Ten books from MIT faculty to expand your knowledge of teaching, learning, and technology

reading

As we head into Spring Break and, soon, into summer, you may already be building your reading list.

I know not everyone is busy marking professional learning books like me (yes, I have a sickness), but if you are, I have some recommendations.

Here are 10 books shared by MIT Open Learning faculty that explore teaching, learning, and technology. The books cover topics such as innovation in manufacturing, creating Android apps, sociable robots, educational technology, the science of learning, and workforce education.

One of my favorites, Failure to Disrupt, is on the list. I believe that text is required reading for anyone in the educational technology space if you’re brave enough to admit that we are often wrong about what technology can do in our schools.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Redefining College & Career Readiness for Students

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Ask ten teachers what their job is, and you’ll receive ten different answers. However, most of them share the common goal of preparing the next generation of citizens. Yet, educators acknowledge that the world in which students will live and work will radically differ from the current version. Therefore, it is nearly impossible for the education system to prepare students for that future fully.

To address this challenge, educators often discuss the concept of “college and career readiness.” Being “college and career ready” means that students possess the skills to strategically and effectively apply their learning in various situations, enabling their success in both academic and work environments. This readiness extends beyond academic knowledge and encompasses essential skills such as resilience, mental health, and performance, which are crucial for adapting to an ever-changing future.

However, the focus on specific pathways for college and career readiness often stems from traditional educational structures and measures of success. There is a growing awareness that a one-size-fits-all approach may not suit all students, and personalized learning experiences are increasingly valued. It is important to recognize that success in the future will require adaptability and a broad skill set beyond academic knowledge.

To prepare students for an unpredictable future, we must move beyond traditional 20th-century learning practices and cultivate an updated skill set. This includes fostering strong learning and critical thinking skills and developing “human” skills that equip students to navigate an uncertain world. Moreover, it is crucial to view students as change-makers and provide them with opportunities to develop traits such as optimism and resilience. This preparation should involve nurturing creativity, encouraging exploration, and fostering a willingness to take risks. It is essential to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to progress steadily towards their goals.

However, it is important to acknowledge that a portion of the student population does not fit into the accepted mold of “college and career readiness” imposed by the system. These are the students who consider themselves artists, creators, inventors, and so on. They do not neatly fit into career pathways or college preparatory tracks, which are currently popular trends in high school education.

Regardless of our efforts, we cannot force these square pegs into round holes, or any other shape for that matter. Instead, we should explore ways for these students to create their own paths.

This is where personalized learning comes into play. Personalized learning is becoming increasingly important as it caters to the unique needs of each student, promoting progress at an individual pace. It empowers students to take greater ownership of their learning journey, leading to deeper learning, increased motivation, and improved relationships and communication skills. The implementation of personalized learning requires a shift from traditional classrooms to learning hubs, from a rigid curriculum to personalized pathways, and from a fixed pace to personalized progressions through cycles of inquiry. Creating personalized learning pathways for teachers and recognizing their competency in specific areas through micro-credentials is also beneficial. Additionally, online platforms can offer a range of activities that align with each student’s unique interests and strengths.

Personalized learning and the concept of graduate profiles contribute to a new perspective on career readiness by focusing on individual student strengths and interests. Personalized learning enables student-driven models in which students engage in meaningful, authentic, and rigorous challenges to showcase desired outcomes. This approach fosters skills like goal setting, time management, and the ability to navigate unpredictable obstacles, all of which are crucial for career readiness.

Graduate profiles outline the skills and competencies that a district or institution aims for its students to possess upon graduation. These profiles serve as a guiding principle for improvement efforts and reflect the collective commitment to equipping students with the skills necessary for personal success and meaningful civic engagement. By embracing personalized learning, graduate profiles, and similar concepts, we can better prepare students for their future careers in a rapidly changing world.

Further Reading:

How to Use Google Drive in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide

In today’s digital age, the classroom is no longer confined to four walls. Educators can create a dynamic and collaborative learning environment with tools like Google Drive. This guide focuses on how to use Google Drive in the classroom, offering insights and tips to enhance teaching and learning experiences.

What is Google Drive, and Why Use It in the Classroom?

