Archive for the ‘Book Summaries’ Category

Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa is a follow up to their landmark Academically Adrift that made the case for how many college students end up learning very little, end up unemployed or under employed, and living at home. Now they follow this same college cohort two years after graduation and see that many found a difficult transition to adulthood. Together these works should challenge students and colleges to rethink the aims, approaches, and achievements of higher education. Click here to read my summary of Academically Adrift.

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa

  • Richard is a professor in the Department of Sociology with a joint appointment in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. He is a senior fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the author of Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority in American Schools. Josipa Roksa is associate professor of sociology and education and associate director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education at the University of Virginia.

1. The Study

  • This book is based on research that tracks more than 1,600 students (emerging adults) through their senior year at twenty-five diverse four-year colleges and universities, and approximately 1,000 college graduates from this sample for two years following their graduation in 2009. They also did in-depth interviews with a subset of 80 graduates in 2011 in order to find how post-college outcomes were associated with collegiate experiences and academic performance. Like their previous study, they used the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) to measure critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication around the time of their graduation.
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Ball or Bands: Football vs Music as an Educational and Community Investment by John Gerdy

Monday, May 18th, 2015
Ball

Ball or Bands: Football vs Music as an Educational and Community Investment by John Gerdy (©2014) uses research to support the notion that due to costs, injuries, its focus on elite male athletes, and a negative impact on school cultures, support for high school football can no longer be defended. He also makes a case for why music and the arts in general need more support. He comes at this topic as a musician and an athlete with a brief career in the NBA. Click at the bottom of any page to get copies for your board of education members, and be strong if you take on king football.

John R. Gerdy

  • John is founder and executive director of Music for Everyone. A former all-American and professional basketball player, he served at the NCAA and as associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. He is author of Sports: The All-American Addiction and Air Ball: American Education’s Failed Experiment with Elite Athletics.

John’s Journey Through Sports and Music

  • The first two chapters outline John’s background experiences in athletics and music. While his father was a physics teacher, he was also the head football coach. Much to his father’s disappointment, John chose basketball and went on to become the leading career scorer at Davidson College followed by a brief professional career. He then went on to get a PhD and work several jobs as a sports administrator. His music life started in eight grade where he quit the school chorus because the director wouldn’t do any Beatles songs (1971). In high school he picked up the guitar, and over time gradually learned percussion and saxophone. As he moved around, he looked for opportunities to play in pick up bands and perform in clubs.
  • When his kids started school he volunteered to perform and teach, and even went so far as to develop a seven-week blues curriculum, which culminates in an assembly where children sing and play percussion to a blues song that they have written. John sees little difference between open mic and pick up basketball or other team sports. Each group is striving toward a common goal, which is to figure out where everyone’s talents can contribute.
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Better By Mistake – Improve your life and performance by Alina Tugend

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Mistake

This eye-opening book features the big idea that embracing mistakes can make us happier and more productive in every facet of our lives. It examines the tension between the idea that we must make mistakes to learn, and the fact that we often get punished for them. © 2011, Riverside Books: New York, New York

Another Way of Learning

  • My teacher said I learn by making mistakes. Since I didn’t make any today, I guess I didn’t learn anything. This story is followed by the notion that when people think they must do everything perfectly, they can spend energy blaming each other rather than finding a solution. It results in defensiveness and accusations rather than apologies and forgiveness. Mistake prevention gets in the way of daring and innovation. Most of us think that mistakes make us look stupid.

(Re)Defining Mistakes

  • My teacher said I learn by making mistakes. Since I didn’t make any today, I guess I didn’t learn anything. This story is followed by the notion that when people think they must do everything perfectly, they can spend energy blaming each other rather than finding a solution. It results in defensiveness and accusations rather than apologies and forgiveness. Mistake prevention gets in the way of daring and innovation. Most of us think that mistakes make us look stupid.
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Better Than College: How to Build a Better Life Without a Four-Year Degree by Blake Boles

Thursday, September 27th, 2012
Better

Better Than College: How to Build a Better Life Without a Four-Year Degree by Blake Boles (Copyright © 2012 by Blake Boles) offers the thesis that you can skip four-year college and still get a higher education. This may seem nuts, but spend a few moments considering the propositions, and you’ll begin to see why Zero Tuition College (ZTC) holds just as much life-changing potential as traditional college. Please click on the icon at the bottom of any page to purchase this outstanding book.

