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School & District Management Opinion

How to Design a Smarter Room for Learning

By Beth Holland — December 29, 2015 1 min read
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David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, wrote in his book Too Big To Know, that “the smartest person in the room is the room.” This then begs the question: how do you design a smarter room?

Over a year ago, when I first started researching the idea of transforming libraries into learning commons, I did not fully appreciate the magnitude of that essential question. At the time, I focused on the evolution of libraries given the influx of digital resources and availability of access to information on mobile devices. I showcased flexible furniture, the addition of makerspaces, and the role of digital tools. And yet, a quote from Gino Bondi, an educator in Canada, nagged at me:

But, it's more than a room. It calls for the creation of new environments that improve learning. It is about changing school culture and about transforming the way learning and teaching occurs."

In other words, designing a learning commons ultimately results in the creation of a smarter room. It creates an environment that supports cognition and the desired learning behavior. As Bandura (1996) explains:

In the social cognitive model of interactive agency, persons are neither autonomous agents nor mechanical conveyers of animating environmental forces. Rather, they serve as a reciprocally contributing influence to their own motivation and behavior within a system of reciprocal causation involving personal determinants, action, and environmental factors" (Bandura, 1996, p. 12).

Consideration of the interrelationship of behavior, environment, and cognition applies not only to libraries but to any classroom. Beyond installing 3D printers and flexible furniture to impact a learning environment, a true learning commons incites inquiry, encourages collaboration, and inspires the community.

A few weeks ago, I presented the idea of transforming learning spaces into learning commons in a webinar for EdWeb. In the coming weeks, my plan is to further delve into the role of teachers in the creation of these learning environments specific to fostering knowledge co-construction.


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

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