Google Drive is a cloud-based storage system that allows users to save, share, and collaborate on files. Here’s why it’s a game-changer for educators:

  1. Accessibility: Teachers and students can access files from anywhere, anytime.
  2. Collaboration: Work on documents simultaneously, fostering teamwork and creativity.
  3. Organization: Keep all classroom materials in one place, neatly organized.
  4. Integration: Seamlessly integrate with other Google tools like Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
how to use google drive in the classroom
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Getting Started: How to Use Google Drive in the Classroom

Setting Up Google Drive

Access Google Drive by visiting drive.google.com. Teachers can also install Google Drive on their PCs or mobile devices for on-the-go access.

Creating and Organizing Folders

Create folders for different subjects, projects, or students. Customize them with colors for easy identification.

Uploading Teaching Materials

Drag and drop files or use the “New” button to upload lesson plans, presentations, worksheets, etc.

Sharing Resources with Students

Share files or folders with students by generating a link or inviting them via email. Set permissions to control editing or viewing rights.

Bestseller No. 1
Google Drive
  • Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files and more with Google Drive.
  • English (Publication Language)
Bestseller No. 2
Mastering Google Drive: A Step-by-Step Handbook for Beginners to Streamline Your Workflow, Secure Your Data, and Collaborate with Ease
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Pascall, Robert G. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 98 Pages – 01/08/2024 (Publication Date) – PublishDrive (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 3
Google Drive Made Easy: Online Storage and Sharing the Easy Way (Productivity Apps Made Easy)
  • Bernstein, James (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 113 Pages – 08/25/2022 (Publication Date) – CME Publishing (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 4
Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes: The unofficial guide to Google Drive, Docs, Sheets & Slides
  • Lamont, Ian (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 104 Pages – 01/26/2021 (Publication Date) – In 30 Minutes Guides (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 5
Google Drive Reference and Cheat Sheet: The unofficial cheat sheet reference for Google Drive
  • hole punched
  • high quality card stock
  • 4 pages
  • made in USA
  • keyboard shortcuts
Bestseller No. 6
The Google Workspace Bible: [14 in 1] The Ultimate All-in-One Guide from Beginner to Advanced | Including Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Every Other App from the Suite
  • Pascall, Robert G. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 279 Pages – 03/07/2023 (Publication Date) – Zetra WebWorker (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 7
Google Drive: The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Mastering Google Drive
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Robinson, Noah (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 36 Pages – 10/15/2016 (Publication Date)
Bestseller No. 8
Google Drive Quick Reference Training Card – Laminated Tutorial Guide Cheat Sheet (Instructions and Tips)
  • TeachUcomp Inc (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 2 Pages – 09/09/2021 (Publication Date) – TeachUcomp Inc (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 9
Google Drive Quick Source Reference Guide
  • Quick Source (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 6 Pages – 03/01/2013 (Publication Date) – Quick Source (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 10
Google Drive & Docs in 30 Minutes (2nd Edition): The unofficial guide to the new Google Drive, Docs, Sheets & Slides
  • Lamont, Ian (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 112 Pages – 01/26/2015 (Publication Date) – In 30 Minutes Guides (Publisher)

Collaborative Learning with Google Drive

Collaborative Projects

Assign group projects where students can work together on the same document, encouraging collaboration and critical thinking.

Real-Time Feedback

Provide real-time feedback on students’ work by adding comments directly in the documents.

Classroom Portfolios

Students can create digital portfolios within Google Drive, showcasing their work throughout the year.

Tips for Using Google Drive in the Classroom

  1. Set Clear Guidelines: Teach students how to use Google Drive responsibly and set clear guidelines for collaboration.
  2. Use Templates: Create templates for common assignments to streamline the process.
  3. Explore Add-Ons: Utilize add-ons and extensions that integrate with Google Drive to enhance functionality.
  4. Monitor Collaborations: Keep track of changes and contributions by using the “Version History” feature.

Conclusion: Embrace Digital Learning with Google Drive

How to use Google Drive in the classroom is a question with an exciting array of answers. From fostering collaboration to organizing resources, Google Drive offers a plethora of opportunities to enhance the learning experience.

Teachers can create a more engaging, interactive, and organized learning environment by integrating Google Drive into the classroom. It’s not just about storing files; it’s about creating a dynamic space where education thrives.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Reading Something Wonderful – I Think

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The Internet is home to so much of the world’s written text that it’s difficult to figure out some of the “best” articles.

Of course, “best” is 100% subjective, and your favorite text is likely not mine. However, some works are interesting enough that many have shared them repeatedly.

