Five Recommended Readings?

One of the Associate Deans at my workplace has asked me to recommend five readings (e.g., books, articles, blogpost, etc.) that would help inform his understanding of current changes regarding social networks, knowledge, and technology in education. Rather than develop the list alone, I thought it appropriate to (at least attempt to) crowdsource responses from individuals in my network.

So, what readings would you recommend to an educational leader responsible for faculty development in a teacher education program? Any responses are greatly appreciated.

57 thoughts on “Five Recommended Readings?

  1. Here Comes Everybody by Shirky.
    Communities of Practice by Wenger.
    Participatory Culture by Jenkins.
    How We Decide by Lehrer.
    World War Z by Brooks.

    (Okay that last one was just for fun. After all that heady reading, your dean deserves a little zombie thriller!)

  2. Here is an essay I wrote for a 2008 book on educational technology. I argue that getting donated computers into the homes of needy students can sometimes have a significant impact on their educational journey.

  3. Well, it’s old in some circles but these two books are seminal, IMHO, in this area: The World is Flat by Thomas Freedman and A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink.

    I would also add Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody and … I was about to say Dave Weinberger’s Everything Is Miscellaneous but I think it might be more important to watch the video demo of the soon to be released Google Wave app. It’s not the app itself that’s important (although it’s way cool! Have you started using Ubiquity yet?) but rather the thinking behind it; i.e. the semantic web. I think that’s the next wave in how we work, play, and live. Some fingers pointing at this new moon:

    • Tim Berners Lee’s TED talk (not an inspiring delivery, but the implications of the content are important.)
    • Ubiquity
    • Google Wave
    • Wolfram Alpha

    Anyway, that’s my 2¢, for what it’s worth.

  4. Part of me wants to say don’t read about it, participate. In many ways it’s like reading about a song as opposed to hearing it.

    This one by Gardner Campbell might resonate.

    I like a number of Jim Groom’s rants on the topic but they tend to be a little manic.

    I’d recommend checking out your Lazy Professor presentation.

    For me it’s hard to encapsulate in a post or a book. These are things you see demonstrated over time and through people and how they use the technology. Not much help, I know. I’m just not sure there’s a shortcut to this knowledge. Somethings you really should experience.

  5. To balance things out and provide some critical perspective, I’d recommend ‘Technopoly’ by Neil Postman. Good food for thought on the societal changes (not always positive) we are experiencing as a result of new technologies. Fairly easy read too.

  6. Thinking about it, the best book I read about the change in knowledge/society that has occurred would be The Black Swan by Taleb. This was a far more powerful book for me than Outliers, or Whole New Mind, The World is Flat etc.

  7. First in my mind was Daniel Pinks “The Whole new mind” – aven after the hives and waves, because it points a lot out, on why there is a need to be engaged. BTW i didn’t had the book – there is an audiobook avaiable bridging a lot more enthusiasm. ;-)

    Then i was thinking. There are a lot good posts out in the world. You know yours i think. But there is one by @dtruss, not going out of my mind. – This is more than a statement! And shares a lot of good arguments.

    So far my favorite two!

  8. I recommend that “Grown Up Digital” by Don Tapscott be on the reading list.

    Also, “Disrupting Class” by Curtis Johnson

  9. Thanks everyone for your contributions!

    @Stephen: I’ve left this wide open intentionally as per the request. If you’d like me to narrow this down, then I would love to know what academic articles or chapters you would recommend.

  10. Heidegger’s The Question concerning Technology and this excellent guide to the same for an undersatnding of our realtionship to technology.

    Richard Miller’s presentation to the Modern Language Association Presidential Forum. From their blurb: The latest effort by the New Humanities Collaborative to tell the story of how reading and writing have been transformed by the web. What does it mean to write? to read? to publish? The answers to these questions, once obvious, must now be reimagined. Can the educational system rise to the challenge of preparing students to live, work, think, and thrive in an environment of ceaseless change?

    Clay Shirky’s blog/essay “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” for the way it talks about revolution.

    edtechlive’s interview with John Seely Brown for the way he atalks about emerging technologies restoring the three pillars of education: family, community & school

    and the K12 Horizon Report for a good overview of what’s coming our way.

  11. I purposefully held off until now to suggest a reading as I was expecting to see the more well-known readings (Tapscott, Pink, Shirky) and wanted to wait for the blogs, acadmeic papers, and musings to come out. I was happily rewarded; can’t wait to summer-read The Black Swan.

    In the spirit of participatory culture, I offer anything by Henry Jenkins.

    His deconstruction of such social phenomena as Susan Boyle (feeling sad there) resonate in a place in my head that no other writer can reach, and, let’s face it, the man WAS a Klingon in Star Trek 2009.

  12. I recommend Tapscott’s _Grown up Digital_. It does a good job of investigating the ways in which technology has changed social interaction, thinking, and institutions.

