Nearly a decade ago, The Huffington Post published an article I wrote, Wanna be a School Reformer? You Better do Your Homework! Today, all the cool kids are getting “FutureReady®!”

Whenever school leaders suggest that they want to improve the educational experiences offered students, if only they knew how, I do two things.

  1. Wish the education community could find a cure for amnesia
  2. Tell them to swing by my place. I’ve got a thousand books on how to improve education written with authority, clarity, and specificity by generations of gifted education leaders.

The best way to be “FutureReady®!” is to be well-versed in the education literature (not get-rich quick books found in airport gift-shops en route to school discipline conferences) and recognize that every problem in education has been solved before.

If you are a classroom teacher, parent, or school board member, I humbly recommend this assortment of books, suitable for whole faculty book groups (PK-12).

School leaders should step away from the TED Talks and dig into some of the books recommended below. Your students will thank you!

Wanna be a School Reformer? You Better do Your Homework!

Originally appeared in The Huffington Post on 10/19/2010

Shouldn’t people bold enough to call themselves “school reformers” be familiar with some of the literature on the subject?

Most of the school leaders who signed last weekend’s completely discredited manifesto,” are unqualified to lead major urban school districts. Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein are not qualified to be a substitute teacher in their respective school districts. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could not coach basketball in the Chicago Public Schools with his lack of credentials. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that they advocate schemes like Teach for America sending unprepared teachers into the toughest classrooms armed with a missionary zeal and programmed to believe they are there to rescue children from the incompetent teachers with whom they need to work. In public education today, unqualified is the new qualified.

The celebration of inexperience and lack of preparation is particularly disconcerting when it comes to education policy. When you allow billionaires, ideologues, pop singers and movie viewers to define reform, you get Reform™.

Reform™ narrowly defines school improvement as children chanting, endless standardized testing preparation, teacher bashing and charter-based obedience schools who treat other people’s children in ways that the rich folks behind Reform™ would never tolerate for children they love.

If that were not bad enough, Reform™ advances a myth that there is only one way to create productive contexts for learning. It ignores the alternative models, expertise and school improvement literature all around us. Public education is too important to society to allow the ignorant to define the terms of debate. Great educators stand on the shoulders of giants and confront educational challenges with knowledge, passion and intensity when afforded the freedom to do so. There are a great many of us who know how to amplify the enormous potential for children, even if we are ignored by Oprah or NBC News.

Reading is important for children and adults alike. Therefore, I challenged myself to assemble an essential (admittedly subjective) reading list on school reform. The following books are appropriate for parents, teachers, administrators, politicians and plain old citizens committed to the ideal of sustaining a joyful, excellent and democratic public education for every child.

In A Schoolmaster of the Great City: A Progressive Education Pioneer’s Vision for Urban Schools, school teacher and principal Angelo Patri identifies and solves every problem confronting public education. This feat is all the more remarkable when you learn that the book was published in 1917!

Recently deceased Yale psychologist Dr. Seymour Sarason published forty books on a wide range of education issues well into his eighties. A good place to start is The Skeptical Visionary: A Seymour Sarason Reader. You have to admire a guy who published a book with the title, The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform: Can We Change Course Before It’s Too Late, twenty years ago! Books written in the 1990s, And What do YOU Mean by Learning, Political Leadership and Educational Failure and Charter Schools: Another Flawed Educational Reform? remain quite timely and instructive.

No serious citizen or educator concerned with the future of education can afford to ignore the role of technology in learning. Jean Piaet’s protegé, Seymour Papert, began writing about the potential of computers to amplify human potential in the mid-1960s. His view is a great deal more humane and productive than using computers to quiz students in preparation for standardized tests. All of Papert’s books and papers are worth reading, but I suggest you start with The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer.