I’m not speaking of the time-tested classics of literature that you can find for free in ebook or PDF form but of articles that have been produced primarily during the Information Age.

Now, Ben Springwater has built a site that hopes to feature many of these articles in one place.

Or, maybe it’s just a cool way to promote the Matter app, designed for reading web-based content at your leisure. (Personally, I use Readwise for this same function.)

Either way, the site is worth checking out.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Unveiling the Power of Technology in Education: A Comprehensive Guide

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The Indispensable Role of Technology in Learning

Today, we’re witnessing a transformative phase in the educational landscape, significantly driven by technology. From creating engaging and immersive learning experiences to empowering educators and students with access to limitless resources, technology plays an indispensable role in modern education.

The progression from traditional chalk-and-board classrooms to interactive digital learning environments is not just a shift in teaching methods. It’s a change that enhances student engagement, collaboration, and personalized learning while opening avenues to global knowledge repositories.

Sale
Technology Integration and High Possibility Classrooms
  • Hunter, Jane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 218 Pages – 03/23/2015 (Publication Date) – Routledge (Publisher)

Technological Integration: A Step-By-Step Implementation Guide

For any educational institution planning to embrace technology, it’s crucial to understand the implementation process. This will ensure a smooth transition and maximize the benefits of technology integration.

Step 1: Establish Clear Goals

Begin with a clear vision of what you wish to achieve. Establish the learning outcomes and the ways technology can enhance those. Whether it’s increasing student engagement, encouraging collaboration, or personalizing learning experiences, having clear goals will guide your technological integration.

Step 2: Assess the Infrastructure

Assessing the existing infrastructure is the next critical step. Determine the state of current resources, including hardware, software, and internet connectivity, and identify areas of improvement. This will ensure that the technology integration aligns with the institution’s capabilities.

Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning: (A Quick Guide to Educational Technology Integration and Digital Learning Spaces) (Solutions for Creating the Learning Spaces Students Deserve)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • McLeod, Scott (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 80 Pages – 09/21/2018 (Publication Date) – Solution Tree Press (Publisher)

Step 3: Professional Development for Teachers

Equip teachers with the necessary training to navigate the new technology. Professional development programs ensure teachers are comfortable using the tools, making their teaching more effective.

Step 4: Evaluate and Choose the Right Technology

Research and identify the technologies that align with your goals. Whether it’s learning management systems (LMS), interactive whiteboards, or student response systems, evaluate each based on their utility and compatibility with your institution’s needs.

Step 5: Gradual Integration and Constant Evaluation

Integrate technology gradually into the learning environment and constantly evaluate its effectiveness. This will ensure that the technology enhances the learning experience as intended.

Teach and Learn with Technology: Theory and Application of Classroom Technology Integration
  • Outka-Hill, Jill (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 244 Pages – 11/15/2022 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)

The Impact of Technology on Student Engagement and Collaboration

The integration of technology in education can greatly enhance student engagement. Interactive tools and multimedia content cater to various learning styles, making the learning process more engaging and inclusive.

Additionally, technology fosters collaboration among students. Digital platforms enable students to collaborate in real-time, irrespective of their geographical location. This cultivates a sense of community and encourages peer-to-peer learning.

Technology and Personalized Learning

One of the significant benefits of technology in education is the opportunity for personalized learning. Digital platforms provide adaptive learning experiences tailored to individual students’ needs, thereby making learning more effective and enjoyable.

The Way Forward

With the growing influence of technology in education, it’s important for educational institutions to adapt and evolve. While the path to technological integration may seem daunting, it promises a future of enhanced learning experiences, better student engagement, and personalized education.

The future of education is undoubtedly intertwined with technology. It’s time to embrace this change and leverage the endless opportunities that technology presents to enhance learning experiences. With a strategic approach to implementation, we can ensure that technology serves as an effective tool in our mission to educate and inspire the next generation.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Comparing and Testing AI for Education

AI robots becoming the new rulers, a grand throne room filled with robots in regal attire, adorned with glowing symbols and intricate metalwork, human ambassadors kneel in submission, the mood is one of awe and submissiveness, Artwork, a detailed Renaissance-style oil painting with the use of dramatic chiaroscuro to highlight the metallic sheen and grandeur of the robots

Professor and friend John Nash co-hosts a podcast on all things online learning. In a recent episode, he shared his work on coaching ChatGPT to write more “human” and the results are… interesting…

While generative AI tools are very cool right now, they are a long way from being truly disruptive and overtaking the world.

