7 Amazing Education Books You Don’t Get to Read This Summer

This time of year, I tend to share suggested reading lists, and this year will likely be no different. However, I thought I would start off by sharing a different type of reading list, one that you can’t use. Why? These books don’t exist, but IMHO, they should. They are all books that I’d love to make time to write, and I still might get there on some of them, but for now, maybe this imaginary list is enough to motivate myself or someone else to get going. Ever since I read one of Stanislaw Lem’s book reviews of books that never existed, I found myself intrigued by this idea. So, let the suggested reading list of non-existent books begin!

1. The Why, What, and How of Digital Badges for Learning – This is a deep dive into the growing movement around open and digital badges. While there are a couple of books on the market about digital badges, there is nothing on the market that focuses upon designing and using digital badges for learning, especially one that looks at the benefits and drawbacks, important considerations, suggested first steps, along with a list of cases and examples to get you started. Whether you are a skeptic, advocate, or clueless about badges, this book will get you up to speed and provide you with a solid base about this important topic.

2. Self-Directed Learning in the Digital Age – The technological possibilities have caught up with our educational imaginations! The digital world is electrifying and amplifying the possibilities for self-directed learning! There is no shortage of books and articles that talk about the critical 21st century skill of learning how to learn, and more people are using the phrase “self-directed learning.” However, almost all the great texts on this subject were published a decade or longer ago. This text builds on the great work of self-directed learning beacons like Knowles and Gibbons, but provides a vision and explanation of how educational innovations, the digital world, and visions of self-directed learning are combining to make this the right time for SDL to flourish! The author gives a compelling case for the importance of self-directed learning, illustrates how the digital world is empowering self-directed learners, shares fascinating examples of self-directed learning in the digital age, includes an informative and inspiring chapter on how to become a digital age self-directed learning, and concludes with tips for parents and educators.

3. The Blended & Online Learning Educational Innovation Tour Guide – Are you an educator who wants to make sense of the many educational trends and innovations that have emerged over the last 5-10 years? Whether you are feeling left behind, you want a quick refresher, or need to fill in a few gaps; this book is a great place to start. Each chapter provides an introduction to one of ten different hot topics in education, providing a short background, explaining how it is influencing and being used in schools and classrooms, and giving practical exercises to learn more or try it out for yourself. You’ll find chapters on topics like game-based learning, project-based learning, digital badges for learning, adaptive learning, 1:1 programs, blended learning, online learning, massive open online courses, global education, and personalized learning.

4. Learning Beyond Letter Grades – Unless you are one of those few rare people, the word “assessment” is not what excites and inspires you about education. This book might change your mind. It gives a  fresh (although not entirely new) perspective on assessment by illustrating how your assessment plans can add rich meaning, mentoring, motivation, and increased student mastery in almost any teaching and learning environment. Based on the 2014 MOOC by this title, this text makes a compelling case that letter grades are not enough, that high-impact learning calls designing learning environments and experiences that are rich with useful, informative and high-impact feedback. Focusing on formative more than summative assessment, this text includes chapters on topics like the limitation of letter grades, the power of formative assessment, narrative assessment, portfolio assessment,  authentic assessment, competency-based assessment, digital badges for learning, peer assessment, self-assessment, and assessment as learning.

5. How To Design a School That Feels Like a Factory – This is short and quick satirical look at many dominant practices in contemporary education: letter grades, bell schedules, the Carnegie unit, dividing learners by age, and more.  The author provides a candid, honest, eye-opening, sometimes entertaining, look at eight “technologies” that shape many schools, arguing that it is time to look beyond them. The author ends the book with three chapters, each of which tell the story of a different way, describing examples of strange schools that moved away from or entirely abandoned some of these factory features in search for a new model for schooling.

6. Un-Disciplined Learning – What is your favorite subject in school? That question makes total sense to most of us because we grew up in schools systems that divide learning into discrete subjects or content areas. We do math in math class, and reading literature in English class. While acknowledging the importance of helping students learning to think “disciplinarily”, this book highlights the benefits and possibilities of what he calls un-disciplined learning, learning that is not divided into discrete content areas, but is driven by questions, problems, and challenges. Along the way, he introduces you to the many forms of “un-disciplined learning” life and learning organizations: case-based learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning, challenge-based learning, inquiry-based learning, the Learning in Depth movement, and a simple but powerful concluding chapter on what he calls question-based learning.

7. How to Design a Self-Directed Learning School – Based on study of dozens of people who have done it, this is a nuts and bolts guide for how to re-imagine and re-design a school around the vision of cultivating human agency, enabled, confident, competent self-directed learners. It provides practical steps on how to start the year how to organize the school day (and the physical space); how to communicate this to students, parents, and community; how to find the right teachers; and how to address issues related to standards and expectations for external stakeholders.

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is the author of Missional Moonshots, Assistant Vice President of Academics, Associate Professor of education, and a frequent keynote speaker and consultant on topics related to educational innovation and entrepreneurship, futures in education, and the intersection of education and digital culture. Opinions expressed here do not reflect those of his primary employer(s).