Top New Books for Educators

Top New Books for Educators

Mission HighMission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph

Kristina Rizga

Release Date: August 4, 2015

It’s easier for a journalist to embed with the Army than to go behind the scenes at an American public school. Kristina Rizga spent an unprecedented four years reporting from the classrooms and hallways of Mission High School in San Francisco. The result is Mission High, a first hand report from inside a “low-performing” school whose students are, in fact, thriving.

Rizga expected noisy classrooms, hallway fights, and disgruntled staff. Instead, she found a welcoming place; satisfied students, teachers and parents; plummeting dropout rates; and a diverse student body with an 88% college acceptance rate. By closely following the individual lives of students and teachers, Rizga illustrates the invisible structures, essential ingredients, and specialized skills that drive genuine academic achievement.

Mission High shows how the alternative, hyper-local and progressive approach of Mission High School works. In providing context for the success of Mission High, Rizga explores the most contentious issues surrounding education in America. She argues that attentive, conceptually driven teaching can lead to learning regardless of socio-economic background, and that mixing high-achieving students and underachieving students benefits both groups. She shows how the focus on standardized test scores can’t fix America’s education system, because the most important data lives at the individual classroom level—where positive outcomes depend on the cooperation between students and teachers.

In tracking Mission High’s students through college, Rizga provides a model for the future of education in America and shows how we all benefit from the kind of engaged learners, innovators, independent thinkers, and compassionate citizens that can emerge from the public school system.

Never Send a Human to Do a Machine's Job

Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job: Correcting the Top 5 EdTech Mistakes

Yong Zhao, Gaoming Zhang, Jing Lei, Wei Qiu

Release Date: August 4, 2015

Technology has transformed our lives. Virtually every school and classroom is connected. Why then, has it not transformed education? Consider these five ways educators can begin to optimize classroom technology and rethink its use:

  • See technology as a complement rather than a replacement.
  • Embrace its creation potential over consumption function.
  • Encourage design and personalized learning over standards and outcomes.
  • Celebrate the journey toward digital competence over curriculum improvement.
  • Focus on tech-pedagogy over product usage.

Learn how to let technology cultivate student autonomy, creativity, and responsibility while focusing on lessons that hone higher-order and critical thinking skills.


Leadership: Key Competencies for Whole-System Change

Lyle Kirtman, Michael Fullan

Release Date: August 14, 2015

Develop a creative, productive school culture. Based on their decades-long work in leadership, the authors offer seven core leadership competencies for systemic change in schools, districts, and state education systems. Discover targeted strategies to move past failed initiatives and overcome initiative overload, explore how to cultivate effective work practices, and gain the know-how to create enjoyable, innovative learning environments.

Most Likely to Succeed

Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era

Tony Wagner, Ted Dintersmith

Release Date: August 18, 2015

From two leading experts in education and entrepreneurship, an urgent call for the radical re-imagining of American education so that we better equip students for the realities of the twenty-first century economy.

Today more than ever, we prize academic achievement, pressuring our children to get into the “right” colleges, have the highest GPAs, and pursue advanced degrees. But while students may graduate with credentials, by and large they lack the competencies needed to be thoughtful, engaged citizens and to get good jobs in our rapidly evolving economy. Our school system was engineered a century ago to produce a work force for a world that no longer exists. Alarmingly, our methods of schooling crush the creativity and initiative young people need to thrive in the twenty-first century.

In Most Likely to Succeed, bestselling author and education expert Tony Wagner and venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith call for a complete overhaul of the function and focus of American schools, sharing insights and stories from the front lines, including profiles of successful students, teachers, parents, and business leaders.

Most Likely to Succeed presents a new vision of American education, one that puts wonder, creativity, and initiative at the very heart of the learning process and prepares students for today’s economy. This book offers parents and educators a crucial guide to getting the best for their children and a roadmap for policymakers and opinion leaders.

