From the Principal's Office: 8 Books for Summer Reading and Professional Development

Looking back through my reading notes, if I had to select 7 books that I suggest as “Must-Reads for the Summer of 2013” here’s those seven. Each of these books forced me to examine and challenge fundamental assumptions I had about teaching, technology, leadership and education.

ROLE Reversal" Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom by Mark Barnes
Thinking about turning your classroom into a “student-centered classroom” veteran educator Mark Barnes offers powerful advice and strategies on how to do that with this book. Even if you aren’t planning to go full-scale student-centered, this book offers quite a bit of information that can help you turn your classroom into an engaging environment for your students.

Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator's Guide to User-Generated Learning by Kristen Swanson
"Most successful teachers learn from a combination of resources, including local communities, virtual communities, and research," writes Kristen Swanson in her new book Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator's Guide to User-Generated Learning. In other words, educators learn from the communities to which their are connected, and having the tools to make those connections are truly vital in the digital age. That's where Swanson's book comes in. Packed in only 109 pages, she gives readers the process and tools to become a connected educator in the 21st century, and engage in "user-generated learning." Professional Learning in the Digital Age is a must read for educators who want to fine-tune the process of building and maintaining professional learning networks. And, for those have yet to venture out and begin the process of becoming a connected educator, this book gives them clear straightforward advice on how to do it, and a Tool Repository at the back of the book with which to get started. Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator's Guide to User-Generated Learning, Eye on Education, is powerful-succinct guide for all educators to learn 21st century style.

World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Yong Zhao
This book will challenge your thinking about what schools in the 21st century are about, and it suggests what our schools should be doing which is as the title suggests, educating creative and entrepreneurial students. Zhao points out what’s wrong with the standards and accountability movement and why that’s not going to produce successful students in the 21st century. He offers a model of education that educates student to be creative entrepreneurs, which he argues, are badly needed to resolve all the thorny issues we now face. With his knowledge and scholarship about international education, he offers a vision of schools that challenges much of the current education reform that’s happening.

The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core by Matthew J. Perini, Thomas Dewing, and Harvey F. Silver
What if you only had time and money to use and purchase six tools to teach your entire curriculum? What would those six tools be? Authors Harvey Silver, R. Thomas Dewing, and Matthew Perini seem to do just that in their book The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with Common Core. Many of us are right in the midst to implementing the Common Core Standards, whether we philosophically agree or disagree with the need for their existence. School leaders and teachers are scrambling to find and create tools for implementation, and the massively growing number of new books and materials about the Common Core aren't making this task any easier. However, there are few that focus on the "essentials" to the degree that The Core Six does. This concise volume (it's only 78 pages) lays what it calls "Six Core Practices Students Need to Cultivate to Become Independent Learners."

Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others by Maria Gonzalez
Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others is the most practical application of Buddhist Mindfulness practice principles and Buddhist thinking to leadership that I have yet read. In a "no-nonsense" manner. author Maria Gonzalez takes readers through nine ways those who find themselves in leadership positions can engage in practices that foster authenticity, integrity, and centeredness as they try to lead and influence others. With meditation practice as the core of mindfulness training, leaders can learn how to simply be more "present" as they engage in their daily jobs. Gonzalez truly provides clear practices that any leader, Buddhist or not, can implement and become powerful leaders of their organizations. This is one of the most powerful leadership books I have read this year, and whether you are Buddhist or not, you will find gems of wisdom and strategies that make you a better leader.

Evaluating America's Teachers Mission Possible? by W. James Popham
Popham’s book Evaluating America’s Teachers Mission Possible couldn’t be more timely with all states working to implement various kinds of teacher evaluation systems. This book offers readers advice on what mistakes need to be avoided in that implementation, and suggestions on what kinds of evidence these teacher evaluations should use. As usual, Popham makes this book even more interesting with his occasional irreverence and humor, so common to many of his books on assessment. For teachers wanting to educate themselves regarding what an effective teacher evaluation process should look like, this is an excellent read. For administrators who want to understand teacher evaluation from the perspective of an assessment expert in order to make sure that conduct teacher evaluations fairly and effectively, this book is also an excellent choice.

Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age by Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes
In this book, Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age authors Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes write: "Skill in communication is a key ingredient for school leaders' success in today's complex education environment, and this communication now includes social media." As these author's suggest, school leaders "can either learn to use these powerful tools or stand hopelessly by and the information---good and bad---swirls around them." School administrators are still spending too much time trying to decide whether social media is an enemy or an ally. What they don't realize, that choice isn't really up to them. Social media is here to stay. It's not a fad to be waited out. It's not gimmick to avoid, and it is not a piece of contraband that can be stopped at the schoolhouse door with policy and Internet filters. Social media is 21st century communications, and school leaders would be guilty of mal-practice not to both learn about its power and place in our modern society. Portfield and Carne's book is an excellent starting point for school leaders to begin the journey or learning about the power of social media. I've read several books on social media written for school leaders this year, and this book is the best by far. It is a no-nonsense, easy-to-read manual on social media.

Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson

According to Cathy Davidson, we're still getting it wrong. We've got all this technology around us, we are so busy trying to deal with all the distractions, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. that we honestly are having trouble paying attention. Understand that Davidson's book is not an anti-technology discourse, rather, it is an examination, from the perspective of brain science, how we should be letting the digital transform our lives and work. Instead, in every arena---our personal lives to education to work---we are too busy trying to attend to things the way we always have. Our institutions, instead of capitalizing on the power of the digital to transform what we do, are just trying to preserves themselves. Davidson's book is sure to spark some deep thinking about technology and its ability to transform ourselves and our institutions.

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J. Robinson has decades of experience as a K12 Principal, Teacher, and Technology Advocate. Read more at The 21st Century Principal.