summer-readingSummer Reading Suggestions

Here is a list of suggested reading by written by CMK 2010 faculty or recommended by them.

Whether you can join us July 12-15th or not, learning is a lifelong pursuit fueled by the powerful ideas and joy contained within the pages of the following books!

James Loewen

Constructing Modern Knowledge attempts to bring math, science, engineering and the arts to life through creative computing, authentic inquiry and project-based learning. This year, Dr. James Loewen, author of the bestselling books, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong will help participants learn history by learning to be historians!

His most recent book, Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History, is a critically important addition to any professional library and teacher bag of tricks!

Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn has written some of the most popular, provocative and acclaimed books about education in the past quarter century. Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The latest of his eleven books are The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (2006) and Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason (2005). Of his earlier titles, the best known are Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes (1993), No Contest: The Case Against Competition (1986), and The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards” (1999).

Perhaps most exciting of all, two riveting hour-long presentations by Alfie are now available on one low-cost DVD. No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning allows you take Alfie Kohn home with you after CMK 2010 and share him with your colleagues!

Check out all of Alfie Kohn’s books in the Constructivist Consortium Bookstore!

Deborah Meier

Legendary school teacher, principal, reformer, activist and blogger, MacArthur Genius Deborah Meier had a new book just released, Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground. This book should be on your shelf next to her classics, The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem and In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization.

The rest of her books may be found here.

Peter Reynolds

Peter Reynolds has written or illustrated popular children’s books that have sold millions of copies and are beloved around the world. He will also host us at his fabled FableVision Studio!

Pete loves chilren’s books so much, he owns his own children’s bookstore, The Blue Bunny.

Check some of Peter’s books here!

Dr. Cynthia Solomon

In addition to being a veteran educator, researcher and one of the three inventors of the Logo programming language, she has written two important books on computers and learning! Cynthia’s doctoral research at Harvard led to the publication of the critical book, Computer Environments for Children: A Reflection on Theories of Learning and Education. Cynthia Solomon is also the co-author of Designing Multimedia Environments for Children, with Allison Drum.

I can’t imagine Constructing Modern Knowledge without Cynthia’s generosity of spirit!

Read all about the Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010 faculty here

While not all of the CMK 2010 faculty have books in-print, they all love to read. They were asked to recommend books to enjoy before, during and long after CMK 2010!

Brian Silverman

Brian recommended the following ecclectic collection of books.

The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self & Soul by Douglas R. Hofstadter & Daniel C. Dennett
A collection of essays about the philosophy of mind. Some are amusing, others profound, several are both.

He, She, and It by Marge Piercy
An artificial intelligence robot love story told from a Jewish feminist perspective. Amazingly it works. It reads like something that could have been co-authored by Marvin Minsky and Margaret Atwood.

The Recursive Universe: Cosmic Complexity and the Limits of Scientific Knowledge by William Poundstone
The book starts by describing Conway’s Game of Life. Then uses the game as a metaphor to explore a collection of interesting topics in math, physics, and information theory.

Machinery of Life by David Goodsell
A molecular biology picture book. It gives a gentle but thorough introduction to the molecules that are the construction kit that living things are made of.

On Education by Betrand Russell
Bertrand Russell’s riff on Mindstorms. It was written a couple of years before Seymour Papert was born and foreshadows many of his ideas.

John Stetson

John said, “The first two have been favorites for some time; the rest of the list is current reading.”

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sachs
Oliver’s mother gave him a cadaver for his birthday. The Wright Brothers visited his home when they were in London. Oliver tried to relive the joy of discovery by reproducing the experiments of Humphrey Davey. The book is filled with chemicals that when mixed explode.

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski
The history of how the pencil came to be and the history of engineering in the U.S., i.e., the Erie Canal, the first engineering schools in the 1850’s, etc.

Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics by David Belinski
A history of mathematics, Euclid, Euler, all the greats …

Astronomical Sketching: A Step-by-Step Introduction by Erika Rix
Some of my students have followed the guidelines in this book and published their sketches at the Astronomy Sketch of the Day website

The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow
Yes, Louisiana and Florida defaulted on bonds (issued in London) during the 1840’s. One of Morgan’s board members advocated for socialism. How did we get into the current banking mess? Read this book.

Sylvia Martinez

Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth by Herb Kohl
A gorgeous meditation on learning, teaching and life by one of the world’s great educators and education writers!

