Looking at shiny things: Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen

Summary: It is easy to subconsciously think that students have a slightly different brain than we do. But do you ever wonder if you yourself would want to participate in the lesson you just planned? Julie Dirksen explores this idea with a light and yet practical touch. Designed something like a fun textbook, “Design for How People Learn” explores research on how and why people learn and boils it down into practical tips. It turns out, if you get information overload pretty quickly and often gravitate towards bright and shiny things, so do your students! Dirksen makes the argument that we need to appeal to the visceral, emotional and intuitive sides of people’s experiences as well as the “intellect.”

Opinion: What is interesting about this book is that it is not only geared towards teachers, it is also geared towards any professional that is hoping to impart knowledge in some way shape or form. For that reason, and many others, this book is a refreshing take on how to really make something stick. This book got me thinking more creatively about how to increase storytelling, and other more visual, visceral, emotional and intuitive elements into my teaching practice. Not every part of the book is relevant to a teacher-librarian, but it is easy to skip around and find something that could be useful.

Dirksen, L. (2016). Design for How People Learn: Second Edition. San Fran: CA: New Riders.

Building Teamwork and Early Perseverance in Early Elementary Students with Breakout

Harris, Janet

Schwartz, K., Retrieved 1-24-19  from: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/52723/building-                 teamwork-and-perseverance-in-early-elementary-students-with-breakouts



A  breakout was designed for a teacher who wanted her students to work together as a team. The breakout worked well to assist with this task by encouraging students to work collaboratively in a group to resolve a problem using communication skills.

According to the article, “the goal of a Breakout is for groups of students to work together to solve a series of puzzles. Each correct puzzle yields a part of the final code, which opens a locked box. If groups can complete all the puzzles and get the correct code in one hour, they successfully “breakout.” Sessions for younger students were done by rotating modules to work puzzles to earn a clue to figure out a problem.

Building upon the skills the students have can assist with confidence building. They assist to make students self-directed learners. This allows teachers to use the reset model. Review, evaluate resources seek a peer, enact the plan, try again.




Student Agency for Powerful Learning

Dilworth, Marianne


Williams, P. (2017). Student agency for powerful learning. Knowledge Quest, 45(4), 8-15. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1136307.pdf

In his article “Student Agency for Powerful Learning,” Williams defines student agency, and then explores how school librarians are uniquely qualified to nurture this attribute in students. Williams states that students develop agency when they have a strong sense of personal integrity and efficacy. When students demonstrate respect for themselves and others, and feel empowered to act, they are more likely to take responsibility for their learning. Fostering student agency requires a pedagogical power shift away from traditional models of education.

Williams offers some practical suggestions for school librarians to lead the way. These suggestions include encouraging recreational reading, and collaborating with students on library design. To develop student voice, students can create books or artwork that become part of the library’s collection. Having students then cite their own work gives them a sense of ownership and identity as a creator. Williams argues that using these strategies to establish a collaborative, student-centered learning environment will help students ultimately become successful agents of their learning.

I found this article to be an interesting and engaging overview of the concept of student agency. A school community that aspires to build a learning commons, must first have a strong program that builds student agency. I like that Williams makes the clear distinction that encouraging student agency does not mean that he is advocating for an anything goes educational model. Instead, he states that structures and guides must be put into place that allow student creativity and voice to flourish.

Piloting the Learning Commons

DeLuca, Allison


Murray, E. (2015). Piloting the Learning Commons. Teacher Librarian, 43(1), 18–24. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=110469425&site=ehost-live&scope=site


This article discusses using learning commons in the process of co teaching and collaboration between classroom teachers and teacher librarians. The article is told by a classroom teacher who works with the media specialist in her school in order to introduce her students to the learning commons and use it as a productive space for learning. The teacher realized the excitement that the children had when introduced to the learning commons and saw the potential for her students. The article emphasizes the importance of putting aside time for collaboration and the success that comes from collaborating with a media specialist in the school. The author gives details on her personal collaboration process with the librarian in order to give an idea on how to successfully collaborate in order to benefit students.


I feel as though this article is helpful for encouraging schools to transform library spaces into learning commons as well as encouraging classroom teachers to work towards collaboration with school librarians or media specialists. Collaboration is a key to success when it comes to the achievement of students. Also, the highlighting of the learning commons space was also a significant part of this article. Learning commons allow for students to be more creative and have more freedom when it comes to inquiry and learning. Current library spaces in schools have the potential to be transformed into learning commons in order to not only encourage student use, but to encourage collaboration between staff.

Working as a learning coach

Sutherland, Shannon


O’Neil, Judy A., & Lamm, Sharon L. (2000). Working as a Learning Coach Team in Action Learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, (87), 43-52.

I am the varsity tennis coach at my high school, so I am familiar with coaching. I have spent many hours reading about how best to guide my players towards their individual goals and our team goal. Learning through action is the way that I learn, but it is easy to forget that when I am in front of students in the classroom. I realize that the concept of a leaning coach is different from athletic coaching and this article helped me to understand how the two styles are similar and how they are different. The strategies that I can apply, such as modeling, guiding instead of lecturing, and repetition, can also be found in coaching tennis. The best way to learning the game is to play the game which is also true in the classroom. I found that this article explains the concept.


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 https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2018/09/05/no-teachers-shouldnt-put-students-in-the.html

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.

Histories of Personalized Learning

Michele Peabody

Watters, A. (2017). The histories of personalized learning, Hackereducation OEB Mid Summit conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. Retrieved 6/2017 from
The author, “I am an education writer, an independent scholar, a serial dropout, a rabble-rouser, and ed-tech’s Cassandra” argues that personalized learning has been around for at least a decade, and depending on your agenda, we define it the way we want to. Industries and tech companies agenda is the “personalized computer” and are succeeding in having education follow their lead.

Hip-Hop Education and 4 Other Approaches to Teaching and Learning

Zepnick, Jaclyn

Emdin, C. (2014). 5 New Approaches to Teaching and Learning: The Next Frontier. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-emdin/5-new-approaches-to-teaching-strategies_b_4697731.html 

Famed professor and pedagogy in the hood expert, Christopher Emdin, explores five different ways teachers can engage students in a more effective and exciting manner. Examples include: Hip-Hop Education, Reality Pedagogy, and the Flipped Classroom.

The first video especially lured me in as I have never heard of a science teacher using hip-hop and rap to entice students to learn about photosynthesis. It is inspiring to see new ways of teaching that actually make students want to come to class and engage. Christopher Emdin in himself is inspirational. 

An Example of Co-Teaching

Mary Fobbs-Guillory


Ainsworth, L. (2016). Teacher and teacher librarian collaborative inquiry. Teacher Librarian, 44(2), pp. 28-31.

This article gives a detailed account of a co-teaching experience between a 5th grade teacher and a teacher librarian in Canada.  The class was studying Inuit culture and the skill of questioning.  The article documents the process of the professionals planning the lesson together and then teaching the class in two groups.  This method is also called Station teaching because the students rotate from being taught by one professional to the next.  The teacher librarian created a short video on challenging vocabulary for students to view ahead of time and posted it to the class blog.  The teachers taught how to ask questions and provided them with question builder frames and rubrics.  They read books, facilitated discussions, and provided artifacts and art prints from the local museum for the students to analyze and develop questions about.

This article gave a very detailed account of the lesson, I felt as though I watched it.  It gave me a full picture of what co-teaching looks like and how fun and powerful it can be.