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.

Inviting the User – Making the Library More Like a Bookstore

Solomon, Samantha


Cornwall, G. (2018). How Genrefication Makes School Libraries More Like Bookstores. [online] KQED. Available at: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/51336/how-genrefication-makes-school-libraries-more-like-bookstores. [Accessed 2 Oct. 2018].

This article describes genrefication and includes interviews with librarians who have a range of experience around it. The article includes several before and after stories and includes arguments on both sides of the debate from real librarians in the field.

I was drawn to this article because my library is genrefied and I feel very strongly about how that serves my students. When I have kids who come in and say “Do you have any horror books?” It is SUPER easy to show them where that section is and then just let them browse. In talking with other librarians about their feelings around genrefication, it seems that schools with more developed cultures around reading feel they don’t need it as much as schools with more nascent reading cultures.

Design Thinking

Bader, Devorah


Dam, R. and Siang, T. (2018). 5 stages in the design thinking process. Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process

A linear description of design thinking with detailed explanation of each step of the process.

I think this was a very instructive article. It discusses the linear description of design thinking but also tackles the idea that design thinking isn’t always done in a linear way. It gives concrete questions to ask your students to help them think in a design thinking perspective.

The Design thinking Deck

Elizabeth (Betsy) Snow

Plattner, H. (2010). Bootcamp bootleg. Design School Stanford, Palo Alto.


If you have not had the chance to visit the Stanford d.school website lately, it is worth a visit, now that many modules are online. This “Design Thinking Bootleg” is a great resource for jumpstarting the process, whether in your classroom or in your library/media center/learning commons.

I foresee using this deck whenever teenage complaints arise, as a way to invoke empowerment and change among rising teen voices.

Download the link here:


How Design Thinking Can Empower Young People

Kinsella, Jason

ID (Inquiry and Design)

How design thinking can empower young people. (2013). Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/video/how-design-thinking-can-empower-young-people

When it comes to design thinking, it’s helpful to see it in action. This eight-minute video documents teens who are living in a homeless shelter engage in a collaborative design thinking challenge to improve the space and services at the shelter.

I really like the way they frame design thinking as a three-step process: Dream it. Design it. Do it. I think this simplifies what may seem like a complicated process into something easily understandable. However, it is important for viewers not to forget about the reflective and iterative aspects of design thinking.

Lastly, this example of teens completing a design thinking challenge shows teens engaged in a real world problem–an essential element to the design thinking concept. This is a great resource, in my opinion, for anyone first learning about student-centered, inquiry-based teaching and learning.

Kidding Around with Design Thinking

Galang, Johnny

Design Thinking

Fouché, J. & Crowley, J. (2017, October). Kidding around with design thinking. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct17/vol75/num02/Kidding-Around-with-Design-Thinking.aspx

This article presents a case study of design thinking in action in a second grade classroom. It makes a case for problem-based learning and provides some insight into the steps in the design-thinking process (without hexagons!) The author also spells out how engaging in problem or project-based learning is directly connected to Next Generation Science Standards.

This is a valuable resource since many other articles only present case studies and real-world examples from grade three and above. The case study, however, is presented in a rather rare environment where the school has a farm on campus. The challenge would be to apply these concepts in less resource-rich schools.

Making personalized learning projects possible

Sasaki, Lori


Schwartz, K. (2017, December 4). Tips and Tricks to keep kids on track during genius hour projects. KQED Mindshift. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/12/04/tips-and-tricks-to-keep-kids-on-track-during-genius-hour-projects/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=20171210Mindshift&mc_key=00Qi000001WzPsREAV

This article outlines one teacher’s advice and experience around Genius Hour, or “20 percent time projects.” The teacher shares anecdotes and examples (including a student video) of the challenges and successes in implementing this kind of student-centered learning.

There is not a comprehensive explanation of the entire project, however the article touches upon various important stages, such as defining the problem, staying organized, and assessment. The tangible tools and tips (with lots of links to resources) for managing personalized learning projects helped to make this kind of learning process seem both inspiring and realistically do-able.