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Monday, 23 December 2013

Apple Holiday TV Ad - An idea for teachers...

I wrote a post about the power of iMovie a few months back but was not sufficiently articulate. The new ad from apple shows something we could be doing in our classrooms with, of course, additional interaction in questioning, in summarizing, and in provoking discussion.

In the video below a teenage boy makes a Christmas video to surprise his family by showing them how magical the holiday has been. Teachers could (and should) use this idea to show kids how magical their learning has been.

Enjoy!



Monday, 4 November 2013

An Augmented Cultural Museum

Alberta has a celebration in late September called Alberta Cultural Days. Our school decided we'd use this province-wide celebration to kick off a small celebration of our own to acknowledge the diversity of some of the cultures in our school.

This event would be a great way to use the learning commons. We decided on having a small group of students (partly due to the time factor) who would be interested in being part of this group and would be willing to work on it at lunch times as well as at home too if needed.

I also thought it would be a great way to showcase the power of the mighty Aurasma, an augmented reality app available for free for mobile devices.

The Artifacts

Students would take digital photos of things that are unique to their culture. They would then bring the image files to school or save it to their Google Drive.



The Videos

Using those photos as their inspiration, and by recording with green screen, or just using the photos with voice-over in iMovie, the students created scripts to describe their artifact and why it is important to their culture.



The Slow and Steady Editing Process

This was the slowest part of the entire process. If you've ever edited video before you'd know its a slow and arduous task. What I find when editing video the students become so particular about their work. They edit, edit and edit until they have something they're happy with. Through this part project I actually wondered if we were going to actually finish at all. The key to this is support. The next time I use iMovie with students I think I will spend more time on teaching this process so that students don't have to spend so long rerecording voice-over or going back and rerecording actual green screen shots. There are quite a few editing tricks that can help fill 'holes' in video clips.

The Uploading to Aurasma

This was the easy part! And by the way, this is not supposed to be a tutorial. That will come soon...

First, the picture/trigger images were uploaded to the Aurasma Studio server from the share point on our school server. Then I uploaded the video/overlay too. Both of these has similar file names so I could match them up when creating the Aura. Once both the pieces were on the Aurasma server, I then linked them together to create the finished Aura. Once created, the photo that the student took then acts as a trigger for the video that they also made. What an awesome way to showcase student work!


It all comes together in The Virtual Museum

Once all thirty Aura's were completed, we opened the museum for business. We invited half a class at a time through the museum, due to only have 15 available iPads. the museum-goers wore headphones to really focus in on listening to the videos (and some audio was quite low in volume).

It was amazing! Every student who came through our museum was engaged and focused on learning about someone else's culture.







Sunday, 27 October 2013

Learning Commons Transformation by Crisis

Hanging on the Willow Park fence after the fire. 
An update from Willow Park School after our recent fire. Chelsea Mason, our dance teacher calls it “Teacher Survival School” and makes sound effects when she reenacts the stories about her teaching day. I personally experience thoughts that veer wildly from “I can do anything! Bring it on world!” to fits of hysterical laughter.


I was surfing through blog posts from fellow learning commons colleagues and I realized I had to stop working and share our story. The people really need to know! Let me recap the situation for you.


This August I began a brand new job at Willow Park Arts-Centered Middle School as the Learning Commons instructor. One of my main roles would be spearheading the Library to Learning Commons transition. A dream come true.  


Step one included:
  • Facilitate Learning Commons Design Strategy Workshops with teachers and students throughout the school.
  • Give information sessions with parents about digital citizenship, digital learning platforms (specifically D2L) and the learning commons transition.
  • Organize teacher coffee and carb sessions where focus on an area of needed professional learning for a half an hour before school on fridays.  
  • Learn how to use the server based space and equipment booking system.
  • Connect users to content quicker by moving the laptops into wings of the school, rather than signing them out individually from the circulation desk.
  • Collect and create book lists.
  • Compile and share a learning commons companion guide filled with 21st Century literacy strategies to support and strengthen conversation between units and disciplines.
  • Analyze staff and students feedback about growing our services through apps, digital files and ebooks.
  • Work with key stakeholders to evaluate and map digital platforms and channels into virtual learning spaces and pathways.