Here’s what’s interesting. Scaffolding the prompts, defining perplexity and burstiness, and then prompting an explicit increase of those measures made the text “human” to GPTZero. Still, it also made the text ridiculously flowery and inflated. Kind of like when a master’s student thinks they are supposed to “sound academic.” It was so bad that the ChatGPT output was immediately suspect to my human eyes, even though GPTZero said it was likely written entirely by a human.

– John Nash, PhD

Using Multiple Tools for Content Creation in the Classroom

We’re wrapping up the 2022-2023 school year, and several teachers in my district are continuing their journeys into deeper learning.

Rather than freaking out and focusing on end-of-year testing that means nothing (you know I’m right), I’m working with several 8th-grade classes on worthwhile projects.

One class is designing tourism resources for Bardstown. If you’re not familiar, the tourism industry is HUGE in this area thanks to two things: history and bourbon. Kentucky tourists spent $5.9 billion in 2020, and many of those dollars can be traced to bourbon tourism.

Students are working in groups to create materials for different tourist destinations in Bardstown. They got to choose the location, the format for their materials, and how they will ultimately present them.

Let’s connect this work back to the 4 Shifts and how we’re using it to foster deeper learning in classrooms:

Deeper Thinking and Learning

  • Students are researching famous local places. Some of them are taking tours after school hours, conducting interviews, and doing independent research
  • Students are discussing what information needs to be included in their information. What should be in a brochure? What do we need to mention in a video?

Authentic Work

  • Students are using design tools that are used in the real world to create and publish their work: Canva, YouTube, CapCut, etc.
  • Could these projects be used as part of a tourism promotion? Perhaps. This work will likely be a “first draft” of a potential business or tourism department collaboration.

Student Agency & Personalization

  • Students chose the format and tools.
  • Students chose the topic

Technology Infusion

  • Any technology usage is secondary to the research and information presented. Technology is merely the tool conveying the message, not the message itself.

I could go on, but I’ll save a further discussion for the project completion. Suffice it to say the kids are very interested in these projects and what they are learning about their hometown.

Student working on a brochure for a local restaurant
Student work on a brochure for a local restaurant

I came in to assist in the combination of technology with content. Students are creating on different platforms and need to tie the information together. Several have made videos that we’ve uploaded to YouTube. We created QR codes and added them to the brochures. We’ve used royalty-free music for the videos. Some students even used AI (yep) to help write the script before recording voiceovers.

My point for sharing this work is this: diving into deeper learning can be fun for you and your students. Will some resist? Yes. Will some still find ways to disengage and not really accomplish anything? Yes.

But it’s all part of the adventure of learning. For them, and for us.



Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

The Reading List for February 2023

Two things came to mind as I began compiling this month’s reading list: deeper learning in schools and the power of embracing your authentic self. The first one is, of course, on my mind pretty much every day. Any work that I have done in education has ultimately been centered on creating deeper learning experiences for students.

Second, the idea of embracing your authentic self is important to me since I spent the majority of my life not being my authentic self. Growing up in an environment in which I was expected to do “the right thing”—a pretty subjective idea—and what I wanted to do wasn’t easy. I’m getting there, but there haven’t been many of my 46 years on this planet that have been guided by my own passions and thoughts.

Now, on to this month’s book recommendations:

Failure to Disrupt

If there was ever a book that arrived at the perfect time in the education world, it’s this one.

In this book, Justin Reich argues against the idea that technology can completely change schools and how students learn. He does this by describing and analyzing different educational technologies in a realistic way. Reich draws on his positions at Harvard and MIT to provide unparalleled insight into the progress of these trends and their limitations in practice.

This book sheds light on the issues with educational technologies, such as the various approaches and tools developed by technologists. It offers valuable insights into what to consider when adopting, utilizing, and implementing technologies in different educational settings, especially during the era of virtual learning and social distancing.

In Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education, the author questions the ability of educational technologies to bring transformative changes to education. Despite the promises of affordable, accessible, effective, and engaging education for all students, the author points out the inconsistencies in enrollment and completion of online courses and the limited benefits for students from low socioeconomic statuses. The author also highlights four challenges: the Curse of the familiar, the trap of routine assessments, the EdTech Matthew effect, and the toxic power of data and experiments.

