Sunday, November 27, 2011

Learning Commons Transformation - Ten Steps

Many Schools and Boards are creating plans to become 21st Century Learning/Teaching Districts.  Most would agree that 21st Century Teaching and Learning focuses on some key skills including:
1.  Creative Problem Solving
2.  Critical Thinking
3.  Communication
4.  Collaboration

These skills are highlighted at many sites including the Partnership for 21st Century Learning.

So where does the library fit in?  Many people still consider libraries to be quiet places for independent study, research, and a location to find a wide arrangement of materials in print form.

This is where the Learning Commons comes into play.  All Boards and Districts should remember to include their school libraries in their plans for becoming a 21st Century Learning/Teaching District.

The Ontario Library Association has produced an excellent resource "Together for Learning - School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons" as a resource for re-inventing the school library for the 21st Century.  Click here to review the document.

Here is a link to a brief presentation that outlines our Board's plan to transition our school libraries to Learning Commons over the next three years.

10 Key Steps in our Learning Commons Transition Plan
1.  Create an advisory team - include teachers, library staff, students, parents and administration
2.  Provide funding for infrastructure, devices, and digital resources
3.  Validate the importance of print materials (we are not trying to get rid of books)
4.  Create flexible learning spaces that provide opportunities for collaboration
5.  Provide comfortable furniture that encourages reading (ie. Starbucks-like atmosphere)
6.  Expand the use of the space for many activities including Author presentations, art exhibits, slam poetry, tech support, musical sessions, etc.
7.  Keep a small area for quiet study, but expand the space for collaborative activities
8.  Provide training to library staff in digital resources, and web 2.0 tools
9.  Link the Learning Commons Plan to the School Improvement Plan
10. Promote and Celebrate the New Learning Commons space in the school

Our first three transitions have been very effective - thanks to the dedicated library staff at the first three schools. 78 schools to go!

Have a look for yourself  -
Animoto exhibit of Mother Teresa High School Learning Commons in Action
Blog of St. Joseph High School - not so quiet Learning Commons in Action


  1. Hi Thomas,
    I had the experience of transforming the library into a Commons at the last school that I was at...what a huge difference! Students reacted to the change by collaborating, discussing and LEARNING!
    Definitely a step in the right direction...thanks for sharing your post.

    1. Thanks Derek - thanks for sharing your comments - I'm enjoying your tweets as well!

  2. I guess let's just try to capitalize on any benefits that it will bring and demand that they give us neighbors something huge as a compromise.
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