What I’m Reading. What are you Reading?

I am interested in the conversation about where education needs to be in 5, 10, and 20 years.

Below are a few of the books I’m accumulating for summer reading.  What else would you recommend?

Daring Greatly — Brene Brown — Definitely check out her TEDx Talk too.  Brown tackles vulnerability and shame. Her work has changed the way I approach leadership teaching, and my family.  Engaging your family, colleagues, students from alongside and working to see what they see and feel what they feel.

The Secrets of Happy Families — A great book on parenting and being a better parent in our intensely competitive and over scheduled world.

Creating Innovators — Tony Wagner — What we should be doing/thinking about in education to prepare our students for their futures.

If you’d like to discuss what books you are recommending and how you are helping your faculty look towards the future, please let me know.

Future of the Book – eBook, eMedia or ??

Over my almost 15 years as an educator, I’ve always been on a search for the new textbook, or how to consolidate the textbook onto one device.  Right now, there are numerous eReaders out there.  How we use those devices in education is up in the air.  

Last Friday a group of educators assembled to organize resources that would help us all move closer to an truly electronic book model.  The group organized resources around Devices, Pay and Free Content, and Examples of eTexts.  We recorded much of the afternoon via uStream. 

There was a consensus at the end of the day that we direct our futures by building some examples of what we may see in the future, whether web based or specifically for tablets or eReaders. 

Since this is an ongoing project, I moved this wiki to OPuS1 – The Future of the Book and started a Community of Practice around the resources.  OPuS1 is a good container for this type of project.  Let me know if you ‘re interested in being part of this next work we’ll be doing via twitter or a comment on this post. 


Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wynnie/3881994177/

David Brooks – The Medium Is the Medium – NYTimes.com

Today, David Brooks wrote in his column, The Medium is the Medium,

“Perhaps that will change. Already, more “old-fashioned” outposts are opening up across the Web. It could be that the real debate will not be books versus the Internet but how to build an Internet counterculture that will better attract people to serious learning.”

I have so many thoughts on in depth learning and the web.  I believe that I’ve learned a great deal through my learning network online.  I have also remained solidly in the book, conference,  face to face, mentor/mentee learning world.  I find that my learning network allows me to test my ideas and receive challenges to grow.  It’s the social part of my learning.

As a teacher of students who grow up immersed in the Internet culture my instincts tell me that we need to be observing how they live in these online worlds while making suggestions/modeling ways to remain reflective thinkers and learners. Do you agree, disagree?

Wrapping My Head Around Social Media – Part 1

(Cross posed at edSocial Media) As I begin to blog here at edSocialMedia, I’m going to show how I began to start to wrap my head around Social Media. 

I’m the Director of Technology at a K-12 Independent School.  Part of my job is to keep up with current trends in technology and apply them to education.  Pre-2005, most of the time I did this through magazines, books, listservs, and our local NYC Technology Educators (NYCIST). 

Then I saw Will Richardson speak at our yearly New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Technology Educators Conference.  I had published a static web site since 1998 for professional and personal use, but this was the first time I realized that there were a lot of other people out there who were doing the same through blogs, and I could learn from them.

cluetrain-ook-midIn 2005, I started reading Will’s blog, and adding blogs to my bloglines account.  I found Stephen Downes’ OL Daily through Will and found a link to this presentation: On Being Radical.  In Downes’ presentation, he described the web site and then book, The Cluetrain Manifesto.  I immediately surfed over to Amazon.com and bought it. 

I remember to this day reading the first chapter of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Internet Apocalypso.  I got off the subway at 79th street and kept reading as I walked the few blocks to school — I could not put it down. I felt as though the lens from which I viewed the world was shifting.  Here are a few paragraphs at the end from that first chapter that I read that day:

In fact, the news gets better from here on out. And the first bit of news is that this isn’t about us and them. It’s about us. Them don’t exist. Not really. Corporations are legal fictions, willing suspensions of disbelief. Pry the roof off any company and what do you find inside? The Cracker Jack prize is ourselves, just ordinary people. We come in all flavors: funny, cantankerous, neurotic, compassionate, avaricious, generous, scheming, lackadaisical, brilliant, and a million other things. It’s true that the higher up the food chain you go, the more likely you are to encounter the arrogant and self-deluded, but even top management types are mostly harmless when you get to know them. Given lots of love, some even make good pets.

Inside companies, outside companies, there are only people. All of us work for organizations of some sort, or we’re peddling something. All of us pay the mortgage or the rent. We all buy shoes and books and food and time online, plus the occasional Beanie Baby for the kid. More important, all of us are finding our voices once again. Learning how to talk to one another. Slowly recovering from a near-fatal brush with zombification after watching Night of the Living Sponsor reruns all our lives.

