Seven Must-Read Books About Education: The 2016 List

Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” ― Lemony Snicket

This is books scramble. Many books on white background.

Two thousand and fifteen was another great year for books. This is the third-annual post where I feature seven books must-read books for the up-coming year related to education, learning, and digital culture. My goal is to curate a list of books that provide thoughtful, unique perspectives on education and learning. The 2015 must-read list received over 11,000 views last year; I hope the readers who read one or more of my recommendations enjoyed the books as much as I did.

As last year, this year I’m aiming for thought-provoking reads, quality over quantity. I consulted numerous sources for the 2016 list—book reviews, best seller charts, education books lists from NPR, New York Times, The Guardian, Amazon, and education organizations. I also considered readers’ reviews and opinions shared on Goodreads, Amazon and via Twitter discussions. Collectively the books provide a breadth of perspectives on education; two titles fall outside of the education sector, but I’m hoping they provide insight and thoughtful perspectives that round out the list.

97811388320081. What Connected Educators Do Differently (2015), Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul & Jimmy Casas
A relevant topic for today’s educators—how to use social media to stay current, to learn from and connect with like-minded educators on a global scale. I chose this book mainly because of its publisher—Routledge. I’ve read several books under the Routledge label and not been disappointed. They’re current, concise with practical strategies and knowledge that can be applied to real-life contexts. “Connected educators” appears to follow suit with its eight key connector’ strategies that provide practical guidelines and specifics on how to use social media and digital platforms to build a personalized learning network. Cumulative reviews from Amazon readers put the book at a 5/5. A sure bet. Update: read my review here.

2. How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens (2014), Benedict Carey
How We Learn is more than a new approach to learning; it is a guide to making the most out of life. Who wouldn’t be interested in that?”—Scientific American

“How we Learn” is in the same category as “Make it Stick“, my top-rated education book from last year which covers the science researchers use to explain how we learn and subsequent strategies for improving learning.  Yet “How we Learn” takes a different perspective, ‘more practical’ as one Goodreads reviewer described. It focuses on specific methods for memorization, for improving retention and recall.  Will the author delve into the application of memorized content—how knowledge is applied and critical thinking engaged? I’ll be interested to find out as our education sector is at a crossroads in our knowledge economy, where information is accessible to anyone, anywhere and anytime with a web-enabled device. Stay tuned.

Joseph-R.-Corbeil_MOOD-E-Learning_Cover-11-Aug-2015-page-001-736x10243. The MOOC Case Book – Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development & Implementation (2015).
An instructive book featuring a collection of case studies about MOOCs in twenty-five chapters where each chapter describes a unique experience of e-learning practitioners, faculty, or students. Each case provides details and takeaways of the challenges faced in the design, development, implementation, or participation of a MOOC. The book is more or less a handbook geared to designers, developers, and instructional facilitators of MOOCs. A caveat, I’ve included this book as I’m a contributing author. I wrote about the pedagogy of MOOC design through the lens of Khan’s e-Learning framework  in chapter 3: “Pedagogy and MOOCs: A Practical Application of Khan’s E-Learning Framework”. Update: read my review here.

4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006), Carol Dweck
Carol Dweck, Stanford professor introduced the concept of growth mindset in her book “Mindset: The New Psycholgoy of Success”.  Though written in 2006, the concept is trending among educators evidenced in Twitter discussions via hashtag #growthmindset, numerous articles, and Web searches as Google’s trend chart reveals (peaking in September 2015). Dweck suggests that intelligence is not fixed or predetermined, but can develop and change over time with external influences. Dweck provides advice for parents and teachers to foster a growth mindset in children that doesn’t include methods such as overt praising of intelligence and accomplishments. I’m intrigued to learn more given our culture that’s focused on praise and recognition. Update: read my review here.

5. The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World (2015), Pedro Domingos
“All knowledge – past, present and future – can be derived from data by a single, universal learning algorithm” — Pedro Domingos.

“The Master Algorithm” was a bestseller in the ‘information theory’ category on Amazon, and after reading a review of “The Master Algorithm” in The Guardian I added the book to this year’s list. The book seems far from a dry read; according to The Guardian review, Domingos describes machine learning as a “continent divided into territories of five tribes – where the Master Algorithm is the capital city, standing in the center of the landscape where the lands of the five groups meet” (Gilbey). Wow.

97815946320516. The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere (2015), Kevin Carey
There are a handful of books with this prediction— that college as we know it is coming undone, or ‘unbundled‘—a term that emerged last year to describe how a traditional undergraduate college education is disrupted by options that allow students to compile an education from a variety of sources.  I chose “The End of College” written by education policy researcher and writer Kevin Carey, after reading a handful articles and interviews with Carey.  In an NPR interview Carey describes a future where “the idea of ‘admission’ to college will become an anachronism, because the University of Everywhere will be open to everyone” and “educational resources that have been scarce and expensive for centuries will be abundant and free” (nprED, 2015). This I have to read. Update: read my review here.

7. The smartest kids in the world: And how they got that way (2014), Amanda Ripley
Compelling . . . What is Poland doing right? And what is America doing wrong? Amanda Ripley, an American journalist, seeks to answer such questions in The Smartest Kids in the World, her fine new book about the schools that are working around the globe ….Ms. Ripley packs a startling amount of insight in this slim book.” (The Economist)

This book was a New York Best Times notable book of the year for 2014, has received numerous accolades from a variety of sources, and has 4.5/5 rating cumulative rating from 540 Amazon reviewers.  I deem it a must-read for anyone interested in education.

I look forward to another year of good company with some great books.  I track my book list and reviews on the Goodreads platform, with a virtual shelf dedicated to books on Education which you can view by clicking here if interested.  Happy New Year to all readers! Thank you for reading Online Learning Insights, providing the incentive for me to continue writing and sharing.