Step one was a phenomenal success. Truly. The learning commons transition and digital citizenship workshops sparked lively discussion. Everyone was brainstorming ways to re-paint, de-carpet, re-arrange our space into areas that suited their needs better. Students were challenging the idea and making lists of things that they wanted to see stay the same, as well as things they would like to change. Students and teachers began building digital learning spaces on both public and private spaces embedding the D2L experience with award winning web 2.0 tools seamlessly. Parents, administrators and teachers starting using google tools for collaboration tools. We were having equal access discussions, inquiries about e-textbooks, giving password support, identifying strategies for weeding, troubleshooting technology, logging software and hardware needs and brainstorming collection development with teachers. We were in total wind-up and/or full swing. The Virtual Learning Commons was also growing. David Cloutier my student-teacher and I were mapping and strategizing tools and steps. Teachers and students were generating and designing. I started adding and following teachers who had public websites, students were next. By the end of September every teacher in the school had at minimum one digital learning platform. Most had integrated learning platforms together, becoming architects in learning design through the process of trying and risk taking. More than half of the students in the school had begun building digital learning spaces.


When all of a sudden we were in a terrible mess.
The Classroom...


At 4 am October 9th 2013 vandals set fire to the school destroying a classroom on northeast side of the building and structurally damaging the entire northeast  wing of the school. On October 10th we found out who did and didn’t have what they needed, and when/who would be able to get back into the school to tag and request items needed to start teaching as soon as possible. This day also marks the beginning of the technical difficulties with Weebly, D2L, Wordpress and the integration of the three. Needless to say, that while we did get some online support and do some troubleshooting this issue took a back seat to the new issues both urgent and important.


By October 17th 2013 the entire 650+ student population and all staff moved to Viscount Bennett School. We’ve been fortunate to have Thanksgiving and an Org day fall into this month.  October 28th will mark our 6th day in session at the Viscount Campus.


For our second step forward things are looking a lot different.  


Step two has so far included:
  • Creating group google documents shared through the staff D2L shell to compile the lists of resources we need to get started, empowerment arts-centered resilience ideas.
  • Posting .pdfs of all the textbooks for every grade in a school wide D2L shell for student availability until our physical textbooks are returned.  
  • Setting up a temporary laptop computer lab with borrowed laptops and replacing it with our computers as they arrive bit by bit.
  • Getting permission to borrow a desk and a processing space for our clerk in the Viscount Learning Commons.
  • Painting the walls and hanging posters over the graffiti on the walls.
  • Unpacking boxes and boxes of technology after they are cleaned and getting as much technology into the hands of students and teachers as possible as fast as possible.
  • Identifying what works, what is broken, what is missing, what is a write-off and what software and hardware support teachers feel are essential to this moment.
  • Tracking down teacher laptops, access to SIRS and access to printing  as top priorities.
  • Identifying active wifi ports and dead spaces in our borrowed space.
  • Getting free public library coupon cards for all 650 students.
  • Starting a paperback “take it or leave it” library.
  • Empowering my clerk to buy two copies of every book she can find a ULS and Scholastic that are on a teacher booklist.
  • Teaching drama… lots of drama… it’s my subject and when you have a class full of kids in the computer lab, no wifi, no other spaces and the computers all go off-line… you go out to the field to teach drama.
  • Getting a new schedule with more teaching and more supervision.
  • Starting and sitting on a “healing through the arts” collaborative learning project committee.
  • Building a brand new equipment booking site with constantly growing equipment
  • Redeploying laptop carts in every area.
  • Finding power supplies and power cords for all technology… for some reason the cables were all cleaned separately and misplaced.
  • Connect via google forms to the parent volunteer coordinators to make sure to thank the many volunteers and supporters who helped with this transition.

Team Members David Cloutier and Graham Killen Setting Up Temporary Lab


Students, teachers and parents have asked the question; what are we going to do so that we continue what we’ve started with our Learning Commons transition now that physical space is more of a computer lab and less of a common space? We’re now experiencing delays and side steps in many of our plans. Even though, things have changed. Fast.