Inside, outside, there’s a conversation going on today that wasn’t happening at all five years ago and hasn’t been very much in evidence since the Industrial Revolution began. Now, spanning the planet via Internet and World Wide Web, this conversation is so vast, so multifaceted, that trying to figure what it’s about is futile. It’s about a billion years of pent-up hopes and fears and dreams coded in serpentine double helixes, the collective flashback déjà vu of our strange perplexing species. Something ancient, elemental, sacred, something very very funny that’s broken loose in the pipes and wires of the twenty-first century.

Every time I read that again I sit back and think, wow,  I wish I could communicate ideas like that.   The role of the Internet as the medium providing human to human communications again.   Communication that is two way.  The age of mass media control is over. 

If you have never read it, I highly recommend taking a look at The Cluetrain Manifesto.  It predicted the social media revolution in 1999. 

What was the first time you really saw social media changing the world around you?

* Photo from Momentary Glimpse on Flickr

Disrupting Class —

Disrupting Class is definitely in my top few from the past few years.  The book has changed the way I think about education and education change.  It has provided a road map for the future.  Models to experiment with, and a clear way to test those models of change.

I want this post to be short and sweet, so here’s a quick list of highlights.

  • Christensen defines how businesses are displaced by disruptive technologies in the theory of disruptive innovation: The MiniComputer by the PC/MAC; The SLR camera by the The Kodak point and shoot camera; and the vacuum tube radio by the transistor radio.  Christensen sees that online learning that is customized by the learner style is the future and predicts that “by 2019, about 50% of high school courses will be offered online” (p. 98).
  • We should all be offering online courses to our students and testing alternatives in our existing schools is places where there is no competition such as APs and/or classes that are not offered already.
  • To truly see the change, we will need to have school created outside the dominant system, such as charter and private schools where schools can be left to experiment and define this new type of schooling, find success and then bring it back to mainstream schools.  His business example is the Toyota Prius that was created in an external business unit and then brought back into Toyota’s factories to be built.

When I look back, a number of books fit in the changing my lens on education: Good to Great helped me see the importance of leaders and structures of successful organization planning; Now, Discover Your Strengths helped me see my strengths and how to best use them; Cluetrain Manifesto and The World is Flat helped me see the power of openness and how Internet communications have changed the world;  In A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink helped me see that the types of skills traditional schools teach are the building blocks, but not the end game skills that our students need; and now Disrupting Class has has given me the lens of effective organizational change.  All of these books provide unique and simple ways of looking at problems, clear and articulate writing that include stories as examples, and significant basis in human development and psychology.

Christensen ends the book by stating,

“These technologies and organizational innovations are not threats.  They are exciting opportunities to make learning intrinsically motivating, that make teaching professionally rewarding, and that transform our schools from being economic and political liabilities to sources of solutions and strength.

Thanks, Clayton Christensen, for inspiring me.  I look forward to testing your theories.  Thanks to Vinnie Vrotny for the recommendation.

For all of you, head to Amazon and pick this one up.

A Whole New Mind — Thoughts

I just finished “A Whole New Mind” by Dan Pink. He suggests that in the Conceptual Age (what he thinks we are entering after the information age), we will need more Right Brain based skills: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. He describes how feeling professions such as nursing are growing at large rates in the US. That medical schools are adding classes to help doctors be better caregivers by sensing their patients feelings during diagnosis. He sites research that shows that being more empathetic for patients helps them heal faster. I would add to his arguments that teachers are another one of those ‘feeling’ professions, and must know their students so that they can guide their learning by finding the students’ passions and what motivates the student.

As a teacher and administrator, Pink’s suggested right brain based skills resonate with me: The sense of play in learning (see this post by Arvind Grover); telling the New Story; watching the symphony of a orchestrated lesson; using empathy in instruction and assessment; and providing a meaning for learning and teaching.

In the chapter on meaning, under the heading, “Taking Happiness Seriously” Pink quotes describes the work of

Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, the founder of the positive psychology movement, and the president of the American Psychological Association starting in 1998. Seligman describes three levels of happiness:

– The Pleasant Life — a life full of positive emotions about the past, present, and future.
– The Good Life — in which you use your “signature strengths” (what you’re great at) to achieve gratification in the main areas of your life … “A calling is the most satisying form of work because, as gratification, it is done for its own sake rather than for the material benefits it brings,” says Seligman, “Enjoying the resulting state of flow on the job will soon, I predict, overtake material reward as the principal reason for working.
– The Persuit of Meaning — knowing that your highest strenghts are and deploying them in the service of something larger than you are”

I hope that all teachers and students are working towards the persuit of meaning.

Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning are critical parts of my professional and personal life, and I look forward to exploring them more deeply through the exercises at the end of each of Pink’s chapters. Thanks, Dan, for a book that from which I am actively learning.