Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 5 Books That I Read In 2010

The best books I read this year are all non-fiction and deal in some way with education and technology--go figure. The following books are highly recommended for anyone interested in teaching, technology and creativity. Although, not every book deals with technology (or education), they all are thought provoking books that help to answer some critical questions about how to best educate students in the 21st century.

So here are my 5 favorite books from 2010 (in no particular order):

The Element, by Sir Ken Robinson

The Element presents a very convincing argument for school transformation (not reform). Robinson weaves real stories of brilliant people from various disciplines to argue the case that we all need to find our element (where our passions and talent merge).The Element is a great book to read if you are interested in creativity and fostering it in our schools. Unfortunately, our current school reform movement is centered on testing and accountability to the exclusion of fostering creativity in our children. Follow Sir Ken Robinson on Twitter-- @SirKenRobinson

The Death and Life of the Great American School System, by Diane Ravitch

A must read for all teachers, parents, politicians, or anyone interested in our public school system. The Death and Life of the Great American School System details the history of the standards, testing, and accountability reforms of the past 20 years and how they have been a failure. This book is especially credible since it is written by Diane Ravitch who used to be one of the leading national advocates of testing and accountability. This book is especially important to read as part of the ongoing national dialogue regarding school reform and as a alternate companion to Waiting for Superman. Follow Diane Ravitch on Twitter-- @DianeRavitch .

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink

Another insightful, thought provoking, and practical book by Daniel Pink. Drive details how the carrot and stick approach to motivation is actually a de-motivation in most instances. Pink convincingly argues that intrinsic motivation is what truly drives people to be the best they can be. As is Pink's custom he doesn't just explain the issue (which he does very well), he provides practical ways to motivate ourselves and others. Drive is a must read for all educators, because education is the business of motivation. Without motivation nothing follows. Be motivated and follow Daniel Pink on Twitter-- @DanielPink .

Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson

Another excellent book by Steven Johnson. This one takes the big picture view of how good ideas are cultivated throughout history. Johnson illustrates that good ideas typically come from connections and the free exchange of ideas. The myth of the lone genius is exposed as Johnson demonstrates that the vast majority of inventions and brilliant ideas were built upon knowledge already available. By being able to access this knowledge people are able to create new things and ideas that were impossible in prior years. One of the main implications from the book is how the internet and the free flow of information and social connections are enabling people to come up with good ideas at an ever rapid pace. Johnson writes that his previous two books, The Ghost Map and The Invention of Air, could be read with this book as a kind of trilogy on the cultivation of ideas. This book presents a forceful argument for why social learning is needed in school to encourage innovation. Follow Steven Johnson on Twitter-- @stevenbjohnson .

What Technology Wants, by Kevin Kelly

What Technology Wants may be the most important and insightful book about technology that I've ever read. The ideas from this book still have me thinking about my relationship with technology. Kelly presents a very thoughtful and balanced argument that technology has a historical trajectory and that it has wants much like living organisms have wants. By realizing that technology (Kelly uses the term technium) has wants we can more accurately predict our future. According to Kelly, technology has numerous wants that mirror life, which include efficiency, diversity, specialization, sentience, and structure. I can't think of a better book that explains the meaning of technology. Kevin Kelly doesn't Tweet, so find him at his website--

The first book I will be reading in 2011 is a book I've been wanting to read for over 5 years--Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. I'm interested in this book for several reasons. First, it is a modern classic and will soon be made into a movie. Second, Abraham Lincoln's choice of including his political rivals in his cabinet is a classic study in political and organizational leadership that modern leaders (i.e. school administrators) can learn from. Finally, any book that can provide new insights into Abraham Lincoln's Presidency 150 years after the fact is worthy of serious attention. And this will be the first book I will read on my brand new NOOKcolor eReader.

Happy reading in 2011!