Can librarians help make “thinking” visible to students?

Summary: Ron Ritchart of Project Zero at Harvard University along with Church & Morrison are pushing the envelope on how students experience the act of thinking (2011). Drawing from Understanding by Design, (Wiggins, 2005) and yet going in a slightly different direction, the authors of Making Thinking Visible argue that teachers don’t often understand what they mean when they describe how a lesson made students “think” (2011). For these authors, “making thinking visible,” is an important strategy for being deep and specific about what we mean when we ask students to “think.” Using engaging and innovative strategies for creating environments for thinking (implementing “thinking routines”), can help students to gain understanding on a deeper and more cognitively informed level. Thinking begins by asking open-ended questions that are authentic and which also interest the teacher–questions that the teacher or teacher-librarian does not necessarily know the answer to (2011, pp. 50).

Opinion: A lot of these strategies and practices are already implicit in constructivist classrooms, which involve a lot of pondering and reflecting. That said, this book did make me pause and re-think teaching and learning. It did so because it really slows down the idea of thinking, and tried to value the process of thinking itself over the usual learning targets and goals (which even in constructivist environments educators can get carried away by). While at first glance this book might seem only relevant to teachers, it can also impact the way teacher-librarians consider using technology for the benefit of students. Can we help student visualize how they think? Perhaps you should read this book and find out. I’d definitely recommend.

Ritchart, R. Church, M. & Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engaement, Understanding, and Independence for all Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, Jay., Grant P. McTighe, and McTighe, Jay. Understanding by Design. Expanded 2nd ed. 2005. Web.

A foundational article that reads like it could be written today

Cothran, T.
Wiggins, G. (1989) The futility of trying to teach everything of importance. Educational leadership. 47(3), p. 44-59. Retrieved from

Summary: Sadly, this 1989 article reads like it could be written today. Whether in 1989 it was a reflection of changing thought on our educational system or a challenge to the status quo, I’m not sure. Wiggins argues eloquently for an inquiry driven process to learning, noting that students can’t possible learn everything there is they need to know by 12th grade. Rather, it should be our job to teach them to question, to check their own assumptions, and the skills to find the answers they need to solve a problem or provide a deeper understanding to something of interest/need.

Evaluation: I think this is an insightful article. I find it a bit distressing that we haven’t moved forward in this direction more in the 30 years since it was written. This was before we saw the explosion of access to information brought about by the internet and our personal handheld devices! In Wiggins arguments, there a couple of key take-aways for me. He talks about standards and how standards should reflect a process rather than content. This makes me think about how the AALS standards are written. I’ve often reflected in my lesson designs that if you are building a strong unit, learners will access those standards throughout their learning process depending on where they are in their learning journey. That’s not to say that some won’t need to be pushed to go deeper, but it’s an argument for meeting learners where they are and helping them become stronger.

He is clearly advocating for teachers as facilitators of learning. He even calls for teachers to be an “intellectual librarian.” This makes me consider how we, as librarians, model this kind of process in our spaces. What can we do (even with our fixed schedules etc.) to engage learners when they encounter our spaces (physical or virtual).

I particularly appreciated his parallel of learning as related to sports or the performing arts. As someone with a theater background, I can honestly say that my most connected learning has come about when developing theater pieces. Depending on a show, history comes alive and I can see it and it’s importance — it’s not just a bunch of names and dates on a page. Scientific arguments and mysteries may be revealed. I question the status quo and want to know more. It’s also a collaborative learning process. If you are an actor, you are deeply immersed in the why and how of your character. A designer is immersed in creating a visual or aural world. All of these pieces come together (aka all of these people collaborate) to create something that is larger than any one of them could on their own. It reminds me of Dr. L’s advocacy for a meaningful culminating activity.

Open Educational Resources: big opportunities in small towns

Taylor, Andrea
Schwartz, K. (2016, July 11). How Teacher-Created Free Online Resources Are Changing the Classroom. Retrieved from:

Summary: This is an amazing article explaining the benefits that can be reaped when a school is dedicated to Open Educational Resources (OER). It is centered around Discovery Middle School in Liberty, Missouri, and the drive that social studies teacher, Eric Langhorst, has to develop new and engaging learning materials. One of the most common complaints that kids in school have is that school is boring and they hate the material. Well that cry has been heard, and the past few years school districts all over the country have begun to develop new lesson plans. These plans no longer rely on the texbook, rather they use any OERs necessary to help their kids interact, engage, and thrive throughout the entirety of the curriculum. Districts all over the country work together to grow the movement and allow their kids to work together across the country.