  13. I forgot, if he isn’t reading the Dangerously Irrelevant blog, I highly suggest it. He’s also running a summer reading club that might be useful.
    Blip from author’s bio:

    Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Educational Administration program at Iowa State University. He also is the Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video, Did You Know? (Shift Happens). Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at

  14. danah boyd was already mentioned by Ben Wildeboer, but I’d like to mention her PhD thesis “Taken Out of Context” especially if your dean is looking for a longer academic read (393 pages).

    However, I also agree with those who have mentioned that he may want to take a dive and participate. But as it takes time to build a network and engage with it, that dive may not have reached a point where it makes sense and its value and purpose are seen before he needs to make a decision. Thus, other avenues are useful to explore as well.

    An example of how fragmented, interrupted and unfinished conversations can be is Robert Scoble’s live friendfeed from the “Power of Social Technology” class.

    And don’t let us forget online discussions in web conferencing services. Great examples are of CCK08.

    Thank you very much for making this request public. Now I have some more readings to earmark with “Read it Later” that I would not have found otherwise, but I am also happy to see those that I am familiar with. :-)

  15. Wow. I’m flattered to be on this list. Thanks for the recommendation, Greg.

    If the purpose of the readings are to “inform his understanding of current changes regarding social networks, knowledge, and technology in education,” then my list of 5 would be (in order):

    1. The Global Achievement Gap, Wagner
    2. Here Comes Everybody, Shirky
    3. Blown to Bits, Abelson, et al.
    4. Growing Up Digital, Tapscott
    5. What Would Google Do?, Jarvis

    Then, if you really want to freak him out, have him read Disrupting Class by Christensen.

    Many of the other reads above are excellent but I’m not sure they all get to the heart of your original question. Others do but aren’t as comprehensive a treatment as these books provide. They’re all good, though!

  16. How about the book
    Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, Kuhlthau et al. 2007

    Talks about a programmatic approach to learning in the 21st century where teachers collaborate with the experts in the school and community using all the resources available to create a rich learning environment. Goes through the rationale for the power of this type of instruction as well…

  17. Chasing Cool by Noah Kerner & Gene Pressman. While the book centers on marketing campaigns and brand awareness, it dovetails nicely with social networks and technology in education.

  18. wow. this was a gift to all of us.
    i love danah boyd. the two blogs i read daily are dangerously irrelevant and seth godin – tribes is certainly a way to make it happen. shirky and wagner and jarvis – definites. just purchased christensen’s disrupting class – so on my list. so many ted talks.
    (all of these have been mentioned)
    i haven’t seen these magazines mentioned:
    tech&learning ( and edutopia ( and for a great how to book i highly recommend will richardson’s blogs, wikis, and podcasts (

    and then – well – today’s post by mcleod of michael port’s words – “we are squandering the gifts of the universe” – very fitting.

    would love to see the final five you come up with.

  19. Monika closing comment: “would love to see the final five you come up with.” really resonated with me.

    So far we’ve all been dropping off fantastic suggestions but it quickly becomes overwhelming; so much good stuff here. How would be go about synthesizing all these wonderful suggestions into a final five? I can see a short article having equal or more relevance than say a complete book as we consider the significance of the ideas shared.

    I’ll have to come back and try to begin sifting through this all myself, but now that we’ve all accumulated such a wealth of good resources, how might we whittle it down to 5 most representative suggestions?

  20. Hi Darren! You are right! So we all failed the mission? ;-) To be honest! This was a real inspiring idea and here is a lot of value assembled. Three thoughts came up reading your comment. The first is – what would be easy to poll the “famous” five of this post. But i think you would agree, this is also a value reduction and browsing over the ressources, which are mentioned here: It is impossible without a fundamental loose of value – just to explain where i put the value on is the diversity of different inspirations everybody brought in.
    The second idea i got: It could be possible to cluster those ressources from higher categories. So you get something like a landscape (methaphor alarm!!) from which somebody coming up with interest get oriented. Categories i mean could be: From the learners perspetive – from the communication perspective – from society persepctive etc.
    And the third seems to be related to this: In our Podcast we have a part where we especially ask our profs to bring up three parts of their literatur they would select and deliver their personal access to the students ears! ;-) Those very clear subjective thoughts bring up very loveley effects because they enable to focus. Those values are also delivered in this post.

    So far my thoughts on how to reduce! ;-) We can’t – but it could be clustered. Any suggestions for clusters?

  21. @Andreas I like your idea of clusters very much. I suspect we’d have to sort through this all in phases the first of which might be to whittle it all down to five representative clusters.

    Alec’s Dean (or anyone new to this space) wants a 5 item short list of readings to begin to “inform his understanding of current changes regarding social networks, knowledge, and technology in education.” So what 5 categories might we distill from all the above?

    After that, we might look at what one suggestion from each category is most representative?

