Sunday, October 09, 2011

Maria Savoldi - Mon. Oct. 10 to Wed. Oct. 12, 2011

Maria Savoldi has experience as a classroom teacher, a school library media specialist, and as a county director of instructional media and technology - - much of that as employee of the Glynn County School System, Brunswick, GA. She has also designed and delivered professional learning courses (staff development, teacher training) that foster effective technology integration.

Like most of our guest experts working in the field, Maria often delivers presentations and workshops at state and national conferences and has served in various governance roles in professional organizations.

In 2006 Maria made a career jump to begin working full-time in distance learning / online education. In that arena, she was first employed by the Georgia Virtual School and during the last few years, works for the Mercury Online Academy. Maria now lives in Florida and at Mercury, she is the Manager of Online Instructional Services.

I've also asked Maria to first respond to the 'kickoff question': "What is it that people don't get about your Job?"


  1. Allison Daniel4:25 AM

    Since our class assignment this week is about weeding, I was wondering how often you weed your library collection? Also, do you use the CREW method or do you have another method?

  2. Thanks for such a great kickoff question! What people don't "get" about my virtual job is that, like being a library media specialist, it is ever-evolving and because of this it is rare that any project can ever be declared "complete". This job would probably be difficult for people who like to "clear their plate" at the end of each day/week. It also consumes far more time that any position I've served in at a brick and mortar school. While it offers a great deal of flexibility it is rare that one can "power down" as you work where you live and the "to-dos" are just a Blackberry or computer click away. But it also appeals to me because, like working in a library media center, no two days are ever alike and I have the opportunity to work with some terrific, high energy people! It is definitely a labor of love! :)

  3. Anonymous10:55 AM

    I'm currently also taking a Computers In Education course, and my professor has worked in the past to create some of Indiana's first virtual schools and classes. I'm very interested in the idea of virtual schools and classrooms, and I can see a lot of ways that a media specialist would be a great asset to online programs (I'm thinking an ebook library, virtually collaborating with teachers, teaching students how to manage their online environments, etc.) My questions for you are: Your title is Manager of Online Instructional Services - how closely does your position resemble the position of Media Specialist in a brick and mortar school? Do any virtual schools that you know of employ Media Specialists to create "virtual" media centers, collaborate virtually with teachers, and teach students online? Why or why not?

  4. Hello Allison,

    Regarding weeding...The CREW method is ideal in my opinion! It has been several years since I've had to perform the not-so-fun task of weeding! But I recall a couple of ways to make it less cumbersome.

    When I'd start work in a media center, I'd run a report to identify titles that had not been circulated for several years. As a part of a lesson, I'd have students pull those books and arrange them in order on a cart. Then when I had some time I'd verify each title and either re-shelve or discard.

    Some springs, I'd "assign myself" a section with a goal of weeding by the end of the day/week (depending on how large the section was). Tackling it in smaller chunks and setting deadlines/goals gave me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. :)

    Weeding is an ongoing, never ending process to be sure; but if you weed on a regular basis you'll tame the beast! ;-)

  5. Allison Daniel4:27 AM

    Thank you for your response! As I read your biography, it said that you provide technical support and evaluate and make software purchase recommendations. I have to be honest in saying that the technology piece of being a media specialist scares me. In my school district, the media specialist is having to fill the role of the technology person daily as well. Do you have any tips or suggestions for purchasing software or simply becoming more comfortable with technology support? Are classes and trainings the best way to learn about the equipment used in schools?

  6. Anonymous10:23 AM

    Hi Maria,

    I'm fascinated by online education and distance learning. Why did you choose Mercury Online Academy? What does a typical workday "look like" for you?

    Thank you!
    Casey O'Leary

  7. Maria,

    How do you get help teachers get past the fear of using technology in the classroom? I have some teachers that don't use technology because they are afraid of it. How can help them become more comfortable?


  8. Hi Jessica,
    Your observation is correct! A media specialist can be a tremendous asset to an online program. Many media specialists begin their careers as teachers and that experience combined with a solid background in instructional design, technology integration, curriculum, and let’s not forget copyright, make them ideal candidates for working in the virtual world of education!
    My current position entails many of the functions I performed as a media specialist in brick and mortar schools! There are many parallels – supporting teachers, reviewing curriculum, evaluating and purchasing resources, technology troubleshooting and the list goes on. Some of our most outstanding adjunct teachers are media specialists! We also have media specialists who work in support services for staff, students and parents. This has been a good fit because media specialists tend to have the ability to see the big picture and can effectively facilitate discussions and problem solve! We have also used media specialists to build virtual media centers and provide instructional support to teachers.

