Lamar Middle School librarian Andrea Keller is one of many educators across the nation who has utilized social media and technology to keep students engaged over the past year. Pre-pandemic, the library at Lamar Middle School would be filled with kids before school – reading and playing board games. This past August was a bit different. Keller returned to her quiet library, which was missing the laughter and presence of her students. “I couldn’t stop what I had been doing,” she says. “Instead, I had to think outside the box to keep my students engaged.”
Out of the pandemic came “Book Talk Tuesdays” and “What Are You Reading Wednesdays.” These were opportunities to create dialogue about new books she was reading and allow students to share what they’re reading as well. Keller truly committed to these weekly check-ins and wanted to be consistent over anything else. The videos would be shared on Flipgrid, TikTok and Twitter.
Social media has become an outlet and resource for teachers and students during the pandemic, and Keller believes it’s one of the best tools for education. “You can make so many great connections and learn new things from other educators across the US,” she says. Through social media, she’s also been able to personally connect and collaborate more closely with other Irving ISD librarians to share ideas and brainstorm ways to reach students learning virtually.
Keller is currently in her 19th year of being an educator and has been working in Irving ISD for 16 of those years – starting as a teacher. “After being in the classroom for so long, I was ready to affect more students, and librarians get the best of both worlds,” she says. “You get to work with technology, help students be and think creative and work with the community.” To her, the best part of her job is creating a safe space for students to share their stories and connect those stories to books. “I want every student to know and feel that they belong,” adds Keller.
Recently, her online efforts were noticed on a national scale and she was named one of EdTech K–12 Magazine’s Top 30 K-12 IT Influencers. Out of 30 educators from across the county on the list, she was the only librarian to make the cut! This came as a complete surprise to Keller, but she’s very grateful and excited to have made the list.
When asked what advice she’d give to other educators interested in utilizing social media and technology more in the new year, she had this to say: “Be positive, follow hashtags for inspiration and think outside of the box.”