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Seven Must-Read Books About Education: The 2015 List

Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly  — Francis Bacon

Book selloutTwo thousand and fourteen was a great year for books. I read all the books on last year’s list, “Seven Must-read books about education for 2014” and wrote reviews for each. The books were thought-provoking, refreshing, well worth the investment of my reading time. I’ve complied a selection of titles for 2015 and share the top seven related to education. Collectively the books provide unique and broad perspectives on education. Three titles fall outside the education discipline though each provides insight worth exploring. The list is based upon reviews of several published lists featuring best books overall and best-selling education books of 2014 by The New York Times, NPR, The Chronicle of Higher Education etc. as well as readers comments on GoodReads and Amazon. Like last year, I’m aiming for thought-provoking reads, and quality over quantity.

1. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, (2014). Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III & Mark A McDaniel

“Make it Stick” made The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Top 10 Books on Teaching. Though two of the three authors are college professors, the book emphasizes the practical application of learning techniques rather than teaching strategies. Authors present recent research on memory, cognitive functioning, how the brain encodes, consolidates information, etc. The subject might suggest a dry read—but reviewers claim it’s engaging, even lively. The book delivers practical advice on effective learning techniques that trump traditional methods of cramming, rote memorization, etc.  Update: read my review here.

“From the perspective of a professor with a good 20 years of experience, this book is a gem. The authors use research to demonstrate how students learn best and how teachers can structure courses to facilitate student learning. While I’ve read many books on teaching, few are as helpful as this one”  Elizabeth Theiss (Goodreads)

2. Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products, (2014). Nir Eyal (author),  Ryan Hoover (editor)

“Hooked” is not about education, but product design. The design concept is typically not considered among educators let alone applied when creating learning environments, yet it’s a critical component in developing learning for online spaces. Up until now online learning has focused on delivery of content, level of engagement of learners, completion rates, etc.  There’s been little consideration of usability of learning platforms, of creating and structuring content, or guidance for students that provide intuitive pathways for learning. Design principles—principles that guide product design to create user-friendly, intuitive products can and should be applied to online learning. There’s science behind the book too, it incorporates behavioral theory and research. Update: read my review here.

3. Mastery, (2013). Neil Greene

I chose to include this book for a few reasons, first—the publisher is Penguin Books, my favorite book publisher. I’ve yet to read a Penguin book I didn’t like. Second the format of the book is intriguing as the author Robert Greene examines the lives of several masters—Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Leonardo da Vinci, and contemporary experts such as tech guru Paul Graham. The book is also the sequel to New York times bestselling book “48 Laws of Power”. As the title implies, “Mastery” is about mastering a subject through a three-phase learning technique that includes, 1) apprenticeship, marked by intense learning, 2) the active level, set apart by practice and final phase is mastery.  This book sounds review-worthy.

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Social Network Theory and Educational Change, Alan J. Daly, Harvard Education Press (December 16, 2010)

4. Social network Theory and Educational Change, (2010). Alan J. Daly

This book intrigues me. After reading the description it appears to be about implementing change in education settings by using the theory of social network analysis as a framework. Worth considering since the focus is on examining the relationships between teachers, leaders, and students, considered ‘nodes’ in the network, and the patterns of communication and information flow between them. The author, a professor of education, uses a case study approach to illustrate application of the network analysis model. Update: read my review here.

 5. Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), (2014). Christian Rudder

Not just a book about big data and what it tells us, “Dataclysm” explores the idea of the vision itself.  Highly acclaimed, it made NPR list of Best books of 2014 under the ‘eye-opening reads’ category, The Globe and Mail’s Best Book for 2014, Amazon’s top book of 2014, and was a New York Times Bestseller. As education moves online and institutions and companies gather millions of data patterns of students, Big Data is a BIG topic that both students and institutions need to examine closely for different reasons. “Dataclysm” made my list this year so I can learn more about data that’s collected and the implications for design and development of online education and its students. Update: read my review here.

“Most data-hyping books are vapor and slogans. This one has the real stuff: actual data and actual analysis taking place on the page. That’s something to be praised, loudly and at length. Praiseworthy, too, is Rudder’s writing, which is consistently zingy and mercifully free of Silicon Valley business gabble.”  Jordan Ellenberg, Washington Post

6. Peeragogy Handbook version 3, (2015). Howard Rheingold et al.

I was introduced to this book last year by a reader, and placed it on my must-read list for 2015. The book’s premise is technologically enhanced peer learning, and is a guide to help peers around the globe attain their educational goals and improve their projects. In keeping with the thesis is its authorship; it’s collective, anyone can contribute. From the Peeragogy Handbook website:

“The “Peeragogy Handbook” isn’t a normal book. It is an evolving guide, and it tells a collaboratively written story that you can help write. Using this book, you will develop new norms for the groups you work with — whether online, offline, or both.

Version 3 of the handbook launched January 1, 2015 and is available as a free PDF download on peeragogy.org.  A Peeragogy Workbook is also available for download in a PDF format here. The softcover format is available on Amazon.com for $20.

7. Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, (1964). Marshall McLuhan

I’m a big fan of Marshall McLuhan’s work; the man was a genius. McLuhan was a philosopher, author and professor of communication studies. Reading his works and listening to recordings of his talks, one hears him speak of the effects of the internet long before we had the internet. I’m eager to read this book where he argues a society is affected and shaped by the medium, its characteristics rather than the content that’s delivered over it. How intriguing!

Closing I look forward to another year of good company with some great books.  I track my book list and reviews on the Goodreads platform, which you can find here.  If interested in viewing the previous books I’ve read on education along with their reviews click here for my education virtual bookshelf on Goodreads.

More Must Read Books: