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Penrhos Library: Providing an innovative teaching space for 21st Century Learning


14 March 2019

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Penrhos College


School Announcements

Congratulations to Amanda Stewart, Head of Library for having her article about the Penrhos Library published in the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Magazine.


Penrhos College Library: Providing an innovative teaching space for 21st Century Learning

Amanda Stewart, Head of Library


Physically, what does a 21st century learning space look like?

We know that teaching in the 21st century context has a strong emphasis on students learning the skills they need to be able to successfully live and work in our rapidly changing world.  They need to be technologically savvy and highly adaptable, be adept at communication and problem solving, and be able to navigate through the deluge of information and misinformation that they face daily from a variety of different sources.

In refurbishing the library, we aimed to design the library as the nexus point for our students to develop these skills.  To this end, we created spaces that were flexible, with furniture that could be easily moved;  we’ve provided a variety of teaching and learning areas to cater for individual preferences such as carrells for private study; sound-proofed tutorial rooms with whiteboard walls and Skype capability for small group collaboration; a larger collaborative learning space with multiple monitors and high end microphones and cameras and state-of-the-art technology to facilitate presentations and communication with the wider community, both locally, interstate and globally; and areas large enough to accommodate either one class or the whole year group.  Finally, we extended our opening hours to reflect student demand to use these facilities before and after school.

Practically, what do we do?

The Library is central in the creation and curation of digital materials to support the curriculum and transform the learning experience. We use emerging technologies such as virtual reality to provide students with the immersive and highly engaging experience of visiting places and historical time periods that they couldn’t get to otherwise.  We also use these technologies to create our own virtual expeditions, linked to our curriculum both academic and pastoral.  A recent example of this is a 360 tour that we created and annotated for our Year 11 Biology students studying about bushfire prevention at the Perth Hills.  This can be used as revision for students and also enables those who may have been absent to still experience the excursion.  Similarly, we encourage our students (and in particularly our boarders) to use this equipment to create and share their own expeditions.  One of our boarders is about to create her own tour of her hometown of Broome to share with us.  This gives us the opportunity to teach our students to be critical and creative in the photos that they take and the information they use to annotate these.  It also enables us to clarify for them the importance of being ethical in their use of what they find and how they communicate this.  It also provides students with opportunities to connect and work with others nationally and globally, building understanding and respect for other’s beliefs and perspectives.

We work collaboratively with the different departments to develop 21st century learning skills of: knowledge construction; self-regulation; real world and innovative problem solving; skillful communication; and use of ICT for learning.  Knowledge construction is one of the obvious domains for the library.  However, working with learning teams, we have created opportunities for all of the other domains of 21st century learning.

For example, together with an English class, we identified a real world problem for them to solve: a local bookseller had been given unproofed copies of novels by literary agents wanting to sell their authors’ works to this shop. Space is at a premium in the shop so in this tight economic market, they only wanted to stock what was going to sell. Their client markets are K-12 schools such as Penrhos. So they asked for our help.  They wanted feedback on what they should/should not stock.  Students then selected stories to read, practised their communication skills and gave live feedback to the owners of this bookshop.  Followed by morning tea.

In terms of ICT for communication, we organise skype sessions so that our business students to discuss marketing strategies with existing business owners; author talks to give our English students the opportunity to discuss their work with authors who may not live in Perth; a virtual visit for our Outdoor Education students to the Queensland Aquarium; and participation in global events such as a Q&A with David Suzuki.  One of our students decided to explain the science behind why we see the sky as blue by building a virtual reality world using Tiltbrush.  We then downloaded this world to our VR headsets so that her class could experience the 360 world that she had built, whilst listening to her presentation.  A very immersive experience and, as one student commented, ‘this takes presenting to the next level’.

But what about the books?

We have built up a very strong culture and love of reading for pleasure.  This isn’t going to change.  Learning about literature remains an important part of the library program.  We know that reading for pleasure encourages a meaningful use of leisure time and has been directly linked to improved literacy skills of comprehension and creative writing.  From the ‘classics’ to contemporary literature, reading encourages students to develop empathy and respect for others; to appreciate diversity and often, to find validation for their own life experiences.  The tactile nature of handling a book means that the physical collection isn’t something that is going to diminish.  However, our digital library has also proved to be very popular – especially when students are on holiday.  Our Book Club has a strong membership, and this year we are meeting up in a virtual book club with Wesley and Guildford Grammar.


ACT Government Education. School Libraries: the Heart of 21st Century Learning. (2015) [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.education.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/916301/School-Libraries-21st-Century.pdf

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (n.d.). Personal and social capability. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general-capabilities/personal-and-social-capability/

ITL Research. (2014). 21 CLD Learning Activity Rubric. Australia: Microsoft Partners in Learning.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (n.d.). Critical and Creative Thinking. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general-capabilities/critical-and-creative-thinking/