The book’s last chapter, “Conclusion: Preparing for the Next Learning-at-Scale Hype Cycle,” is key. The author urges readers, including educators, administrators, policymakers, and technologists, to carefully evaluate educational technologies and be cautious of tools that claim to be transformative. To do so, he poses the following questions: 1) What’s new? 2) Who guides the learning experience? 3) Is the pedagogy trying to fill pails or kindle flames? 4) What existing technologies does it adopt? He also emphasizes the need to examine how and when technological tools can be incorporated into students’ learning processes and warns against factors that could hinder learners’ abilities to achieve desired results.

Failure to Disrupt offers compelling arguments on educational technology, examining the hype and laying the foundations for a promising future in the field.

Leadership for Deeper Learning

Full disclosure on this one: I am lucky to call all three of the authors who collaborated on this project friends. Even if I didn’t have that connection, I’d still recommend this book to you. It’s a fantastic look at innovative schools and what they are doing to create deeper learning experiences for students.

This book examines how leaders have introduced, maintained, and advanced innovative, deeper learning opportunities in their schools.

Schools are changing to be more action-oriented, focused on performance, digitally relevant, and democratic. This book highlights innovative practices across seven categories: vision, agency in learning, trust in teachers, openness to new ideas, over-communicating change, equity-mindedness, and courage to live outside norms.

Leadership for Deeper Learning explores how school leaders can create new learning environments for students and teachers, with practical strategies and stories to inspire change and innovation.

Most Likely to Succeed

While this book has been around for a bit, the message is no less relevant today than it was in 2015, perhaps more so in the wake of COVID-19

Most Likely to Succeed looks at the problems with the US education system and suggests ways to better prepare future generations for the age of innovation, such as changing the way we teach and what we teach.

According to Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, schools are not equipping students with the skills they need to succeed as ethical citizens and productive employees, and they are also forcing them to learn useless information superficially. Wagner and Dintersmith say that this makes it harder for students to follow their passions and get real-world experience. They also say that it makes teachers unhappy and keeps society divided along class lines.

The key message of Most Likely to Succeed is this: although society is advancing at an astonishing speed, our education system is stuck in the nineteenth century. Consequently, we’re educating our children to succeed in a bygone era. To give our kids the opportunity to succeed, we must creatively reimagine education for the innovation era.

What Schools Could Be

In What Schools Could Be, Ted Dintersmith shares solutions he discovered while traveling to 50 states, 200 schools, over a hundred community forums, and a thousand meetings. The book talks about innovation in K–12 education, online learning, colleges and universities, and short-term immersive experiences. It’s a great way to learn about the American educational innovation landscape.

In Dintersmith’s model, a great school has four parts (PEAK):

  • Purpose: Where students do actual important work.
  • Essentials: There’s a backbone to what they’re learning that they’ll need in the future.
  • Agency: Students are in charge of their learning and are intrinsically motivated.
  • Knowledge: Everything learned is deep and retained, they are creators and teach others what they know

Kitchen Confidential

I miss Anthony Bourdain almost as much as I miss Tom Petty, which is a lot. I’m sure as you reach this section you’re asking yourself, “What the hell is a book about line cooks doing amongst books about education?”

Allow me to try and explain…

The book takes the form of a biography chronicling Bourdain’s time in the culinary industry. Interspersed with cooking advice, it covers the love between a chef and sous-chef, as well as the chef’s relationship with delusional owners. The biography takes you through Bourdain’s childhood and his realization, while in France, of the importance of food. It then follows his journey from his start in the culinary industry, through culinary college, and up the ranks of various chef positions until he eventually runs his own kitchen with, as he puts it, “brigades of pirates, degenerates, and thieves.” Filled with wild anecdotes of kitchen misbehavior, drugs, sex, rock and roll, more drugs, and truffle oil, the book illustrates the hardships of the industry, including long hours, injuries, and sexual harassment, and how people still choose to do it. One particularly powerful chapter towards the end of the book goes blow-by-blow through an average day in the life of a chef.

While the life of an educator doesn’t have nearly the entertainment value of the life of a chef, there are certain parts of the job that are difficult, frustrating, and perhaps even maddening. The relationships between teachers and students, the demands on teachers’ time, meaningless mandates from far-away misguided legislators, and the never-ending grind of the school year can have many teachers feel like they are on the line. And maybe they are.

