Inventing Products with Design Thinking: Balancing Structure with Open Ended Thinking

Amanda Rude


Fontichiaro, K., (2016). Inventing products with design thinking Retrieved from

Fontichiaro discusses the notion that makerspaces are not as effective in their purpose without structure.  Specifically, Librarians need to incorporate design thinking phases into making. Fontichiaro goes on to argue that just leaving students to use makerspaces without design thinking will eventually kill the movement and widen the achievement gap.

Critical connections: Personal learning environments and information literacy

Andrea Phillips


The article compares and contrasts personal learning environments (PLEs) to critical information literacies (CILs) in order to examine how these two concepts work with the current information environment. The authors define information literacy as “the ability to identify an information need, and to locate, evaluate and use information.” However, they argue that traditional teaching methods, including the traditional research assignment, do not allow students to authentically engage with information or understand their own voice in inquiry. They identify the PLE as an approach for the modern learner to create, explore, and communicate. Additionally, the CIL approach to inquiry includes the complex set of behaviors a learner uses in order to critically engage with information. Information literacy education intersects with the ideas expressed in PLEs and CILs. As such, the writers suggest using both concepts as a framework for information literacy education.
The authors give a thorough overview of both the PLE and CIL concepts. The foundational ideas used to inform each are identified and explored in detail, making this a useful source, especially for those who are new to the concepts of PLE and CIL. The ways in which these two ideas interact with information landscapes and the implications for learning approaches and research assignments are described. The ideas in this article, particularly that the traditional model of research does not help students build a mindset of inquiry, are supported by our course text Beyond Bird Units.

Knowledge Building Environments: Extending the Limits of the Possible in Education and Knowledge Work

Easbey, Margaret

IL-Constructivism and IL

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003). Knowledge building environments: Extending the limits of the possible in education and knowledge work. In A. DiStefano, K.E. Rudestam, & R. Silverman (Eds.), Encyclopedia of distributed learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Accessed from

This article provides thorough and clear definitions of concepts relating to knowledge building environments, including some history into how they developed and what they are good for. I found it extremely helpful as a starting point for my study of this subject.

Genius Hour in the Library

Debbie Gibbons


Rush, E. B. (2015). Genius hour in the library. Teacher Librarian, 43(2), 26-30. Retrieved from

This is a reflection by one elementary librarian on her first year of implementing a Genius Hour in her school library. Students in grades 3 – 5 were allowed to explore, research, or study any topic during their weekly library period. The librarian, the classroom teacher, and the students all had responsibility for monitoring and evaluating the process and progress. One key factor was to encourage the students to take risks and turn “failures” into learning opportunities. The article offers a checklist to implement a Genius Hour in your own school.


In the same way that students were encouraged to take risks, the author took on a new endeavor in starting a Genius Hour in her library. She admits that not everything was perfect, and there were things that she would do differently the second year. The checklist allows the reader to learn from the author’s missteps. I especially appreciate that she revealed that there were a handful of students who looked like they were diligently working all along and then had no work to show at the end of the project. She then offers a practical suggestion for how to better support those students the next year.

Are School Librarians Part of Your PBL Dream Team?

Debbie Gibbons


Boss, S. (2013, October 28). Are school librarians part of your PBL dream team?. Edutopia. Retrieved from

The school librarian has an understanding of information literacy and digital citizenship, and also knows about students’ outside interests through independent reading choices. This combined knowledge makes them a key collaborator in all stages of project-based learning (PBL). In the planning stage, the school librarian can offer the classroom teacher specific feedback on project plans and offer literature connections and digital media resources. Mini lessons on smarter searching and critical thinking prompts to consider accuracy and reliability of sources will help guide student research. Access to Skype or Google Hangout can connect students with experts. The library or learning commons will be a laboratory for connected learning that encourages teamwork and creativity. And at the culmination of a project, the library can be a place to display student work.


This article was written for the classroom teacher, suggesting ways they could seek support from their school librarian. But as a media center teacher, I found the article an informative list of things I could do to foster project-based learning. It is sometimes difficult to find time to collaborate, but this article inspires me to offer support to the teachers by integrating computer lab and library curriculum with the classroom content.

Enabling inquiry learning in fixed-schedule libraries

Alison Dinicola


Stubeck, C.J. (2015). Enabling inquiry learning in fixed-schedule libraries. Knowledge Quest, 43(3), 28-34.

This article discusses the process one school librarian went through to create a collaborative learning experience for fifth graders while being in a fixed library schedule. Carole Stubeck talked about how she had tried doing a stand-alone project with students and that it took several months to complete since she only saw her students once a week for a short period of time. After getting advise from a former library professor, she got in touch with a fifth grade teacher and an instructional facilitator to create a inquiry unit on the American Civil War. Carole and the classroom teacher developed a spiral collaboration model for their ISP (Information Search Process) allowing students to work continuously on their project without having to wait for the next library visit. “Action research is a continuous spiral of reflecting, planning, and acting.” The overall assessment for the school librarian and her colleagues would take 3 years with each year a review of what worked and what didn’t work with their ISP. Both the students and the teachers used Edmodo to discuss ideas, update progress, post questions and get answers, and submit assignments. Edmodo made it easier for Carole and her colleagues to review, discuss ideas, and follow students progress from a distance as their schedules didn’t make it easy for them to meet. Once the project was done, Carole and her colleagues met to review the success and failure of the overall project. “[Their] greatest success was proving [they] could collaborate on a unit using Guided Inquiry despite the limitations of fixed library scheduling.”

This article showed that if a librarian is willing to think outside the “fixed library schedule” a collaborative unit could not only be designed but implemented successfully. I found this article helpful in showing how as a librarian I don’t have to be limited by a fixed-schedule to be able to collaborate with a classroom teacher to teach a lesson. I liked the idea of a spiral action plan; though the classroom teacher and the librarian wouldn’t be in the classroom together, they wouldn’t be teaching a lesson individually. The entire lesson would be continuous process of planning, acting, and reflecting both by the teacher and the librarian. I liked the idea that as one stopped the other one would pick up where the last one left off. Both were using their expertise but together. I highly recommend this article as many of us librarian are in a fixed-schedule environment.

7 Things You Should Know About Personal Learning Environments (PLE)

Friel, Holly
Educause Learning Iniative. (2009). 7 Things You Should Know About Personal Learning Environments. Educause. Retrieved from

This article defines a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) as “the tools, communities, and services that constitute the individual educational platforms learners use to direct their own learning and pursue educational goals.” A PLE is an interactive environment (often online, such as a blog or site where a lot of other blogs, sites, newsfeeds, can be connected) created by a learner, where that learner can post their own work, connect with others who share related interests, receive feedback from their peers, collaborate on projects, etc. PLEs represent a shift from the traditional teaching model of teacher-transmitting-information to student and into a student-centered, student-driven “collaborative exercise in collection, orchestration, remixing, and integration of data into knowledge building.”


Through repetition of concrete examples, this short article really helped me to understand – and see the value of – Personal Learning Environments.