I put out a request to readers to share the best education-related books that they had read over the past year. The books could have been published earlier and the only requirement was that you had read them sometime this year.
I posted a similar piece last year: The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2008
Many readers shared their favorites, and they’re all included in this post. I have to apologize, though, that because there were so many contributions, I haven’t had time to send individual emails thanking each person who took the time to leave a comment — that’s what I usually do. So, please accept my public thanks here!
In a show of false humility :), I’ll share my recommendation at the end.
Here are readers’ recommendations:
The best book I came across this year is The Digital Writing Workshop by Troy Hicks. It really grounds the idea of moving students into the digital world of writing and composing in familiar terms, and yet, he provides a framework for moving forward (and the rationale for doing so, too). Troy has also set up a Ning site that accompanies his book so that teachers can explore and share and reflect together.
PS — Disclosure: Troy is a friend of mine through the National Writing Project and also a contributor to my own book — Teaching the New Writing. (Editor’s Note: I (Larry) highly recommend Kevin’s book)
The best book that I have read is still to be read. Nowadays, many many books are printed, in audio format, and make available in ePub/PDF/Kindle and other ebook formats. But interestingly, authors of educational books overwhelmingly limit the diversity of their publications vehicles. Why? That is the question. Many educators, like me, live in foreign countries. Yes, I live very close to USA here in Mexico … but it might as well be the South Pole, as their or no current books on education .. only the standard Cambridge, Pearson, Richmond, Macmillan stuff.
So I would like for your post (if you agree) to include an open call to authors and publishers to make their materials more widely available via a variety of published formats. It seems ironic that educational books which should be leading the 21st century are the very books that are running behind other genres in terms of technical accessibility. I have asked 2 different authors recently why they have not required that their publishers also distribute their work in ePub/PDF/e-reader open format … and they do not respond. I assume that there must be a reason (less profit margin, fear of copyright infringement, etc.). Other genres don’t seem to constipated in this respect.
So, the best book that I have read is the one that remains unread. With the Kindle/Nook/Sony e-Readers so popular, it just seems out-of-sync with reality and the times. And since Kindle is a proprietary closed format, it really is not all that practical for those of us that want to read on our Macs and other digital devices (Nooks, etc.).
Brain Rules by John Medina
The book describes 12 rules about how the human brain functions well. The insights Medina gives are spot-on, and he has great suggestions for improving learning based on biology and human development.
I am a 3-4 grade teacher in Omaha, Nebraska with an affinity for technology and psychology.
Crafting Authentic Voice by Tom Romano delighted me. His word choice, examples, and stories leave me wanting more. Who could imagine that a book on writing could be so delicious…
The last book by the late Gerald Bracey, Education Hell, which does as good a job of presenting the real crisis in education as anything I have seen.
I enjoyed two book this year, both connected by a common thread- educational innovation driven by changes in technology.
The first book is Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christenson. Disruptive innovation starts as a fringe movement but eventually overtakes the market. Perfect examples include the automobile and digital photography. Christenson argues that Virtual Learning is the disruptive innovation of the day.
The second book is Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Mauborgne. This book is written from a business perspective, but easily transfers to education. The “red ocean” is a saturated market where competitors fight against one another. The Blue ocean however belongs to the company that fundimentally changes the marketplace and has uncontested market space. Again, the application is virtual learning. I teach in a private school that is fighting to stay afloat in a challenging economy. We are trying to adopt blue ocean ideas to make our school innovative and unique.
Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. Excellent analysis of the state of education in America today with case studies of schools that are educating for our students future and not our past. Must read for any educator/administrator.
I read Global Achievement Gap as well, and consider it one of my best education books this year.
The Interactive Whiteboard Revolution – Teaching with IWBs
The IBW ning is awesome!
Oldie but a goodie:
Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour and Robert Eakers. Ten years after initial publication, many schools still operate as hierarchical organizations. PLCs at Work casts a new vision for the local school as a community of learners who work collaboratively to ensure learning and achievement for every student.
Building Professional Learning Communities at Work by Parry Graham and William Ferriter. Ten years after DuFour and Eaker started the PLC revolution, many administrators and teachers still can’t wrap their minds around the new vision of school as community. Parry and Bill cast the PLC vision in very concrete terms by telling the story of one principal and his staff and their year-long effort to re-form their school into a professional community of learners. Each chapter includes breakdowns of the important concepts and concrete strategies that school leaders can leverage to make the jump from traditional school to PLC.
I enjoyed Disrupting Class but found some parts just damn boring to slog through. However the parts with actual examples of what’s in the real world were great.
Here’s a book that needs no introduction. Free to print, distribute. Teaching as a Subversive Activity. What reform it calls for, is still to be accomplished 30+ years later.
I was inspired by Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire. It motivated me over the summer to generate some change in how I do business and made teaching more interactive – even for kindergarten.
For me, it was a “Our Iceberg is Melting”
Good info here from their website
A simple fable about doing well in an ever-changing world, “Our Iceberg is Melting” is about a penguin colony in Antarctica. A group of beautiful emperor penguins live as they have for many years. Then one curious bird discovers a potentially devastating problem threatening their home and pretty much no one listens to him.
The characters in the story, Fred, Alice, Louis, Buddy, the Professor, and NoNo, are like people we recognize — even ourselves. Their tale is one of resistance to change and heroic action, seemingly intractable obstacles and the most clever tactics for dealing with those obstacles.