Teachers that were just becoming dependent on their integrated technology were stalled out and many asked to teach with no technology for a time, in some cases asked to teach without a whiteboard never mind without a SMART Board. We were discouraged but not defeated. The learning changed. In one case students offered to do their school work at home and to spend the day organizing cords and setting up computers. Classroom-flipped. Community centered.


It appears that we are going to focus on building resiliency in our learning community and building a virtual learning commons for our community. Our frame and our focus shifted from inside out to outside in. It’s some ways it’s a blessing in disguise. The school will have all books packed in boxes making the ripping out of the carpet that we planned to do anyways easier to achieve.


So what is a virtual learning commons? According to Shahuai Ren and Jialin Cao of the Shanghai University Library the definition is a complicated sequence of formulas that looks like this:
Definition: Virtual Learning Commons VLC: = {U, {Pt, Vc, Sm, Ot, Vr}, {Dl, El, Sn, It}, Up, Vo}, in which U:={St, Te, Li}, U is user, the generalized concept which included all the participants in learning activities. St: Students or Learner; Te: teachers, counselors, peer counselors; Li: Librarians, IT support staff, and other staff. In the VLC, students are the learning subjects, while teachers, counselors, librarians, IT support staff and other support staff are supporters of the learning activities and also learning partners of students for improving learning effect through exchange and interaction. [Pt, Vc, Ot, Sm, Vr} are the five functional layers. Pt: Portal, Vc: Virtual community, Ot: online collaboration and learning tools, Sm: Semantic construction, Vr: virtual resources (Cao & Ren, 2011)


The VLC organization system described above can be simplified if we think of it just in terms of meeting the learners learning, interaction, collaboration and research needs by integrating digital libraries, e-learning systems, social networks and support tools. Despite our evolving context the key question is still; “How can we adapt our learning services and create spaces to serve the 21st Century student? Questions about how this crisis will affect our this direction? What are different learning needs associated with this evacuation? What virtual connections will the community find most useful in organizing and collecting resources? How are students, parents, teachers, administrators and experts using interactive digital platforms to connect common learning? How do students perceive both the opportunities and challenges with being digital learners? Is there a link between the use of different interactive platforms and user generated content levels to the students’ perceived success in academic achievement?  How can best I support our evolving context and simultaneously map an integrated school web presence that has findable content and collaboration gateways?  


Stay tuned for ideas around how we answer these questions and reflections on different VLC implementation techniques.  Step one: find the plugins for the projectors.  


Cao, J., & Ren, S. (2011). The virtual learning commons architecture based on semantic technologies. In X. Luo, Y. Cao, B. Yang, J. Liu & F. Ye (Eds.), New horizons in web-based learning - ICWL 2010 workshops (Vol. 6537, pp. 151-160). Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-20539-2_17


Clark, S. (2013, October 12). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://a3lc.blogspot.ca/2013/10/encouraging-curiosity.html


Martin, C. (2013, April 21). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://readersbookbin.org/?p=774


Morville, P. (2011, AUGUST 08). Information architect.Semantic Studios, Retrieved from http://semanticstudios.com/publications/semantics/000647.php


Vaughan, N., Zimmer, J., & Villamar, F. (2012). Student engagement and interactive technologies:what's the connection?. Research project, Department of education and schooling, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada. Retrieved from http://www2.mtroyal.ca/~nvaughan/norm/studentfall2012.pdf


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Encouraging Curiosity

One thing we want to do in our learning commons is encourage curiosity. One we have done this is create a curiosity station. This was unbelievable! Students came by to record their thoughts 2 minute after I finished the display.


What do you think it is?

HINT: Remember, we live in Alberta, Canada, where dinosaurs once roamed!

Google Apps Power!

I have been part of our system/district wide GAFE prototype since in began in early 2013. I am still amazed at the power of the that Google Apps for Education has in the classroom. This amazing collaboration tool is revolutionizing the way we teach and learn.

All of a sudden our students are able to collaborate so easily and working on projects with other students in seamless way and never have the frustration of losing their work through files transfers via email or flash drives.

