Metamorphisis of libraries & learning spaces

For some time I have been reading and thinking about the much-needed metamorphisis of school libraries in order to create a fully integrated information and literature learning environment for our kids that is in keeping with our Web 2.0 world. As I have 77 school libraries to think about, the idea of creating that metaphosis is ridiculously exciting and even more ridiculously challenging!

We have significant changes taking place in the various media that drive our social communications – in a range of digital ways. Overall ours is no longer an analogue world, though books in print retain their core place in literacy acquisition and leisure reading. What are your ideas about the changes that are rushing up on us? Whatever you think, I share this comment from an essay on Dead Media from the Sydney Alumni magazine:

The next question is whether these changes are analogous to the invention of the telephone, which changed us a great deal, or the invention of the printing press, which changed everything.

For my schools I have reflected on the need to restructure learning spaces and incorporate a whole-school approach to the traditional library.

The Learning Commons

The Learning Commons has been recognized internationally as an innovative approach in bringing together services that support students in their learning. In the tertiary sector academic institutions/libraries are responding to these same trends worldwide by rapidly developing “learning commons” or “information commons” – areas which are new on-site facilities designed to provide higher levels of technology (hardware and software), access to content (digital and print), and support for users working to access and develop information resources. While some learning commons facilities are in newly constructed buildings, most are renovations within existing or expanded library spaces.

The aim of a Learning Commons is to provide a physical environment which addresses the profound changes affecting how we teach and learn and which complements the evolving integrated, virtual/online teaching and learning environment of Web 2.0, advanced technologies, and Social Networking of the web.

We need to look for new ideas and new ways of working with literacy, information literacy, and digital fluency for teaching and learning. Whether it’s blogs or wikis or RSS, all roads now point to a social network that is collaborative and social in nature. Teaching and learning needs to change just because we have expansive access to a wide variety of ideas, can find and receive information in a way never before possible, and create and share at a global level with transparent ease.

In a newly designed or liberally re-organized and structured school, students can choose to learn in the Learning Common on workstations, on their own laptops or PDAs, connecting to the Internet and Learning Common online resources via wireless connectivity. Learning commons subsets can also exist in other places in the school – depending on how flexible learning spaces are developed.

An integrated approach to Library and Learning Commons

  • reading materials for pleasure or study
  • information retrieval and critical analysis support
  • learning activities
  • social activites
  • academic writing guidance
  • special education learning support
  • information technology support
  • multimedia design centre with Kinko-style production services
  • traditional bibliographic services
  • social networking services
  • 24/7 learning
  • supporting creativity not productivity

A Learning Commons approach ensures a student-centred focus where school structures and technology exist as metacognitive tools, thereby helping learners and their mentors to understand better the processes of learning.

A metamorphosis of the Library into a Learning Commons allows us to include new or different types of spaces, features and services. I see the ‘Learning Commons’ as an approach that will provide an innovative environment to students and staff for accessing educational facilities and engaging in the creative experience of learning.


A framework to think about for Services and Structures

  • ICT and HELPDESK integration and management through Learning Commons
  • Technology integration as part of literacy, information literacy and curriculum and driven by curriculum leaders
  • Integration of new and emerging technologies such as Smart phones, tablets, PDA, podcasting, and active use of social software (wiki, blogs, flickr, RSS information distribution).
  • Provision of literacy and learning support
  • Fiction Collection for provision of resources for reading for pleasure and improvement
  • Online digital respository of materials and resources
  • Provision of audiobooks on iPods etc
  • Provision of a digital design studio facilities for multimedia and print output.

If you have some ideas or success stories, or good articles on the topic, I would love to know more.


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