Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Jennifer Alfonso-Punzalan
Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud
TED Conferences, LLC.  [TED2013]. (2013, February). Sugata Mitra: Build a school in the cloud [Video file].  Retrieved from
Sugata Mitra is an educational researcher who spoke at a TED conference about how his goal is to build a school in the cloud.  His notion is that the educational system that was invented during the Victorian times worked for that era, but now, education needs to be reworked.  His thoughts are that children can teach themselves and their peers anything, as long as they’re interested and have the hardware and software to do so.  His research with children in poor neighborhoods in India showed that children who had access to an Internet-connected computer learned very complex ideas, not even in their native language but in English.  This so-called “Hole in the Wall” computer gave these children the ability to learn abstract science concepts.  Because they had the curiosity, the tools, and one another, the Hole in the Wall project resulted in learning on individual and collaborative scales.
This was an eye-opening TED talk on the great effects that technology can have on learning.  I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Mitra on how the current educational system in the United States is old-fashioned and needs a revolutionary change.  It would be great if all schools could differentiate learning for all their students through the use of cloud-based technologies and schools so that every child really wouldn’t be left behind.  If people would be willing to vote for and fund this type of education then I think a school in the cloud could really happen.

Ten Takeaway Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking

Jennifer Alfonso-Punzalan
Ten Takeaway Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking
I Jukes. (2013, February 26).  Ten takeaway tips for teaching critical thinking.  [Web log comment].  Retrieved from
This is a list from Mariko Nobori from Edutopia that gives teachers ten ways to teach or remember to teach critical thinking skills.  The approaches that are described are very student-centered and student-driven.  Use of the Socratic method is important.  So is the scaffolding of desired outcomes, such as using manners when learning to counter-argue a point, using academic language with sentence stems/starters, and using methods such as a fishbowl to learn how to critique one another.
I enjoyed reading this short blog because, as a teacher and (hopefully, one day a teacher-librarian) I aim to get to the heart of what my students want to learn, to help them push themselves to think more critically, and to find the answers that they seek.

School Librarian’s Role in Reading Workshops

Kramer, K. (2012). Reading workshop: The school librarian’s role. School Library Monthly, 28(5), 38-39.
Synopsis: Kym Kramer is a former school librarian and teacher. In this article she provides a very brief introduction to what Reading Workshops are as well as the role that the school librarian can play in helping teachers implement and maintain them. Kramer describes reading workshops as “research-based curriculum that uses self-selected literature as a cornerstone” which “includes daily modeling and instruction on the strategies readers use, and heavy use of formative assessment to guide students as the strategies are applied” (p. 38). The point that she emphasizes the greatest is that the workshops are meant to: assist students with their reading needs, supply them with new books once they finish current ones, and use read-alouds for the purpose of inspiring conversation and thought. It is the author’s belief that these intended results are the same concepts librarians are interested in teaching students and that is the main reason they should be involved.
The description of what is exactly entailed in reading workshops was fairly brief, it would have been nice to have a more detailed explanation. After looking at other resources, to further explore the topic though, it becomes apparent that Reading Workshops are different in every situation. She does reference two books that she feels are excellent resources to guide those that are new to reading workshops. I feel that author does a great job with first identifying then elaborating the different ways that school librarians can play a part in helping to set them up and maintain them. In the later part of the article she brings up the implementation of the common core standards as well as the increasing use of electronic resources and how these also tie into what school librarians role is.  

Posted by Jessica King

What Does ‘Design Thinking’ Look Like in School?

Jennifer Alfonso-Punzalan


K Schwartz.  (2013, March 4).  What Does ‘Design Thinking’ Look Like in School?  [Web log comment].  Retrieved from

Design thinking is a way of learning such that students solve real-life problems with creatively thought-out solutions.  Students use multiple intelligences to solve problems.  The article uses the Nueva School in Hillsborough, California, a private K-8 school, as an example of a school where design thinking is incorporated in all the curricula and through all grades.  An example of design thinking is a project where 4th grade students use an LED light to make a light for the family member who needs a lamp the most.  The students must study how the person would use the light, research, and design a lamp.  Design thinking uses all sorts of intelligences, including empathy, visual, kinesthetic, and possibly other types of intelligence.

This is a good article to illustrate the real-life applications of what education should be doing for students in the 21st century.  Students are learning to identify problems, come up with and design solutions, learn how to collaborate and also be independent learners.  Design thinking fosters lifelong learning.

