Do you remember school libraries of the past? I, personally, was afraid to walk into the library in my junior high school. We weren't allowed to talk and the librarian, who I thought was 120 years old, was really mean. *** Thankfully, times have changed.
Today's school libraries are turning into "Learning Commons," with a different configuration and purpose from in the past. A Learning Commons is a "common or shared space that is both physical and virtual. It is designed to move students beyond mere research, practice, and group work to a greater level of engagement through exploration, experimentation, and collaboration. A Learning Commons is more than a room or website. A Learning Commons allows users to create their own environments to improve learning. A Learning Commons is about changing school culture, and transforming the way teaching and learning occur" (Loertsher, Koechlin, and Rosenfeld 2012).
Today, Ms. Dowd's and Ms. Fanney's 8th grade language arts students are in the media center working on their United Nations Memorial Project and, boy, are we a Learning Commons! The teachers are facilitating while students use books, ebooks, and computers, take notes, type, discuss, work in groups, use their own devices for research and notes, create presentations, and more.
In this project, students are investigating issues of social justice from around the world (genocide, women's rights, slavery, child soldiers, etc.). They are conducting research and finding facts, but that's not the end of it. They are using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and synthesizing all the information to form their own opinions of the importance and global impact of their topics. Then, to tie the project with next week's field trip to Washington DC, they must come up with an idea for a DC-type memorial for their topic/event, and argue for the building of their memorial. In addition to all that, they have to take notes, use at least five resources, cite those sources using MLA format, create a visual representation of their memorial, and present all their ideas to their classmates. They will also evaluate one another's presentations and memorials. Whew, that's a lot!
Student engagement is tremendously important for learning. The 8th graders are curious and eager to learn more about their topics. They've been focused throughout this beautiful spring day, even knowing it's report card day! Not only have the students learned a great deal about these timely global topics, this project will make their DC trip even more meaningful.
Read Older Blog Posts (2010-2013) Here