Want to see what sustainable scaleable school reform looks like where children are treated as competent? The Big Picture: Education Is Everyone’s Business by Dennis Littky with Samantha Grabelle describes urban high schools with small classes, consistent student teacher relationships and an educational program based on apprenticeship. Students don’t go to “school” on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They engage in internship experiences in the community in any field that interests them. The other days of the week, the curriculum is based on whatever the students need to learn to enhance their internships. This is not vocational. It prepares students for university or any other choice they make. The Big Picture model has spread across the United States with impressive results.

The biography of Big Picture Schools co-founder Dennis Littky, Doc: The Story Of Dennis Littky And His Fight For A Better School, by Susan Kammeraad-Campbell may be the first school reform thriller. The book chronicles how Littky transformed a failing school and was wrongfully fired the second political winds changed. Anyone interested in “reforming” public education would be well advised to read this exciting page-turner.

MacArthur Genius Deborah Meier has forgotten more about effective teaching and urban school reform than today’s entire generation of “reformers” ever knew. Meier is often considered the mother of the small school movement and her work as the founder of the Central Park East Schools and Mission Hill in Boston remain influential inspiration for parents and educators committed to the preparation of learners with the habits of mind required for a healthy democracy. Her book, In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization, is a masterpiece sharing the wisdom developed over more than a half century of teaching and school leadership. You should also read Meier’s weekly online discussion with Diane Ravitch, the Bridging Differences blog.

The Schools our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards” is but one of the many terrific books by Alfie Kohn in which he challenges conventional wisdom on sacrosanct topics like homework, grades, standardized testing and rewards with clarity and evidence. His books are fearless and make you think. His articles are collected at Alfiekohn.com. Alfie’s small book, The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools should be on the kitchen table of every parent and teacher. If you’re tired of reading, you may watch two terrific Kohn lectures on the DVD, No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning.

Dr. Theodore Sizer was a school principal, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and unofficial leader of the high school reform movement over the past twenty-five years. His intellect, calm demeanor and practicality led to the creation of the Coalition of Essential Schools and a template by which any secondary school could improve from within. The first book in his “Horace trilogy,” Horace’s Compromise, tells the story of American high schools, warts and all, through the eyes of a fictional English teacher, Horace Smith. This book and the two that follow share Horace’s epiphanies about the shortcoming of American high schools, their strengths and how he and his colleagues can make their school better. The organization Sizer founded, The Coalition of Essential Schools, continues to inspire such local reform efforts one school at a time.

National Book Award-winning author, educator and civil rights activist has been giving voice to the poorest children in our nation and the injustice they face since the 1960s. All of Kozol’s books are equal-parts profound, infuriating and inspirational, but the tender and beautifully written, Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope, reminds us why we should care about public education.

Herbert Kohl has shared his insights as a teacher and teacher educator in dozens of brilliant books. His recent anthology, The Herb Kohl Reader: Awakening the Heart of Teaching, should whet your appetite for reading many more of his books.

There is no more fierce or tireless critic of the higher tougher meaner standards and accountability movement than Susan Ohanian. The book she co-authored with Kathy Emery, Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? engages in the old-fashioned “follow the money” journalism we keep waiting for from news organizations. This book will help you understand how we got to reform being defined and advanced by billionaire bullies.

Right before he died last year, respected scholar, Gerald Bracey published, Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality – Transforming the Fire Consuming America’s Schools. This book disembowels many of the premises and data used to justify the high-stakes accountability rhetoric and school reform strategies currently being advanced. It’s a must read!

Not With Our Kids You Don’t! Ten Strategies to Save Our Schools by Juanita Doyon is a short must-read book for parents tired of their schools being turned into little more than Dickensian test-prep sweatshops. The book was written by a fed-up mom, turned activist from Washington who has upended her state’s political establishment in defense of the sort of high quality education Americans came to expect before No Child Left Behind.

October 2019 two-day seminars with Will Richardson in DC, NJ, & Boston!


Veteran educator Dr. Gary Stager is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. Learn more about Gary here.


Future Ready Schools® is a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Marvin Minsky & Gary Stager

One great joy of my life has been getting to know and work with so many of my heroes/sheroes. Even greater satisfaction comes from sharing those people with my fellow educators, via books, presentations, and the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute.

