21st Century design is influencing another traditional learning space – the school library according to 21st Century Learning Environments, a whitepaper published by Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
The white paper documents that the 21st Century library/media center must play multiple roles: carrying out its traditional role of bringing information resources to learners, of course, but also providing the tools and infrastructure that enable learners to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate resources in ways that demonstrate learning and create new knowledge.
It must offer places for formal learning in which large groups can gather for presentations; places for social learning where teams can collaborate on projects; and places for individual learning where individuals can find a quiet space for reading, reflection, or relaxation. These centers must also connect kids and adults to the wider world beyond the school by providing the audio and video communications technologies that build bridges between people and places all over the globe.
There’s a New Kid in Town
Libraries are reinventing themselves as content becomes more accessible online and their role becomes less about housing tomes and more about connecting learners and constructing knowledge says Beth Holland, Instructor and Communications Coordinator at EdTechTeacher. In her Edutopia blog post, 21st-Century Libraries: The Learning Commons, she explains where traditional libraries and media centers are often characterized as places of silent, independent study schools are now transforming these spaces into centers of active learning. A space that encourages teachers and students to collaborate, communicate, and share. School libraries/media centers are becoming a learning commons.
Students need study space, support for bring your own devices (BYOD), content-creation tools, and a flexible environment that can be reconfigured on the fly to meet the needs at that moment. A well-designed learning commons meets those needs and more.
Learning Commons and Beyond
Bob Pearlman, an strategic consultant in the design, development, and implementation of 21st Century schools takes the learning commons idea one step further and from his website says, “All rooms can essentially become a learning commons, complete with various learning hubs and the ability to extend the physical with the digital.” These new learning environments, sometimes a transformed library-media space, sometimes a centerpiece learning environment of a new STEM or STEAM program, go by many names - Innovation Labs, IDEA Labs, FabLabs, weCreate Centers, Learning Commons, etc.
Remco Bergsma of the MiEN Company agrees. “We help design active learning spaces with comfortable furniture that is mobile and modular and can fit the various needs of the specific space. What we are starting to see now is that some of the furniture pieces typically associated with a media center are trickling into the classroom and vice versa. We have schools that are configuring typical classrooms spaces with furniture and using them as project rooms, pilot rooms, or idea labs to enhance active learning.”
Collaboration and flexibility is a core element of active learning and being able to drive this process with furniture is a cost-effective way to make significant changes to create a 21st Century spaces. Here are some ideas to consider when using furniture to configure your library media center space.
Divide the Space
When it comes to multi-purpose areas, designate areas for a wide variety of tasks. Group work and individual task work should all be accounted for. Modular storage units are a great way to divide space. The modular storage units in the KIO Modular Curved Series provide storage and seating options while also doubling as a space divider. A low activity table can nest within the curve of the cafe height table, and lounge pouf units fit perfectly opposite the seated height table.
The FLEX 60° Curved Bench is perfect for adding seating options by creating a small bench type configuration or informal small group seating area. The modular design allows multiple units to be arranged into curves or serpentine benches that are easily accessible from both sides.
Use Multi-Purpose Furniture
Flexible furniture in multi-use spaces and encourages social interactions and spontaneous learning opportunities. Selecting a variety chairs and stools within a collaborative area can boost individual student development. Interactive environments should provide a workable space allowing students and staff to take a quiet seat by the window to study or an active Just for Fun balancing stool at a meeting table for group work.
Need a story-telling corner or a comfy collaborative space? FLEX Tiered Step Units Units are perfect for creating back-to-back group areas. The tiered design provides a variety of seating options that works for any age group. Fits perfectly in a reading area or community space. Upholster in a pattern or bright colors to add energy to the environment.
Multi-purpose components that are mobile and modular enhance effective learning strategy. Mobile, flip-top tables are height adjustable and provide numerous layout options for groups and individuals. Don’t forget presentation tools such as the FYI Flip Chart Markerboard. Imagine a student leading a brainstorm session on today’s trending topics.
The active learning media center becomes a flexible work and social setting for multiple activities. It can simultaneously be a classroom, computer lab, reading room, study room, conference room, community center, and a place for parents to meet. Create a dynamic, interactive learning environment with mobile and modular furniture.
Are you working on a Library or Media Center space? We’d love to help! For space planning ideas or product suggestions give a call at 616-818-1970.