Review: This is  great article to read if you are new to the concept of Open Educational Resources. It explains the benefits as well as includes an inspiring video that shows the benefits they can have on the students. This article also showcases the difficulties that come into play as well. Teachers develop new and amazing lesson plans, but struggle with whether or not to share it with others because (1) they do not own the materials included, and (2) they are many times not compensated for all of their hard work. Some schools realize the work that teachers put into the new curriculum and compensate them for their contributions, while other teachers continue to do this for the sake of the kids’ education. I think it is an incredible concept, one that I wish was in place when I was in high school. I love that they teach kids to utilize technology positively.

Curriculum that Questions the Purpose of Knowledge

Litzinger, Vicki

ET-Standards-based education, CA-Written curriculum, IL-Questions

Heick, Terry. (2014, October 15). Curriculum that questions the purpose of knowledge. Retrieved from

Summary and Evaluation

Heick’s main question is “…what is the purpose of knowledge?” (4) As educators, we tend to get lost creating and revising curriculum to the extent that we forget the purpose of knowledge. We need to remember that curriculum is a tool that tells us “what knowledge, but doesn’t answer why knowledge.” (5)

Overall, the article was not the best and was often confusing. However I chose this article because it is a discussion in which I’ve been trying to engage my middle school students. For them, the purpose of an education (re; knowledge) is to “get a good job.” So, I found this article validating in that I’m not the only person posing this question. And, I think it’s a question that we need to put front and center in our discussions of curriculum planning in our schools and to communicate with all stakeholders. Decades ago, we used to know the purpose of knowledge–to be well-rounded citizens who could think, read, problem-solve, share cultural meaning. In the move to national standards for the purpose of testing, college, and good jobs, we’ve lost sight of the purpose for knowledge. And sadly, we’ve created students who now only value learning for the purpose of getting a good job.

New Media Literacy Education (NMLE): A Developmental Approach

Amy Unger

Media Literacy Ed.

Graber, D. (2012) New Media Literacy Education (NMLE): A developmental approach. The National Association for Media Literacy Education’s Journal of Media Literacy Education, 4(1), 82-92.


In response to computer-technology usage by digital natives, the author of this article, Diana Graber, has developed and implemented a media-literacy curriculum called Cyberwise.  Her basis for its development was in response to a growing awareness of the immensity of internet and social media usage by digital natives, and scholars such as Prensky (2010), pointing towards a justified need for meeting young people “in whatever way they [educators, mentors] meet them” (this, increasingly meaning through technology) with opportunities that “best configure students’ brains so that they can constantly learn, create, program, adopt, adapt, and relate positively to whatever and whomever they meet …”, along with James, et al., (2008) stating that, “… the responsibility lies with the adults (educators, policymakers, parents, etc.) to provide young people with optimal supports for good play and citizenship.”

Furthermore, Graber’s Cyberwise curriculum responds to the long-revered developmental theories of Piaget and Kohlberg, summed up as sharing the belief that

” … children spend the first 12 years of life developing the cognitive structures that enable them to grasp the abstract, metaphoric, and symbolic types of information that lead to ethical thinking.  This understanding of cognitive and moral development requires us to at least consider how and when the youngest members of our society should be turned loose in a digital environment” (Graber, 2012).

Moreover, it is this capacity for ethical thinking that drives the Cyberwise curriculum.  Graber calls for our teaching of students to be wise users of the tools at their disposal, as a prerequisite to teaching media literacy.  Citing Ohler (2010), she notes the suggestion of a “whole school approach to behavior that sets the entirety of being digitally active within an overall ethical and behavioral context — character education for the Digital Age.”  Monke (2004) refers to this challenge with this:

“It seems that we are faced with a remarkable irony: that in an age of increasing artificiality, children first need to sink their hands deeply into what is real; that in an age of light-speed communication, it is crucial that children take the time to develop their own inner voice; that in an age of incredibly powerful machines we must first teach our children how to use the incredible powers that lie deep within themselves.”

In searching for evidence of schooling that is currently meeting any portions of this demand, Graber found one approach to be notably successful at developing moral reasoning, i.e., the Waldorf® school approach.  In a cited dissertation (Hether, 2001), about high school seniors from diverse educational settings, the Waldorf® school approach was found–through a quantitative survey tool about moral reasoning, known as the DIT (Defining Issues Test)–to result in graduates scoring significantly higher in moral reasoning than students from religiously affiliated or public high schools.  Waldorf educated students scored in a range more commonly associated with college graduates (Graber, 2012, p. 87).

Perhaps even more importantly, the second phase of that same dissertation identified five aspects of Waldorf® education that might contribute to higher moral reasoning:

  1. an emphasis on educating the whole person
  2. sensitivity to developmental appropriateness
  3. the practice of storytelling
  4. the integral place of the arts in the curriculum
  5. preservation of a sense of wonder towards the natural world

Sometime later, Jenkins, et al. (2006), (as in the Jenkins, et al.: Henry Jenkins of USC, and his team) identified “the media literacies”, which have significant overlap with the aspects of Waldorf® education:

  1.  networking, negotiation, collective intelligence and distributed cognition, such as occurs while students are working together to build a small structure (one of the many hands-on, collaborative projects in the Waldorf® curriculum)
  2. visualization, judgement, and appropriation, such as the proficiencies cultivated through the Waldorf® empahasis on art
  3. performance and simulation skills, such as developed by the dramatic storytelling practiced in Waldorf®, and 
  4. play, considered a hallmark of Waldorf® education (Graber, 2012, p. 88).