Over dinner thirty years ago, one of my mentors, Dan Watt dropped some wisdom on me when he said, “writing is hard.” Writing is hard. I find sitting down to write is even harder. The reward of writing is your work being read by others, especially when readers report thinking differently as a result. Even the “hate mail” I received as a magazine columnist and editor made the agony of writing worthwhile.

While proud of many things I have written, three pieces stand out as enormous honors. Being asked by the science journal of record, Nature, to author the obituary of my friend and mentor, Dr. Seymour Papert, was a difficult challenge and great privilege. Learning later that the great Alan Kay recommended me for the assignment took my breath away. I will remain forever grateful for his confidence in my ability to eulogize our mutual friend in such an august journal.

On two other occasions, I have been invited to contribute to books by my heroes. A few years ago, the prolific progressive author and educator, Herb Kohl, asked me to write a response piece to the great musician, David Amram, for the book, The Muses Go to School: Inspiring Stories About the Importance of Arts in Education. My fellow contributors include Bill T. Jones, Bill Ayers, Whoopi Goldberg, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Lisa Delpit, Maxine Greene, and others. Many readers may be unaware of my music studies and the fact that my career began as a public school arts advocate. Sharing anything, let alone a book, with the remarkable Herbert Kohl remains a source of enormous pride. This is an important book that should receive greater attention.

I first met Artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, in the late 1980s. I cannot say that I spent a great deal of time with him over the subsequent decades, but anyone who ever encountered Marvin can testify to the impact that I had on them, perhaps down to the molecular level. The fact that Marvin agreed to spend time leading a fireside chat with any interested educator at the first eight Constructing Modern Knowledge institutes continues to blow my mind. I will forever cherish his wit, wisdom, friendship, and generosity.

Inventive Minds: Marvin Minsky on Education is a brand new book based on essays by Dr. Marvin Minsky, one of the great scientists, inventors, and intellectuals of the past century. Our mutual friend, Dr. Cynthia Solomon, a hugely important figure in her own right, edited a text in which important essays by Minsky were assembled and responded to by an amazing collection of Marvin’s friends. One of Marvin’s proteges, Xiao Xiao, illustrated the book. The contributors to this book include:

  • Co-inventor of the Logo programming language, Cynthia Solomon
  • Father of the personal computer, Alan Kay
  • Legendary computer science professor, author, and pioneer of the Open Courseware movement, Hal Abelson
  • Former Director the MIT Media Laboratory, Walter Bender
  • Artificial intelligence pioneer and MIT professor, Patrick Henry Winston
  • Software engineer, inventor, and executive, Brian Silverman
  • Software engineer, Mike Travers
  • Haptics engineer and scientist, Margaret Minsky
  • Me

I can’t speak for my contribution, but am confident that Inventive Minds will stimulate a great deal of thought and dialogue among you and your colleagues. Buy the book and enjoy some great summer reading!


Veteran educator Dr. Gary Stager is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Learn more about Gary here.

I recently published my 2017 summer reading suggestions for educators, but here is an equally radical list from 2002! See my 2006 recommendations too.


School’s almost out, and it’s the perfect time to get in some interesting reading that will reinvigorate you for September

From the June 2002 issue of District Administration

One of the best ways to spend the summer is curled up with a good book. The following are nominees for books that will inspire, provoke or entertain educators. Professional development for you and your staff is only a bookstore away. Why not stay connected with your colleagues this summer by starting a book club? You can find all of these books and more here.

Summer Reading
The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith
This may well be the most beautiful, clear and pro-found book ever written about learning and overcoming the obstacles to learning created by schools. Smith paints a gorgeous picture of what real learning is and explains how it differs from what he calls the official theory of learning.

Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope by Jonathan Kozol
Jonathan Kozol’s latest book about the lives and education of poor kids will touch your heart. One of my all-time favorite books.

What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? by Susan Ohanian
I adore every book written by this master teacher, humorist and educational critic. Her most recent book explores the human cost of our current testing-mania, shares teaching anecdotes and discusses what parents are doing to make schools more playful places to learn.