  9. Hello again, Allison,

    Media specialists often where the hats of technology troubleshooter, technology trainer, software purchaser, etc. The best suggestion I can make is to ask lots and lots of questions! (And don’t be shy!) When technicians do come to your school to make repairs, turn into their shadow. (If they don’t like that then bake them some cookies and they’ll get chatty!) Then ask questions! I’ve always made it a point to maintain a good rapport with the floating school district technicians and they quickly learned that by sharing little tips and tricks with me, they’d save themselves the time of trouble of having to return to the school in the future. I still do the same thing when calling a tech support line. When an issue is resolved, I ask the support person “how” or “what happened” so I’ll be better prepared in the future. You should also reach out to other media specialists in your district and exchange tips/tricks. Since you will likely have the same equipment, you can learn from each other and better share the load. And nowadays, you can often “just Google” your question and be presented with sites and videos on how to solve the issue at hand.

    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 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!

    As for software selection, there are many Internet sites that provide free trials and reviews. You may also consider targeting a few “techie” teachers at your school. Ask them to review and make recommendations. They will be pleased to have the opportunity to offer input and are much likely to make use of the resources if they are purchased.

    I’m including some websites below that you may want to add to your electronic toolkit.

    Virtual School Library Media Specialist Resource Center -
    Resources for School Librarians -
    Teacher Librarian Ning -
    School Library Journal Mobile -

    To support your teachers’ instruction:

    Bottom brave! You can't break it! ;-)

  10. Hi Casey,

    I first became aware of online learning in 2000. The administrators in our school district were fairly forward thinking and allowed us to purchase a learning platform to be used for staff development. We found it challenging as there was little interest in supporting K-12 users but a few of us (all media specialists) forged ahead. By the time I left the district in 2003, we did manage to develop a few of our own staff development courses and a few brave teachers created special online units to use with their students. One of those pioneering media specialists retired was recruited to develop some courses for what is now known as Georgia Virtual School, a program of the Georgia Department of Education. Little by little she took on more responsibilities. Shortly thereafter she retired from the school system and continued to work online. She really embraced the experience and her enthusiasm rubbed off on me! When there was an opportunity I applied and began working part time for Georgia Virtual School. The part time work quickly became full time. I served in several capacities during the three years I was there. I landed at Mercury a few years ago because the fabulous supervisor I had at Georgia Virtual School left and went to work at Mercury. When there was an opening I applied because I wanted to continue doing the work I loved under her mentorship and guidance.

    There is really no typical day in the online world of education but I can provide you with some highlights. Keep in mind we serve state charter schools as well as schools overseas so emails come in ‘round the clock. Some of the tasks that fall under my umbrella:
    -Help develop/refine processes
    -Train teachers
    -Create or edit marketing presentations
    -Travel to sites where Mercury provides onsite learning centers
    -Attend/present at national conferences
    -Review/purchase software
    -Troubleshoot/support the learning management system
    -Plan for future growth
    -Conduct meetings

    The list goes on and on…just like being a media specialist…never a dull day!

  11. Maria,
    Thanks for your response! It's good to know that there are still schools out there that understand the value of media specialists. From reading your response to Casey, it sounds like you were "in the right place at the right time" with your virtual positions. How would you recommend other educators break into the virtual world of teaching? Right now I run an elementary LMC as an aide, but I don't have any classroom teaching experience or full time MS experience. However, I've enjoyed creating webquests, pathfinders, and other online assignments so much, it's got me extremely interested in the virtual education platform. What steps would you suggest I take, or what qualifications do you think are necessary to becoming a virtual MS position?

  12. Hi Heather,

    There will ALWAYS be teachers who resist implementing technology into their instruction. And it is usually "fear based". Last year I received a similar question and so you could say I am "re-tweeting" it here because it still holds true:

    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". ;-)

  13. Hi again, Jessica,

    The combination of timing and my professional network were key in obtaining my first virtual position! It really was a matter of getting my foot in the door. As I did with any position I’ve had, I embraced “the good, the bad and the ugly” and gave all tasks 100%! Developing a good working relationship with my co-workers created bonds that will last much longer than our jobs. ☺

    Virtual positions in education are growing! It is possible to start as an online tutor and work into an adjunct teaching position and so on. There are other virtual jobs that don’t require a teaching degree. They typically entail administrative duties. This site has a lot of good links to get you thinking:

    Check out out SREB teachers to learn more about what is involved and required.

    I highly recommend you also explore the iNACOL site at:

    It is a challenging but rewarding work environment!