A Visit to Discovery High School: Rethinking Learning Spaces and Learner Experiences

We are preparing for a redesign of our media center learning space at Chattahoochee High School.  Having gone through this process with my friend and colleague Jennifer Lund the last year and a half at Norcross High, I knew that a visit to her new school, Discovery High, in Gwinnett County, was a “must do” when looking for inspiration.  This brand new school that spans 640,000 square feet and just opened in August features a focus on project-based learning with four different learning academies within the school.  The academies include:

  • Business and Entrepreneurship program
  • Health and Human Services
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
  • Fines Arts

I was especially interested in the media center space Jennifer envisioned and designed with Holly Frilot, formerly an Instructional Coach in Media Services for Gwinnett County and now Supervisor of Library Media Education in Cobb County Schools.  Jennifer drew upon many of the design elements we had crafted for Norcross High, but she was also able to incorporate some other interesting elements.  The majority of her furniture is designed for active and collaborative learning with small and large groups, but it is also flexible for individual or quiet kinds of learning activities.   The primary vendors for her furniture include Steelcase, Turnstone (A Steelcase company), Hon, and Artcobell.   Because we had field tested many of these furniture pieces at Norcross, we knew they were a good fit for the collaborative kinds of work (see previous posts from 2014-15) we did with teachers and supported the principles of active learning.   Discovery High is a BYOD school, and in the media center, they use laptops rather than desktops for instructional activities.  Here are a few glimpses of her library learning studio:

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Another highlight of the visit was touring the Clyde L. Strickland Entrepreneurship Center, a space for students who want to learn how to start their own businesses.  Lindsey Brouillard, Language Arts teacher within the Entreprenuership and Business academy, along with program head Scott Allen, are working with students in a visionary learning space that features:

  • Pull-down garage doors separate the spaces classroom learning spaces (or they  can be left open to combine for larger common learning spaces)
  • “Restaurant” booths for  brainstorming and collaborative work
  • Individual makerspace areas within the larger makerspace featuring 3-D printers, an embroidery machine, banner and poster printers, and separate suites for creating their products
  • Mobile furniture that can easily be reconfigured
  • Natural materials combined with sleek, modern elements
  • Glass dry erase boards
  • Studio work rooms for small group work in different areas of entrepreneurship

Source: CBS 46 Atlanta

I saw students working individually and collaboratively; the common thread was a positive energy in which students were engaging in project based learning.  Other classes were using the learning space for virtual school courses facilitated by a content area teacher.  You can check out some of the rather cutting edge design of the learning space, inspired by the Georgia Tech Innovation Center and Chick Fil-A’s “The Hatch”, below:

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I apologize that some of my photos are a little bleary—I took over 200 photographs, and my battery was dying!  As you can see from both the media center and the entrepreneurship learning spaces, there was so much to take in and design elements to contemplate.  I definitely plan on incorporating many of these as we begin to work on our learning space taxonomy, sketch our initial ideas for floor plans, and continue developing our wish list for furniture that will support the kinds of learning activities we have started doing in the media center this fall and that we envision for the future.

Last but not least, I was very fortunate to get a special tour from Laura French of the Junior Achievement Biz Town and Finance Park.  I honestly don’t have the words to say how incredibly thoughtful this space is along with the partnership between Gwinnett County Schools and Junior Achievement.  I hope more schools will form these kinds of partnerships that can translate into truly meaningful experiences for young people!  You can read more about the partnership here.

A heartfelt thank you to Jen, Lindsey, and Laura for their exceptional hospitality!!!!  Their work has given me new ideas and inspiration for our media center learning studio redesign here at Chattahoochee.  If you are interested to know more, our good friend Steve Thomas of Circulating Ideas will be doing an interview with Jen and Lindsey for the show.  Stay tuned to his website for the interview/podcast!

Library as Makerspace: Creating and Nurturing Communities of Teen Writers

Original photograph by Buffy Hamilton

As part of our makerspace initiative this year (please see this blog post and this slidedeck here) and inspired by the work of the Sacramento Public Libraryone of my focal points is thinking about ways the library can support creating communities of readers and writers who are crafting and composing texts (and I use the term text rather liberally).  The Sacramento Public Library Winter 2012 “Write at iStreet Press” writing and publishing catalog offers a model of what the library as a makerspace for constructing texts looks like in a community through the public library.  Possible topics I’m interested in offering as “lunch and learn” sessions or after-school sessions could include (but are not limited to!):

  • Creative writing (memoirs, poetry, short stories, novels) and writer’s craft
  • Self publishing options (print as well as eBook/eInk)
  • Academic writing 
  • Digital and/or multimodal composition
  • Multigenre writing
  • Storytelling

While our library program has integrated pieces of these topics in the context of curricular study and collaboration with teachers for class projects over the last few years, I would love for The Unquiet Library to offer a dedicated space (physical and virtual) for more informal learning that would give students more latitude and agency in choice and topics for writing.  I see the library giving our student writing community a place where our teens could create, share, wonder, and experiment.   

While I feel comfortable in leading some of these workshops that I envision, I know we need the expertise and wisdom of our local and global community to help us connect our students with teaching artists (in the spirit of Sacramento Public Library’s iStreet Press writing program) and mentors (see the wonderful Chicago Public Library YOUMedia). Right now I’m in the early stages of reaching out to peers both near and far in my personal learning network to find people in our school community and the Atlanta/north Georgia area who could help facilitate these kinds of writing workshops; I’m also open to using Google Hangouts or Skype if there are mentors from afar who would be interested in facilitating and interacting through virtual means.   Additionally, I’d like to explore how our library could partner with other community groups and organizations (see this inspiration list from UC Davis Continuing Education); I think it would also be fun to collaborate with teen writing groups through other school and public libraries to extend the makerspace writing community!  As we grow the makerspace, I also see us tapping into our students’ talents and enlisting their help in serving as teaching artists and mentors to their peers.  I am hopeful that our makerspace writing community will create, share, and publish texts (individually as well as with peers) in a variety of genres that are personally meaningful to them.

I look forward to sharing with you our journey of this endeavor to make The Unquiet Library a true “incubator” for teen writers.  What suggestions or ideas do you have for the library as a makerspace for young authors and writers who want to craft their art in a variety of genres and modes?

*author’s note:  I’m delighted to share that this entry is cross-posted at National Writing Project’s Digital Is*

Crowdsourcing the Future of Libraries (via janholmquist)

from my wonderful colleague and friend, Jan Holmquist–I’m honored to have been part of #cyc4lib #futurelib via Skype!

Crowdsourcing the Future of Libraries Crowdsourcing the future of libraries was what the local librarians at my library did with the Cycling for Librari … Read More

via janholmquist

Coming Out Party: The Debut of the Libraries and Transliteracy Blog

It is with tremendous excitement I share the debut of a brand new blog today:  The Libraries and Transliteracy Blog. Through this group blog, Bobbi Newman, Tom Ipri, and I will be working hard to  share information about the new literacies, digital literacy, media literacy, 21st century literacies and transliteracies with a special focus on libraries.  We will be providing you an organic “reading list” of resources related to transliteracy;  our blog also features a Twitter stream of the latest Tweets related to transliteracy.  You may subscribe to the RSS feed for our blog through your favorite feed aggregator or information portal; we also offer the option of  email updates.

Please help us celebrate and spread the word of this new resource with your colleagues!