American Psychology and Schools: A Critique by Seymour Sarason
Prolific author, educator and psychologist Sarason candidly investigates the question, “Where has the American psychological community been during the heightened concern over standardized testing and school violence?” He offers hypotheses for this disinterest in schools and explores the damage to the public welfare caused by the collective silence of the psychological community.

Leadership
The Inner Principal by David Loader
Veteran principal David Loader courageously explores the joys, challenges and inner conflicts of being a school principal. His accomplishments on behalf of kids will inspire school leaders. Teachers will give their principals a hug.

Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency by Tom Demarco
The latest book by this management guru argues that effective organizations need slack to nurture out-of-the-box thinking and productivity, particularly among knowledge workers.

One for Each Level
The following books are designed to appeal to elementary, middle school and high school teachers.

The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach Advanced Reflections by Edwards, Gandini and Forman (Editors)
This remarkable book should be read and re-read by every educator. It seems to contain solutions to every educational problem. While the city of Reggio Emilia focuses on early childhood education, there are numerous lessons to be learned by teachers at all levels.

Caught in the Middle—Nonstandard Kids and the Killing Curriculum by Susan Ohanian
Ohanian makes the case for a learner-centered approach to the middle grades from her amusing perspective.

Rethinking High School: Best Practice in Teaching by Daniels, Bizar and Zemelman
A six-year case study of the planning through graduation of a new Chicago school committed to preparing students for the 21st century.

Technology
Internet & Computer Ethics for Kids: (and Parents & Teachers Who Haven’t Got a Clue) by Winn Schwartau
This book explores a large quantity of ethical issues facing citizens in the digital age. While written for adolescents, adults will find the description of ethical dilemmas, the law and common sense useful in making sense of this confusing era.

This time of year, schools scramble to select a book for their entire faculty to read over the summer. Although it would be nice if everyone read the same book as a basis for common dialogue and for teachers to read more than one book about learning each year, I just assembled a list for the (DK-8) school where I serve as the Special Assistant to the Head of School for Innovation. Based on our overarching goals of action, reflective practice, progressive education, learning-by-making, energetic classroom centers, creativity, and collegiality, I recommended the following books for this summer. If a school community was to read one book (besides Invent To Learn – Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom) , I would recommend David Perkins’ book, Making Learning Whole.

If you wish to give your faculty (K-12 in any configuration), a list of selections to choose from, I recommend the following in no particular order.
  1. Perkins, David. (2010) Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform EducationA clear and concise book on how to teach in a learner-centered fashion. 
  2. Gandini, Lella et al… (2015) In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia, Second EditionA beautiful and practical book aimed at early childhood education, but equally applicable at any grade level. 
  3. Littky, Dennis. (2004) The Big Picture: Education is Everyone’s BusinessAimed at secondary education, but with powerful ideas applicable at any level. This may be the best book written about high school reform in decades. 
  4. Tunstall, Tricia. (2013) Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of MusicOne of the finest books about teaching and learning I’ve read in the past decade. This lessons in this book are applicable across all subject areas. 
  5. Papert, Seymour. (1993) The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the ComputerA seminal book that situates the maker movement and coding in a long progressive tradition. This is arguably the most important education book of the past quarter century. 
  6. Little, Tom and Katherine Ellison. (2015) Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools  A spectacular case made for progressive education in the face of the nonsense masquerading as school “reform” these days. 

You could also indulge yourself in the richest professional learning event of your life by participating in Constructing Modern Knowledge 2016. Limited space is still available.

The Best Invention and Tinkering Books, plus other cool stuff – including toys and kits

An old friend of mine, Dr. Barry Newell, is an astrophysicist who was was the Administrator (in the NASA sense) of Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories of the Australian National University. He now works on the dynamics of social-ecological systems. In his spare time (back in 1988), he wrote two classic books on Logo programming and mathematics, Turtle Confusion and the accompanying book for educators, Turtles Speak Mathematics. Turtle Confusion features 40 challenging turtle geometry puzzles in a mystery format and Turtles Speak Mathematics helps educators understand the mathematics their students are learning.


