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Summer Reads for Teachers

Help students navigate their digital lives by nourishing your own professional development.

Erin Wilkey Oh | June 3, 2019

Summer may be a break from the daily work of the classroom, but any teacher knows it's not a "three-month holiday" by any means. Summertime can offer teachers much-deserved time to think and grow. It's when many of you have the breathing room to reflect on your teaching practice, gain new skills and approaches to your work, and connect with peers to learn from them and share your expertise. If you're lucky, some of that might happen poolside. But more commonly, you're trekking to conferences near and far, taking courses to stay up on current research and teaching methodology, and digging into books, blogs, and other resources you'd set aside for "when I have time."

As you start to plan your professional learning for the summer, take a look at this recommended reading list from the Common Sense Education team. We include books, blogs, and newsletters that cover a range of topics from social media and disinformation to Gamergate. As you think about how to continue helping students navigate their digital lives, these resources can enrich that work.

 

Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning

In this collection of in-depth case studies, cultural anthropologist Mizuno (Mimi) Ito and her colleagues shine a light on the positive ways kids are using new technologies to connect around shared interests, learn from one another, engage in creative production, and more. This fresh look into young people's media use offers educators new perspectives on the value of interest-driven learning -- rich food for thought and inspiration for the classroom.

 

The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life

Anya Kamenetz, lead digital education correspondent for NPR, cuts through the noise with practical, research-backed advice in this clear-eyed take on parenting in the digital age. Her message (inspired by Michael Pollan) is one of balance: "Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly with others." She recommends prioritizing other activities and letting screen time come later. Her writing is accessible, and her recommendations offer parents actionable ideas for managing family media use.  

 

The New Childhood

In this thought-provoking read, Jordan Shapiro draws from research across a range of disciplines to help parents embrace raising kids in the digital world. He compares today's childhood experiences with those of past generations to emphasize his positive perspective on how digital technology is shaping our children. Shapiro weaves in personal stories to ground his arguments and gives concrete examples of how he approaches technology with his own children.

 

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy

A classic of educational futurism, James Paul Gee's book remains an important reminder of the unique and powerful ways games and play can help us learn and think. It's a great introduction to the field of game-based learning and offers a refreshingly radical (even so many years later!) approach that any game -- not just those designed to be so -- can be educational.

 

An Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy

If you're tired of discussion of digital classrooms that de-center and diminish the role of teachers and the agency of students, then this book is for you. It collects years of thinking by the two authors and is both intellectually rigorous and highly accessible. Morris and Stommel's work is a vital reframing of digital pedagogy where both teachers and students are revolutionaries, aided by, but not defined by, the tools they use.

 

Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities

A useful rethinking of the struggles many students have with writing. John Warner's argument is sobering: We've been teaching to the test and, as a result, depriving students of the joy of meaningful writing. When students write to do well on assessments, they use a soul-crushing paint-by-numbers approach. This formulaic writing might work for assessments, but it doesn't work for readers or writers. Warner argues that we need to kill the five-paragraph essay and refocus on developing a writer's practice that helps develop students' creative and expressive abilities.

 

Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology

Instead of dwelling on the risks kids face in the digital world, this practical guide for parents keeps readers focused on the benefits and opportunities technology provides. Based on research and interviews with dozens of experts, Diana Graber touches on a range of topics -- from protecting personal information and avoiding cyberbullying to identifying fake news and balancing virtual and real life. She shares at-home discussion topics and activities that families can slip into their daily routines with kids.

 

Digital Citizenship in Action: Empowering Students to Engage in Online Communities

More and more, educators are shifting their approach to digital citizenship to focus less on the don'ts and more on the dos. Instead of using digital citizenship lessons as a reaction to negative incidents, schools are adopting digital citizenship to be proactive and empower students with the skills they need to be positive participants in the online world. In this practical book for educators, Kristen Mattson embraces this shift and provides ideas for how we can create learning opportunities that help support students in grades 6–12 in building these critical skills. She emphasizes having students lead the conversation and empowering them to be the experts.

 

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters

What would the world look like if expertise were not valued? Tom Nichols, an established professor of international affairs, claims we're already on this path. He argues that we have shifted from trusting established bodies of knowledge and experts to mistrusting them. His examination includes a look at an increasing mistrust in higher education, the rise of information and misinformation online, the decline of the news industry, and more. Ultimately, Nichols claims that without trust in expertise, a common ground of facts, and established bodies of knowledge, we're doomed. And democracy will suffer.

 

Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self

With mobile devices and anytime, anywhere connectivity, moments of boredom are now few and far between. In this fascinating exploration of the importance of boredom, journalist Manoush Zomorodi offers us a research-based look at how our relationship with technology is affecting our productivity and creativity. She gives practical advice on how to examine our own technology use and introduces the "Bored and Brilliant Challenge," which could be a fun way to bring topics of media balance and digital well-being to the classroom.

 

Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate

While it might seem like the world is more polarized after the 2016 election, the hate and vitriol circulating on social media has been long-festering. This book by game developer and artist Zoë Quinn documents her experiences as a victim and opponent of Gamergate, a hate campaign aimed at marginalized folks in the video game community that many see as a precursor to the alt-right and toxic culture found in many pockets of the internet. While that may sound heavy -- and it is -- Quinn also offers hard-earned lessons on how to confront and combat online hate, lessons our students need to learn.

 

"The Sift"

This weekly newsletter from Peter Adams of the News Literacy Project, subtitled "An Educator’s Guide to the Week in News Literacy," offers a deep dive into the week's news through a critical media-literacy lens. Adams presents a roundup of viral rumors with an analysis of each along with discussion of the breaking news of the week with teaching tips and lesson ideas. You'll find tons of inspiration and information in this incredibly rich, free resource.

 

unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation

As politicians, pundits, and experts (verified or not) fill the news cycle and our social media feeds with their perspectives, it can be hard to identify what's factual and what's "spin." To help us all navigate this complex media landscape, Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the founders of FactCheck.org, offer a kind of primer on disinformation and biased media reporting to give us some useful tools to begin differentiating fact from fiction. From how to recognize and identify deception in media to an analysis of the tricks people use to try to convince us of something, the media-literacy tools and strategies in this book will serve you and your students well.

 

When Old Technologies Were New

It's easy to get lost in the "newness" of technology, especially now with widespread anxiety over the internet, social media, and smartphones. Every innovation is touted as transforming or destroying our world. But what happens when you look back on old technologies that were once new? Did these technologies change our lives? Was each new development either the best thing ever or the worst? Carolyn Marvin takes a look back at the technologies of the 19th century and finds out something surprising: Perhaps technologies don’t change us but rather reflect changes that have already happened. While this is a thoroughly academic book -- for better and worse -- if you can get through it, it might just change the way you think about the world.

 

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood ... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education

In this accessible and deeply insightful book, Christopher Emdin diagnoses a pressing, long-running problem in American schooling: white teachers who see themselves as the saviors of kids of color. Instead of the traditional narrative of uplifting these students, Emdin offers an alternative: reality pedagogy. This means starting from the lived experiences of kids of color, understanding their talents, and giving them the support and agency to succeed on their own terms.