Author:
Margaret Sullivan
Subject:
Information Science
Material Type:
Module
Level:
Graduate / Professional
Tags:
  • AEIOU
  • Flow
  • Personal Bias
  • School Librarian Preparation
  • Zone Planning
  • school-librarian-preparation
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike
    Language:
    English

    Planning for Innovation: Renaissance or Renovation

    Overview

    In the third module we will consider tools for students to use to plan new school library spaces.  This module along with Module 4 will expose students to structured ways to develop new ideas for not just renovating space but taking it in new directions.   These modules are transitional, a way to move toward renaissance rather than mere renovation.  Hopefully, they will provide a framework to explore ideas beyond their experience and the experiences of other planning team members.  

    After critically evaluating the advantages and limitations of either a Learning Commons or a Maker Space and considering futuristic ideas, let’s focus on what might be an interim solution.  What might be an affordable alternative that school libraries could be considering to enrich progressive, alternative educational models?   We need to consider how to embed inquiry into new learning models while maximizing the space, the resources and the mentoring skills of a trained librarian. 

    The goal of Modules 3 and 4 are to provide students with objective ways to step away from their preconceived library space designs and think about new concepts based on the user.   We have moved space planning from a focus on housing the physical content to planning around the learning activities such as collaboration or team projects.  The next logical step is to take a humanistic approach; planning for users.

     

    Preparation

    Encourage your students to forget their previous views or biases about the nature and definition of a school library.  In this module they should be neutral on whether a Learning Commons or Maker Space is the obvious solutions to space planning.  They may decide that those are the models they want to explore as a library renovation but try to encourage them to come to that conclusion after working through a process focused on their students, how they want to work, and how they will want to work in the future.   

    In my OER Course Cognitive STEAM: Environments you can use the material on AEIOU Observation to introduce students to the skill of observing and taking notes on users within a library or other social environments that are frequented by their students.  I also elaborate on this process in chapter 5 of my book, Library Spaces for 21st Century Learners.   The OER Course or my book provide insight into developing a needs assessment document and translating those ideas into zone plans.  Needs assessment documents along with a zone plan are standard tools they should be comfortable using to facilitate space planning discussions with an architect or interior designer.   But in this course we are going to think of zone plans as maps not destinations.  Zones are not spaces but rather an organizational tool for thinking through the planning process.  In this course we will blur the edges of zones because they are based on activities not the people using the space.  

    Incorporating AEIOU observations into the needs assessment will enrich the document with examples of how the users are currently engaged in the space, how they modify the space to their needs and what existing furniture and equipment is being used most frequently and effectively.  

    If students are not using the library then they must go out and make observations where students are gathering, why those spaces work better than the library, what tools are leveraged, and how students demonstrate knowledge.   It is also important to understand whether instructors use inquiry based learning skills in the classroom.  If not, then they need to market inquiry based learning, suggest collaboration to integrate it into the curriculum and evaluate student results together.    

    Meaningful conversations with fellow instructors during the observation phase will help them select a team of collaborators to work on a needs assessment document for going forward.   They can help the librarian determine what questions need to be asked about the nature of a future library.  They can create excitement about possible changes to curriculum based on the new environments.    They are stakeholders in this endeavor along with students, their parents and school administrators.  All the stakeholders should be involved in developing a needs assessment document.   Selecting an appropriate sized group that is representative of a majority of stakeholders is critical.  They want divergent thinkers willing to offer opinions and be risk takers.  They also want stakeholders who will ask their peers for insight to expand their personal views. 

    In this module you should also address some of the issues that a major renovation will require.  Feasibility and viability issues like funding, technical infrastructure and human resources should all be addressed, documented and placed on a sidebar for later.  These issues can be overwhelming and put a “black hat” on creativity so no new ideas are even explored.  There are always numerous reasons why something new, innovative “can’t be done” so spend some time letting people fill up a flip chart sheet with them.  Then, decide as a group that they will not stop the planning process.  After the group creates a compelling plan then the obstacles can be may efficiently addressed.  The supporting arguments for change will emerge during the process, especially if the key driving factor is student learning. 