I was reminded of the books when Sugar Labs, the folks behind the operating system for the One Laptop Per Child XO laptop, featured the challenges as an activity to accompany TurtleArt software on the XO.

Screenshot of the XO Turtle Confusion Activity

The books’ author, Dr. Barry Newell, gave me permission to share digital copies of the book for personal, educational and non-commercial use. Click here to go to the download page.

These books are best used with versions of Logo such as MicroWorlds EX or Berkeley Logo. Some of the puzzles are very difficult or impossible to solve in Scratch, but it’s worth trying if that is all you have. SNAP! is another potential option. TurtleArt is another possibility. Although, mathematical programming is often easiest and best achieved through the use of textual language (IMHO). A bit of dialect translation might be necessary. For example, CS is often CG (in MicroWorlds EX).

Four collections of recommended books

  1. The Constructivist Consortium has compiled an extensive online book store for creative educators. Be sure to peruse these recommendations!
  2. Wanna be a School Reformer? You Better Do Your Homework! Required reading for school leaders, administrators and policy makers.
  3. Tinkering resources for educators
  4. Overlooked gems, books kids (especially boys) will love

The two best education books of 2011

Tricia Tunstall’s beautiful new book, Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music, tells the story of El Sistema, perhaps the world’s most exciting large-scale (systemic) education project. At a time when presidential candidates call for children to clean toilets as a way of “learning the dignity of work,”, El Sistema, teaches hundreds of thousands of children to achieve their potential as productive citizens by learning to play classical music at a level previously unimagined.

This book is a must-read. It’s incredibly well-written and reminds us of how arts education can change lives. The lessons for all educators, politicians and parents are multitudinous. I sincerely hopes this book reaches a wide audience, it asks much of each of us, but the rewards are extraordinary. It reminds us what it means to be human. You should also get the fantastic DVDs, El Sistema: Music to Change Lives and The Promise of Music to bring music and motion to the ideas in Tunstall’s fantastic new book.

 

Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools by Roger Schank

Dr. Schank is one of the leading experts on artificial intelligence, storytelling, simulation, entrepreneurship and learning. His new book is another fearless volume about what is wrong with education and how it may be “fixed.” Schank is hilarious, provocative and not a person you want to argue with. This important book may help cleanse school leaders of the nonsense spread by Pink, Willingham and Marzano.

From Schank’s web site: “Unfortunately education and teaching rarely means either of these things in today’s world. The premise of my new book is simple. We have all gone to school. We all know that school is organized around academic subjects like math, English, history and science. But how else might school be organized? There is an easy answer to this: organize school around thought processes.”

 

Honorable Mention Book of 2011

Wasting Minds: Why Our Education System Is Failing and What We Can Do About It by Ron Wolk

While I profoundly disagree with some of his conclusions and views on educational technology, veteran academic and founder of Education Week, Ron Wolk does an exceptional job of describing the current educational landscape. The data within the book is invaluable.

 

 

Soon-to-be-released Books I Can Hardly Wait to Read!

 

The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformationby Edwards, Gandini and Foreman is the most comprehensive book on the phenomenal “Reggio Emilia approach” to education.The 3rd volume of this comprehensive anthology will be available any day now. It is a must read and re-read for many years to come.Lella Gandini has made a spectacular contribution to Constructing Modern Knowledge over the past few years. One of the great honors of my life was being invited by legendary educator and author of 40 seminal education books, Herbert Kohl, to make a small contribution to this new book about the importance of the arts in education.Being included in a book with Deborah Meier, Bill T. Jones, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Ayers, Lisa Delpit, Rosie Perez, Phylicia Rashad, Diane Ravitch and Maxine Greene leaves me speechless.I cannot wait for The Muses Go to School:Inspiring Stories About the Importance of Arts in Education to arrive!

