Friday, August 9, 2013

The Learning Commons: What? How?

I was at a conference a few weeks back and Vicki Davis (AKA Coolcatteacher) was a guest speaker and I was fortunate and honored to spend a little bit of time talking to her.  I have followed her blog for awhile and I have admired what she is doing with her flattened classroom projects.  As we talked, we started talking about the changes I have made to my media center.  She told me maybe someday I would have a learning commons.  Come to find out, I already do and I didn't even know it!

What is a learning commons?  It's a way to integrate many disciplines into the library.  It provides spaces (almost like centers in elementary) where students can socialize, explore and do more hands on things.  Often, there is a lax regulation about cell phones, drinks and food and a more cozy sitting space.  I HAVE ALL OF THOSE THINGS! (Sorry for the all caps, I am not yelling, but I am excited that I integrated something this amazing with no knowledge of what I was doing.  I just did it for the kids!)  I have spent the last three years as the media specialist integrating seating, shelving changes, a genre specific fiction section, a categorized non-fiction section, implementation of more databases and websites, everything that happens with a library commons.  I even have the coffee shop!

Now, part of the niche of this is integrating the technology.  My school is 1:1, but, I still have a few self standing stations where I encourage kids to do different things.  My goal is to hand a few of my frequent flyers a video camera and challenge them to build book trailers for the website.  What a better way to promote reading than to build a book trailer!

I also want them to be able to expand their information about other places, other disciplines and other genres.  What a better way to get kids interested in reading than to offer them a space where they can collaborate. A lot of my kids have been force fed AR since they were very young, so many of them don't find the pleasure I do in reading a book for fun.  Our Junior High teachers have done a great job encouraging reading by offering in class books clubs, weekly visits and book reports, and stepping up to my challenge to read state award nominees and voting. This has helped build some pleasure in the book.

My hope is that offering a library commons with spaces to socialize, collaborate and explore will lead my students to enjoy reading and embrace the many things a library (or learning commons) have to offer.

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