Blake Boles

  • After two years as an astrophysics major at US Berkley, Blake convinced the school to let him design his own alternative education major. Two years later, he realized that he didn’t need school at all to do what he had just accomplished. Unfortunately, not every college would allow him to do what he did. He has since met many young adults who did everything that he did—learning deeply, developing mastery, becoming exposed to new fields, adventuring, building work experience, and following their passions—without the college price tag..

What is a Higher Education?

  • When the price of oil rises, we look more seriously at alternative energy. When a business raises its prices, we consider different ways that we could obtain the same goods or services. But even though the price of college has skyrocketed, we still flood its gates. Why? A college degree proves that you can survive four years. It’s a piece of paper that says, I followed a prescribed path. A higher education, though, is first and foremost the capacity to self-direct your life. Someone who has a higher education can define her own vision of success and pursue it, even in the face of difficulty. A college degree does not guarantee a higher education.

The Alternative

  • Instead of following someone else’s curriculum, self-directed learners begin by asking themselves what fascinates and drives them. Their journey begins—and ends—with self-knowledge. Instead of taking full-time classes, self-directed learners give themselves assignments that they find interesting, eye-opening, and challenging. They start businesses, find internships, travel the world, read and write about things that fascinate them, and work for organizations they admire. Instead of working on homework, papers, and presentations destined to be seen once and tossed into a trash can, self-directed learners turn much of their hard work into useful products for other people.
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Beyond Cut-and-Paste – Jamie McKenzie

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

For four decades Jamie McKenzie has been stressing the importance of engaging students in challenges that require original thought as they deal with new technology. This book takes on that challenge directly. It is designed to support teachers and leaders intent on raising a generation of thinkers capable of asking tough questions while generating good ideas. His insight and the resources in this book are ideal for staff development efforts and graduate courses.

Click here to see my review of this book.

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Blink – Vintage Gladwell

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is Malcolm Gladwell’s second bestseller. Even though it was written in 2005, the information remains current and valuable. This summary is written with educators in mind. His 3rd book, Outliers, is also available here.

Click here to see my summary Blink.

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Blogging for Educators: Writing for Professional Learning by Starr SackStein

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Blogging

Blogging for Educators: Writing for Professional Learning by Starr Sackstein provides a strong rational for why educators should blog along with advice on how to get started. She is one of the best education bloggers I have found to date, and I explore the educational blogosphere every day. Be sure to click the icon at the bottom of any page to get copies for teachers you know.

Starr Sackstein

  • Starr is a high school English and Journalism teacher at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, NY. She is also the author of Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective. She does a blog for Education Week called Work in Progress in addition to her personal blog at StarrSackstein.Com where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. She moderates #jerdchat and #sunchat and contributes to #NYedChat. If you are looking for an energetic, high quality speaker on the subjects of blogging, journalism education, and bring your own device (BYOD), contact her at twitter (@mssackstein) or FaceBook.

Introduction

  • Starr sees blogging as an important tool for educations leaders and students. Blogging adds virtual connections to writing, which is a vital part of communication. Sharing reflections and ideas with an audience can certainly richen one’s educational experience. Few educators, however, have been formally prepared with the necessary skills for teacher blogging, which is the main purpose of this book. This book should make it easier for you to help students reflect, develop metacognitive skills, foster an authentic voice, and develop a deeper understanding of their strengths and challenges.

1. Why Blog

  • Starr starts by pointing out that blogs are the natural evolution of diaries and journals. Anyone in the habit of daily entries is certainly a natural for blogging. The difference of course is that blogs by their nature are public. They generally also allow for comments, so they can be much more collaborative than their predecessors. To buy Starr’s argument you need to share her vision that regular blogging will enhance your writing and thinking ability as you gain stamina and an outlet for your creativity. It will also make you more accountable to your audience and allow opportunities for greater reflection.
  • Like myself, Starr had help from someone who knew more about the technicalities of setting up a blog, so don’t feel bad if you do too. Most districts should have tech support to help you get thinks going. Perhaps an easier place to start is with a Twitter account. With a 140 character limit, Twitter is considered a microblog. Once you start you can follow your favorite news outlets, which can save you time. Also try to find educators with common interests to connect with. (Each day I post the Twitter names of top bloggers.) Look for opportunities to engage in Twitter chats. My favorite is #edchat. In addition to tweeting out your thoughts and opinions, you can seek help for others. The purpose for blogging in a teaching context is to expand your personal learning community (PLN).
  • Make sure your tweets and posts avoid going off on a tirade, and back up your opinions. While it is easy to tweet every day, extended blog posts might be something you post less often. Keep in mind that once you start, students and parents will naturally find and follow you, so you might as well use your blog to connect them to what happens in your classroom and school. At the end of this chapter there are links and advice from other teachers who blog. Like all chapters, it also ends with reflection questions that you can consider yourself and discuss with others.
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Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Brain Rules

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina tells how what we know about brain science can be used to positively influence our daily lives. This book is vital for educators, policy makers, and anyone who wants to get more out of their gray matter. Click at the bottom of any page to purchase this essential book.

