Top 10 Steps to a 21st Century Learning Commons

There are important elements that need to be considered when trying to create a 21st Century Learning Commons.

Learning Commons in 2014 truly need to be spaces that promote both physical and virtual senses of Safety, Inclusiveness, and Equity. Regardless of your situation, Safety, Inclusiveness, and Equity need to be at the forefront of your planning.

We all know that each Learning Commons is different depending upon its its own challenges and strengths. Variables that will inevitably impact your Library space can include:planning time, budget, furniture, book shelves, in-library and extra-curricular activities, administrative support, collection, tech knowledge, and parent council, to name a few. Therefore, it takes a lot of critical thought to be able to effectively implement an effective 21st Century Library Space within your school.

Top 10 steps to a 21st Century Learning Commons

1. You want your Library space to be as flexible as possible. Create a flexible and responsive space in order to meet the changing needs of your school both now, and in the future. Therefore you may want to further consider furniture that is easily moveable, to enable flexible instructional spaces throughout the day, and the years to come. For instance, easily moveable tables that can easily be maneuvered easily throughout the day, whether for small group work, conferencing, or even placing them into a larger  ‘conference’ type table with a big screen tv equipped with Appletv.

2. Consider having 2 Places for a viewing screen, One set ceiling mounted, and one moveable throughout the day. Enabling different groups to work at different times. This also promotes Assessment For Learning opportunities with our students.

3. Make sure you have electrical outlets everywhere! Consider having up to 8 sockets in various places around your library! You never know when or where you may need to plug in a cluster of iPads for student research involving social networking!

4. Consider iPads or tablets, and/or eReaders for your library. Consider purchasing a small bank of them for centers in your library for research,social mediaGaming, and eReading. Having these devices available for use on a daily basis within your library also promotes Equity and opportunities for students who may not have access at home. Important noteIf you have iPads, get html cables to be able to hook them up to your appletv boxes or projectors, (also consider getting apple tv boxes for wireless usage with your iPads on the smart boards, and big screen tv’s!)

5. Create Meaningful Learning Spaces within your library for students to engage with each other. Find ways to make the spaces feel special for the students, to enable them to co-construct meaning together from online experiences. This could include: iPad clusters (not computer labs!) Chromebook clusters, laptop clusters, mobile device clusters etc., Gaming centres, eReaders, Study Rooms, Research Center, and spaces for Social Media Connections. 

6. Create a Strong Online Presence! Don’t limit yourself to just websites or blogs. Use Twitter, D2L, Google Apps for Education, Edmodo or other Learning Management Systems to connect with your students, staff, and communities.

7. Co-create your own Personalized Digital Citizenship document and usage guidelines for your new 21st Century Library. Do this with families, community, students, and staff. This is an effective way to build a 21st Century Learning Community, and get your 21st Century Library space off to a great start.

8. Consider moving toward a completely flexible schedule, if you can. There are a lot of expectations, needs, wants, and precedent, already ingrained in our libraries, thus making this endeavour challenging at times.

9. Check out America’s first Digital Public Library, Biblio-tech, in San Antonio Texas that opened earlier in 2014. However, I predict we are at least 10 if not more, years away from going 100% digital for our school’s non-fiction collections, but still a great source to check out and be inspired!

10. Last but NOT least, Connect with Families and Community! Provide books, resources, family reading and homework areas. Invite families in during the day. Be transparent. Learn with families, learn with the community. Discover needs and voices in community, cultivate projects and curriculum accordingly – then give the creations and knowledge learned back to the community. Involve FNMI perspectives and cultures equally in our Learning Commons, and give FNMI students an EQUAL voice.

This list is by no means exhaustive! Despite the myriad of variables that the Learning Commons must juggle and maneuver, there are always positive steps that anyone can take – no matter how small – to prepare create your Learning Commons.

What are some of the wonderful things that you have done to create a wonderful 21st Century Learning Commons?

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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