Freedom to Learn

Freedom to Learn

Will Richardson

Release Date: August 31, 2015

Give students control over the learning process. The twenty-first century has seen vast advances in technology—which can connect students and teachers to more information, knowledge, and experts than ever before. Investigate why the traditional education system isn’t working, uncover why the meanings of education and success should be redefined, and understand the teacher’s role in a free learning environment.

Getting Students Hooked on Math and Science

How Do You Get Students Hooked on Math and Science?

“Give a kid a computer, and the student becomes the teacher.”

If you’ve crossed the path of a teenager lately, you most likely saw him or her with a computer in some shape or form—from a smartphone to a tablet. Give a kid a computer, and the student becomes the teacher. Even math teachers learn new and exciting things about graphing calculators from their students. Today’s students are technologically savvy, yet many take on the “I can’t do” notion when it comes to math and science. So how do we get students hooked on math and science like it’s the latest electronic device?

Increasing awareness of opportunities in STEM fields

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Although there is continuing growth in technology and engineering jobs, fewer students are choosing STEM majors in college. Many students struggle with math and science and deem it too difficult. Educators recognize the need to engage and interest students in these subject areas. Across the nation, school districts are implementing STEM programs and learning projects that promote scientific thinking and prepare students for higher-level mathematics courses. K-12 educators want to increase awareness of opportunities in STEM fields and increase the number of students who pursue degrees in these disciplines.

The challenge of supporting math and science courses

In spite of the well-acknowledged need to support science, technology, engineering, and math, many schools—especially small schools—face serious resource challenges. The National Research Council (NRC) identified an “imbalance in access to qualified teachers that currently exists between students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds.” Small schools have difficulty competing with large districts, both in terms of salary and career opportunities for STEM teachers. Other challenges are economic; the capital cost of providing special building facilities puts many science and technology courses out of reach for their students.

How does online education support STEM?

Online education provides an economically feasible alternative for schools with limited resources to support STEM education. With online learning, it’s possible to offer courses that are not typically available, such as nursing assistant or pharmacy technician courses. In addition, these programs provide more alternatives for individual students who might want to take courses outside the standard curriculum or at different times than when a course is available at a school. Many schools implement online education through a blended learning model: classroom activities are supported by digital content, with customized practice exercises provided to individual students. Another way blended learning is implemented is through the flipped classroom model, where students take notes and are engaged in online activities, and then use the classroom for follow-up practice or question-and-answer sessions.

Online education supports STEM education through digital media, simulations, and interactive tools, which engage students actively in scientific inquiry and real-world problem solving. Online programs provide a variety of activities to explore scientific concepts; some allow for multiple paths to achieve a solution and provide constructive feedback to students as they work through problems.

How do interactive activities and tools support STEM education?

Online learning offers a variety of interactive components in science and math lessons to engage students and pique their curiosity.

In science courses, virtual labs lead students through experiments that integrate all the STEM components. These online labs allow students to carry out virtual experiments with most of the elements of a live lab at a fraction of the cost and in a safe environment.

Math and science lessons can also incorporate rich graphical presentations, including models, pictures, diagrams, and graphs to engage students. Interactive activities allow students to manipulate data and solve problems using tools such as algebra tiles, an electromagnetic spectrum, an interactive periodic table, or a graphing calculator. These tools motivate students and require mathematic thinking. Through online learning, students are exposed to step-by-step activities, which guide them through a structured sequence of exercises to solve a problem or discover a connection. Students are engaged, able to work at their own pace, receive individualized feedback, and begin to experience success in math and science courses.

So, how do we get students hooked on math and science? Through online learning that is interactive and engaging.

Starting the School Year off Right: Teaching Good Note-Taking Skills

Starting the School Year off Right - Teaching Good Note-Taking Skills

Good note-taking is one of the most important skills for students to master during their academic careers. When students have strong note-taking skills, that translates into better study habits, better learning outcomes, and better retention of knowledge.