Dr. John Medina

  • John is a developmental molecular biologist focused on the genes involved in human brain development and the genetics of psychiatric disorders. Most of his life has been spent working in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. He teaches at Seattle Pacific University where he is the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research. He also teaches in the bioengineering department at the University of Washington. His other books include Brain Rules for Baby, The Genetic Inferno, as well as books on Alzheimer’s, depression, and AIDS.

The Brain is an Amazing Thing

  • The human brain is easily the most sophisticated information-transfer system on Earth. As you read this, it sends jolts of electricity crackling through hundreds of miles of microscopic wires in less time than it takes to blink. Brain scientists have a lot to learn, but they rarely have conversations with educators and business people. This book is meant to fill this communications void. Each of the 12 rules here are supported by research that has been replicated, and John focuses on how what we know can be applied to our daily lives.
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Brain-Powered Science Reform Your Science Program

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Reform your science program one activity at a time with Dr. Thomas O’Brien’s three volume Brain-Powered Science: Teaching and Learning with Discrepant Events effort for grades 5-12. It is a cerebral treat for science teachers, science students, and science teacher educators alike. At the heart of each activity is a hands-on discrepant-event, which provides an unexpected outcome. This generates a need-to-know that motivates learners’ to think and often makes science fun and funny. The activities are safe, simple, inexpensive, enjoyable, effective, and relevant. Teachers who use these activities should also find that they serve to open their own doors to learning. In all cases there is a deep connection to recognized national science education standards. (Brain-Powered Science, (© 2010) More Brain-Powered Science, (© 2011), and Even More Brain-Powered Science, (© 2011) are published by the NSTA Press: Arlington, VA.)

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Bull Spotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation by Loren Collins

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Bullspotting

Bull Spotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation by Loren Collins will help you spot and avoid lies in a world with more accessible truth and lies than ever. In the age of fake news you can learn how to use the tools of critical thinking to identify the common features and trends of misinformation campaigns. Loren will help you tell the difference between real conspiracies and conspiracy theories, real science from pseudoscience, and history from fantasy.

Loren Collins

  • Loren is and attorney and firm associate with the Law Office of W. Bryant Greene, III, P. C. He is the creator of Barackryphal, a website that debunks the fallacies propounded by birthers regarding the birth and citizenship of President Obama. He has written for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the topics of misinformation and critical thinking.

1. Baloney Detection

  • Operating in the world efficiently depends on one’s ability to identify crap, also known as misinformation. Today we are constantly bombarded with information, which makes crap detection more import than ever. We tend to rely on common sense, but recall that there was a time when common sense told our ancestors that the world was flat. It can be helpful, but we need to look to science to uncover the truth.
  • Most of us are not conditioned to distinguish between good and bad sources. We favor information from sources we like and visa versa. We accept information that supports our beliefs, and doubt information that doesn’t. This is know as confirmation bias. Other biases include having our thinking impacted by how something is framed, and putting more weight on recent information.
  • People evolved to spot patterns even when they don’t exist and to create stories, myths, to explain the patterns. The ancient Greeks, for example, created different Gods to explain how the world worked.
  • A common feature of creative misinformation is the reliance of anomalies. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t produce a cohesive alternative theory. The idea is that if you can undermine one detail of the consensus view you have disproved it. If you see this in action, it tends to be a good means of spotting misinformation. Occam’s razor tells us that the explanation that makes the fewest assumptions is most likely to be the correct one.

2. Denialism

  • Denialism concerns the rejection of truth accepted by experts. In some cases popular opinion denies scientific facts. For example, a 2010 poll showed that 40% of Americans believe humankind was created in our present form less than ten thousand years ago. The primary tactic is to look for anomalies that can poke holes in established theories. Deniers do not advance a cohesive alternative theory that can be tested.
  • When confronted with evidence, deniers will often say it is forged or fake. When evidence can’t be denied they may say that it means something else like the Nazi gas chambers were not used for mass killings. Fake experts are also associated with deniers. While they may have college degrees, the degrees are usually in unrelated fields. Subjective experiences and anecdotes are often treated as solid evidence.
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