One Librarian’s Success Story

Tami Sickels
IL Media Literacy

JACOBS-ISRAEL, M. (2013). One Librarian’s Success Story. School Library Journal, 59(1), 20

Christine Poser is a media specialist in Staten Island, NY.  She jumped on board with the Common Core Standards and is one of the leaders in implementing them in her school.   She atttended several workshops on Common Core and the alignment with her state’s standards.  Even though she became very comfortable and familiar with Common Core, she realized that the other educators around her were not.  Poser began to build her collaborative relationships with the other teachers, parents, and even students.  She attended curriculum meetings and even help workshops to help the others understand the Common Core Standards.  She expanded the library’s collection to reflect the Common Core, which included more non-fiction.  To highlight these new additions, she created units with other teachers and put together changing book displays.  Poser also created a brochure and help an open house to introduce parents to the changes and show them the library’s website, databases, and even held workshops after school to invite the students and their parents to visit the library and “Warm up with a Good Book” and “Vote For Books”.
This article motivated me to accept the changes that Common Core Standards are bringing to our schools.  Christine Poser is an inspiration to all teacher librarians, young and old.  


Parker, Linda
Guder, C. (2010). Patrons and pedagogy: A look at the theory of connectivism. Public 

     Services Quarterly6(1), 36-42.

This article discusses a recent hot topic in education theory called connectivism.  With new advances in technology creating new styles of teaching and learning, it has become ever-important for librarians to keep up with the pace. These changes or shifts in the way that people interact with technology is what connectivism is all about.  A few of the basic principles of connectivism are as follows: 

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • An ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (up-to-date, accurate knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
The article goes on to share that there are two basic styles of learning theory applied in the library setting: direction instruction and student-centered learning.  Given what technology provides in terms of tools, resources, applications, and access to information, learning has moved outside of the classroom and across technology’s networks – this is connectivism.  Connecting with others, with information via databases, social networking sites, creating one’s own learning experience is a means to becoming more effective and efficient learner.  To remain relevant in today’s culture of technology, libraries will need to explore how these different learning theories can connect us to our mission, our patrons, and our communities at large.

Goodbye Behaviorists

Michelle Windell


Yilmaz, K. (2011). The cognitive perspective on learning: Its theoretical underpinnings and implications for classroom practices.Clearing House, 84(5), 204-212.

This article begins by distinguishing behaviorism from cognitivism. Behaviorist learning theory asserts that learning is observable and measurable, encapsulated in the process of an organism responding to stimulus. In other words, it is a passive process. Conversely, cognitivism asserts that learning is an active process of making meaning out of new stimulus based on prior knowledge. The author distinguishes cognitivism from constructivism, indicating that teachers often confuse the two, but does not ever fully define constructivism. Instead, the two forerunners of cognitivism – Piaget and Vygotsky – are highlighted, along with implications for classroom instruction.

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that humans from the earliest age actively seek to interact with their environment. This interaction results in the individual assimilating, accommodating, or rejecting new knowledge based upon the mental constructs (schema) s/he already possesses. Vygotsky’s theory of social cognitivism suggests that people learn through social interaction, and that individuals have different optimum readiness levels for different information (zone of proximal development). The idea of scaffolding was born from this theory. Several other cognitive theorists are mentioned in less detail.

Five teaching methods based on the instructional implications are defined:

  1. Cognitive apprenticeship, which incorporates modeling, coaching, student articulation, reflection, and exploration.
  2. Reciprocal teaching, in which students are guided in the use of cognitive techniques to enable them to make meaning while reading.
  3. Inquiry learning, in which students employ higher order thinking skills to examine an issue or test a hypothesis.
  4. Discovery learning, similar to inquiry learning, in which the process of discovery and responsibility for one’s learning is emphasized over the content learned.
  5. Problem-based learning, in which students are presented with a problem to solve and a variety of potential resources, resulting in a myriad of possible solutions.

This article is a good refresher on cognitive theory, and simple enough for the novice to understand as well. The section on instructional implications and teaching methods correlates with our class texts and transformation work. I enjoyed connecting our process to its theoretical bases.

