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I was at a session on initiatives our school district is embarking on earlier this week and it was not surprised to see that moving school libraries to a library Learning Commons model is at the top of the list. This is good! When I think of the library Learning Commons being the hub of the school where learning can be flexible, just in time and personalized in a community of learners, I am all for shifting to the idea of the library as a Learning Commons.
However, when I hear people quote that the “hallmark of a school library in the 21st century is not its collections, its systems, its technology, its staffing, its buildings, BUT its actions and evidences that show that it makes a real difference to student learning, that it contributes in tangible and significant ways to the development of … meaning making and constructing knowledge.”(Todd 2001, p. 4), and listen to them hone in on the part stating the library learning commons isn’t about staff and resources I am concerned. I worry that decision makers are only reading the first part of Todd’s statement and think...oh great, a way to save money in these tight economic times. Let’s cut the library staff and resources. After all, isn't it all available online anyway?
How can you have actions and evidence of student learning without a qualified instructor, whether it is in the classroom or the Learning Commons? A teacher librarian is there to lead and collaborate with staff and students to use the Learning Commons resources in guided inquiry to achieve student learning. How can a library that only has a library technician function as a learning hub of the school? Who leads the learning and designs the programs? Who leads the staff learning on emerging technologies? Who teaches students about digital citizenship, allowing teachers to focus on core curriculum? Who builds a community of learners by creating programs that bridge across the core curriculum? How can a teacher librarian focus on teaching and collaborating with all staff and students without the support of a trained library technician whose focus is ordering, cataloging, making resources available to staff and students, checking out mobile devices and books, and assisting the teacher librarian as he/she organizing the programming?
Valerie Diggs’ excellent Slideshare; From Library to Learning Commons states that a key idea is that as we move to a new model we need to build our program first. As I read this, I reflected on how our school’s library moved from a space designed primarily for quiet, independent work and finding information where the teacher-librarian was in charge and the resources were only accessible during school hours to the lively learning space it is now. A space that is flexible and shared, resources are “just in time” not “just in case”, accessible both online and in house, with a teacher-librarian who is a learning coach who is embedded into the work of the classrooms and staff professional development rather than hiding behind a desk dictating the library space. It has become a space that encourages participation and community.
It sounds like it was simple, but ...it is an evolution that continues. It began five years ago when I moved to high school with my current principal. We had a shared vision of the library as the learning hub of the school and we set up a committee to look at what students and staff wanted from the library Learning Commons. This involved surveying students and staff, involving both in the committee and investing money and time into developing the space. And yes, comfy furniture and flexible space that allows for a variety of activities was included, but so was a virtual library, letting students showcase and create knowledge, having resources chosen by students as well as teachers, letting students work in groups, and having a space where staff could go for professional development. The goal was to build a program that supports learning and meaning making school wide.
This involved weeding out old outdated resources, investing in a virtual library that has resources (fiction and nonfiction), and is a space for students to create, collaborate, connect and communicate both face to face and online through video conferencing, blogs and other Web 2.0 tools. We also changed the physical space by removing no longer needed shelving to make space for students and teachers to work, putting wheels on shelves so that the space can be flexible, and adding comfy chairs and coaches as well as more tables for student group work. It involved the teacher librarian working very closely with teachers in a way that goes beyond gathering research resources for students and instead, involves collaboration in building student engagement and learning. This learning involves providing professional development to staff on Web 2.0 tools and emerging literacies as well as curriculum changes. It involves the teacher librarian being part of the instruction of students and building of learning activities. With all this, we have not reached the finish line yet. Perhaps constant evolution is part and parcel of our changing society, and the library Learning Commons needs to reflect that evolution.
I want to go back to my original concern that decision makers are thinking that a move to the Learning Commons is more about space and less about the actions in that space. I wonder how you can have a library Learning Commons without qualified library staff...both a teacher librarian and a trained library technician? Who builds the virtual library? Who does professional development with staff on emerging literacies? Who facilitates the building of the program, working with resources and inquiry learning? Who works with teachers and students as they create knowledge?
