I recently retrieved a reserved book from a nearby public library. I’m amazed at how libraries have changed over the past few years. Some of these changes have been welcome and encouraged by communities. The notorious Dewy Decimal system has been simplified with an online catalogue, silence is now not expected in all parts of a library, librarians have become “media specialists”, online research is becoming the norm, etc. I could go on and on about the changes in the local library, but I’ll stop here.
This particular library that I went to visit has rows of computers, an ebook reading zone, two copy machines, reservation rooms, DVD/CD check out, moveable furniture, and a ton of space for collaboration. The library has recently been renovated to improve access for patrons. There are study corals for people who need to work independently and reservation rooms for group discussions. A technology corner includes headphones and laptops available for checkout. I could tell that the designers intentionally created certain parts of the library for group collaboration. Those zones have electrical outlets, moveable furniture, and wifi access so that work can be optimized. After leaving the library I started pondering to what extent the library design could be replicated in a classroom setting.
Just as the library environment encourages literacy, the classroom environment plays a pivotal role in limiting/enhancing how students are able to collaborate and learn. I started to reflect on the questions below.
How does your classroom environment enable or encourage collaboration?
Is there an area that is designed for independent work?
Is technology easily accessible for student use?
Is there an area that is designed for research?
I believe that it’s important to ask the questions above and seek answers. The classroom environment should promote collaboration and give students opportunities to learn in different ways. Moving beyond the single row classroom setup encourages students to take ownership of their learning. Giving students opportunities to learn without desks or in a student centered environment may prove beneficial, as some studies are beginning to indicate. Allowing a bit of flexibility in a classroom setup can reap dividends later on in the school year. If the library can reinvent itself, I believe a school/classroom can do the same.