From Robin Cicchetti, Concord-Carlisle Regional High School Learning Commons in Concord, Massachusetts

It has been an invigorating week in LibraryLand.  Spring Semester has begun at SJSU and I’ve started work and reading in LIBR 202 (Information Retrieval) and LIBR 250 (Instructional Design.)  In addition, the building plan process officially begun at my school.  In the next 9 months, a review of current facilities and needs will occur and a plan will be drafted to take our physical structures the next level.  What I’m loving about the SJSU programme is that, so far, everything that I’ve been dealing with in my course work is applicable to my day to day work at my school.

This week’s 202 readings are from Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous.  (youtube presentation is here)This book addresses the concept that in a digital world, it is possible to throw all of your information into a giant pile and access it and organize it in ways that are meaningful to you.  Organization of physical objects has really impacted the way we think about and categorize information.  Taking the phyiscality out of organization allows us to expand our understanding of connections between ideas.

LIBR 250 has a rather unfortunate title.  Instructional design infers that first we are instructing our students instead of helping our students come to their own understanding and that our method of designing that instructional process is somehow better than what the students could come up with.  Luckily, the Prof for the course is about as far from a teacher centred approach as one can get while still having students achieve what can be considered a “course” of study.  This is where the Learning Commons idea comes in.

Those of you who have read most of my blog posts (and I do thank both of you!) have heard the name David Leortscher before and may know of him as one of the gurus of the Learning Commons model.  Put succinctly, the Learning Commons is a common area devoted to learning.  It is a space with resources (physical, digital and human) for information access and knowledge creation.  It has work areas.  It has computers for accessing information and for creation products that synthesize information to create knowledge.  It is a place where the learner is king and directs their own learning whether that be student, teacher or school bus driver.  It is a place to meet and it is place to come for help.  Often it has flexible meeting and presentation spaces.

My excitement this week comes partly from the fact that I get to explore this concept of a Learning Commons more fully with someone who know more about it than likely anyone else.  But it also comes from the beginning of the process of reinventing my own space.  We had a presentation on Tuesday morning from the design consultants that are facilitating the creation of the new building plan.  There were times during their presentation when I forgot that I was in an architectural meeting and thought that perhaps I was in a pro-d session on 21st century learning, pedagogy and curriculum.  It was refreshing and exciting to learn that we would be doing a curriculum mapping exercise that would drive building design.  Imagine: learning driving architectural design.  Obvious, but sadly rare.

We were shown examples of other buildings that this design company had worked on and I was constantly struck by the thought that, in their minds, the entire school (or at least large percentages of it) is a Learning Commons.  This is a great approach and every building design that I saw, the commons made sense.  But then the paranoid librarian started creeping in and asking but where the hell is the library?  A second much smaller meeting gave me the opportunity to ask that very question and I loved the answer.  What if the library is everywhere.  For example what if the Maths and Sciences shared a commons that would include a collection of physical and digital resources that supported learning.  At any point, the teacher or student could step out of their class and access anything that they needed to support the learning in the class.  Information would be at arms length.  Some would argue that it already is.  We all have smart phones and we all can do instant searches of Google or Wikipedia or even our school’s database subscriptions.  But there is still a need for physical media as much as digital and for that, we need a physical collection.  Also at arms length is a reference librarian who is a specialist in the field.  Imagine having a reference librarian at the ready who knows the resources for your subject better than anyone.

This is but one of the cool ideas resonating in my head from this week’s exploration.  I’ve also been thinking about qualities of peak learning experiences and implications and opportunities for reorganization of metadata for user connection making and knowledge building.  But that will have to wait for another post.  If you are interested in the Learning Commons model, there are an increasing number of books and articles available and a new Facebook page run by David Loertscher.  Thanks for reading!

One thought on “Learning Commons thoughts

  1. Marc – as usual, I enjoyed your post and appreciate your introduction of David Loertscher and the Learning Commons (of which I have already visited and “liked” his FB page). While I love the library as place — a physical place –and believe there is a strong value in their architecture and placement in our communities, I am intrigued by our digital learning environment and am becoming even more fascinated with the opportunities of not just socializing but learning and working in the digital/virtual world. Its kind of like the digital book revolution. I didn’t think I’d ever change over from paper bound book to the e-book revolution. Then I dove in and while I will always love curling up to a book, I have welcomed the e-book into my life. The same goes with the digital community – I don’t believe we can escape the “learning commons” and frankly, I’m not sure I would want to. Keep posting and sharing!!! There “are”ears out here.

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