Deeply moving & often hilarious book

 

Regardless of your politics or how you feel about his films, Michael Moore’s new book, Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life, is a poignant, witty and exceptionally well written memoir of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. This book really captures one person’s realization of the American dream. I highly recommend this page-turner for idealistic teens and their parents.

 

 

My Ten Favorite Jazz Recordings of 2011
Unsung Heroes by Brian Lynch Songs of Mirth and Melancholy by Branford Marsalis and Joey Caldarazzo In the Element by Emmet Cohen Roy-alty by Roy Haynes Road Shows volume 2 by Sonny Rollins
This extraordinary new album of modern jazz in tribute to unsung trumpet heroes is by my friend Brian Lynch and earned five stars from Downbeat Magazine. I’ve known Branford for 30 years. This new album is a duet with his longtime pianist, Joey Caldarazzo. The result is quite beautiful. I met young Emmet almost a year ago and we’ve hung out ever since. He recently placed 3rd in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition. His debut recording is quite good and he is going to be a monster in years to come. I heard Roy Haynes for the first time when I was 14 and his music has brought me more joy than perhaps anything else in life. He not only represents the history of American music, but at 86 years old, Mr. Haynes swings harder than any drummer alive. Sonny Rollins may be the world’s greatest living musician and he’s finally enjoying the respect he deserves. He was given a Presidential Arts Medal and Kennedy Center Honor in 2011. This recording includes recent live recordings, including a rare duet with Ornette Coleman.
Forever by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke & Lenny Whtite
Pinnacle by Freddie Hubbard
The first CD in this 2-CD album is unbelievably exiting and hard swinging. The second disc? Not so much. I saw Freddie Hubbard perform live dozens of times and each note he played was exhilerating. This live recording is available for the first time. Unreleased “bootlegs” by Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter & Tony Williams – what’s not to love?? Here’s my credit card! This young vibraphonist has been called the “Mike Tyson” of the Vibes. Check out his terrific major label debut recording produced by mentor Christian McBride. It’s been a busy year for the hardest working man in jazz. Christian McBride’s big band and all-star duet recording are must-haves.


The weather outside may be frightful, but summer is right around the corner. You deserve to spend four days next July reigniting your creative flame, recharging your battery and learning with world-class educators, artists and inventors.

Join us to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Constructing Modern Knowledge, the world’s premiere project-based learning event in Manchester, New Hampshire – July 9-12, 2012!

Why not replace visions of sugarplums with the opportunity to learn storytelling with award-winning filmmaker Casey Neistat; tinkering with the Editor of Make Magazine, Mark Frauenfelder; project-based learning from one of its originators, Dr. Lilian Katz and explore the ultimate 21st Century toy factory, the MIT Media Laboratory, with Dr. Leah Buechley? Nine year-old faculty member, Super Awesome Sylvia, reminds us of the meaning of education.

Give yourself the learning experience of a lifetime and register today!

Today, I received my copy of the brand new softcover edition of David Perkins’ terrific book, Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education. I love this book and have given away countless copies, but the best thing about the new softcover edition is that I was asked by the publisher to provide a blurb for the back cover. My blurb now joins Howard Gardner and Linda Darling-Hammond – The Blurber Hall of Fame!

The final blurb was heavily edited to proper blurb length, but the following is what I originally wrote as an endorsement of Making Learning Whole.

An instant classic! Making Learning Whole will be used for decades by those interested in a framework for making classrooms better places for learning. The book performs a great service by reminding educators that each student comes first – complete with individual needs, talents, experience, curiosity and passion. The job of curriculum is to connect personal experience with powerful ideas, not deliver a bunch of facts in a mysterious incomprehensible sequence. Perkins takes such a common sense metaphor, playing the whole game, and uses it to transform the learning experience for each student.

For educators seeking a practical way to create productive contexts for learning, Making Learning Whole, is a superior approach to the top-down pedagogical tricks advanced by Understanding by Design.

You may purchase your own copy of Making Learning Whole by clicking any of the links or the book cover below.

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!