If 21st century learning and schools are about connecting, collaborating, creating and communicating, then creating an effective library Learning Commons is the right move. If it is about saving money and cutting staff, a true library Learning Commons is not going to happen in your schools. You may have comfy couches and a Smart board, but it is a dead space.
As you begin to make this transformation, ask yourself: how is the program you are building allowing for connecting, collaboration, communication and creating. This isn’t an overnight change that occurs because of the space and furniture but rather because of the actions of the school community. A great resource for those libraries interested in moving towards a library is Ontario's School Libraries Publication Learning Commons is Together For Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons.
I am interested in hearing other voices? What steps have you or are you taking as your schools make the move towards a library learning commons?
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Conducting Action Research to Evaluate Your School Library
How should teacher librarians or instructional leaders engage in action research to improve their school library and benefit students' learning? This book provides the answers.Teacher librarians need to get directly involved with the research process in the learning commons in order to create actions and strategies that will enhance student learning—and benefit their own professional development as well as demonstrate accountability through their action research efforts. This book provides practical tips and work spaces for educators at the local, state, and national levels, clearly modeling and explaining the process and the tools for conducting action research in a school library setting that will identify the program's strengths and weaknesses. The author coalesces current expert opinions on the topic of action research in the school library environment and highlighting what other teacher librarians in the field have identified as the pros and cons of using the process. Readers are directed to focus on mitigating the "cons" through the use of specific working pages and templates and by initially exploring "five favorite" links, thereby encouraging those who are new to action research to try what might otherwise seem a daunting process. School principals K–12 who read this book will be better equipped to support their teacher librarians and teachers in this important professional process.
• Supplies invaluable insights from experts and practitioners on the subject of action research
• Provides a clear model of the process in action
• Directs readers to additional resources that facilitate effective action research and timely topics for school library research, such as time management and technology in learning
Students create digital projects with images, music, videos, and websites to win an iPad Mini or annual subscription to one of Rosen Digital's online databases
New York (Feb 27, 2013) -- Help your students harness their creative energies while putting their 21st-century skills to use with a new contest from ThingLink and Rosen Digital. Students in grades K-12 can create Interactive ThingLink images, providing the opportunity to explore their interests and passions, connect multiple resources into a cohesive presentation, and share their projects with a large community. Visit ThingLinkContest.com for more information.
ThingLink allows students to connect audio, video, images, websites, and text into one interactive image presentation. Projects deepen learning as students delve into content through research to present knowledge and ideas as they learn while practicing digital literacy skills of image creation and selection, content curation, tagging, and sharing.
"ThingLink is o ne of my favorite and most frequently used tools because it supports active student participation and requires users to construct ideas as they create," says Susan Oxnevad, Instructional Technology Facilitator and educator for 26 years. "The tool can be very useful for designing and implementing the types of deep learning experiences required by the Common Core and it is also an effective way to help students develop digital literacy skills. ThingLink is fun, flexible, and intuitive!"
Eligibility: All students K-12 are eligible to enter. Teachers and parents may enter an image on a student's behalf.
Submission Deadline: Images may be submitted through May 1, 2013. Enter images at ThingLinkContest.com.
Winners will be announced on May 15, 2013.
Categories: There are 10 categories:
My Favorite Books or Authors
Science -- Think Like a Scientist!
Health & Well-being -- You, Your Family, Your Friends
Environment -- The World Around Us
Community -- Volunteering & Making a Difference
Money Smarts -- Earning, Saving, Spending
Art & Music -- Express Yourself!
Sports -- Game On!
History & Social Studies -- From Yesterday to Today
Animals -- Furry, Friendly, & Fierce
Students can enter as many images as they like. All entries are viewable on ThingLink.com.
Voting: Friends and family can vote on their favorite images by using a "touch" icon on a ThingLink image. The most "touches" counts for a portion of the score. A team of educational advisors will review entries and determine winners.
Prizes: One iPad Mini will be awarded to the top winner in each category. The winning school in each category will also receive one Rosen database subscription for a year (Teen Health & Wellness, Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, or the PowerKnowledge Science Suite). Certificates will be awarded to second and third place winners in each category.