Connecticut Association of School Librarians

2010 NESLA Leadership Conference - Boston

We’ve had a great morning with Dr. Ross Todd and Dr. David Loertscher a the 2010 NESLA Leadership Conference in Boston. The topic today is The Learning Commons. I am writing this on the bus which is taking us to the Chelmsford High School Learning Commons under the direction of Valerie Diggs.

Ross Todd started us thinking about how school libraries need to change. He just came back from presenting in Argentina and the song Don’t Cry for Us Argentina made him think about school libraries---”Don’t cry for school libraries, I’ve never left you.”

Ross wants us to move from the information paradigm to a focus on developing deep knowledge and deep understanding. He wants us to empower young people. He wants us to create a school library that is “a common place across the school for investigating and experimenting with information, examining multiple perspectives in an environment where students are guided by professional and given appropriate instruction to effectively utilize info and the most appropriate technology tools to support students achievement.”

We need to reposition the school library as a flexible and dynamic learning space, “a unique learning environment---common, central, flexible, open providing the opportunity for teams engaging in pedagogical experimentation....” The school library is a center of learning innovation.

Here are some strategic actions needed: articulate a clear learning centered vision; build learning networks; actively scan environment to identify key research and trends int technology and education; articulate knowledge outcomes that show student impact.

David Loertscher was the next speaker. He made us think about the learning journey by talking about content knowledge, 21st century learning and excellence. He said we can’t separate process from content if we want to remain relevant. David said we need to watch two tests, the NAEP and the PISA (international test). He pointed out that social networking is a major vehicle for the 21st century learning by coaching students on social networking tools and bending skills toward academics. He also talked about students developing their own personal learning network via iGoogle by creating a personal space, group space and outer space. By creating PLNs, students can show that they are organized, in command, connected to Knowledge Building Networks, manage themselves and use 21stC tools. David talks about the School Library Commons on his wiki which also includes a fabulous new electronic planning tool that you must examine and use; it is fully collaborative. Fabulous.

David also announced that there will be a Knowledge Building Seminar that will begin on Feb. 8, 5:30 PST. Check it out. It is a great opportunity to learn and collaborate on this idea.

Another great source is the new Ohio Learning Commons.

David also included Robin Cicchetti as part of his presentation. Robin has also transitioned to a learning commons concept and explained how that came about because “we don’t do what a library does anymore.” Check out her blog and website.

What a terrific trio! It was a great morning with fabulous leaders in our field on the forefront of change. My head is swimming with ideas. It really pushed my thinking about utilizing space, rethinking collections, including students in planning, and program--program--program.

I can’t wait to see a learning commons in action. We’re on our way.

OMG, what an afternoon!!! So many good speakers. So many good ideas. I really need to reflect. It’s so great that we have a 45 minute bus ride back to the hotel. The conversation on the bus is amazing. Talk about a follow-up session. Wow. The bus is electric.

We listened to people who are living and growing the learning commons---practitioners. They are uncommon LMSs!

We listened to Valerie Diggs who advised us to build your program first and then develop your facility based on your program needs and goals. Before switching to a learning commons the library felt really tethered, not flexible, fluid, learning centered.

Rolf Erikson talked about design. He quoted Doug Johnson, “the quality of a library determines the effectiveness of a school.” Design for active not passive learning. “If we fail to lead, libraries will become a disposable commodity.” It is important to include students in any part of the planning.

Then we heard from five Chelmsford HS teachers. They talked about how the learning commons changed the culture of the whole school. They see the Learning Commons as a sanctuary. It encourages them to do their best. They see it as a place to celebrate learning, an inviting place.

We listened to Pam Harland from the Plymouth Regional High School in NH. She asked the students how they wanted to use the space. She bought Kindles for her book club and gave them gift cards so that they could self-select and purchase books. Pam has a reserve shelf with every textbook the school uses. She re-designed her web page. She became a gate-opener rather than a gate-keeper. She looked at Kinko’s design in rethinking her own. Pam does a library newsletter quarterly that goes home with report cards and includes reports on circulation and collaboration statistics.

Roger Nevin uses Google apps in his Learning Commons. The best thing about Google apps is the ability to collaborate.

Peter Cookson ended the day with his reflections on the commons as community, what would Socrates say and what are the qualities of a 21st century mind. He talked about learning as a drawing out rather than a drawing in, and reminded us that children born today will live well into the next century. What qualities will they need: Critical reflection, deep listening; courageous reasoning; collective intelligence; and metacognition--to think about what they are thinking and doing.

The day was a rich experience. When you go to the NESLA website, you will be able to view the PowerPoint presentations of the speakers and you will learn so much.

As part of CASL’s professional development team planning the next CASL conference Nov. 7-8, 201, we have much to think about and to bring to our CT colleagues.

PowerPoints from the conference will become available on the NESLA (New England School Library Association) website as soon as possible.

I have also posted my video of the Chelmsford HS Learning Commons facility. Go to the videos tab.

THINK. CREATE. SHARE. GROW. Learning 4 Life (L4L).

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