The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School In The Age Of The Computer & The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap by Seymour Papert
You can’t think about thinking with computers without being well-versed in the wisdom of Seymour Papert!

The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith
One of the best books ever written about learning…

Teaching as Story Telling: : An Alternative Approach to Teaching and Curriculum in the Elementary School by Kieran Egan
An overlooked classic that should be part of any creative teacher’s library

Dr. Gary Stager

Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education by David Perkins
A critically important book for curriculum planners and teachers – a much more thoughtful alternative to the much more pedestrian and coercive Understanding by Design

Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities by Jason Shiga
An absolutely gorgeous, fascinating and fun choose-your-own adventure book in the form of a graphic novel

A Schoolmaster of the Great City: A Progressive Education Pioneer’s Vision for Urban Schools by Angelo Patri
This book identifies and SOLVES every problem facing public education today. Oh yeah, Patri published this book in 1917! An amazing read!

To Teach: The Journey in Comics by Bill Ayers
Bill Ayer’s classic tale of teaching republished as a graphic novel

HowToons: The Possibilties are Endless by Saul Griffith
Wicked cool science experiments and engineering projects for kids presented in cartoon form.

In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning by Carlina Rinaldi (President of Reggio Children and Director of the Loris Malaguzzi International Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy)
There are many fabulous books that help you learn from the innovations of the educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy. (list here) This book is so heavy, you can read and re-read it for years to come!

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World by Mark Frauenfelder
The Editor of Make Magazine shares his DIY adventures, the values of tinkering and learning to learn.

Number Freak: From 1 to 200- The Hidden Language of Numbers Revealed by Derrick Niederman
You might think of this as an exciting biography of numbers!

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share by Ken Denmead
Cool modern high and low-tech projects you can do with your kids

Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) by Gever Tulley
‘Nuff said

The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky
Dr. Marvin Minsky’s seminal book

The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky
Dr. Marvin Minsky’s most recent book on artificial intelligence

Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope by Jonathan Kozol
Kozol has published countless gems, but this book moves me in incalcuable ways. This may be his most beautiful book.

El Sistema: Music to Changes Life (DVD)
Theere be no more exciting youth movement in the world than Venezuela’s El Sistema. This film will remind you of the potential in each child and make you want to sing, dance and change the world.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) by Richard Feynman
This may be the only great ROTFL “beach read” by a Nobel Laureate for Physics you’ll ever read. I have given countless copies away as gifts to teenagers, colleagues and even grandparents!

Landon Carter’s Uneasy Kingdom: Revolution and Rebellion on a Virginia Plantation by Rhys Isaac
My Aussie friend, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, recreates life in Colonial America through the diaries and artifacts of a Virginia plantation owner.

The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-First Century by John Brockman
Provocative thinkers and great scientists speculate about how life and science may change by 2050

History in the Making: An Absorbing Look at How American History Has Changed in the Telling Over the Last 200 Years by Kyle Roy Ward
What we may not know or understand incorrectly about US History.

Not Written in Stone: Learning and Unlearning American History Through 200 Years of Textbooks by Kyle Roy Ward
A classroom edition of “History in the Making”

American History Revised: 200 Startling Facts That Never Made It into the Textbooks by Seymour Morris Jr.
Another book about the wonders of history

Read all about the Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010 faculty here

Be sure to explore many more recommended books and resources for creative educators at Thc Constructivist Consortium Bookstore!

Subscribe to Gary Stager’s blog, Stager-to-Go or peruse his articles and papers.

Learn more about The Constructivist Consortium!

New CokeWell, it’s 2:11 AM and I’m here in Denver for a week of ISTE (or are we supposed to call it the ISTE Conference?) Believe it or not, I am one of the signatories to the original ISTE Charter from back in ‘ye olden days when “computer” was removed from the titles of organizations and magazines! I still can’t help, but think that changing NECC to ISTE is akin to New Coke.

That said, I look forward to catching-up with friends, leading the Constructivist Celebration and making two new presentations at the 23rd or 24th NECC/ISTE I’ve spoken at since 1987.

This year marks my 20th anniversary working in 1:1 environments since I led the first professional development at the world’s first two “laptop schools” and it’s my 28th year working with children, teachers and computers.