    In this module we are becoming social anthropologists studying our past for clues on how to make improvements for the future.   The major obstacle they will all face is how to leave personal biases behind, acknowledge what your experiences tell you a school library or learning environment is.  Hopefully, the group will include enough diverse experiences from invested stakeholders to suggest there can be more options than a single, traditional space.  You also want to explore unique options specifically for your school for spaces, like a learning studio.    The key question the students need to address is this: if you have never experienced an alternative environment, how would you know how to create it?  Our experiences drive our knowledge and expectations; they also fuel opposition to innovative ideas.  So lets find out what opportunities are hidden within your planning team. 

     

    Create a Needs Assessment Document

    Incorporate AEIOU observations into a needs assessment document with examples of how the users are currently engaged in the space, how they modify the space to their needs and what existing furniture and equipment is being used most frequently and effectively.  

    If students are not using the library then they must go out and make observations where students are gathering, why those spaces work better than the library, what tools are leveraged, and how students demonstrate knowledge.   It is also important to understand whether instructors use inquiry based learning skills in the classroom.  If not, then the librarian needs to market inquiry based learning, suggest collaboration to integrate it into the curriculum and evaluate student results together.    

    Meaningful conversations with fellow instructors during the observation phase will help them select a team of collaborators to work on a needs assessment document going forward.   They can help the librarian determine what questions need to be asked about the nature of a future library.  They can create excitement about possible changes to curriculum based on the new environments.    They are stakeholders in this endeavor along with students, their parents and school administrators.  All the stakeholders should be involved in developing a needs assessment document.   Selecting an appropriate sized group that is representative of a majority of stakeholders is critical.  You want divergent thinkers willing to offer opinions and be risk takers.  They also want stakeholders who will ask their peers for insight to expand their personal views. 

    In this module you should also address some of the issues that a major renovation will require.  Feasibility issues like funding, technical infrastructure and human resources should all be addressed, documented and placed on a sidebar for later.  These issues can be overwhelming and put a “black hat” on creativity so that no new ideas are even explored.  There are always numerous reasons why something new, innovative “can’t be done” so spend some time letting people fill up a flip chart sheet with them.  Then, decide as a group that they will not stop the planning process.  After the group creates a compelling plan then the obstacles can be may efficiently addressed.  The supporting arguments for change will emerge during the process, especially if the key driving factor is student learning.

    Incorporate AEIOU (Activities, Environments, Inreractions, Objects, and Users) observations into a needs assessment document with examples of how the users are currently engaged in the space, how they modify the space to their needs and what existing furniture and equipment is being used most frequently and effectively.  

    If students are not using the library then you must go out and make observations where students are gathering, why those spaces work better than the library, what tools are leveraged, and how students demonstrate knowledge.   It is also important to understand whether instructors use inquiry based learning skills in the classroom.  If not, then you need to market inquiry based learning, suggest collaboration to integrate it into the curriculum and evaluate student results together.    

    Meaningful conversations with fellow instructors during the observation phase will help you select a team of collaborators to work on a needs assessment document for going forward.   They can help the librarian determine what questions need to be asked about the nature of a future library.  They can create excitement about possible changes to curriculum based on the new environments.    They are stakeholders in this endeavor along with students, their parents and school administrators.  All the stakeholders should be involved in developing a needs assessment document.   Selecting an appropriate sized group that is representative of a majority of stakeholders is critical.  You want divergent thinkers willing to offer opinions and be risk takers.  They also want stakeholders who will ask their peers for insight to expand their personal views. 

    In this module you should also address some of the issues that a major renovation will require.  Feasibility issues like funding, technical infrastructure and human resources should all be addressed, documented and placed on a sidebar for later.  These issues can be overwhelming and put a “black hat” on creativity so that no new ideas are even explored.  There are always numerous reasons why something new, innovative “can’t be done” so spend some time letting people fill up a flip chart sheet with them.  Then, decide as a group that they will not stop the planning process.  After the group creates a compelling plan then the obstacles can be may efficiently addressed.  The supporting arguments for change will emerge during the process, especially if the key driving factor is student learning.

    Identify Personal Bias

    The class is becoming social anthropologists studying our past for clues on how to make improvements for the future.   The major obstacle they will all face is how to leave personal biases behind, acknowledge what your experiences tell you a school library or learning environment is.  Hopefully, the group will include enough diverse experiences from invested stakeholders to suggest there can be more options than a single, traditional space.  You also want to explore unique options specifically for your school for spaces like a Learning Commons.    The key question the students need to address is this: if you have never experienced an alternative environment, how would you know how to create it?  Our experiences drive our knowledge and expectations; they also fuel opposition to innovative ideas.  So lets find out what opportunities are hidden within your planning team. 

