I came to the DLL program because I had started an innovation plan for my campus, but didn’t have the knowledge or tools to successfully see it through. Through this program, I was able to build an innovation plan that has been extremely successful, even if it isn’t exactly as I had imagined.
The goal of the original innovation plan was to change the way learning happened on campus, which eventually crescendoed into a motto of “Becoming Student Driven.” Our building is the result of a series of remodels and additions, which unfortunately means that some of our walls are extremely thin. Doing any sort of collaboration or group work where learning might be noisy results in a disruption of the classrooms all around. The original idea for this plan was to create spaces where classes could meet in order to do some of the noisier work that required collaboration. With the help of my administration, a location for the new collaboration space was chosen and a plan was created to have the space renovated. Formerly the senior locker space, the renovation began with the removal of several large banks of lockers. The transformation to a clean blank slate was met with optimism…..and a hurricane. Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey caused damage to multiple campuses in our district and funds were allocated away from our project to more necessary projects.
The space still stands empty, but students are enjoying the open space for gathering and the additional sunlight brightens the hallways nearby. The atrium is also seeing a significant increase in visitors now that the space is more accessible.
Even though we were not able to do the original renovation, we were able to start a learning space revolution on campus. You see, there are different budgets available for projects like this. While building walls was no longer an option, buying furniture and some technology was still on the table. Combining forces with our librarian, we were able to begin to build better learning spaces for collaborative work. One of the most important things that I learned through my experience with this innovation plan is that nothing is possible without teamwork.
Luckily for us, the school was scheduled to get new carpet over the summer. This meant that the maintenance department was already allocated to do some work in the library helping to break down bookshelves and move boxed books out of the library and back into it when the carpet was complete. This was a fantastic opportunity for the innovation plan. Our librarian created a plan and when it was time to put the library back together, he actually began creating our new learning environments. Our principal kicked in some additional funds and set the ball rolling.
The Flex Classroom
The Library Flex Classroom is a unique space and is still a work in progress. As you can see in the above picture, we still have the old, very heavy tables that are not conducive to being moved and rearranged. New tables on wheels are on the way, but the new lightweight, movable chairs are already in place in a lovely brain-activating shade of red. Additionally, technology has been added to this area that used to be simple stacks of books. We now have a ceiling-mounted projector, a touchscreen computer to run presentations, and surround sound. Teachers have the option of using this zone or combining with another zone in the library.
The flex classroom has one group collaboration/study group table where users can project their screens onto the table monitor. We only added one of these stations due to the expense of the technology but will add more if the need arises.
Additionally, there is another half to this Flex Space. This space is already outfitted with the lighter weight tables on wheels, lightweight chairs, and a rolling smartboard. This space can be used independently from the other half or used together. When my teaching partner and I used this space, we used the entire space for our combined classes. The best part of this space is that allows us to spread out and do work that we would not be able to do in our classrooms. It is also in a high-traffic area, so many students and teachers are able to see the kind of different learning that is possible because of these changes. These components make up our Flex Classroom. A dynamic, transformative space that allows us to do the messy and noisy work of learning.
In addition to the new space for classes, our librarian was inspired by the innovation plan to add different kinds of workspaces for users. (Users, because sometimes the patrons are students and sometimes the patrons are teachers.) These spaces are available to students to use before or after school, and during Cougar Block, an innovative use of time that allows students to choose what they need to accomplish and where they need to be for an hour of their school day.
We have begun the process of transforming a former classroom into a collaborative workspace. Right now, this is the home of the heavy furniture that used to be in the library. When we finish the transformation in the library, we will begin working on transforming this space. It is already in use as a meeting space, but we aim to improve the functionality of the space by improving the aesthetics, technology access, and transformative capabilities.
Never one to stand still, I actually moved on from the initial concept of building the right spaces in order to change the way learning happens. That was my ultimate goal- to change the way learning happens on campus and become student driven. While I was waiting on the slow process of transformation to happen in the library, I began working on COVA components and had my students build their own eportfolios.
Considering how often the district stepped in with barriers, I am more impressed everytime a teacher is successful at launching an initiative. I am fortunate to be on a campus where my administration supports innovative work and me. I look forward to using all of the skills I have picked up from the DLL program in order to continue driving change on my campus.