Student Produced Board Games That Promote Empathy

Viertel, Judy


Farber, M. (2017). Student produced board games that promote empathy. Retrieved from

Summary: this article documents how a teacher used a game design project to develop empathy for others’ experiences. Students begin by becoming familiar with games such as The Migrant Trail and Mission US: City of Immigrants. Then they develop their own games, designing them to introduce others to their own life experiences.

Evaluation: this is an inspiring project, and the article includes links that should be sufficient for any librarian who might like to try implementing empathy-centered game-making as an inquiry project in their own library.

The effects of integrating mobile devices with teaching and learning on students’ learning performance: A meta-analysis and research synthesis

Viertel, Judy


Sung, Y., Chang, K. and Liu, T. (2016). The effects of integrating mobile devices with teaching and learning on students’ learning performance: A meta-analysis and research synthesis. ScienceDirect. Retrieved from

Summary: this meta-analysis of 110 articles about the impact of mobile devices on learning revealed a moderately positive effect compared to learning that took place either in an environment without computers, or with desktop / laptop computers. Surprisingly, the positive impact was strongest when the devices were used for a short time rather than a long time. The positive impact was evident at all ages, and was particularly strong on young children. Using devices for inquiry projects had the strongest effect, while game-based learning applications were not shown to be effective. Using devices for cooperative learning did not improve learning outcomes, either.

Evaluation: with all the rhetoric about using technology in education–both from overly invested tech evangelists and from those who think children should never look at screens–it’s useful to consult a rigorously researched study like this one. The results are somewhat surprising: why would mobile devices have a better impact on learning than traditional laptops? Why aren’t game-based apps effective? There’s clearly a need for more research on this topic.

Best Apps for Teaching and Learning 2018

Viertel, Judy


American Association of School Librarians. (2018). Best apps for teaching and learning 2018. Retrieved from

Summary: this list of 25 new apps chosen by the American Association of School Librarians includes a brief description of what each app does, as well as a notation indicating whether it facilitates collaboration, exploration, engagement or curation. The list features appealing products such as Hopscotch: Make Games, and Incredibox, which teaches rhythm and provides the opportunity to make music.

Evaluation: this article may be of great practical value to a librarian who wants to introduce students to recently developed apps that facilitate exciting new learning opportunities. This type of list becomes out of date quickly, though: it would be a good practice to bookmark the American Association of School Librarians website, and then check in again next year to see if there’s an update.


A “handmade forerunner” of personalized learning, forged by teachers

Karen Mooney

CA/ET: Curriculum and Assessment/ Educational Theory


Pappano, L. (2018). A “handmade forerunner” of personalized learning, forged by teachers. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from:


This article features a student-centered model of instruction that arose in Minnesota long before the movement gathered momentum. Over the past 25 years, the official quest for educational progress has tightly molded itself around measurable content standards and achievement goals, making testing the single most powerful legacy of education reform in America. This practice glosses over the nuanced practice of teaching and the reality of learning.

Teachers at Orchard Lake Elementary in Minnesota challenged themselves to design a radically different learning experience for students and innovate instruction within the rigid confines of a traditional public school.

Each student was assigned to a K-5, multi-age “community.” Teachers arranged the schedule so that all students had reading and math simultaneously. They chunked the curriculum into “strands,” with assessments so students could progress at their own pace.

This approach has worked because when students are in lessons “the learning is relevant to them, it is do-able.” Even those who need more time, she said, “are like, ‘Wow, I can do this.’ That breeds a success mindset.”


I love the idea of designing a curriculum that focuses on relevance for students, that is tailored to their academic needs, and meets them where they are. Students are working within their zone of proximal development and the curriculum is differentiated for them, with assessments embedded in the curriculum strands. It is an innovative approach to instruction and a testament to the possibility of student centered learning within the confines of a public educational system. It also promotes a growth mindset which leads to academic success and a positive self-image for students.

Education, the Brain, and Common Core Standards

Karen Mooney

Educational Theory and Practice


Persaud, R. (2013). Education, the brain, and Common Core State Standards. Edutopia. Retrieved from


Understanding how the brain learns can help teachers and students meet the requirements of the CCSS. How do you teach someone to think critically? Start with the brain. Brain targeted teaching model: organizes key educational theories into a single framework, combining neuroscience research with teachers’ and students’ feedback. There are six targets in the Brain-Targeted Teaching Model: 1) Emotional Climate, 2) Physical Environment, 3) Designing the Learning Experience, 4) Teaching for Mastery of Content, Skills and Concepts, 5) Teaching for the Extension, 6) Evaluating Learning. Brain science research indicates how the essence of learning is about biological changes; therefore, focusing on the science of learning must be central to education discussions.


This is a powerful reminder of how teachers need to understand the neuroscience behind learning and how incorporating the a brain targeted method of teaching can make learning more engaging and deeper. It could be especially meaningful for students with adverse childhood experiences whose brain development may have been affected by their life circumstances.


Feltman, Michaela


Todd, R. (2015). Evidence-based practice and school libraries. Knowledge Quest, 43(3), 8-15.