ME: Sound anything like education today?
“Our Iceberg Is Melting” is based on the work of John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber that shows how Eight Steps produce needed change in any sort of group. It’s a story that can be enjoyed by anyone while at the same time providing invaluable guidance for a world that just keeps moving faster and faster.
The best book I read was Jonathan Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation. For anyone interested in teaching as a social change profession, Kozol’s work in indispensable.
Although they wasn’t directly education related, there were a couple of books I really enjoyed this year:
Here Comes Everybody by Clay Sirky
A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
Everything is Miscellaneous by Dave Weinberger
I thought that there was a lot of crossover in the ideas contained within these books, and taken together, reading them all was probably a more transformative experience than readning any single one of them.
Thoroughly enjoyed them though!
I’m currently reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and so far have found many of his ideas very interesting and causing me to see things from new viewpoints.
My favorite book was Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning by Judy Willis, M.D. In this book, Dr. Willis, a neurologist turned classroom teacher, shares her insights into current brain-research and it’s relevance to the way we teach. She teaches the reader innovative strategies for increasing student engagement to improve their overall success in the classroom. I have found it very enlightening!
One of my other favorites is definitely Activating the Desire to Learn by Bob Sullo. It is a book based on the premise that student behavior is based on the desire to satisfy specific needs and that we, as teachers, can boost student achievement by acknowledging and strengthening that connection. Here’s a link:
Why Don’t Students Like School? By Willingham was my favorite “need to think about this more” book. Rafe Esqueth’s Teach Like Your Hair Is On Fire was a good “how to love your students” read.
The best educational book I read this year was Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide. Gallagher, a high school English teacher in California, bluntly describes how traditional instruction in English classes destroys reading for many kids.
This book validated my beliefs about teaching reading and showed that we have a systemic problem, particularly at the secondary level, where it seems teaching books (the canon of classics) is more important (to some teachers) than fostering lifelong literacy behaviors in students.
Mayor of SpellingCity.com – john
Geoffrey Canada’s “Fist stick knife gun” and then the book about his very ambitious effort to build a complete educational system for the inner city kids (like himself) from early education into college: “Whatever it Takes.”
Three Cups of Tea – As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, this amazed me.
Teacher Man by Frank McCourt – I loved it. No prescriptions in this book, just the feel for being a teacher.
Disrupting Class. I know and like the ideas. I think he strung them together nicely. But as a Harvard MBA myself, I don’t like the case-method MBAish writing…..
Went ahead and reread “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman right before the school year started. Found that it was a really powerful way to get fired up for the school year and get focused on what I wanted to do with my technology and reading students.
Best book of 2009: “Stuck in the Shallow End” by Jane Margolis
About reasons for the lack of diversity in the field of computing. Hits the nail on the head.
Disrupting Class : How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton M. Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, Michael B. Horn.
This book provides great insight into what the future of education might look like.
I really enjoyed The Kids From Nowhere: the Story Behind the Arctic Educational Miracle by George Guthridge. It’s interesting, inspirational, and fun. Here’s a link to the site.
Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh by Gerald Grant
I read this for an electronic book group discussion of educators from around the country. I was not prepared to learn so much American History from my “school years” especially of the 60’s and 70″s.
I have recommended it to all my friends.
Earlier this year I started a shared google spreadsheet and asked teachers, through twitter, to share their recommendations for a ‘book every educator should read’. You may be interested in the results.
The Way Schools Work – A Sociological Analysis of Education by deMarrais and LeCompte. I have always been interested in the sociology and economics of “the hidden side” of things (to quote from Freakonomics). The 3rd party observations of our education system are especially interesting.
For me it was Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough – though parts of it were discouraging (especially since I teach secondary), I found most of it inspiring and very informative.
I really enjoyed reading Daniel T. Willingham’s “Why Don’t Students Like School.” I teach in an urban middle school and have found his thoughts intriguing. It has helped me rethink how I should teach.
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Although not really an education book, the book has lots of suggestions that could help teachers make sure their lectures “stick.” And isn’t that what learning is all about?
I’d like to also nominate my own book, Taking Back the Classroom: Tips for the College Professor on Becoming a More Effective Teacher. The book is based on my 28 years of teaching experience (learned the hard way at times) and would be useful for both college and high school teachers.
Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing Up to the Old School Culture by Kristen Olson.
Offers the how and why students and teachers are wounded and solutions for change and healing for teachers, students, and parents/guardians.
Although not his newest book, I absolutely loved “Fair Isn’t Always Equal” by Rick Wormeli. A fantastic look at grading in a differentiated classroom. The book looks at a lot of the concerns that teachers face particularly in middle school and high school with grading and provides some excellent strategies that teachers can actually use.
It questions many traditional parenting practices and provides us with some actual strategies. What is great for parents is usually great for teachers in managing some of the basic principles of encouraging ethical behavior.
Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott
Grown Up Digital-
It has sat on my bookshelf for months and finally found the time to pick it up and read it.
Wow! My reading list has just gotten considerably longer.
Now, here are my choices:
I just received a book in the mail today that I’ve been looking forward to reading — Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. I’m hoping it’s as good as I think it might be…
Last, but not least, I also have to include my own book, Building Parent Engagement in Schools, on my list.
Thanks to everyone who contributed. Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section.