Authentic Inquiry

Donham, J. (2008).  Deep learning through concept-based inquiry.  School Library Monthly, 27(1), retrieved from

This article urges school librarians to think differently about their instructional methods.  The author argues that the current model, in which students locate information and report it back to their school librarian or teacher, serves students poorly.  Rather than encouraging further inquiry, promoting a sense of curiosity and motivating students to think critically, it merely prompts students to parrot the information they have retrieved.  The author urges school librarians to step away from a model that simply teaches “reporting” skills and to embrace a model that teaches genuine research skills. Specifically, she emphasizes authentic inquiry, in which students must explore unknown territory and take ownership of the research process. She notes that authentic inquiry has three attributes.  First, it promotes observation-grounded research.  Students’ current approach to research is to choose a topic, obtain facts about it, and assemble the final product. Authentic inquiry encourages students to start research projects by focusing on their own observations, reflecting upon them and following their own instinctual curiosities.  Next, it embraces a concept-based approach that redirects students’ attention from specific topics and hard facts, such as the Pilgrims of the 1600s, to broader and more abstract concepts, such as immigration.  The author emphasizes that conceptual thinking allows for broader application across subjects and settings.  Third, the author states that authentic inquiry has value beyond the school setting.  Due to its emphasis on conceptual thinking, its promotion of curiosity and the freedom it allows students to study areas that are relevant to them as individuals, it strengthens their critical thinking and analytical skills.

I thought this article was excellent and highly useful!  I recommend that my classmates my read it; its message is deeply relevant to our work and is strongly connected to our class (it even refers to Dr. Loertscher’s work!).  The author clearly explains authentic inquiry, providing useful examples and details, and her message is inspiring.  

The Staircase Curriculum: Whole-school Collaboration to Improve Literacy Achievement

The Staircase Curriculum: Whole-school Collaboration to Improve Literacy Achievement

Wiest, Stefani

CO – Collaboration Strategies, CA – Assessment Strategies

Au, K. H., & Raphael, T. E. (2011). The staircase curriculum: Whole-school collaboration to
         improve literacy achievement. New England Reading Association Journal, 46(2), 1-8.

Summary: This article focuses on an approach to whole-school improvement in literacy called the Standards Based Change (SBC) Process or staircase curriculum. The idea encourages teachers to visualize the curriculum as a staircase across grades and to collaborate at all grade levels. In this approach, not only do teachers collaborate with other teachers, but students collaborate with other students across grades. The article surmises that this approach enables teachers at each grade level to build on what students learned in the grades below, as well as to prepare students for what is to come in the grades above. In traditional curriculum models, teachers typically work only within their own grade, and there can be gaps and inconsistencies in the curriculum as students move to the next level of learning. These inconsistencies can often negatively affect the progress of students who have difficulty in literacy learning. With the staircase learning model there is an additional layer of teaching and assessment that prevent some students to fall through the cracks as they move through grade levels. Students will be better prepared when they advance to the next grade.  

Evaluation: Although this article focuses on student literacy, it could be applied to other common core standards. Students working with other students both younger and older creates an environment where struggling students receive extra help and higher achieving students are challenged. Because the staircase model continues through each grade there is an opportunity to create benchmarks within the school that also adhere to state common core standards. Collaboration within the school could translate into higher student scores on standardized tests. For schools that follow this model, the isolation created within classrooms will be obsolete.

Integrating Common Core Standards

Hill, R. (2010).  All aboard!  School Library Journal, 58(4), 26-30. 
In this article, the author discusses the impact and meaning of the new Common Core standards for school librarians.  Although school librarians weren’t included in the decision-making process about the new standards, their role in implementing them is critical.  Due to Common Core’s emphasis on higher level reading, librarians have the potential to increase their relevance through the instruction of critical thinking and information literacy skills.  Further, Common Core’s focus on informational, non-fiction texts also presents librarians with an opportunity to expand and re-focus their libraries’ collections. The author encourages librarians to weed out materials that are outdated and irrelevant and focus on finding new and in-depth non-fiction materials.  Librarians must also learn to step out of their traditional comfort zone by helping students expand their comprehension skills, another focus of Common Core.  The author points out that this additional task falls easily in line with librarians’ traditional work, though, since they have long helped students create big picture connections to what they read.  The author encourages librarians to take advantage of their unique relationship with students, using even brief conversations as teaching moments.   Lastly, she encourages collaboration with teachers and emphasizes the need for librarians to leave their libraries and bridge the gap with the faculty, strengthening the library’s connections to the curriculum and reminding teachers of the library’s many resources and forms of additional support. 
All in all, this article provided useful information about the implementation of Common Core and how librarians can embrace its changes.  However, further details and creative thinking about how to integrate the standards in a fresh, meaningful way would have been helpful.