Thursday, December 13, 2012

When a Plan Comes Together

"I love it when a plan comes together" 
 - Hannibal Smith, "The A-Team"

I loved "The A Team" when I was a kid.  I wasn't buying the Mr. T starter kit or anything (even though I saw this at Sophie's Cosmic Cafe in Kitsilano this weekend, as seen in the photo), but it was a favorite on Thursday nights.  And whether it was serendipitous or not, much like Hannibal's famous line above, I really saw "a plan come together" over the past couple of weeks.

More than a year ago, my good pal Gino Bondi (@gmbondi, a must follow) wrote a tremendous post about his "Learning Commons" concept that was transforming his library into a center for 21st Century Learning.  With Gino's permission, I shamelessly plundered the idea and created a proposal for our SKSS Learning Hub.  The vision for this space was adapted from many of the points that Gino made in his post to fit our context:
  • A welcoming, service-oriented, tech-rich environment that is inviting to all learners, both student and adult
  • A spot where students and teachers are able to engage in the workings of the Learning Hub and to co-develop the design of the space and the vision for how it operates
  • Comfortable areas with easily moveable and configurable furnishings that allow learners to work independently, collaboratively, and in large groups
  • Areas for learners to practice presenting and showcase their presentations to their peers
  • Wifi, tablets, netbooks, and connectivity to projectors to promote "side of the desk" access to unlimited digital resources
  • A dynamic collection of print resources
  • Access to our Learning Coach, an infinitely curious learner, leader, and support structure for kids and for teachers alike in all matters of innovation, technology, presentation, curriculum and instruction
  • A peer support network area for matters curricular and technological
  • A place "WHERE WE WANT TO BE"
We have moved very slowly with this project, and to be honest, the pace (or lack thereof) has been frustrating at times.  Not to mention that once this idea began to catch fire, the demand for this rethinking in and reconfiguring of the more traditional library structure grew (as it should!), potentially pushing our plan to the side.  Groan...what was going on here????

This is when another Principal (Walt Kirschner at Valleyview) brought myself, another Principal (who is a real mover in this Learning Hub idea, Sheryl Lindquist at NorKam) and our maintenance department together to figure out how we could collectively move on this for the betterment of all of our schools.  And in this meeting, I saw true collaboration occur:
  1. Each of us came to a common understanding and goal for creating our Learning Hubs--to create inviting, comfortable and flexible spaces that encouraged individual and collaborative learning.
  2. Each of us brought our own strengths and contexts to the table--from our experience with creating learning spaces, to our differing needs and uses of technology, to our different sizes of schools and libraries, to our practical perspectives such as construction issues, wiring challenges, millwork options, and maintenance timetables.
  3. Each of us came to a better understanding of our contexts (I had no idea about how long it takes to produce custom millwork, and I do now)--this was enlightening and so important.  And as soon as we understood eachothers contexts, it was amazing how we worked interdependently to come up with potential solutions for EACHOTHER, not just for ourselves.
  4. We set timelines that both pushed us and allowed us to be realistic given our current realities.
  5. We left acknowledging the collaborative process and wanting to meet again!
As we get closer to putting hammer to nail, roller to paint, and wifi to tablet, we are going to involve even more stakeholders because

“There is no one of us that is smarter than all of us”.

By tapping into the expertise and experiences of students, teachers, IT staff, and maintenance staff we can develop a common understanding of the varied needs and contexts of each of these groups so that we can continue co-create the Learning Hub using
a ‘collective compass’ that can guide us now and in the future.  

We can truly put the WE in the Learning Hub, the place "WHERE WE WANT TO BE".


  1. Nice post, Cale

    Great to see that the concept of the Learning Commons is taking traction.
    I know the frustrations of the start-up but you're doing it properly so that when it is constructed, everyone will be on the same page.
    We pushed ahead with ours during job action so it was times difficult.

    However, what you will find when up and running is that kids will be using the space in precedent setting numbers. We used to have about 50 students in our library at lunch and now upwards of 200. It's also become the hub of unscheduled pro-d where teachers drop by with their coffee and snack (both items welcomed!) and watch another teacher's inquiry unfold with his/her students.

    It's become the place to hang out and at JO its made learning "cool" - it really has transformed the culture of the school.

    Keep us posted with your progress

  2. Can I be your Learning Coach?!

    That sounds like my dream job.

    Wish you weren't so damn far away. I'd work with you in a minute.



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