However, note-taking is a complicated cognitive process. Students need to pay attention to what the teacher is saying, comprehend the material, identify what ideas are most important, and write those ideas down while coordinating the physical writing or typing of that material. Plus, all of these tasks must be completed in an extremely short period of time. Unfortunately, most students have never received instruction in note-taking, and both teachers and students underestimate the importance of this critical skill.

Here are some strategies you can use to encourage students to grow in this important area:

1. Encourage students to put ideas into their own words.

This is one of the most important steps students can take to retain and recall information. Taking notes by transcribing every word a teacher says dedicates too much of the brain’s cognitive resources. This reduces the effectiveness of student learning during the note-taking process.

2. Consider using the Cornell note-taking system.

The Cornell method requires students to divide their note-taking areas into sections: one for key ideas and questions, one for notes, and one for summaries. During a lecture, students write important information in the notes column and key ideas and questions in a second column. After the lecture is over, students write a summary at the bottom of each page.

This method can help students “encode” the information into their memory, and the columned approach facilitiates review. Many studies have shown the effectiveness of this method (Fisher, Frey, and Lapp, 2009; Faber, et al, 2000; among others).

3. Help students to review early and often.

Students should review their notes shortly after taking them, ideally on the same day as the lecture. At that time, they can write down questions they have or clarify any concepts they didn’t quite grasp by asking a teacher or peer. Regular review is far more effective than trying to cram all at once the night before an exam!

4. Encourage students to develop their own “test questions.”

Self-testing is a very effective method for learning and retaining information. This strategy will aid students in preparing for assessments later. It does this by helping students identify the content they do not know; this allows them to immediately discover what material they should focus on for review. The Cornell method is particularly helpful for utilizing this strategy.

5. Utilize guided notes for struggling students, especially those with learning disabilities.

Studies have shown that when struggling students have note-taking deficiencies, they can miss 60% or more of the main ideas in a lecture and are far more likely to record incorrect or unimportant information. Guided notes can be an effective strategy to assist these students (Boyle, 2010). Create your own notes for your lessons in a set format (such as the Cornell method format). Then, remove parts of the notes so that students can complete them on their own. This provides guidance and support, and it helps students to learn within a helpful framework.

Give each of these strategies a shot in your classroom. You’ll see students improve their note-taking skills, and as they do, they’ll open new doors to success.

Source: Boyle, J. R. “Note-Taking Skills of Middle School Students with and Without Learning Disabilities.” Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2010, 530-40.

Source: Faber, Jean E., John D. Morris, and Mary G. Lieberman. “The Effect of Note Taking on Ninth Grade Students’ Comprehension.” Reading Psychology, 2000, 257-70.

Source: Fisher, Douglas, Nancy Frey, and Diane Lapp. “Meeting AYP in a High-Need School: A Formative Experiment.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 2009, 386-96.


Download this PDF on the Cornell Note-Taking System to use in your classroom.

Ten EdTech Conferences to Attend before the End of 2015


Attending a conference is a great way to network and learn about what’s going on in the education industry, especially when it comes to edtech. By attending an event, or sending your teachers to one, you’ll also see a huge return on investment in terms of professional development. Conferences give educators the opportunity to speak with and compare edtech vendors, learn and share best practices for using technology in the classroom, and more. In addition, the skills and techniques learned at the conference are something you can bring back and share with other educators in your school or district. But if you haven’t had a chance to attend one of this year’s conferences, don’t fret! There’s still time to attend one of the many education conferences happening across the country. Here are ten upcoming edtech events you won’t want to miss:

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Using Brain-Based Learning Strategies in Your Classroom


If you want to understand the most effective teaching methods, you need to understand how a student’s mind processes information. Basing how and what you teach on brain-based learning principals, rather than established learning conventions and assumptions, can improve and accelerate learning.

Find out more on how to use brain-based learning strategies in your classroom to optimize student success.