The American School of Bombay's elementary librarian, Heeru Bhojwani, has shared with me a new concept in library facility design and programming - the iCommons - that ASB is implementing this year. I had the good fortune to visit ASB and meet Heeru and her dynamic colleagues at an Unplugged Conference a few years ago. ASB is just one of those amazing schools that not only leads, but pushes the rest of into the future. Read about how Heeru and her staff are taking the physical library to the classroom!
iCommons at the American School of Bombay
“Open Classrooms” are a reflection of the dedication and forward-thinking of the leadership at the American School of Bombay to support 21st century skills and personalized differentiated learning. Each learning space or pod now has movable walls -- open environment of learning! Simultaneously, the conventional centralized library was replaced by multiple interactive libraries called iCommons (Information Commons).
We all know that a library is a vital center of learning for students of all ages, right from early childhood to adulthood. Library as an institution is intended to provide extensive collection of information and provide services to help library users interpret and use information to create new ideas and knowledge. Every educational establishment and pedagogy promote and endeavors to provide a good library to supportlearning.
With the onset of the Internet, learning too has changed. Internet carries an extensive range of information resources in terms of knowledge based databases, and this has definitely impacted traditional information provider - The Library. To support information literacy, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration led to the introduction of iCommons at the school. Each Grade Level Team now has their own iCommons with an iMac to create digital products. This open collaborative space supports and engages students on their learning journey. Each of the six iCommons house a wide collection of ebooks, playaways, audio books, print books and databases to support learning.
Bringing the iCommons to the hub of the child’s learning within his or her immediate reach, right outside the classroom makes it accessible at the child’s convenience, making it even more relevant. Adopting this fluid concept of the iCommons allows students to not only be consumers and ethical users of information but producers and creators of informational products. iCommons resonates the culture of 21stCentury Library.
After I read Heeru's short article above, I has some questions that she graciously answered:
How do you staff the iCommons? Well, the iCommons are being managed by the teaching assistants who are on the floor, for eg: just as the teaching assistant would maintain their class libraries now they take care of shelving books on their floor (yes, they have been given training by me)
Where are YOU as the professional librarian? Physically, I have an office, and I am all over the place giving lessons on information literacy and book talk and collaborating when needed for their research/inquiry projects. And have classes with students to demonstrate how the ebooks could be used.
Can students access physical materials from any iCommons or only their own? Yes, students can access physical materials from any floor. The books are color coded so it goes back to the right spot. Students independently check out books from Grade 1-5. KG kids are supported by teachers, Yes, the Teachers and Teaching Assitants help out when the students require help. In fact, it is interesting to see students teaching parents how to check out the books in their account without the help of a library assistant or a librarian or any other adult.
Are all materials centrally cataloged with indicators in the record for location? If large group instruction is needed, is this just done in the classroom? Yes, all books are centrally catalogued using destiny and yes, there is a record for location. Students have been given instructions and guidance on how they could use the catalog for their grade.
Again, I think this is really an interesting concept. How will you determine whether it is more or less effective than a centralized library? I am already finding that students have direct and complete access to the resources. They don’t have to go to the library because it is right there everytime. All students are browsing oppose to some coming to the library. Classroom collection tends to have more fiction and few nonfiction but, now they have a wide variety of both fiction, nonfiction and other reading materials including magazines in their iCommons. (information commons and Ideas Commons). I am finding that students are taking responsibility as they seem to have more control over their resources and soon they will have more understanding of their collection that is available to them. (This is because now they don’t need to go to the library once a week or when needed, they are actually physically present with the resources.)
Heeru, I hope to get an update toward the end of the year!