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Summer PD Part 2: Top Books for Educators

Written by Natalie Gilbert

During the school year, it’s often difficult for teachers to find the time to read for pleasure. Between coaching sports, supervising extracurricular activities, lesson planning, and grading – not to mention family, friends and social lives – teachers don’t have much free time. This is what makes summer the perfect time to sit back, relax, and read a new book. You might have a stack of personal reads that you are eager to start, or perhaps you want to discover the books that your students might be reading. Or, you might be looking to use your summer reading time to catch up on the new ideas and research that have been published about education. We’ve curated a list below of our favorite recommendations for education books, broken down into three categories. There is a wide range of titles from new and noteworthy books, to innovative ideas, to business strategies that can all be applied in the classroom.


New and Noteworthy

Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani
Educators John Spencer and A.J. Juliani have teamed up to write this book about facilitating design thinking in the classroom, with the purpose of engaging, inspiring, and empowering students. This book proves that even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative educator”, you can still facilitate the design thinking process in your classroom and encourage creativity in your students. Just like Spencer and Juliani’s blogs, this book is a great resource with many practical tips and solutions.

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
Widely known for his popular TED Talk: Do schools kill creativity?, Sir Ken Robinson is a leader on creativity and human potential. His newest book looks at education issues from a national level, and he proposes the adoption of a highly personalized, organic approach to engaging students and developing their love for learning. This is a “big ideas” book and it provides inspiration through anecdotes, case studies, and research that every educator is sure to enjoy.

Learn Like a PIRATE: Empower Your Students to Collaborate, Lead, and Succeed by Paul Solarz
The traditional method of teaching, with teachers steering the ship, is flipped on its head in this engaging read. It suggests that students should take ownership of their learning and that peer collaboration helps to build community and teamwork. The book provides practical strategies for creating a student-led classroom that encourages self-directed learning, collaboration, and leadership.

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd
This book explores how teenagers engage with social media and looks at issues of identity, privacy, safety, danger and bullying. A well-known youth culture and technology expert, danah boyd (lowercase is intentional) breaks down how teenagers use social media in a way that is thoughtful, easy to understand and works to remove any fear that parents or teachers might have. This is a great read for anyone who wants to get a handle on how and why teens use social media.


Innovative Ideas

Deeper Learning by Monica Martinez and Dennis McGrath
Education strategist Monica R. Martinez and sociologist Dennis McGrath profile eight schools in the United States that are transforming the experience of learning. Building from the concept of deeper learning, the authors determine the key ingredients that are making these schools successful. This book provides both a roadmap and inspiration for what is possible in every school.   

Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools by Heather Staker and Michael Horn
A follow-up to the bestseller Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen, this book provides practical suggestions for implementing blended learning techniques in K-12 classrooms. This is a must-read for educators who are looking to integrate online learning into their traditional classroom because it provides a step-by-step framework and advice for building a successful blended learning environment.  

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner
Harvard education expert Tony Wagner interviews real-life innovators and the adults in their lives to find out how innovation and creativity are nurtured and encouraged. He draws the conclusion that play, passion, and purpose have driven these innovators and promoted their success. This book is thought-provoking and offers educators ideas about how to develop innovative thinking in their students.

The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros
In this popular book, principal George Couros encourages educators to move away from expecting compliance from students and towards encouraging them to ask questions, to wonder, and to explore. He argues several points about innovation: that it is a mindset, not a skill, and that it takes innovative educators to develop innovative students. This highly-recommended, practical book encourages educators to embrace change, connect with other educators and to create opportunities for innovation.


Bringing Business Concepts into the Classroom

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Angela Duckworth is an educator-turned-psychologist who has researched the impact of grit on performance. She has determined that grit, rather than talent, I.Q. or circumstances, is a more important factor in the likelihood of success. She presented a TED Talk on the same topic, which draws from her own experience as a teacher and from the experiences of dozens of high achievers. This book would be beneficial to both teachers and parents who are looking to foster perseverance in their students and children.

Drive by Daniel Pink
This book debunks the myth that the best way to motivate others is through a reward-and-punishment system. In the business world, this reward could be money but as teachers know, this could mean points, stars, or special privileges in the classroom. However, Pink asserts that motivation and high performance is developed through the human need to be self-directed and to learn and create new things. While Pink looks at four decades of scientific research on human motivation and applies it to the working world, there are many applications that can be made to the classroom.

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger
Warren Berger, a journalist and innovation expert, praises the power of questioning in this practical read. He points out that children constantly ask questions when they are young, but this habit fades over time. Drawing from experiences of successful companies like Google, Netflix, IDEO, and Airbnb, Berger proves the value in asking deep, imaginative and “beautiful” questions.

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness by Todd Rose
This revolutionary book breaks the myth that there is such a thing as “average” because, as Rose argues, the concept is abstract and doesn’t actually exist in reality. The author provides interesting insight into how average is ingrained in our society and in our schools, with GPAs and test results. His antidote to average is his three principles of individuality: the jaggedness principle, the context principle, and the pathways principle. With applications to both the working world and the classroom, this is a great read to remind yourself that students are much more than test scores.

Happy reading!

(Missed Part 1 of this series? Be sure to check these awesome TED Talks that relate to the classroom).

About the author

Natalie Gilbert

Natalie has spent the last five years working in both traditional and experiential education settings in Haiti, India, and South Korea. Her background is in journalism and education, and she is currently pursuing her M.A. in Educational Technology. She enjoys running, exploring new neighborhoods, and cooking.

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