After using Google Drive for a month or so, our students are still learning how to work collaboratively in documents together. We have been working a variety of projects where students are working together in a different documents. Here are some workflows we've begun to explore:

Google Docs - Working in Tables

When you have whole class working in an online Google Doc it can get a little crazy! We have found tables to be way to lessen the confusion. 

This video was blurred to protect the students' identity.

Forms - Collecting information to use or share later

Forms have to one of my favourite Google Tools. What an amazing way to collate information in a clean and user friendly way. We have played with various reasons for using forms with students. Here are a couple of screen shots of the form and the collated info.

Students were to read an article about the June Floods in Calgary and then
respond with their feelings in the form above. 

The results were then displayed to show what other people were feeling.
The ability to hide the name column was good to help give
some students more confidence.

In this form student filled out the form so it was as accurate and personal as possible.

All entries were then shared and students were then groups according to the
Smart they wanted to improve on

Spreadsheets - A different way to collate information.

Spreadsheets are a great to build and collate data from scratch without using forms.

This document was a way for students to check where they were at in a project.
It also made their progress visible to the rest of the group.

Google Drawing - Digital Mapping

This example is not student work but the idea was to be able to use technology to become more familiar with Canada and Alberta. I'm looking forward to using this tool in a collaborative way.

This was the first task we started with. It was also centred
around learning how to use the Google Drawing App.

The Questions on the right were to guide their work,
then they used the tools to draw over the map.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Beginning of a New Era

A month has past, already!

The Chris Akkerman Learning Commons is underway and we've had a great start!

It has been a amazing moving into a new school and starting something new. My day to day work hasn't changed but the people have. All of a sudden, I have to build new relationships and learn new ways of doing things. I have stop and rethink what the important aspects in a learning commons actually are. I have to make sure we have our priorities in the right place and that all stake holders have input into what will be.

Moving into an alternative program called a Traditional Learning Centre (TLC) was always going to be an exciting challenge for me. The first month has proven that this is going be an extremely exciting year. The teachers and students at Chris Akkerman are so focused on learning. It will be amazing to really focus in on what is good learning.

Chris Akkerman has obviously had strong leadership in technology prior to me being there. The teachers and students are quite comfortable with technology as a learning tool. It will be a great opportunity to help everyone build on what they know now and push the boundaries of learning in positive and exciting ways.

The highlight for our learning commons, in the first month, has been around the implementation of the Google Apps For Education (GAFE). What an amazing medium for learning. The power of collaboration is exciting our entire school. Our grades 3-6 classes are buzzing in excitement and are all beginning to wonder what the possibilities of these amazing tools will be.

This past week, we focused in on what it means to work safely on the Internet. All students in our school worked through some tasks which reviewed Internet safety. We followed up these tasks by brainstorming what they knew, as well as new found knowledge, into a shared Google Doc. The idea was to build on what each other's ideas. It was amazing to watch the ideas develop over a few minutes! The video below shows the information being gathered over around a 5 minute period. It has been blurred to protect our students ID.


Over the next month, we plan to continue setting up this learning space to make it work best in our TLC environment. We are also experimenting and using Green Screen technology in Grades 4 and 5, as well as iPads in Kindergarten and Grade 1. We hope to share those projects in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Exergaming - KWL - Reflection 1


Exergaming: Reflection 1

Sixteen grade 6 kids successfully collaborated on the same KWL document through Google Docs. A student’s insight is valuable, but when you can fuse small-group safety with large-group collaboration something magical happens... Everyone’s ideas are heard, recorded and compounded by peers. 

The students formed 3 groups, each logged on to a computer and followed a link provided. They made teams, talked about exergaming, and let ideas flow. Students were told that there is no such thing as “cheating” during brainstorming, which elevated the discussion as individual’s ideas became seeds, furthered by peers in different groups. 

