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21st century learning commons on the way

Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik library to be redesigned with technology in mind
The goal of the new learning commons is to create a space students want to come and spend time. Image courtesy of Tomoloju Olusoga

As early as next school year, the library at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik in Rankin Inlet may be looking much more modern.

“The ‘learning commons’ reflects a marked shift in our conception of the library,” said Olusoga Tomoloju, principal of Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik.

That shift is driven by an evolving understanding of the library’s role in supporting student learning, he explained – rather than be a provider of information, the new library will aim to be a facilitator of learning.

The mission statement for the commons includes a focus on curriculum enrichment, social-emotional learning, mental health workshops, suicidal ideation reduction, school-community initiatives and digital literacy empowerment.

Tomoloju wants the learning commons to be a physical and virtual catalyst where “inquiry, imagination, discovery and creativity” come to life and become central to growth: personal, academic, social and cultural.

“Students appear to have natural abilities to use emerging technology, but the reality is whilst students easily grasp the entertainment and communication value of the devices they use, they need to be taught how these tools can be used in learning and critical thoughts,” said Tomoloju.

“This is the task for the learning commons, and that is the purpose.”

There’s no new construction involved, but the library will be transformed on the inside to include comfortable furniture, customizable furnishings, wireless internet, a smart board and multimedia labs.

At a presentation to the Rankin Inlet District Education Authority about the concept April 26, Vice-Principal Edward Seymour explained that he wants the library to be a place where students want to come and spend time with their friends.

“We’re hoping to be really proactive and move forward to create a space that our students are going to be excited about coming to school,” said Seymour. “And the ones that are not coming to school, they’ll hear about it from their friends and they’ll want to come in.”

The idea started three years ago, but pandemic restrictions delayed rolling out the initiative. The design is currently being finalized and materials sourced. The human resources are already in place, said Tomoloju.

He praised the work behind the scenes of Seymour and learning coach Kerry-Ann Gordon to make the concept a reality.

“Sometimes people think, ah the principal, you’re the one doing everything, but I have a wonderful team here that we all work together,” said Tomoloju. “There will be challenges, but when we get to the river, we’ll figure out how we’re going to cross it.”

All going well, the library will be ready for use in the new school year.

“We want to give (students) the best,” said Tomoloju. “Whatever is available, let us make it available for them and let them enjoy.”

There’s no construction involved in the new learning commons at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik, but the inside will be reimagined to support digital learning and collaboration. Image courtesy of Tomoloju Olusoga