    Identify personal bias concerning what a school library should be then move on to concepts beyond your personal experience.   Recognizing the limitations of your experiences can be difficult.  Consider Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience, he describes flow as “people becoming so involved in what they are doing that the activity becomes spontaneous, almost automatic; they stop being aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing.”  (Pg 50)  What elements might be included in a student learning environment that would encourage flow? 

    Engage the needs assessment team in a conversation about optimal learning experiences they have each had; when they ever reached a state of flow.   These experiences may or may not have been in a traditional educational environment.  Encourage members of the team to think globally about their learning experiences.  Provide explains of your own to get the conversation started.  These examples, might reflect on a specific teacher or mentor or times when someone self taught themselves. They should not only describe the experience, but the topic, the location or environment, objects within the environment, the sensory elements involved, their joy of engagement, and why they believe they remember it so clearly.  This experience will provide insight into the learning biases of each team member.  Make sure the students on the planning team actively participate to provide a rich fabric of timelines. 

    Summarize the results, looks for patterns based on such criteria as age, gender, environment, textual elements, social-economic and cultural groupings.   If individuals actually reached a state of “flow” whereby their learning experience “provided a sense of discovery, a creative feeling of transporting the person into a new reality” then they have a clear bias on what the “best learning experience” is.  There is no need to dwell on the patterns as long as everyone recognizes biases exist which can be either positive or negative in planning learning spaces in a dramatically changing world.   Hopefully, you will have a number of strong, differentiated biases.  As you continue the planning process, remind individuals of the biases they bring to the table and how those biases are hurting the process rather than helping it.

    To create new learning environments that engage students, adults need to step beyond their experiences and embrace new ideas, take risks and be willing to even make a mistake now and then to reach an alternative destination.  The fear of failure, criticism and rigid pedagogy can consume your energy.  Lack of encouragement, budget cuts, and limited time are all barriers to creative change.  All these obstacles are legitimate issues but if they stop creative people from making educational changes than another generation of learners will be lost on your “watch.”  And that is not acceptable. 

    In this unit you are going to capture all the obstacles, document them and find a path around them for moving forward. Create a working team of planners who care about student learning, innovative educational environments and want to be leaders.  The team will start by understanding their own preconceived and often unconscious biases on what the learning environment should be.  Include students, parents and community members as well as your peers and administrators.  The focus is the library but changes to this environment should ripple throughout the school and should suggest both classroom and pedagogy changes as well.   The challenge is to feel so strongly about making a change, improving student learning that you reach a state of flow and obstacles are an inconvenience but not a barrier.

    Discover the learning experiences and biases of the team. Begin the unit by understanding the unique experiences of the team. Share your best learning experiences and capture key details such as where you were during the learning experience, what you were trying to accomplish and who helped you.  Experiences should be different yet look for patterns the group can discuss.

    Engage the planning team in a conversation about optimal learning experiences they have each had; whether they reach a state of flow or deep happiness during their experience.   These experiences may or may not have been in a traditional educational environment.  Encourage members of the team to think globally about their learning experiences. Describe the experience, including the topic, the location, the sensory elements involved, the joy of engagement, and why you believe you remember it so clearly.  This experience will provide insight into the learning biases of each team member.  Make sure the students on the planning team actively participate to provide a rich fabric of timelines. 

    Summarize the results, looks for patterns based on such criteria as age, gender, environment, textual elements, social-economic and cultural groupings.   If individuals actually reached a state of “flow” whereby their learning experience “provided a sense of discovery, a creative feeling of transporting the person into a new reality” then they have a clear bias on what the “best learning experience” is.  There is no need to dwell on the patterns as long as everyone recognizes biases exist which can be either positive or negative in planning learning spaces in a dramatically changing world.   Hopefully, you will have a number of strong, differentiated biases.  As you continue the planning process in the next module, you might need to remind individuals of the biases they bring to the table and when those biases are hurting the process rather than helping it. 

    This tool will help you when you present your final plan to school board members, voters and academic peers by making you senative to the biases of your audience.  Everyone has built in biases, learn to recognize why someone has such strong feelings about proposed changes and what logic you used in the planning process to help people move beyond their biases.  It is also a way to engage the team, learn more about each member and start to form a bond that will reinforce your goal of change.