Students were set as scribes to manage how many people were typing, but there were times when 2 or 3 kids from each group were typing at the same time. This was a very successful KWL experience. The finished document is below, a time-lapse video is on it's way- I'm being blocked from uploading it to Youtube, but check it out here: http://keelercommons.weebly.com/grade-6-exergaming.html



Thursday, 12 September 2013

Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech

Mountain Lion 10.8.3 is our image, and we've discovered a crisp, simple aide for our students with Learning Disabilities. It turns out that SIRI is embedded into the OS on our new computers, it just needs to be activated.

When it is turned on students tap a designated shortcut key and talk at regular speed into their microphone. When they're finished words quickly appear on the screen. 

When Text-to-Speech is turned on, students can have anything on their computers read aloud to them. Although these tools are not a panacea, they certainly help to level the playing field!

To get going on both, head to your computer's settings and click around!




Friday, 12 July 2013

Official Opening - G.W.Skene School

This is an article that celebrates the grand opening to one our our Area III Learning Commons. If you like to view the original source click here.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

4 Ways to Activate Students With iMovie

Have you ever climbed a mountain and not looked back? Can you imagine, not taking pride in the distance you've come, or building anticipation as you look forward? iMovie on the iPad has been an enormously successful tool that encourages reflection and anticipation for learning.

I started thinking about the power of simple recordings when I had a disadvantaged student who rarely arrived on time... Morning work was SMART Board based, so I used quicktime to do a screen capture so he could work without missing a beat.

This line of thinking naturally led me to iMovie on the iPad.

Instant reflection.
We had grade 4 kids that were challenged to make a double pulley system. They got stuck a lot, and teachers "annoyingly" pelted students with questions, not answers. Soon students started thinking out loud... Talking, sharing and collaborating with their partners and other teams...Teachers gave power to the students and partnered with them... Then we started recording. iMovie edits on the fly, so we were able to share students' creative, problem-solving thoughts with the entire class immediately after the lesson. A question in one group became a discussion point for the class, and the everyone took turns either building on the wonderment or providing solutions and ideas.

Get your head in the game!
A different class was studying Air and Aerodynamics where they were challenged to land a flying machine while keeping a lego-minifigure safe... Each work-period, though, they were starting from scratch. Their minds slowly (too slowly) began to ease into the lesson, so we filmed them thinking/questioning/working and hooked them by reminding them of the great work they had done in the previous lesson. We've repeated this a few times and have always been blown away by how a 2-5 minute video can instantly reengage students in their learning.

Documentaries. 
In a 40 minute lesson, kids can develop a documentary and can be introduced to a new topic. They can develop questions to guide the inquiry and can help fill up the "Know" bit of a KWL... with ease. We pulled out a bunch of books, threw them on the floor and passed out iPads. After a 3 minute tutorial on iMovie (optional!), we asked kids to craft a documentary about the topic that included audio, video, titles, and visuals. Students took pictures from the book and published a 2-minute documentary. Ideally we'd throw those up on the internet for students to watch from home, but we wound up showing them to the class. It was amazing how activated their memories were... When we started to look at our prior knowledge, they were exploding with (base level) ideas. More importantly though, they were primed for the deeper learning that followed!

Celebrations.
For our most recent unit on the Inuit Games we showcased our learning to the entire school by hosting every grade. The grade 2 student-leaders taught all of the kids how to play their games, and the students responded by doing their best, being respectful and playing hard (it was a pretty amazing morning!). As students were leading and learning we recorded the entire process. On the fly, we edited a 10-minute video that included each grade 2 student. We also made a trailer on iMovie. In the afternoon the grade 2s all got together and had their own celebration of learning where they could watch themselves directing older kids, sharing their knowledge, and being successful.



Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Stop... Collaborate & Research: #GAFE

Marlborough School is an early adopter for the CBE GAFE (Google Apps For Education) initiative.

We have been able to use GAFE for about 3 months now and it's only recently that I have noticed our staff and students really connecting with it and realizing its power! As teachers begun to use GAFE with their students it has quickly spread. The infectious nature of collaboration and success is unreal to watch.

This project was the first major project that one of our grade 6 teachers embarked on using GAFE. The subject, some would call fairly dry, was learning about the decision making process used by the Iroquois Confederacy. The students would eventually write about the topic as well as create a giant infographic.

