by Victor Rivero
ALRIGHT, BRACE YOURSELF. These aren’t the be-all, end-all books that in and of themselves write the last word on and are the definitive tomes for everything to do with education and technology. What they are is a list of good reads over the last ten pivotal years through which forces in and around schools have begun to rapidly change how students learn. Some of them offer practical hope, others are decidedly more pessimistic and off-base, while still others take a lighter approach entirely. A few consider massive survey efforts, some are founded on whim; all of them shed light on the transformative force of technology on the minds of learners and leaders. One can only imagine what such a list of titles might contain in another ten years–or if people will still be publishing books as we know them. Any that I’ve left off? I can already think of several. Nominations welcome.
1 Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson (Corwin Press, 2006, 2009). One of the most practical books on this list, it’s a guide for educators who want to get beyond PowerPoint presentations and make learning using technology meaningful. Technology, of course, can do that–in the right hands. This book demonstrates how to collaborate in news ways and get the most out of learning with technology, and is written by someone who’s been there, done that and continues to do so. Amazon
2 Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser (Basic Books – Perseus Books Group, 2008). A thoughtful, high-level book that covers such heady areas as identity, privacy, safety, quality among other themes, it is at once provocative and timely. A must-read for school leaders as it stimulates the mind in ways that a more on-the-ground approach cannot do. But it goes there, too. Amazon
3 Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott (McGraw-Hill, 2009). The sequel to Tapscott’s Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, this book offers up eight characteristics of Net Gen people and touches upon learners, workers, consumers and family in the age of Obama. Quotes Bob Dylan, discusses Obama’s election, holds your hand if your not in the 11-to-31 year old set and helps you to understand what’s happening in these days of thumb-tapping texters who will soon (and already do) rule the world. Amazon
4 Recapturing Technology for Education: Keeping Tomorrow in Today’s Classroom by Mark Gura and Bernard Percy (ScarecrowEducation, 2005). From the former head of technology for New York City Schools (Gura) and the editor in chief of an award-winning education magazine (Percy) comes an interesting and lighthearted look at instructional technology mixed with catchy quotes, formative phrases, and hard-won experience. It’s at once serious and lighthearted, filled with great stories and actionable advice. Amazon
5 Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson with a foreword by John Seely Brown (Teacher’s College – Columbia University, 2009). The authors take a big-picture view of history and our place in it currently–and what we need to do to rise above it and keep things moving in a direction we want them to be moving in. Raises some interesting questions about the direction of education in this country and beyond, offers an answer to “Why Education Reforms Fail” and offers up some strong suggestions for what to do about it all. Amazon
6 The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30) by Mark Bauerlein (Penguin, 2008). There are some prominent education leaders who think this book is just plain wrong, and perhaps they are correct in assessing it as so, but it certainly stirs the pot. In fact, it might actually have a thesis that is completely reversible. But that’s for you to decide. In any event, with such a confrontational approach, it’s likely to get a strong reaction. What’s yours? Amazon
7 The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved by Todd Oppenheimer (Random House, 2003). When it came out in…well, what seems like a century ago, this book played devil’s advocate to a lot of the early hype connected with a new era of technology-infused learning. Now that the excitement has worn off a bit and technology in some areas is beginning to mature (not a lot, but some), this might be a good re-read. Suggesting a back-to-basics approach, the author isn’t necessarily against technology as it might seem–he’s just taking a more measured approach than some might like. Amazon
8 The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006). Not exactly an “edtech” book, it still deals with both education and technology in important and insightful ways and serves as a wake-up call to what global trends surround us, providing context for life outside the classroom. In the tradition of earlier business and political books such as Futureshock and Megatrends, it does a good job of sharing what could be boring facts and figures in not-so-sugar-coated stories that do well to make their points. Amazon
9 The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education by Curtis J. Bonk (Jossey-Bass, 2009). Kind of like The World is Flat for education, and in particular: lifelong online learning. Offers up ten key trends for understanding technology’s impact on learning, including web searching, blended learning, open course ware, online collaboration, networks and personalized learning and more. Amazon
10 What’s So Funny About Education? by Lou Fournier with illustrations by Tom McKeith (Corwin Press, 2003). An overlooked though important book with some seriously funny chapters, as easily digestible as they are thought-provoking in a cleverly satirical way. This is a fast read with great illustrations. The writing style is like no other, and will have you laughing out loud like a Dave Barry might do for you. If all the heaviness involved in the above-mentioned books has gotten to you, this is the perfect chaser, and you’ll want more when it’s done. Amazon
Victor Rivero is the Editor of EDTECH TOOLS. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com
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