Hands-on at the library: time to put “Deep learning” into practice

New pedagogies should help students develop over time as independent, autonomous learners able to effectively design, pursue and achieve their own learning goals and personal aspirations as well as master curricular learning goals

Michael Fullan

One of the most satisfying experiences that we can have at the library is when we’ll see students interested and engaged in their activities. It can be reading, writing, researching, solving problems, creating products, listening to music, podcasts, etc. Unlimited options for a learning space that is still finding their own identity in the 21st century. Libraries are usually related to reading and knowledge [knowledge-keeper spaces, sacred places in which nobody can make noise]. But, is that still possible in a school? Are we an oasis of peace and calm? 

School libraries have evolved a lot with the development and integration of technology. And, the profile of the librarian is also evolving as they are adopting and adapting new pedagogical theories to cope with the school expectations. As I mention before in a previous post, as librarians we were many hats, and pedagogy is one of the hats that will free us to think out of the box, accelerated by technology. 

Is it a challenge? Sure! But we shall face the challenge to grow and improve our connection with our community. For us, collaboration is a crucial part of our success or failure. We cannot keep alive in isolation, we have to be meaningful for our community and the only way is through collaboration.

We’re architects!

I will share about our Grade 1 PYP class and how we put into practice deep learning. Details are as follows:

  • Transdisciplinary theme: Where we are in place and time
  • Central Idea: Homes can be influenced by a variety of factors

Step 1 Planning

Planning with the teacher. It’s the only way to identify our common challenges and ways to work together. I usually align with the central idea so we have more options to support the learning experience of the students.

Step 2: Action

As we have fixed periods every cycle, our first session on this unit at the library was a read-aloud: “The three little pigs.” We encourage children to unpack the story and wonder about it. The following session began with a letter from the ‘Two little pigs’ that ended up refugees on their brother’s house. Claiming for help. Students were encouraged to identify their problems and think about possible solutions.

Photo by Liliana Bandini

Students wore their “Architects’ hat” to work on the project. First, they identified the materials available and the external factors that can challenge the safety of the little pigs. After that, they designed a house and design a house. When they believed their design was finished, they started to build their houses.

Photo by Liliana Bandini

You can see these children in a here:


Work still in process…

This project is still going on but I wanted to share about it on this post because it’s an example of “Project-based learning” applied at the library. Librarians are surrounded by thousands of stories that can be used as case studies, projects, provocations or just as a way to reflect on a specific topic. In PYP, it’s a matter of connecting them to our purpose and the teacher’s goals for their UOI.

Graphs by Buck Institute

In PBL, students gain knowledge and skills by working for a period of time investigating and finding solutions to problems. Bucks Institute on PBL works presents the seven essential PBL elements and this graphic summarized them. PBL model allows students to grow as independent learners driven by their choice and voice. One of the key elements is the questions framed by the students and their ideas turned into actions to solve a problem. Students drive the process in different directions and interests. They experience failure and success. This experience enhances them to improve their selections or procedures while solving problems, develop their critical thinking, research skills, and develop their creativity. 

Sometime back, I read this post of Edutopia, Are school librarians part of your PBL team? by Suzie Boss. It clearly describes the advantages of working with the school librarian:

  • Promotes collaboration
  • Develops research skills
  • Supports the inquiry process
  • Encourages students to agency

As I mentioned before, we still didn’t finish the project. We will use Flipgrip for the reflection and peer-revision of their prototypes of houses, apply the criteria of success, and we should share them with our network online. Let’s see how it goes!

A challenge: measuring deep learning

New pedagogies aim to improve outcomes on a number of fronts, from content mastery to student engagement to deep learning outcomes

Michael Fullan

This week we were focused on how to improve ways of assessment to achieve the aims of deep learning. Fullan mention four students deep learning competencies that we should consider:

 1) students’ mastery of the learning process

 2) students’ key future skills (collaboration, communication, creation)

 3) students’ proactive dispositions and levels of perseverance in the face of challenges

 4) the effect of students’ work products on intended audiences or problems

This approach to assessment requires a high level of competency from the teachers. It also requires a change in the traditional system of teaching and learning. Only in that way, deep learning approaches will be embedded in the educational system. As a result, students will be prepared for life after school, and not just for an exam. 

My journey

My journey in COETAIL has changed my approach to my role as a school librarian. I’m applying a variety of learning frameworks, changing my ways to plan, and studying how to use technology as an accelerator of learning. Also, it enhances collaboration between teachers and librarians. (not always an easy task). Last year, I explored VR/AR with the ‘Merge cube’. It was a unique experience for us. We used the Apps Mr. Body with the students of grade 4 that were learning about the human body. It gave them the independence to explore and visualize a hologram of a body and just with a finger touch find-out more information about body parts and systems. 

I’m planning to explore Design thinking and find more opportunities to apply PBL in my classes. Along with the opportunity to share these practices during Professional Development sessions with my colleges.

Finally, I was wondering about the common points between the IB philosophy and ‘deep learning’. I will just wonder why it is not easy to implement it equally in all the IB schools? Shall the IB revise their assessment criteria for the library and librarians? I, personally, always find the part of the library underestimated on the documentation for the evaluations? 

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Hands-on at the library: time to put “Deep learning” into practice

  1. Dear Liliana,

    Great post! How we design flexible learning spaces to meet the needs of transdiscliplinary units in the upcoming years in education reform will be a big challenge. If administrators value this and give say to their staff on how space can and should look, schools will start to design environments that will see learning take new directions as the traditional space and time constraints hinder new possibilities.

    As you know, the IB ‘Personal Project’ gives students the opportunity to pursue their passions and a Project Based Learning approach is a great way to foster this journey. In the case of the ‘Two Little Pigs’ I think you ingeniously used not only PBL but ‘Problem Based Learning’ to help make the project very authentic and applied. 20% time has gotten a lot of traction in education circles lately, but without a real focus, the work can seem aimless and student interest wanes over time.

    As someone that values literacy, you are in a unique position to teach reading and writing but also integrate technology into multiple grade levels that visit your space as part of their schedule but also to conduct research and provide a setting for extension lessons. In this capacity, you’ll be able to try approaches (such as your VR merge cube) and offer such co-teaching lessons to other grade level teams which will make your work invaluable.


    Gary R. Johnston

Leave a Reply