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Learning opportunities abound as DCSD libraries transform

Walking into the Castle Rock Middle School's library, you may instantly have the feeling that this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile. While students are still dropping off overdue books, something is unmistakably different.

Castle Rock Middle School (CRMS) is one of many schools across the Douglas County School District (DCSD) that have taken on the challenge of transforming spaces that had previously been traditional libraries into a flexible learning environment, known as a Learning Commons.

The impact at CRMS is apparent. The Learning Commons is now a hub of learning within the school.

Before the first bell rings, a crowd has already gathered around a 3D printer near the library entrance laying down plastic, layer by layer, building a student-designed cellphone case. Students are able to create and prototype limitless possibilities with the 3D printer that they checked out from the Douglas County School District's Innovation and Design Center (IDC).

When classes meet in the Learning Commons, students gather around furniture that looks more like something from Google headquarters than what you would expect in a school library. Tables have curves that encourage collaboration and chairs have just enough flexibility to allow 13 year olds to wiggle, keeping them more focused. 

WATCH: Castle Rock Middle School students are drawn to the new Learning Commons.

The Learning Commons also has a large MakerSpace, stocked full of parts, pieces, kits and just about anything else you can imagine needing to empower students to invent and test anything they can dream.

The students’ project, building a cellphone case, is guided by not only innovation, but also empathy.  Students are creating something useful - a helpful technology that will make a difference in peoples' lives.  At the projects end, students present to an authentic audience – a group of teachers, parents, and community members, who provide valued feedback on the students’ work.  

While libraries have always been a place for the curious to research and learn, the transformation of the space into a Learning Commons encourages students to not stop there, but to take the next steps through invention.

“Whether they are just curious about something, or they are really passionate about something, our learning commons allows them to take it further,” said CRMS Librarian Yvonne Miller.

Linda Conway, Director of the Innovation and Design Center, formerly Library and Media Programming (DLMP), says that this type of transformation is happening everywhere, in all types of libraries.

“Our partners at Douglas County Libraries are also making this shift in paradigm,” said Conway. “Libraries are living, and breathing entities that continue to grow and transform to meet the needs of the communities they serve.”

There have been 50 schools that have transitioned their libraries to learning commons or are in the process of making this move. It is important to note, however, this work is not solely focused on libraries.

The staff at the IDC, a division of Information Technology Services and an expansion of what was formally known as District Library Media Programming, has also transformed 37 classrooms. Additionally, they have helped create 23 learning spaces, utilizing wide spots in schools’ hallways.

“We are expanding our offerings to invest in the integration of instruction and technology at our schools,” explained Chief Technology Officer Gautam Sethi. “Our focus is to help shift the learning and content in our libraries and classrooms, to better meet the needs of our students.” 

“Our libraries and classrooms are transforming to meet the needs of the learners," added IDC Learning Environment Designer and 2015 Apple Award Winner Marci Milius. "Reading and literacy, however, continue to be priority."

IDC will continue to offer library services, but the focus has now expanded to support teachers and administrators through the transformational process. In fact, the old DLMP building in Castle Rock was revamped to model best practices.

It now has several flexible learning spaces and a fully functioning MakerSpace. Visitors can learn and try different teaching practices and see the impact changing furniture and implementing new technology, including robotics, can have on learning. The space can also be reserved for professional development, group meeting or as a student learning area.

Schools interested in learning more about transforming their classrooms or libraries are encouraged to contact the IDC, via their website

WATCH: See how the library at Rocky Heights Middle School is transforming from a "old, dusty place with books," to a center for learning.



May 13, 2015 | By rmbarber | Category: District, Innovation & Design Center, Information Technology

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