Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.
We’ve been big fans of Jonah Lehrer since his book Proust was a Neuroscientist (we even included it in a previous summer reading list). He is masterful at making the science behind how we learn accessible to those of us who are not neuroscientists. In his latest book, Mr. Lehrer shows us how creativity works. What’s interesting about this book is that it goes beyond a discussion of neurons to explore how our environment can spark – or hinder—innovation and the creative process. He shows us the classroom techniques that increase creativity in children and how seemingly irrelevant factors such as the color of paint on the walls can have a dramatic impact on the creative process. If you think that standardized testing will sap students of their creativity or if you feel stuck in your own creativity as a teacher, this book will show you the secrets to unleashing innovation and help you reconnect with your own creative process. Lehrer unlocks the secret to how the imagination works. He shows us the catalysts behind our own creativity. And, in the process, he shows us how to become more creative and help our students become more creative as well.
Inevitable Mass Customized Learning: Learning in the Age of Empowerment by Charles Schwahn and Beatrice McGarvey.
The world has changed. Everywhere we see mass customization, from the way that we customize our iPhones to the way that we get our Verizon bill. And yet, schools are still using out-dated models to help students learn. Schwahn and McGarvey believe that making education more meaningful to learners, making learning more motivational for learners, and preparing young learners for their future rather than our past, are the critical educational and moral (not to mention – economic) imperatives of the day. They wrote Inevitable in order to promote this vision and show teachers how to leverage technology to make school more compelling for students. The layout of the book is a little clunky but it is full of great tips and strategies for customizing the learning experience for all learners. What we really like about this book is that unlike other books on technology and education, this is not a book about technology as teacher; this is a book about technology as enabler. Just like our popular post What the iPhone can teach you about teaching, this book explains how we can do for learners what Apple does for music lovers, what Amazon does for readers, and what Google does for everyone.
Brain Rules: Twelve Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina
We first turned to this book when we were looking for ways to make our workshops much more meaningful. Medina’s chapter on attention helped us restructure our workshops so that participants could better retain what we were trying to help them learn. The rest of the book is equally useful. Medina, starts by warning the there is still very much we just don’t understand about how the brain works. He calls his book an “attempt to vaccinate against mythologies such as the ‘Mozart Effect,’ left brain/right brain personalities, and getting your babies into Harvard by making them listen to language tapes while they are still in the womb.” Instead, he offers us 12 rules that represent what we know for sure about how the brain works. For each rule, he presents the science as well as practical applications for work and school. He argues that “if you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, probably would design something like a classroom.” Then he shows us how to use his brain rules to create an environment much better suited to the way that the brain works.
When Can You Trust the Experts? How to tell good science from bad in education by Daniel T. Willingham.
We have been eagerly awaiting Daniel Willinghams latest book. We’re fans of his first book Why Don’t Students Like School (reviewed here) and were excited to get a hold of the advance copy of his latest book. It doesn’t disappoint. Willingham takes on the vast field of educational research and provides a framework educators can use to determine whether that research is valid. He includes four steps – Strip It to clear away the verbiage and look at the actual claim, Trace It to see the origin of the idea and what others have to say about it, Analyze It to check the evidence being offered and how it aligns with your own experience, and “Should I do it?” to determine whether in the end, it is all worth implementing. The book provides checklists and helpful tools to help you through each step and in the end, offers a clear way for educators to weigh the prevailing theories, competing research, and out-an-out quackery to determine for themselves whether a “research-based” idea or theory makes sense for their situation, their students, and their needs. The book will be available in July.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.
This one is an oldy but goody. It’s been on our shelves for years but recently we revisited this book when we were looking for ways to help a school we serve create an environment that encouraged more professional growth from its teachers. In Nudge, Thaler and Sunstein help us understand the choices we make as humans and how we can shape the environment to help others make better choices. They share strategies for what they call “choice architects” – people who intentionally or unintentionally influence the choices others make. It is a great book for teachers because it shows teachers how the way that they present information, classroom rules, even the way that they structure assignments significantly influences whether students will cooperate or choose to opt out. We also love this book for instructional leaders because in many ways, these leaders are themselves “choice architects” who influence the choices students and teachers make simply by the way that they design the master schedule and shape the school environment. If it sounds a bit Machiavellian, it’s not. This book shows you how to successfully nudge the people you lead towards the best decisions without restricting their freedom.
And if you want to continue your journey towards becoming great teachers and better leaders, we also encourage you to check out our books here.