Research and Assessing

Students worked together to research the Iroquois Confederacy. Using Google Forms, students read about different aspects of the Iroquois culture. They filled in a separate Google Form (picture above) with each new piece of information. All the information was then collated in a shared spreadsheet for all students to access.

Gathering and Communicating

Once all the information was collected, students formed their own groups and then synthesized their understanding of all the information. The first task was to come up with a few paragraphs which they would writing collaboratively using Google Docs. Students were able to simultaneously write in the document to form their finished piece of writing.

The groups also planned their infographic using the Google Drawing app. This was an interesting process of collaboratively drawing their plan which would utlimately become a massive poster on paper. All the group members were able draw simultaneously with the drawing app. They worked really well together on this part of the project in an app that no one had ever used before. It was amazing to see them adopt this new way of working together.


Once all the writing and drawing plans had been completed, the task was then to put all of the info onto paper. Because of the collaborative and organized nature of this project, groups have been completely focused and on task throughout. We really look forward to seeing the finished work.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

What Do Horses Need?

My grade one class at Guy Weadick School recently completed an inquiry into the needs of plants and animals.  We took a close look at the history, the value, and the role of horses in Alberta!  We were lucky to visit Aggie Days at Stampede Park to meet many domestic horses.  We also had the experience of having Mr. Larry Semchuk, a wildlife photographer come to our class.  Mr. Semchuk wrote a a book on Alberta's wild horses called Running Free: The Wild Horses of Alberta's East Slopes.  

After learning so much about horses, the class was eager to create books.  In groups of three we worked together to write non-fiction books using the iPad App StoryMaker.  This was the first time we used our school's new iPads!  There was lots to learn, but working together to solve problems really helped. Here are some  pages from their books to help you learn about some of the things that Wild and Domestic horses need.

For more information about our inquiry please visit our class inquiry page at 
http://www.makingmyworld.ca/inquiry.html 




Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Simple Machines & Digital Rube Goldberg Machines

How do we sync edtech and teaching to enhance learning without just "playing" with toys? How do we match the tool to the learning, not the learning to the tool?

Accessing prior knowledge often just needs a nudge to get the ball rolling, and we used "Do Ink" animations to begin the conversation about Simple Machines.

We told the fourth graders that they were learning a new app to add to their backpack of tools for "sharing what they know". After a 2 minute intro to Do Ink on the SMART Board kids grabbed a topic from a hat and set off to work (topics are listed below).

It was hilarious to see what the tech-wizards produced and how quickly they mastered the frame-by-frame animation. When their videos were done students threw their work on the master iPad using "Instashare", pulled another topic and went to work creating more simple machine animations... Students, though, just thought they were learning to animate.

On the master iPad we used iMovie to mix the animations together and publish a single, cohesive (?) movie. Students saw their animations on the big screen by the end of the 40 minute class.

The next steps will be to discuss how their animations are simple machines and to brainstorm background knowledge on the simple machines that are all around us. What are they? How do we use them? Why do we use them? How do they help our daily lives?

Students will be challenged to create a physical and digital (Do Ink Animation) Rube Goldberg Machine, inclusive of as many simple machines as possible... I can't wait to share those when we get there!



Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Best Part of Me!

The Kindergartens and I built a book in the Learning Commons. For the teachers, it really tested our ability to question and to inspire those rich, wonderful utterances from students.

We asked ourselves:

  • How do we generate conversation? How can we forgo "leading" questions?
  • How can students express emotions and put meaning to experiences, without an extensive vocabulary? How do we get students to speak in metaphor?
  • What questioning encourages students to open up and express their thoughts?
  • What is appropriate wait time?


We went for exploring emotions, ideas, feelings, experiences, and for giving meaning to students' daily lives/routines. We read the book "The Best Part of Me" by Wendy Ewald, then turned around and made our own!

It took a while, but we were able to abide by the Reggio Emilia belief that "The child is worthy of being listend to." We honoured how important it is to "listen, observe, interact, and learn from the child(ren)". And really, it was the kids that wrote the book and the teachers who worked on their questioning skills...