Here are the program links to the sessions I’ll be presenting at ISTE 2010

Creativity 2.0: The Quest for Meaning, Beauty, and Excellence Add to Planner Add to Planner
[Formal Session: Spotlight]
Monday, 6/28/2010, 11:00am–12:00pm, CCC Four Seasons Ballroom 2/3
Gary Stager, Pepperdine University
Digital-Age Teaching & Learning : Project, Challenge, & Problem-Based Curricula

Authors and pundits stress the importance of creativity, but what does it look like in classrooms? How do we get there? What needs to change?  Recommended by ISTE’s SIG1to1

20 Lessons from 20 Years of 1-to-1 Teaching Add to Planner Add to Planner
[Formal Session: Lecture]
Monday, 6/28/2010, 3:30pm–4:30pm, CCC 205/207
Gary Stager, Pepperdine University
School Improvement : One-to-One Initiatives

The lessons learned over 20 years around the world are invaluable for schools contemplating 1-to-1 computing and those seeking greater educational returns on their investment.  Recommended by ISTE’s SIG1to1

I’ve also been invited to yuck it up with my old (geologically old) friends on Tuesday at one of ISTE’s most popular sessions!

LOL @ ISTE: Bring Popcorn and an Open Mind Add to Planner Add to Planner
[Formal Session: Spotlight]
Tuesday, 6/29/2010, 12:30pm–1:30pm, CCC 505/506
Saul Rockman, Rockman Et Al Inc with Michael Jay, Heidi Rogers, Ferdi Serim, Gary Stager and Elliot Soloway
Professional Learning : Student, Teacher, and/or Administrator Leader Preparation

The usual collection of punsters, jokesters, storytellers, and really terrible singers strive to explain why technology is so important in education.

Plans are shaping up brilliantly for Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010. I wish every single educator on earth could spend four days with us building, creating, collaborating, messing-about and discussing matters of learning, teaching and school reform with some of the leading educational thinkers of our time. I’ve been speaking with Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn and James Loewen this week and can assure you that CMK 2010 will be historic!

One of the best pieces of news I received this week was that Chris Lehmann, Principal of Science Leadership Academy is coming to CMK as a participant. It takes a mighty great educational leader to dedicate four days to learning in public!

There are still spots available and time to register. Don’t miss out!

Now, it’s 2:50 AM!

New Book!You know it’s a good day when UPS delivers a new book by legendary school leader, reformer and Constructing Modern Knowledge guest speaker, Deborah Meier!

Yesterday, I received a copy of Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground, co-authored by Deborah Meier, Brenda S. Engel and Beth Taylor. In the spirit of Vivian Paley and Jonathan Kozol (both of whom blurbed the book), Meier and co. give voice to the spontaneous voice and learning of children in their care.

Two particular passages jumped out at me:

In the process of turning schools into competitive institutions, “racing to the top,” we end up threatening the spirit of childhood. Because of our own limited histories and the generally accepted language around schooling – “grade level,” “ahead or behind,” “competent or deficient,” “differentiated learning,” – we begin to lose sight of what education means. These become the only words for describing children in school – children like those we observe playing in this book. “Knowing children well” becomes a matter of looking at test data. (page 107)

Leaving no time or space in education for children’s “playful” efforts to make sense of the world risks the future of only of poetry and science, but also our political liberties. The habits of playfulness in early life are the essential foundations upon which we can build a K-12 education that would foster, nourish and sustain the apparent “absurdity” of democracy. (page 68)

Check out all of Debroah Meier’s stunning books on teaching, learning and school reform here at the Constructivist Consortium Bookstore. If you haven’t already read the classics, In Schools We Trust or The Power of Their Ideas, put them at the top of your summer reading pile.

While we’re on the subject of summer, there is still time to register for Constructing Modern Knowledge, July 12-15, 2010 in picturesque Manchester, NH. There you can actually work, play and learn with Deborah Meier, Aflie Kohn, James Loewen, Peter Reynolds and a bunch of educational computing pioneers!

For Immediate Release


– Dr. Gary Stager was keynote speaker at major national conferences in the USA, New Zealand, Qatar and Australia —

Torrance, CA, June 1, 2010
– Veteran educator, speaker, journalist and consultant Gary Stager has enjoyed a remarkable year of speaking at several of the world’s leading educational technology conferences. Recently, Dr. Stager was the keynote speaker at national conferences in Qatar and Australia. This spring’s “around-the-world” trip was quickly followed by a presentation at the National School Boards Association national conference and a keynote address delivered at the Villanova University annual Tech Expo. The June 2010 issue of Tech & Learning Magazine named Gary Stager as “one of today’s leaders who are changing the landscape of edtech through innovation and leadership.”