This journal article discusses an evidence-based practice (EBP) focus for school librarians. This is defined as that evidence would be used to measure the impact of school libraries on learning outcomes that teachers have set. The author brought this concept up at a conference and this idea was not well received by librarians, however its spread. Now the originator of this concept has added another idea, which is a holistic conceptualization of EBP. This model shows how EBP can integrate for, in, and of practice. “For practice” shows what research should be used within the school, “In practice” is taking that research and implementing it in real time within the school, and “Of practice” is taking the results of the implementation and focusing not only on output but the impact on the students.

When reading this article, I thought that this research might have something in common with a “Big Think.” I believe that a “Big Think” could be a part of the “Of practice” part of the EBP. When doing a “Big Think” a teacher or librarian is gathering data for evidence of how successful, or unsuccessful an activity was. This is very much a circle of neverending research and revising of what librarians and teachers can do to stimulate and educate their students. It is a very interesting concept.


Universal Design for Learning and School Libraries

Plummer, S.

CA – Assessment Strategies

Robinson, D. E. (2017). Universal design for learning and school libraries. Knowledge Quest, 46(1), 56 – 61. Retrieved from:

Summary: The article explores Universal Design for Learning and how it can be used to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a subject through a variety of outlets. The article shares examples of various ways of delivering lessons to students with a range of learning needs.

Evaluation: What I like about this article is that it caters to non-traditional students and those who sometimes feel they are not strong academic performers simply because they have different learning styles. It includes a case study and template for research and multimedia collaborative activities.

Student As A Citizen: Teaching Critical Civic Literacy Skills in the Library

Plummer, Shannon


Levin, S. J. (2016). Student as Citizen: Teaching Critical Civic Literacy Skills in the Library. Knowledge Quest44(5), 28–31. Retrieved from:

Summary: An article written by a school librarian who’s goal is to teach students to become responsible citizens. Allowing them to discover a sense of purpose and feel they are important to the democratic process. She defines civic literacy as, “a cornerstone of a democratic society, and the ability to name, analyze, and act on a social or political issue.” A sample project is provided where students engage in civic literacy work as a freshman and continue throughout high school. During these project students, focus on an aspect of their own identity, allowing them to recognize their own values and then apply them. They participate in off-campus community organizations, putting their civic literacy skills into action.

Evaluation: I think this is a wonderful way to inspire students to discover that they have a voice in relevant issues in their own communities. I really like that they choose something to work on that they themselves identify with, allowing for deeper meaning. A democratic society depends on informed citizens who can participate in and initiate social change.

The Data to Support School Libraries is Compelling and Extensive

Solomon, Samantha

Lance, K. and Kachel, D. (2018). Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us – [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Sep. 2018].

Summary: The article details data about the effect and effectiveness of school libraries collected since 1992, including data from more than 34 statewide studies where researchers have also controlled for school and community socioeconomic factors. In general, the data has consistently shown ” positive correlations between high-quality library programs and student achievement (Gretes, 2013; Scholastic, 2016)” and these gains are enhanced when all school stakeholders partner closely with the library.

Some of the data highlights include:

  • In a Pennsylvania study (Lance & Schwarz, 2012), nearly 8% more students scored Advanced on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment in reading in schools with a full-time, certified librarian than in schools without.
  • Students with full-time librarians were almost three times more likely than those without librarians to have Advanced writing scores.
  • The Pennsylvania study (Lance & Schwarz, 2012) found that while 1.6% fewer students tested at the Below Basic level in reading when they had full-time librarians than those who did not, the difference was even greater for Black students (5.5%), Latino students (5.2%), and students with disabilities (4.6%).
  • Graduation rates and test scores in reading and math were significantly higher in schools with high-quality libraries and certified librarians, even after controlling for school size and poverty.

Evaluation: I was so attracted to this article because in my district, school libraries and school library staff are CONSTANTLY on the chopping block. Last year, organizing and advocating for students right to access school libraries and qualified staff basically felt like a second full time job, and we still on barely snuck through. The data presented in this article is clear and useful for other TLs who might find themselves advocating for their jobs.

For your consideration: An Outlier

Solomon, Samantha

Ullman, R. (2018). No, Teachers Shouldn’t Put Students in the Driver’s Seat. Teacher Teacher. Retrieved 26 September 2018, from

Summary: This opinion piece is written by Richard Ullman, a 29 year veteran of teaching in public high schools. In the piece Ullman defends the practice of teachings using direct instruction to communicate complex skills and concepts to students. He feels that the pendulum has swung too far towards a pedagogy based on “equat[ing] cosmetic engagement with actual learning.” He argues that educational trends are dictated and propelled by people who are removed from actual classrooms, and that as a result, the current trends around game-based learning and student driven learning actually don’t improve student outcomes. He points out that “even though the classroom looks dynamic, students appear to be busy, and the right boxes get checked during classroom observations, achievement gaps don’t close.” Ullman argues that traditional, teacher-centered instruction does work, but that confirmation bias causes experts to ignore the merits of this style in favor of chasing educational fads.

Evaluation: It’s not that I agree with Ullman’s strong preference for teacher-centered instruction, but I do think it is important to acknowledge what people who might be out of this moment’s mainstream might be thinking. I absolutely feel that there is a place for more traditional, direct instruction in classrooms and school libraries, but I also think that it has to be blended with more engaging, student-centered techniques to fully resonate and connect with students and truly enhance their learning.