Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Reads This Year

Every year I set a goal of reading one book a month during the school year and three books per month during the summer.  It's a good thing I exceeded my goal last summer because I haven't held up my end of the bargain this school year.

Still, here is a look back at the best books I read this year

Mindset - Carol Dweck

I actually learned about Dweck's work when I was part of a committee from UND that presented to area teachers, principals, and superintendents last spring.  One of our committee members, Jared, who is a principal in Devil's Lake, raved about Dweck's work, especially "the growth mindset."

This rung a bell because prior to instituting our RAMP UP for Readiness program at LHS, we were assigned an article on the growth mindset.

Then I was reading Little Bets (I'll talk about that a bit later), and the author also had quite a bit on Dweck's work, so I thought it was high time to order a copy.

It was one of the most insightful books I've read in a long time.  I just wish I would have read it when I was in college - or at least - beginning to teach.

Now, though, I'm hoping to order a classroom set of books to use in College Comp II.

Here is the author talking more about the growth mindset.

How We Got to NowSteven Johnson

It's hard to underestimate how huge of a fan of Johnson's I am.  It all began when I stumbled across a couple podcasts that he was featured in.

Then I read Everything Bad is Good For You (parts of which I use in College  Comp 2), Where Good Ideas Come From, Future Perfect (which we jig-saw in College Comp 2 and students (along with a teacher / administrator) teach a chapter to the rest of the class), The Ghost Map (which I hope to teach in College Comp this new year), The Invention of Air, and now How We Got to Now.

I think I became fascinated with Johnson when I saw this seminal TED Talk (he is actually one of the few people to do multiple TED Talks).

Like a lot of his other works, How We Got to Now looks at innovations we take for granted.  It was also an amazing TV series featured on PBS (and available on iTunes).  We watch the episode Clean in class and apply all that we have learned about innovation to it.

Here are the six innovations that Johnson argues created the modern world: Glass, Cold, Sound, Clean, Time, and Light.  Most people have no clue all of the amazing people and events led to the rise of these six things that make our modern world possible.

This led me to a most interesting thought experiment.

Who are the 5 (or 10) most important people of the past 500 years?

For my money, here is my list -

Johannes Gutenberg (the printing press! Come on!  What aspect of our lives didn't that effect?)

Tim Burners-Lee (the world wide web! Come on!  What aspect of our lived didn't that effect?)

Shakespeare (I'd be kicked out of the English club if I didn't list him)

Gandhi (I was tempted to put Martin Luther King Jr, but he was heavily influenced by Mahata, so I went with Gadhni instead.  His nonviolent civil disobedience changed how we fight for change)

Einstein (mostly for his work on the Manhattan Project.  If he hadn't come to America, we well could all be speaking German now and living in a Nazi controlled world).

This is just a brief list. I could go on - Martin Luther, Pope Francis, George Washington, Henry Ford, Queen Victoria, FDR, and on and on and on.

Little Bets - Peter Sims

I can't recall how I stumbled upon this great book, but it was the first book I read last summer.

This book's subtitle says it all - "How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries." Sims explores some of the major breakthroughs and discovered, much like Johnson does in his book, that the major innovations that occur don't happen in a grand flash of light or a monumental breakthrough.  Instead, they occur when a hundred small bets or discoveries pile up and reach a tipping point.  It is at this tipping point that the disruptive innovation or breakthrough occurs.

This also gives hope to anyone seeking to make a drastic change in their lives.  Sims notes that the best (or at least the most prove) way to institute change is to not put all of your eggs into one basket.  Sims argues that you should have a dozen eggs in a dozen different baskets.

Think of it this way: if you're trying to lose weight, you could go all in and buy that expensive treadmill.  But how often do those just end up collecting dust in the basement?  Or how many actually are getting used consistently three years after they've been paid for?

Sims would argue that if you really want to lose weight, you're better off going for one walk a day, cutting out pop from your diet, drinking more water, do a little weight training in the mornings, going out to eat less often, and taking smaller portions.  Those will add up to more weight loss than simply buying an expensive treadmill and telling yourself that you'll start training for that marathon tomorrow.

Teach Like a  PIRATE - Dave Burgess

This sucker, which was part of our staff reading for the school year, caused quite a ruckus at LHS.  But that's a good thing.

I think there was a ruckus for several reasons.

First, Burgess is a bit over the top.  I like that because that's how I tend to be.  But I certainly can see how others were uncomfortable with this.

