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Forming the Future: Cardinal Spellman High Library Learning Commons


Students use their iPads in Cardinal Spellman High School's new Library Learning Commons, created earlier this year. Pilot photo/courtesy Cardinal Spellman High

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BROCKTON -- Students at Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton collectively received a fabulous Christmas present this year.

After returning from their Christmas break, students entered a school that boasted an entirely new wing. The Library Learning Commons, housed in the former convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph adjacent to the school, is part library, part digital classroom and entirely designed to help students achieve their maximum potential.

"The idea was to design a space that had a lot of the same attributes as a traditional library -- stacks, desks and the like -- but also would lend itself to the way kids are learning," explained Christine Evans, assistant principal of Cardinal Spellman High.

According to Evans, students and educators were consulted as the Library Learning Commons was designed.

The result -- a space that incorporates books, computers, and two glass-enclosed "flexible learning areas." Mac computers surround the circulation desk, facilitating virtual classroom learning. Comfortable chairs dot the space, creating a welcoming atmosphere for extra-curricular activities such as the newly created Game Club. Along the walls are individual tables for quiet study. Two glass-enclosed classrooms, complete with interactive televisions and large computer screens, encourage educators to use Skype to expose students to experts in their fields of study.

"This is an amazing space from beginning to end," Evans said.

Linda St. Laurent, instructional technology teacher at Cardinal Spellman, agrees.

"Watching the teachers bring the students in and then seeing their surprise at the different types of projects the students now have the opportunity to partake in has really been great," St. Laurent said.

As the instructional technology teacher, St. Laurent spends her day at the Library Learning Commons, teaching a digital literacy course to all freshman, as well as providing support to students and faculty members.

"Often people assume that because the students are young, they can use all these technologies, but that's not necessarily the case," she said. "As the saying goes, 'you don't know what you don't know,' and not every family has been exposed to technology in the same way."

According to St. Laurent, all students at Cardinal Spellman can sign up to spend their free period at the Library Learning Commons using their school-issued iPads. To date, over 1,700 sign-ups have been filed.

The school has also begun a speaker series in the Commons, beginning with Brockton City Counselor-at-large Shaynah Barnes, a 1994 graduate of Cardinal Spellman High School.

"The important thing is to get the students to come here the first time," she said. "Once you get them there once, they'll come back."

"As we continue to grow into this space, I would love it to become a living room for the school," continued St. Laurent. "I hope it will present opportunities for all the types of learners that make up our school."

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