Dr. Stager was the keynote speaker at the following national conferences since June 2009:

  1. The National Educational Computing Conference, Washington D.C., June 2009. Stager participated in a keynote debate moderated by Robert Siegel of National Public Radio before 4,500 educators at one of the world’s leading educational technology conferences.
  2. uLearn 2009, Wellington, New Zealand, October 2009. Dr. Stager delivered the keynote address, Ten Things to Do with a Laptop: Learning and Powerful Ideas.
  3. ICT Qatar 3rd Annual ICT in Education Conference, Doha, Qatar, March 2010. Dr. Stager delivered the keynote address, The Best Educational Ideas in the World before an audience of Qatari educators and Heir Apparent – Minister of Education, Chairman of the Supreme Education Council Crown Prince Sheikh Tamin Bin Halmad Al Thank. This was Dr. Stager’s third working trip to Qatar in the past two years.
  4. The Australian Computers In Education Conference, Melbourne, Australia, April 2010. Dr. Stager delivered the keynote address, You Say You Want a Revolution, at this biennial national conference.

The Australian (ACEC) conference was of special significance to Dr. Stager since it marks the 20th anniversary of his work across Australia, including leading professional development at many of the world’s first “laptop schools.” “ACEC is very special to me because it was the first conference I ever keynoted, back in 1992, and provides an opportunity for to reflect upon my twenty years of work in such a wonderful country. I remain moved by the innovative nature and hospitality of Australian educators,” Stager said.

For more, visit or e-mail Follow Gary Stager on Twitter at @garystager or join the Constructivist Consortium at

About Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.
Since 1982, Gary Stager, an internationally recognized educator, speaker, journalist and consultant, has helped learners of all ages on six continents embrace the power of computers as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression. He led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools (1990), has designed online graduate school programs since the mid-90s, is a collaborator in the MIT Media Lab’s Future of Learning Group and a member of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation’s Learning Team.

Dr. Stager’s doctoral research involved the creation a high-tech alternative learning environment for incarcerated at-risk teens with his colleague MIT Professor Seymour Papert. Recent work has included teaching at-risk students in the United States and Australia. Gary was Senior Editor of District Administration Magazine and Founding Editor of The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate. He is currently Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University, an Associate of the Thornburg Center for Professional Development and the Executive Director of The Constructivist Consortium

In 1999, Converge Magazine named Gary a “shaper of our future and inventor of our destiny.” The National School Boards Association recognized Dr. Stager with the distinction of “20 Leaders to Watch” in 2007. He is featured in the recent documentary, imagine it!² The Power of Imagination. In commemoration of its 30th anniversary, Tech & Learning Magazine named Gary Stager as “one of today’s leaders who are changing the landscape of edtech through innovation and leadership.”  The list of thirty honorees announced in June 2010 included, US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan; Segway inventor, Dean Kamen; MIT Professor Mitchel Resnick; Harvard Professor Chris Dede; Stanford Professor, Linda Darling-Hammond and financier/philanthropist Michael Milken.

Gary was the new media producer for The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project – Simpatíco, 2007 Grammy Award Winner for Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year. Dr. Stager is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He leads his own annual professional learning institute, Constructing Modern Knowledge, in the United States.

About The Constructivist Consortium
The Constructivist Consortium represents unprecedented collaboration between six publishing companies committed to children, creativity and constructivist learning.

Veteran educator Dr. Gary Stager serves as the executive director of the Constructivist Consortium. “Working together, the six companies can increase their visibility in a chaotic marketplace,” said Stager. “These companies recognize that computers are important instruments in the lives of kids and all support an unprecedented variety of learning experiences expressed through personally meaningful projects. Computers don’t need to be used in passive ways or to reinforce outdated classroom practice.” This common mission unites the six Founding Member companies.

The Constructivist Consortium’s collaborative marketing and advocacy efforts are intended to celebrate classroom innovation. The Constructivist Consortium’s companies see it as part of their corporate and civic missions to give voice to creative educators and create venues in which they may be refreshed, inspired and feel less isolated.

The Constructivist Consortium sponsors the popular Constructivist Celebrations and annual Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute.

Member companies produce products designed to inspire classroom creativity and place children at the center of the learning process. Those companies are Tech4Learning, Schoolkit, LCSI, Inspiration Software, Generation YES & FableVision.