Below are some of the pictures from the book. It is absolutely beautiful (for us) because of how the students' voices reflect their personalities and their uniqueness, and how succinctly they touched on the important things in life.

Of course I can't put student names on here, and I've had to blur out faces... But I am working on getting the paperwork done so it can be celebrated! We have published a hard-copy version of it through iPhoto for our Learning Commons... If you're interested, swing by and we'd be happy to show it off!

Here is a link to a small bit of the book.
















Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Learning Commons: In Times of Budget Cuts

Times are tough in Alberta! With major provincial cuts to the funding of education, our district has had to make some drastic changes for the next school year. In the end, the changes will make a difference in the classroom, one way or another.

With what looks like a bleak year ahead, one has to wonder if their position is valued enough to remain in place. In times of cuts schools need to look at staffing and prioritize what is crucial and not-so crucial. For schools beginning the journey of transitioning their school library to a learning commons, there will be some tough decisions to be made.

  • Will they commit to continuing on this journey?
  • Can they afford to put a teacher full time (or in any capacity) in the learning commons?
  • How will they possibly put money into the space when that money is being cut?


In my building, we decided to go the learning commons route 3 years ago. In that time, we have learned a lot. For me, the biggest thing to come from it is the fact that when teachers collaborate on projects they are able to share ideas, challenge each other, help each other and generally reflect more often and more easily. When teachers work by themselves, within the 4 walls of their classroom they are confined to their own space and sharing and collaborating becomes much more challenging - It's so easy for teachers to just keep doing what they've always done and are comfortable with and not move their own practice forward.

The learning commons is place that knocks down one of the walls of the classroom, or extends the classroom to have an extra wall, or corner. When we first started the transition we used the analogy that the learning commons would be the 'fifth corner of the classroom'.

In times of cuts, having extra support for teachers will be crucial! With the axing of AISI (Alberta Initiative for School Improvement) this year, schools will not have the expertise and support that AISI provides. It makes me wonder how much pressure the rest of our area and system specialists will be under next year and how easy, or hard, it will be for schools to reach out for extra support. It makes sense to me that if all these supports are cut, then administrators need to make sure there is sufficient support within their own school. The learning commons can provide that support. Having the right person in the learning commons will enable support for both teachers and students which will, in turn, help move the learning forward.

The big question for a lot of administrators would be whether or not the learning commons would actually work without a full time teacher working in the space. I would love to hear of a learning commons space that has a learning commons working well without having a dedicated teacher in the space. In my experience, to maximise the learning that happens, not only in the learning commons but in the entire school, having a teacher that works in a coaching kind of roll builds capacity amongst staff and students alike.

Will our school continue on our mission of developing and focusing on this space? I'm sure we will in some kind of way. Will it be a full time position? I hope so! At one point. I have worked in our learning commons 0.5 of the time (during the last school year) and it was very hard to focus on really utilizing and pushing that space. It may work better now that our staff have a better understanding of what learning looks like in the learning commons.

Time will tell, I guess. Let's see what happens in the learning commons during these tough times and then reflect back. I hope for everyone's sake it works out well and we can make the most of what we have.

The following ideas are my beliefs of what some of the important rolls of the learning commons teacher(s). There are definitely more but these ones will be affected in these tough times: The learning commons teacher...

  • works in a learning coach role who is there to support both teachers and students.
  • works with teachers to design worthwhile and authentic tasks?
  • supports teachers in finding engaging resources that encourage 21st century thinking.
  • helps manage and maintain the technology in the school. This proves to be a big time commitment and without someone that can focus on it, the technology could continually prove to be nothing but a problem in the building.
  • helps create an environment that provides students with the resources, time, and space they need to follow their passions? 
  • allows teachers to be able to personalize learning for their students in ways that may not be possible in the classroom.
  • helps enhance the community of the school. Being someone that sees what is happening in each and every classroom, the LC teacher is able to mesh projects together and make connections to help make experiences and learning more authentic and exciting.
What do you think about the learning commons teacher? Is is worthwhile position to create/maintain in times of cuts?

Please comment if you can relate to this post.