But in the relentless pursuit of making something great, there are always obstacles. There are always trying times. There will always be something to improve, whether that is a 7th-grade math lesson or an exclusive dish at a Michelin-star restaurant.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I thoroughly enjoyed this inside look at a madcap world that so many of us will never experience or understand. It’s all fun stuff. The anecdotes, characters, and asides are crazy enough that Bourdain wouldn’t need to be a great writer to make them work. But he is a good writer with a unique voice and a dry sense of humor that makes his TV shows stand out. Together, these elements make the book not only an interesting read but also a real pleasure. I laughed out loud numerous times throughout.

Honorable Mentions

I can’t talk about being your authentic self and driving for what you really want in life without mentioning The War of Art, the modern classic on overcoming Resistance and becoming the creative genius you were meant to become. And if you’re wanting to dive deeper into discovering your authentic self, you should add Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown to your list, along with Victor Frankl’s classic Man’s Search for Meaning. I’d also recommend Flow as a way to get the most out of your creativity and reach your fullest potential.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s reading list! Remember, reading is a great way to expand your knowledge and understanding of the world. Whether you’re interested in education, leadership, or just looking for a good memoir, there’s something on this list for everyone. So, grab a book and start reading!

Crafting a Digital Commonplace Book

commonplace book
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

One of the most fulfilling tasks I do on a regular basis is updating my commonplace book. What’s a commonplace book? Simple: it’s a place to store all those quotes, lyrics, poems, passages, etc. that mean something to you.

It’s a way to store all the things you read, regardless of their format, in one place so that you can access it any time you want. The concept isn’t new by any means; people across history have kept some form of a commonplace book. Marcus Aurelius had one that would later be published. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolfe all had one.

Modern authors like Austin Kleon and Ryan Holiday keep one. The formats change based on the person but they all serve the same purpose: a way to keep track of things that mean something to you.

Ryan Holiday has famously used his note card system as the basis for writing his books, something he picked up while working for Robert Greene.

If you want to dive deeper into this system of note-taking, writing, and organizing, read up on the Zettelkasten Method.

Personally, I keep a daily journal and I’ve been using my own version of the notecard system for the past couple of years. However, as I’m heading into my doctoral work this fall as I write, I’m attempting to update my commonplace system.

While I agree there is tremendous benefit in writing things down on paper – I write in my journal by hand in cursive daily – the real power of keeping a record of all the things in your commonplace book is when you can make connections between different entries.

I’ve tried making those connections with my note cards, but it hasn’t worked for me. So I needed to come up with something better. Something digital.

I’ve come up with a two-pronged approach. One of those prongs is this blog you are reading now.

For too many years, I tried to take blogging far too seriously. Always trying to write something meaningful and important while sharing things that I found or learned with the world.

My anxiety (which turns out to be pretty crippling and only in the last year have I really begun to get a handle on it) wouldn’t let me craft those perfect blog posts.

But, I can create short posts that I can share quickly with the world and store on this blog while organizing it pretty quickly into different topics.

The inspiration for this shift comes from Cory Doctorow. He refers to it as “The Memex Method” and many writers use it to create a commonplace book that doubles as a public database.

memex method
Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Enter the Memex

Vannevar Bush famously described the memex as “an enlarged intimate supplement to one’s memory.”

Cory’s link blog is here.

Longstanding tech columnist John Naughton has one here. And I’m sure there are many others out there you could look through.

This blog that has been in existence in one form or another for 16 years is now becoming my public memex, my online database of things I learn, like, and use regularly.

Using WordPress tags, I can quickly filter posts into multiple topics and save them for later reference. And so can any of my readers. Of course, building this will take time and input data on a daily basis.

The second prong of this memex is my personal database, powered by Evernote. I’ve had an Evernote account since March of 2008 while it was still in beta, I think. But I’ve never used it very well.

Now, I have one notebook in my Evernote account. But a bajillion tags. I’m still working through all my existing notes and adding tags which will take some time but I’m feeling good about that progress and excited for the results.

I’m also taking all my existing note cards and scanning them into Evernote for tagging. The tags will sort and connect the ideas from various notes, giving me lots of sources for new articles and possibly even books.

As Robert Greene has said, “Everything is material.”

I just had to find a way to keep my material organized. I’ll keep you updated here on my progress.

Why is this important for educators?

I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t. If you’re a researcher, I can’t help but think it would be useful to have a very organized and connected system for your research.

But for the classroom teacher or administrator, how helpful would it be to connect the threads of all your work over the years? Likely, very helpful. And think of what you could share with your colleagues or future students.