TMC6 Davies

Exploring Digital Horizons within the Culture of the New Learning Commons

By Pippa Davies

This paper reflects the ongoing development, accomplishment and possibilities of a virtual library learning commons in action.  Readers will be guided through virtual commons recommended components, growth and support of the author’s provincial curriculum, and we will learn how successfully the virtual learning commons can address diversity in student learning need.

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Pippa Davies has 30 years of experience working as a director, administrator, library specialist and teacher librarian, in many fields; medical, legal, public, reference and education. Her goal is to constantly challenge herself to learn new technology, and educational innovations for her school and students, to encourage learning and literacy which is vibrant and relevant to their 21st century needs.  For the last 15 years Pippa has loved working as the Director of Heritage Christian Online School learning commons where Christian education has been fore front in how she teaches and conducts her library work.  As a change agent in the learning commons environment Pippa enjoys collaboration, technology integration, literacy projects and dynamic inquiry-based learning, whilst creating voice for all of her students and staff.


  1. Hello Pippa,

    I must confess that I was afraid to read your paper at first. Why so fearful? Well, right now, here in Ontario, the current government wants to impose mandatory e-courses on all secondary school students. Would your paper be fuel to their fire? No, because as you said on page 2 of your paper, "Our blended commons include students participating once a week in learning groups in a brick-and-mortar environment, along with traditional distance education within the home environment. Students work with a supervising teacher and support team, including a large special education department, learning services consultants, and a knowledgeable learning commons team." I suspect that the provincial government in Ontario wants e-learning because they think it will mean less teachers and educational supporting staff to pay; your model suggests that more are needed.

    I'm glad you enjoy Insignia; we use it in the Toronto District School Board and are very satisfied so far with how it works.

    I was curious about how you'd do Maker activities in a virtual environment. You explain it well around page 9. It's an interesting combination of public librarians, campus teachers and one-on-one weekly meetings with a teacher.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective from the other side of the country!

    Diana M

    1. Hello Diana M,

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I feel for all Ontario educators and library staff who may lost positions based on a narrow minded view of distributed learning. Our school has been going for so many years and has such a large support team that our students generally get excellent one on one help. Yes our Maker Ed activities are very well run mostly by STEAM mentors and an active bunch of book club moderators who share ideas for making from Zoom classrooms. These sessions allow for student collaboration and presenting on a weekly basis and are a rich experience. Of course the face to face experience is not to be missed and our brick and mortar classes are also a highlight. We checked out your site when we were researching Insignia. We were impressed with what you are doing in Ontario!
      Kind regards,
      Pippa Davies

  2. Pippa, thank you for sharing your experiences in the world of e-learning and virtual/physical learning commons design. I will admit I felt some of my own bias come to the surface as I began delving into your paper. As Diana indicated, mandatory e-learning, privatization of education and much more are challenging issues facing Ontario public educators, children and families right now. But with a truly open heart & mind I put those anxieties aside and really appreciated the complexity of the work you shared. We know that online, blended and distance learning opportunities need to be available for students. Keeping the importance of a thriving LLC as part of the conversation is so valuable in supporting student success.

    Thanks again,
    Jenn Brown

    1. Thank you so much Jenn. I totally understand the hesitation with the bias. I hope the issues facing Ontario will not mean public educators will lose jobs. That would be awful! Thankfully that has not happened in BC as a result of distance learning programs. I love advocating for learning commons/libraries and believe we can work in most situations to help the needs of students. When I first started I never believed we could make a difference, but 16years later I think we are still part of the equation and hopefully a while longer. We can all work together for the benefit of our amazing students.

  3. Hi Pippa
    Thanks for your very informative paper where you have described the online and physical library in such detail. Although your school is rather a unique one in Canada, there is much to be learned by all school libraries in Canada how your vision must match your patron needs. I was especially interested in your stats regarding Overdrive. I have two high schools in my division that are set to test out Overdrive starting in one week's time. If all goes well, I hope to offer Overdrive to more schools within the division. I am pleased that Overdrive and our division's IT department have settled on a single-sign on authentication. This should help students and staff jump right in. I am concerned with lack of content so we'll have to see how it plays out. We have opted to join a Manitoba Overdrive Consortium which will give us more titles but with a one-to-one sign out, I wonder how accessible the books will be in the long run. I love your stance on viewing ebooks as a universal support. I will definitely frame my negotiations with those who control our budget in this way. Manitoba has no databases that are available to all so purchasing databases at the school or divisional level is quite costly.

    1. Hi Jo-Anne,

      I have a few thoughts regarding your Overdrive launch.
      Simcoe County District School Board (Ontario) launched Overdrive two years ago board-wide. It has over 100 schools. All school usage was funded at the school board level. There was a big push, including a contest for most student/staff usage in the first weeks.
      It was also a 'single copy' of a book for the entire system.
      Within a few days, books that are popular to the student audience like The Hunger Games had a wait time of about a year.
      Initially, adult titles were available to any elementary student.
      Predictably, the first schools (more or less) got all the popular titles. I refused to introduce such frustration to my school.
      Availability of online devices was a concern. My school had a lot of these compared to most other schools in SCDSB. They are used constantly for research, inquiry and classroom learning. There was no chance students could access school devices to read often/daily.
      It wasn't the most thought out launch. I'm not sure if any teacher librarians were consulted by board staff.

      Soon, SCDSB said schools could purchase copies for their own schools. The concern I had, is if SCDSB decided to stop funding Overdrive boardwide, the individual schools would then have to decide whether to fund internally. From research I did, this would consume library budgets. (That's another story.)

      Further, elementary schools decide on their own regarding Tumblebooks, PebbleGo/Next and other annual fee ebook sites. Many SCDSB schools do not have these. The teacher librarians do not receive enough budget funding or couldn't close the case to have such programs funded.

      I hope some of these thoughts are helpful.
      Greg Harris

  4. Hello Jo-Anne,
    Thank you so much for your thoughts and encouragement. I hope your OverDrive test goes well and your patrons will enjoy the immediate literacy benefits. We also have SAML authentication which really benefits our patrons easy of use. If you are interested in seeing what we have done with correlations to our standards I would be happy to share more. It takes a while to grow an ebook library but so worthwhile. Best to you and your library Jo-Anne. :)
    Kind regards,

  5. Good day Pippa,

    It's a joy to read about educational leaders who understand the importance of the library on student achievement and engagement, AND support it through action and financing.

    Thank you for sharing,
    Greg Harris


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