I was a pretty crummy student. My math and science grades were below average. Junior and senior high school were excruciating experiences made tolerable by my love of computer programming and fantastic music teachers. *

By the time I got to college, I took Algebra every time I needed to satisfy a math requirement and understanding as little as during my previous attempts. School often made me feel stupid, yet I also realized at a very young age that school was a cosmic farce I would somehow overcome.

Against that backdrop it’s difficult to imagine that the first time I ever spoke at a conference was at MIT. The occasion was Logo ’85 – The International Logo Conference. (Back then, edtech conferences had no exhibit hall and were held at places like MIT)

When this twenty-two year-old halfway through my 7 ½ year undergraduate studies, exited a taxi on the MIT campus, a group of people greeted me with, “Come on. Join us for dinner!” One of my dinner companions was Dr. Cynthia Solomon, now an irreplaceable member of the Constructing Modern Knowledge faculty.

Cynthia Solomon is a giant in our field despite her lack of recognition and absence from the lists of important edtech folks. That’s a real shame, especially when women and minorities are so underrepresented in our field. I am honored to have known Cynthia for twenty-five years and am deeply indebted to her for her participation in Constructing Modern Knowledge for the third consecutive year.

Cynthia Solomon at CMK 2008

Cynthia Solomon Teaching at CMK 2009

So, who is Cynthia Solomon. She’s a computer scientist, educator and the inventor of the Logo programming language for children. That’s right, Cynthia Solomon, Wally Feurzig and Seymour Papert are responsible for creating Logo back in 1968. For the next two decades, Cynthia was engaged in much of the foundational research on children constructing knowledge with computers.

Check out the paper, Twenty Things to Do with a Computer, that Cynthia and Seymour published in 1971. How does what your school does with computers thirty-nine years later measure up?

Long associated with the MIT Artificial Intelligence and Media Labs, Dr. Solomon went on to lead the Atari Cambridge Research Laboratory in the 1980s. Alan Kay led the Atari Lab on the West Coast. (Check out the amazing historic videos she has assembled from that period) After that she was a founder of Logo Computer Systems, Inc. and earned a doctorate in education from Harvard. Until just a few years ago, Cynthia was a full-time school computer teacher.

Solomon’s doctoral dissertation is the basis for the seminal book, Computer Environments for Children: A Reflection on Theories of Learning and Education. If you haven’t read it, you should. She is also coauthor with Allison Druin of the book, Designing Multimedia Environments for Children.

In the late eighties I organized a distinguished speakers series for NJ school leaders and Cynthia Solomon was the first person I hired. Since then we’ve worked together with the MIT Media Lab Future of Learning Goup in Mexico City and at the One Laptop Per Child Foundation.

One of life’s great gifts is having the privilege to meet and get to know extraordinarily smart and talented folks like Cynthia Solomon. What a pleasure it was to watch Cynthia, Deborah Meier and Lella Gandini discuss David Hawkins at last year’s CMK.

Through Cynthia, I’ve met people like Marvin Minsky (who led fireside chats the past two CMKs) and Stephen Wolfram. Cynthia seems to know all of the smartest scientists and mathematicians of the past half-century. Now, participants in Constructing Modern Knowledge get to know HER.

My greatest joy comes from creating opportunities for educators to learn from and interact with smart, talented and innovative people. That’s why Cynthia Solomon is part of the remarkable Constructing Modern Knowledge faculty and why you should attend.

The Constructing Modern Knowledge faculty also includes Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn, Dr. James Loewen, Peter Reynolds, Briann Silverman, John Stetson, Sylvia Martinez & Dr. Gary Stager.

Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010

* My Ph.D. in science and mathematics education is the best revenge.

Some of the best minds and accomplished innovators in education are gathering at Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010, July 12-15, 2010 in Manchester, NH. Popular author, researcher and fearless provocateur Alfie Kohn, was a guest speaker at the inaugural event in 2008 and will be with us again.

To help spread the word, we have posted several compelling clips from Alfie’s last conversation at Constructing Modern Knowledge.

There is still plenty of time to register for the best professional learning event of the year. Where else can you engage in conversations with the likes of Alfie Kohn, Deborah Meier, James Loewen or Peter Reynolds and design exciting creative high-tech projects with support from Sylvia Martinez, Brian Silverman, Gary Stager and John Stetson? Exciting social events are planned as well!

Don’t miss out!