something, please let me know.

    Best wishes to all of you!