Thursday, May 21, 2015

Students Redesign the Library

Although we are in the 21st century, most classes are still using the same desks and chairs that I sat in as a child. Curriculum has changed, pedagogy has changed, technology has changed, our students have changed, but our learning spaces for the most part have remained the same over the years. When I reflect on the spaces where I do my own best learning, a hard uncomfortable chair and desk does not come to mind. I also don't stay in the same spot for extended periods of time. In my home, I tend to shift between chairs and rooms depending on my mood and what it is that I have to do. Outside of my home, I tend to go to Panera or Barnes and Noble where the atmosphere is cozy, the seats are comfortable, and I can have a soft drink if I'd like.

As I reflect on how I learn best, I started thinking of the learning space in the library media center for my students. What I realized is that over the years I have made a lot of changes to the wall decor, but I have not made any significant changes to the physical learning space. The tables and bookcases are in the same places that they were in when I inherited the library media center ten years ago. My guess is that they are in the original location that they were placed when the school first opened and no thought has been given to them ever since. The learning space has to be conducive to how students want to learn, not how teachers want to teach. Therefore, I decided to ask the students to redesign our learning space to fit their needs. Their only parameters were that walls couldn't be knocked down and the computers couldn't be moved due to the drops on the floor. Everything else was fair game!

The kids worked in small groups to discuss the library learning space. Some groups sat at their tables to discuss and others got up and walked around the room to visual the changes. We then came back as a group to discuss their ideas and I was blown away! Some of their ideas included the following:
  • Replace rectangle tables with round tables to promote a calm and cool atmosphere. They also thought it would be easier to have group conversations.
  • Get comfortable chairs and bean bag chairs 
  • Get some chairs with higher backs, so the smaller kids will feel more confident
  • Add more bright colors
  • Rotate the book shelves to make longer rows, which will help make it easier to find books
  • Move the reference and biography books
  • Move all of the books out of the middle area and make that the classroom area
  • Add more lamps
  • Add more quotes
  • Add cushion seats
  • Add a fish tank to help calm students
  • Add more chairs around the library to give kids more areas to read
Wow! They thought of so many things that I hadn't thought to do! To get things started, I emailed our K-6 schools to see if anyone was interested in trading our rectangle tables for their round tables and I got a volunteer. Redesigning the learning space had begun! It is definitely a work in progress to implement their ideas, but it has been so exciting to see their faces when they come into the library and see the changes they suggested. As student leaders, their voices have been heard and the library will be a better learning space for everyone!

Students used Google Draw to design the Literacy Lounge area of the library.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Time to Tweet

Twitter has been around for years, but until fairly recently, educators have equated it more with the social life of a teenager as opposed to a professional development tool for themselves. As with any tool, digital or not, there needs to be a purpose. To be honest, my Twitter account was set up in 2008, and I’ve only actively been using it the last year and a half. Why? Because I had no purpose. Now that I’ve been using is as a professional development tool, a way to connect with educators around the world, and a means to telling a story, I have found my purpose. Everyone's purpose for using Twitter will be different, but whether you use Twitter or not, it is important to know the basics because our students and parents are using it daily as their means of communication. Your purpose for using this tool may grow and change over time, but once you find your purpose, you will find Twitter to be an indispensable tool.

Using sticky notes to "tweet" our  #superpowers.

Setting up Twitter accounts.

Learning how to thread a conversation using hashtags.