Wilmette Public Schools District 39, Wilmette, Illinois

Learning Commons
By: | January 6, 2019
District Name: Wilmette Public Schools District 39
District State: Illinois
District Website: wilmette39.org

Looking to support the four C’s—creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking—Wilmette Public Schools District 39 introduced flexible learning spaces that would be available to entire schools.

Over three years, the district opened a Learning Commons at several schools, providing learning resources for students to develop soft skills. Through financial support from the district and community organizations, the spaces have been stocked with edtech tools ranging from laptops and tablets to robots and 3D printers.

A certified technology specialist and a library information specialist are also available in every school, as is a dedicated technician, freeing educators for instruction.

The use of each unique Learning Commons varies from school to school. For example, at one school, the facility hosts a weekly makerspace challenge. At another, it is used for regular lessons as teachers find it more conducive for instruction than a traditional classroom.

In addition to creating these spaces, the district has also provided PD for the instructional staff, focusing on what a Learning Commons is and how educators can connect their curriculum to it.

Gaining staff acceptance was a significant issue, says Tony DeMonte, director of technology and media services.

“We did not want to rely on a ‚Äòbuild it and they will come’ approach,” DeMonte says. “We wanted to ensure they came by providing learning opportunities and ideas, and then encouraging the staff to take complete ownership of the space.”

The district is currently planning its sixth—and final—Learning Commons. The existing ones continue to evolve with new events and models of instruction.

“All our spaces are amazing and support the best of what we want to see in a Learning Commons,” says DeMonte.