Seven Must-Read Books About Education: The 2017 List

Embed from Getty Images

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  Charles William Eliot

My aim with the must-read book list is to curate a collection of books to read this coming year that provide thoughtful, unique perspectives on education and learning. This is the fourth-annual post featuring seven books that cross disciplines—it includes books from business, science and technology and digital culture. My goal is to try to gain a perspective on the direction education might be heading in an effort to anticipate what we can do to remain relevant, current and effective.

1. Social Media for Academics, by Mark Carrigan
I first learned about this book when reading an interview with author Carrigan published on Inside Higher Ed. Since interest in the title and topic was so high when sharing an overview on social media and due to its practical nature, I placed it number one on my must-read list. The book appears instructive, a true guide as the title suggests. There are nine chapters in all; chapter two is available to preview here.

2. Learning Environment Modeling: Redefining Learning Environment Design

original
Learning Environment Modeling: Redefining Learning Environment Design, https://squareup.com/store/iled

“Learning Environment Models are blueprints used for communicating the design of learning environments.” http://cece.uco.edu/lem/

I’m looking forward to this book—it outlines a design method for creating learning experiences. The method is described as “a visual and collaborative [design] process for designing the spaces and places where people learn”. The concept of LEM is founded by a group of educators at University of Central Oklahoma who started the non-profit Institute for Learning Environment Design. The book is attractive and inviting. It makes effective use of white space and includes several diagrams illustrating key concepts. It’s for sale via the Institute for Learning Environment Design’s website.

3 . Weapons of Math Destruction, by Cathy O’Neil
We’ve read much about the potential of “Big Data” over the last couple of years, which essentially is data manipulated by algorithms to turn what is generated by individuals’ participation on digital platforms (e.g. LMS platforms). EDUCAUSE featured an article recently about the potential and pitfalls of big data in education, how algorithms can be used to predict student achievement, attrition, even patterns in course consumption. Activity by students produces vast data, yet, is it used responsibly and accurately? After listening to an interview with the author on NPR where O’Neil alludes to algorithms and public education, Weapons of Math Destruction seems a worthy and necessary read. Despite the author’s somewhat gloomy outlook on algorithms potential, the book’s made the list.

deep-work-cal-newport4. Deep Work: Rules for a Distracted World, by Cal Newport
“In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.”

Intriguing. Perhaps the book holds  insights educators and students can apply to enhance learning and development in our increasingly cluttered learning environments. The book  has received solid reviews from The Economist, Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.

5.  MOOCs and Open Education Around the World, edited by Curtis Bonk, Mimi Lee, Thomas Reeves & Thomas Reynolds
A must-read list about education wouldn’t be complete without a title dealing with MOOCs. I chose this book for two key reasons, one is the publisher, Routledge— I have not been disappointed by the quality of their books, and second because of the main editor, Curtis Bonk, an e-learning scholar and author I have followed for several years because of his (early) innovative thinking on distance and open education. The book features insights and learning related to the delivery of MOOCs and other forms OERs in regions and nations around the world.

51sqaax7pgl-_sx331_bo1204203200_6. Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students and Parents Love, by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis

Geared to K-12 leaders, this is the fifth installment of a book on practical applications for educational leadership written by two school administrators. I’ve included it here because of its content—it appears relevant to current day learning issues and focuses on people, not technology. What confirmed the book as a must-read is chapter 8, the topic is empowering teachers to direct their own learning. The book also gets solid reviews…”This book is not only an easy read but very practical for school leadership. The suggestions are based very much on today’s schools and the community we serve. One of the best leadership books available with great information from cover to cover.”  Melissa Boyle, Amazon, Verified Purchase

7. The Third Wave: An Entrepreneurs Vision of the Future, by Steve Case
I like to read books by big-picture thinkers who give insight what the future might hold. In previous lists I’ve selected books that focus on higher education, last year’s list featured The End of College. The Third Wave is broader in scope, yet I chose it based on a talk I heard the author Steve Case give a few years ago. I was impressed by his insight into education and technology. Though the book’s description suggests its geared to entrepreneurs, it’s applicable to leaders of any type of institution including education given its emphasis on relationships (not just technology) with stakeholders in a digital age.

“Case explains the ways in which newly emerging technology companies (a growing number of which, he argues, will not be based in Silicon Valley) will have to rethink their relationships with customers, with competitors, and with governments; and offers advice for how entrepreneurs can make winning business decisions and strategies—and how all of us can make sense of this changing digital age”. (About, thethirdwavebook.com)

Closing
I look forward to another year of good company with some great books. Thank you for reading Online Learning Insights, which provides motivation  for me to continue writing and sharing.

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.

Related Posts