While the article goes further to explain the middle school years as the right time for ethical media literacy instruction, through Harvard University’s GoodPlay Project that identifies what ethical issues young people encounter in the digital world, it also makes mention of a three-year case study, through classroom action study, using Cyberwise (this being a Waldorf-inspired charter school in Orange County, CA) (Graber, 2012).

In conclusion, this article helps us stop and think about what we are doing while immersed in the beginnings of the digital age, with its “world full of both possibility and peril – rules of engagement being hashed out as we go” (Graber, 2012, p. 89).


I find this article to be indispensable, unique, and on the list of “why is this not required reading”?  Thank you for (hopefully) bearing with its length.

Citations referred to in the Graber Article (found to be in citation other than APA):

Hether, C.A. 2001. “The Moral Reasoning of High School Seniors from  Diverse Educational  Settings.” Ph.D. dissertation, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center. Retrieved from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text (Publication No. AAT 3044032).

James, C., K. Davis, A. Flores, J.M. Francis, L. Pettinghill, M. Rundel, and H. Gardner. 2008. “Young People, Ethics, and the New Digital Media: A Synthesis from the Good Play Project.” GoodWork® Project Report Series, Number 54. Project Zero, Harvard School of Education.

Jenkins, H., R. Purushotma, K. Clinton, M. Weigel and A.J. Robinson, 2006. Confronting the  Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.

Monke, L. 2004. “The Human Touch.” Education Next 4(4).

Ohler, J.B. 2009. “Orchestrating the Media Collage.” Educational Leadership 66(6): 8-13. Collage.aspx

Roys, Kelly

Heider, K. L. (2009). Information Literacy: The missing link in early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. doi: 10.1007/s10643-009-0313-4

Summary: Heider’s research focuses on the necessity of early education to focus on reading to learn instead of learning to read with the assistance of greater informational texts. The library media specialist is a critical component as she argues that quality school library programs are advantageous in the learning environment. She describes three models of planning and reflection for the educators to ensure deeper learning.

Evaluation:  The article stresses the importance of Common Core learning standards and Library Instruction and Program Standards. It is important to see how the reflection process plays a part in learning and teaching. The idea of the models provides context for how to begin thinking about constructivist theory in education.

Steve Hargadon: Escaping the Education Matrix

Steve Hargadon: Escaping the Education Matrix

Vangelova, L. (2014). Steve Hargadon: Escaping the education matrix. KQED.

This article talks about the educational ideas of Steve Hargadon, an education entrepeneur and host of the Future Education podcast. he is against the traditional way that education is set up to make most learners dependent followers and only the smartest kids excel.  He promotes the value of every student and self-directed, “mandate free” learning that is often found in libraries.  He also promotes collaboration and people connecting with one another.  
I liked this article because it is a short summary fo his educational ideas and beliefs and hits on key points to help the reader better understand how students are negatively affected when they are not given the freedom to direct their own learning and when they becoem dependent on the teacher’s direction. I especially liked how the article talks about the bullying and how it is a side effect of the way students are taught in schools to be afraid to stand up for themselves and also may lead to poor confidence.

Curriculum That Questions The Purpose of Knowledge

Elizabeth Brown

CA- Written Curriculum
ET- Standards-Based Education

Heick, T. (2014). Curriculum that questions the purpose of knowledge. Retrieved from

This article discusses the status of curriculum in schools examining its role in learning. Heick begins by giving a framework of curriculum, breaking it down to what it has been in the past in comparison to how it is now. He defines curriculum as “that which is to be studied-a set of planned learning experiences to promote mastery of knowledge and skills.” This is is the traditional model, which is directly based on educational guidelines. Heik makes an analogy comparing “academic standards” to the ingredients found in baked goods. By themselves, standards do not sound appealing, however, it it how they are translated or advertised (into assignments) that makes them not only more recognizable, but more palatable. If the purpose of the curriculum is to teach certain skills, than educators need to decide why these lessons worth learning from a student’s perspective. Specifically, the content should be promoted as something relevant, interesting, and applicable to their everyday lives.

I like how Heick is starting an honest conversation about curriculum and its connection to learning and how it effects everyone: teachers, students, and the community. Until educators question why old methods of teaching are not resonating with students, they are not likely to change. It is important for teachers ask themselves, why am I including this in the lesson and what is the intent? Not only are well thought out lesson plans more interesting (for the students), it is more likely that they will learn
something from them.