Physical Space + Thinking = Cultures of Learning

Brandt, Alisa

Lange, J. (2016, August 9). Physical space + learning = cultures of learning
    [Blog post]. Retrieved from Independent Ideas website:



This is a very short blog post about how physical spaces in a school (and library) should reflect the kind of learning activity that takes place there. Lange was inspired to write this post after attending a conference in which author Ron Ritchhart presented a session based off of his book, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools. Richhart suggests that the activity in a classroom “shifts” from one in which the teacher presents material to the class to one where students and adults can work collaboratively. Richhart suggests that there are three kinds of learning spaces: “caves” (for individuals); “watering holes” (small groups); and “campfires” (large groups led by a “storyteller”).
The article continues with some suggestions for creating these spaces. Lange recommends displaying student work and surfaces covered in whiteboard paint so students can demonstrate their thinking. She also shares that she created a kind of Harry Potter “house sorting” book display for students to “sort” their summer reading into one of the three houses from the book. This demonstrates peer thinking in an open and shared space. And finally Lange offers another suggestion from Richhart to go on a “ghost walk” through other educators’ classrooms to get a sense of the kind of activities and what types of learning happens there and how that can be enhanced by the library.

Evaluation: I am very interested in reading Mr. Richhart’s book after reading Lange’s post but I have to say that I see some underwhelming examples of how to use the author’s suggestions. I would be curious to know more about Richhart’s thinking about physical spaces and how they create cultures of learning. Certainly displaying student work gives an example of a particular learning culture and it becomes a way to echo and reinforce those cultures. But I would also like to learn how to create those spaces in my library. We have already seen that our group study rooms from individuals or small groups works well in addition to our open group study areas. We also have two classrooms for a “campfire” space. But I think it would be great to be able to learn how to help individuals more.

Independent School Librarians and Common Core: What Are We Doing?

Brandt, Alisa

MacLean, C. D. (2013, December 25). Independent school librarians and Common
    Core: What are we doing? [Blog post]. Retrieved from Independent Ideas

CO-Collaboration Strategies
CO-School Organization
IL-Communication of Products

I have had over 15 years of experience working in independent school libraries and now eight MLIS courses under my belt. I have noticed a serious lack of scholarly library research materials directed entirely at independent school libraries so my goal is to find materials that will support this underrepresented population.
Most independent schools do not rely on government funding and thus do not have to implement programs such as Common Core. The idea is that the curriculum will have already included those standards and content and more. So, it follows that independent school libraries will have other standards and goals to help the school accomplish their mission.
This article from the Association of Independent School Librarian’s blog Independent Ideas is about how independent school librarians addressed the emergence of Common Core Standards in their libraries. As will most standards and guidelines, independent school librarians tend to study up on the newest state and national standards and look for ways to integrate the best of what would apply to their schools. C. D. MacLean offered her library’s solution of using the AASL CCSS Crosswalk in combination with their school’s own standards to create a document that will help compare their alignment with the state standards. This would allow the librarians to focus on areas that will meet their school standards while including the state standards.
There are also some suggestions of useful LibGuides and an iPad app that will help Language Arts teachers integrate technology into the classroom.
Evaluation: Seeing examples of how independent school librarians are working with state standards helps me understand how I can apply them to my own library. The links and the app suggestion are also very helpful.

School Libraries and Innovation

Debbie Gibbons

ET – Understanding by Design

McGrath, K. G. (2015). School libraries & innovation. Knowledge Quest, 43(3), 54-61. Retrieved from

The Common Core Standards call for a shift to process and problem-solving. There is a movement to transition traditional school libraries into learning commons. This article proposes a model that combines both trends by engaging students in design thinking and evidence-based practice to transform a school library space. Students interviewed users of the library to develop empathy and define needs. They brainstormed creative solutions and then return to the users for feedback. Working in groups, the students built prototypes of one or more of their designs and shared them with the clients, leading to further revision. After gathering feedback from students, faculty, and the community, design groups read the latest research to identify local libraries where innovation had been embraced and visited those sites. By engaging in learning with purpose, students were motivated to become design experts. The article goes on to describe the essential learning spaces and the role of the librarian in innovative libraries.

This article explains the concepts of design thinking illustrated by concrete examples of student learning. In a school where a learning commons already exists, this practice could be applied to many other projects. It could also adapted on a smaller scale to younger grade levels. I found this article to be a good combination of theoretical and practical.

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.

Are Dewey’s Days Numbered?

Litzinger, Vicki

Kaplan, Tali Balas; Dolloff, Andrea K.; Giffard, Sue; Still-Schiff, Jennifer (2012). Are Dewey’s days numbered? School Library Journal, 58(10), 24-28, Retrieved from


This article explains the process from idea to conception of doing away with Dewey and creating a new system–categories, subcategories, order, call numbers, and labels–that met the needs of the users at Ethical Cultural Fieldston School in New York City. Two of their earliest questions were “Why are we using decimals in a children’s library, when they don’t learn that until fourth-grade math? And why are our picture books arranged by author, when most children are more interested in the content than in who wrote the book?” (p26) They turned to the work of Linda Cooper, a professor at New York’s Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Science who studied the ways that children categorize topics and themes, and integrated students thoughts into the planning of the new system. They also developed three guiding principles to keep them on track. The new system had to be child-centered, browsable, and flexible. After two years of hard work, they have found that students, teachers, parents, and the rest of the community love the new system, and that they are “better able to collaborate and support the school-wide curriculum.” (28)

It was very validating for me to read this article and discovering that colleagues have had the same questions as I have. For instance, one of my primary challenges has been teaching decimals to students who haven’t learned them yet in their math curriculum! The authors explained the process, challenges, and opportunities thoroughly which would be very useful for others wanting to go through a similar process. They also mentioned the work of Linda Cooper, they also listed the URL for the website they created so others can share their ideas and work. Finally, there’s plenty of anecdotal information to use if needed when discussing these changes with teachers, students, and administrators.