Second, it called into question many of our practices.  Burgess certainly doesn't operate under the "this is how we've always done it" mantra.

Third, Burgess puts a premium on engagement and passion in the classroom.  These two things make people uncomfortable.

But I honestly think many people missed the point - think critically about how we can become better teachers by making better connections with our students.

I'm not against the old fashioned way of doing school - practice in class modeled by the teacher and then independent practice at home (otherwise known as homework).  The only problem is that this isn't working for us.  Our scores across the board in math, science, reading, and writing are low.  So what we haven't been doing hasn't worked. Time to change.

And change is what TLAP is all about.

I also heard grumblings about having to read outside books.  Many teachers reasoned that they were experts on what they taught, so why read anything else?

This shocked me a little.

Aren't we supposed to model what eager, curious minds look like?  Should that involve reading and staying at the top of our profession?

I agree, many of my colleagues are quite expert at what they teach.  But if they aren't pushing the boundaries and exploring new things, how will they ever know what else they can be teaching?

Here is the man himself -

What to do When it's Your Turn (and it's Always Your Turn) - Seth Godin

The MAN himself has a new book out.  Only it's not really a book.  It's more like a magazine in book form.  But that's what I love about Godin.  He always pushes the boundaries.  For his last book, The Icharus Deception, he put his money where his mouth was.

He always talks about making a ruckus and how you don't want a map (directions).  What you really want is a compass (so you can make your own directions).  So instead of going to his publisher to publish his next book, he tried to walk his own walk.

He started a kickstarter campaign to raise enough money from his fans to publish the book.  And that's exactly what he did.

This time around, he wanted to push the boundaries of what exactly a book was.  So he has What to do When it's Your Turn (and it's Always Your Turn) which is part book, part blog, part magazine, and part bulletin board, and part Pinterest page.  It's a reading experience unlike anything I've ever seen.

Your Turn Intro Update from Seth Godin on Vimeo.

Talk Like TED - Carmine Gallo

Like many of my recent reads, I came across this one via Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership podcast.

This blew me away so much that I started tweaking all of my slideshows and presentations to reflect Gallo's suggestions.  Now I have a presentation coming up on our MLK tech day called "The Powerpoint Isn't Dead" based off of a lot of Gallo's ideas.

Carmine Gallo: Talk Like TED from BrightSightGroup on Vimeo.

I hope to get copies of this book next year for College Comp 2.  I'd like to have them analyze several TED Talks, something they do in education classes at UND already, for the principles Gallo talks about in his book.

Then I'd like to use 20% time in my class (Wednesdays) to allow students to develop a TEDx Talk on a topic of their choice.  Then at the end of the first quarter, students will present these to the class, peers, parents, and other teachers and administrators they want to invite.

The Skin Trade - George RR Martin

The best damn werewolf story I've ever read.  Period.

This is totally amazing.  I never knew Martin could write horror like this.  It's actually a novella that is part of an anthology called Dark Visions, but this is the crowning piece in there. It won a Stoker award in 1985.

I don't know how this isn't yet a movie.  It'd be amazing.  I hard Martin say that he'd love Paul Giamatti to play the main male character in here.  He'd be perfect!

Luckily, though, there is a graphic novel version of the book.  You've been warned though! Some of the covers are a big gruesome.

So Good They Can't Ignore You - Cal Newport

This was so powerful I asked Mr. Zutz if I could order copies to teach in College Comp 2 this year.  And, as usual, he came through!

I've written about this book at length when I was reading it.

Cal Newport: "Follow Your Passion" Is Bad Advice from 99U on Vimeo.

The Rise - Sarah Lewis

A beautifully written book about the "near win" and how vital it is to success and breakthroughs.  Lewis was fascinated by failure and explored examples of how artists, athletes, explorers, intellectuals, and scientists used their failures (what she calls "near wins") to stay committed to their efforts.

And she has one of the best TED Talks I've ever seen!

I love the line - "Success is hitting that ten ring, but mastery is knowing that it means nothing if you can't do it again and again and again."  That is a message very high school student needs tattooed on their brains.

Jab, Jab, Jab . . . Right Hook! - Gary Vaynerchuk

I bought this two years ago at TIES, but I didn't get a chance to dive into it until this time last year.  It totally changed how I teach.

Here is a longer blog post about all of that.

Now after realizing just how much I spend on Amazon buying new books, I have a New Year's resolution to read all of the books I've bought the past two years before I buy anymore new ones!

That should keep me busy until 2020!

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