Our 21st Century Learning Commons Journey begins….

18 Apr

Forest Hills School Library Learning Commons Project

(Phase one)

 The Forest Hills School middle level library space is being  transformed “into a vibrant learning commons – the 21st Century vision of a dynamic environment to support and promote information literacy and media production.”  School District 8 and Forest Hills schools was selected as one of two pilot schools in New Brunswick.  The  Department of Education  has committed to invest along with a commitment of support from the Forest Hills Parent School Support Committee, Home & School, PALs at LNG, and District 8,  the vision for our technology rich library will come to a reality.

Our plans for Phase 1 include an aesthetic transformation of our library space as well as the creation of a media room, café, and collaborative work spaces.  Currently, our library is a cold and uninviting “warehouse” space with out of date resources.  We envision an “at home,” comfortable atmosphere, where students can work on a variety of projects.  Inspired by the Google approach to business, the modernized library will foster creativity in our students.  The administration is also developing a student survey so we can incorporate their input into the final library product.  This is a space for students and therefore should be a reflection of their needs and wants.  These surveys were  conducted in January.

At Forest Hills School, we are trying to promote school culture.  We will be having the library painted in school colours (red, black, and white), with bold colour blocking to help transform the huge room into a more modern and inviting space with clearly defined gathering areas.  Much of the old shelving and dated resources will be removed from the library, with the idea that less is more.  A more modern and more efficient space, with clean lines.  The library circulation area will be moved from the main library area into a side office, maximizing student space.

To further incorporate student input and to help promote cross curricular literacy, we will be creating an art gallery on the back wall of the library.  The wall will be painted red, and the students will make large black frames in technology class which will be filled with student generated art work.  Both the Technology and Art Specialists have jumped at the chance to assist with this project and will begin work in the New Year.  The intent is that the artwork can be changed throughout the year and we may also have gallery shows.

We have decided to incorporate a game area that will look much like a living room.  With low-level lighting, a coffee table and comfortable furniture, this will be an area students can gather to play board games and video games.  The District Office Math Mentors are gathering math related games and activities for students.  They are all fun games that are subtlety incorporating math strategies, an area where we are focusing on improving student achievement.

There will be an area in the library dedicated to comic books, graphic novels and art work.  This is an area where students can gather to read a genre that appeals to many of our students or to draft their own comic books.  We will also have software where students can create their own comic books using their netbooks.

On the main level of the library, we plan to have many collaboration areas.  The SmartBoard is centrally located for use with a larger group, but we also plan to have monitors set up in the room so students can plug into the same screen and work together on PBLs and other projects.  We are having outlets installed centrally so students can plug-in.  Some students will want the opportunity to work or read independently, so there will be study carrels around the parameter of the room.  The intention with most of this furniture and of these spaces is that they are flexible.  If there is a large meeting of project, things can easily be moved to accommodate need.

The loft area of the library is being dedicated to media production.  One of the two offices off of the loft will be a conference/planning room.  The other, larger office will be outfitted as our green screen media production room.  This room will have an iMac computer and the software needed to create high-end student product.  The following link is the green screen package we have decided to purchase: http://www.tubetape.net/servlet/the-637/Green-Screen-Pro-Video/Detail. The outer part of the loft will also be used for media production or other student projects.  There is a SmartBoard; there will be two iMac computers and whiteboards for drafting ideas.  The loft will be the media hub for the school.

Finally, as a part of phase 1, we have decided to use the Follett e-Shelf web-based literacy product.  The flexibility of this system allows for student access to resources 24/7.  The system can be accessed through the netbooks or any other device the students have from home.  The cost of the system is only based on the amount of books we plan to purchase, so can grow with us.  This system will replace the bulk of our paper books, allowing us to choose paper books more selectively, with high student interest in mind.  This system will also allow teachers to differentiate easily.  If a student is reading at a much lower level, for example, there is no embarrassment as the book is only being read on the computer.

I have included a gallery of photos depicting the before and during journey of phase 1.  Student, parents and the school district are very excited about this project and the opportunities it will present for our students.

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Our journey at Forest Hills  began  with the research, planning and development of the library Learning Commons in New Brunswick.  Below is an outline used as a road map in developing a 21st Century Learning Commons.

Prior to 2011-12
Support site licences to augment library research tools
Conduct Research regarding libraries in high performing systems
Create vision statement for modernizing school libraries
Draft Library Learning Commons “Look Fors”
2011 – 12
Establish school profile for pilot of library learning commons.
Select one middle and one high school pilot demonstration school site to collaborate and
gather information. The purpose is to research how to translate a vision of a resource-rich,
multipurpose learning centre, focused on 21st Century Learning, media production, project
based-learning and the generation and management of digital content into reality in New
Brunswick schools. Additional information to gather:
How does the school currently manage the following:
digital content
media production
project based learning
student collaboration across curricular areas
student access to online courses
access to school resources and equipment
resource budgets
special quests/experts
learning events
community resources
Establish a portal site to showcase the developments of the library learning commons.
Meet with pilot district learning specialists responsible for school libraries, technology
and learning, and professional development and IS Managers to collaborate and develop
go-forward actions including analysing results from the pilots as well as considering professional
learning needs of staff.
2012 – 13
Continue work with pilot schools and districts.
Develop a needs assessment to gather information from all school stakeholders including
the local community and partners.
Present details, costs, timelines, and actions required to enable all schools to move forward
with implementing library learning commons.
It is time to transform the school library space into a vibrant
learning commons – the 21st Century vision of a dynamic
environment for the purpose of information literacy and media

Forest Hills Web page

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5 Responses to “Our 21st Century Learning Commons Journey begins….”

  1. Jeannine St. Amand (@jeanninestamand) April 18, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    The pictures look great!

    As someone who’s been advocating for a provincial strategy on modernizing our libraries it gladdens me to see the “Learning Commons” concept finally getting some traction.

    As much as I look forward to seeing the results of your pilot, I hope we see this vision move beyond the two pilot sites into all of our schools in the very, very near future.

    Keep us posted!

  2. tanya whitney April 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Super pumped and encouraged by the provincial, district, and school leadership that is obviously required to support a visionary project.

    It’s all about accessible learning environments that foster creativity, critical inquiry, and collaboration.

    Fantastic beginning.

  3. mrsmoloney April 27, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    I’m a new secondary Teacher Librarian in Ontario and am so impressed with the work you’ve done. You have a beautiful space with which to work and your ideas will certainly maximize the opportunities in it. Thanks so much for sharing. Can’t wait for an update.


  1. The Learning Commons | KPR Librarianship AQ - April 20, 2012

    […] http://michaelwhelton.com/2012/04/18/our-21st-century-learning-commons-journey-begins/ […]

  2. Climbing Everest without Supplemental Oxygen! « Running Amok in the Stacks - July 5, 2012

    […] Whelton, Michael. “Our 21st Century Learning Commons Journey Begins…” Michael Whelton, 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 3 June 2012. < https://michaelwhelton.com/2012/04/18/our-21st-century-learning-commons-journey-begins/>. […]

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