Undoubtedly by now many of you may have visited the new Halifax Regional Library on Spring Garden road. Probably the most striking thing when touring through the building is that while indeed there are many print resources present, there are many other things as well – especially notable is the strong presence of furniture and spaces that encourage collaboration. Equally so, is the addition of opportunities to discover, interact, play and engage with technology. While the notion and philosophy of a Learning Commons is much more than can be presented in a few short sentences, the shift in design of that new building is, in many respects, that of a Learning Commons.
So what is a Learning Commons? Why now? The staff at CDS have undergone a significant shift in the last couple of years, driven by the need to respond to students when learning doesn’t occur, with the recognition that previous models aren’t always working. The biggest shift is that of collective responsibility. Teachers, through embedded time days, and other creative solutions (often Sunday mornings) have committed to working as grade level teams to respond and plan for all students and not just for one’s own class. It is time for us to look at a further alignment of our building and work spaces to fit with that of our teacher practice and to further prepare our students.
On a larger scale a learning commons is an inclusive, flexible, learner-centered, physical or virtual space for collaboration, inquiry, imagination and play. As schools change, school libraries must also evolve from simply providing information to students to engaging students and helping prepare them to become critical thinkers, evaluators, users, and creators of information and knowledge.
In addition to enabling and encouraging access to traditional forms of knowledge like books, periodicals and print information, students should have access to other forms of media and devices they will need to create and share. Students interacting in a Learning Commons can determine how best to use the space and resources to study or to work on school assignments, projects or coursework individually or with others.
Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the community can also use the space for instruction, social or collaborative learning, production and presentation.
Benefits of Learning Commons include:
- Learning commons promote global and cultural understanding as students collaborate with their local and broader community to investigate and create solutions to complex problems
- Learning commons emphasize active and collaborative engagement and encourage the co-creation of knowledge by all learners
- The virtual aspect of a learning commons (a VLC) promotes more efficient use of technology for creation and sharing of knowledge as well as enabling 24/7 access to resources and shared collaborative space for all students
- Research shows improved student achievement and literacy development for students who have access to quality school library services, which include learning commons
Accessed from (https://education.alberta.ca/learning-commons/)
Overall the space should function as a key link in curriculum planning and delivery by implementing, enriching and supporting student achievement. A Learning Commons area exists to provide its users with a service to meet their literacy, information and
technology needs. As a lifelong learning skill, how well a child can read and understand the written word in all formats determines accomplishment in school and in life.
Information and technology skills are also integral to today’s learners. Developing these skills will allow students to use technology as an important tool for learning. A Learning Commons should strive to enable students to gain the ability to search for and gather information independently and responsibly and house a variety of computers, tablets, and e-readers.
(adapted from http://rjhawkey.rockyview.ab.ca/learning-commons)