    This ain’t gonna be easy. ;-)

  22. Andreas, I think the waves from and to Koblenz are intense because we think along similar lines. ;-) Reading more and more of the comments here, I get lost and have to remember if I have not seen something earlier already. Therefore, a wiki solution came to mind where we could put all our findings into categories / clusters.

    I first thought of a wiki because the resources can be annotated. However, the more I think about it, a different solution might be better because a number of people stated that already-mentioned readings resonate with them. Thus, a system where you can give a resource thumbs up / stars to show that it is popular would be better. I guess something like what the new Facebook allows for: When somebody wrote a status update, shared a link etc., you can give it thumbs up (like it) and / or comment on it.

    By the way, what were / are your five recommended readings, Alec?

  23. 37 comments later, and I haven’t even got close to diving into some of the readings unfamiliar with me.

    With the last few comments from Darren, Andreas, Kristina, & Monika, I know it will be worth trying to make sense of the readings scattered about, whether it’s clusters or categories, in a wiki or elsewhere. I have a busy month ahead, but after that point I will make some time to push this (and my previous list of vids) into some sort of editable space.

    In any case, I think this exercise has gone well beyond my expectations and will be important in itself for my Associate Dean to witness.

    Thanks all for contributing, and I hope to see others added in the future. I’ll comment here when I’ve done something with this, and added my own (likely near the end of June). Of course, this information belongs to everyone now so someone may beat me to it.

    Thanks again!

  24. How about Orality and Literacy by Walter J. Ong and some of Jay Bolter’s writing about the changing use of print? More academic but certainly interesting. Definitely Tapscott and Postman for perspective. I look forward to your final five…

  25. Based on the recommendations above, I am amazed, but not surprised, that with the exception of Wenger almost every other “text” recommended is a pop-business book, only tangentially-related to education.

    It is also extraordinary that with dozens of “texts’ about “technology and education” recommended, Papert does not appear once. How odd that one of the pioneers of the field, with 40+ years of work in the discipline are so routinely ignored by the edtech community. I wonder why that is?

    I assembled the top ten books I think should be on any educator’s bookshelf here – You can take the top five or feel free to mix-and-match.

    None of these books can be summarized in a Newsweek article and their ideas are timeless.

    If your tastes tend more towards computers-in-education, check out this list –

    If you need a book that says the word “Internet” in it, I suggest This 1996 book discusses many of the opportunities that excite the Web 2.0 community.

  26. Gary Stager is correct that most of the readings come from business, but he should not be amazed. Most of the real procedural and structural changes brought about by Web 2.0 (or whatever you prefer to call it) are happening in business organizations first. Likely, businesses respond first for many reasons, but basically it’s a matter of survival for them. Failing businesses don’t last long, whereas failing schools can drag on for decades. The forces that are reshaping business today will reshape education, and probably government and churches, tomorrow.

    With that in mind, I recommend these five pop-business books:

    1. Wikinomics, Tapscott & Williams
    2. The World Is Flat, Friedman
    3. The Wisdom of Crowds, Surowiecki
    4. Everything Is Miscellaneous, Weinberger
    5. The Wealth of Networks, Benkler (important though unfortunately obtuse, so at least it isn’t “pop”)

  27. Hi Alec,

    I have to second Gary Stager’s point: It’s a sad commentary when educators find their direction from pop-culture books by Tapscott, Shirky, Friedman, and others. Anyone of those references in a presentation cause a “tune out effect” for me.


    These authors are concerned about writing and selling books. They are trend-chasers. They have their role in society. Popularizing ideas is as unique a skill as generating them in the first place. But, when considering educational reform and gaining a sense of social media trends, I’d be more inclined to turn to sociologists like Barry Wellman, researchers like Grainne Conole/Terry Anderson/Marteen de Laat/Diana Laurillard, etc. These authors might not write with the fluidity of Gladwell, but they’ll at least provide educational leaders with a firm foundation for making decisions.

    Your specific question relates to social media trends in education. Writing in distributed cognition (Hutchins, Salomon, Pea), social learning theory (Wenger, Lave, Engestrom, Brown), technological ideology/affordances (Gibson, Postman), and systemic impact (Bates, Twigg) are necessary foundations. From there, technological impact can be found in some of the authors/researchers I noted above (plus Papert, as Stager noted)…etc. This is hardly a complete list. Sawyer’s Handbook of Learning Sciences provides many more. Without sounding like more of a curmudgeon than I already do, I’d humbly offer the view that best sellers are great for pub conversations and blog posts. Educational reform should be based on higher quality (though certainly lessor known) research.


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  29. @georgesiemens
    hm. you’re right with Tapscott etc., but i don’t think it is fair to mention Clay Shirky in the same breath as Gladwell, Friedman et al.. and Postman, at the other side, certainly is not in a different league. (similar with your “connectivism” paradigm itself, BTW.)

    intellectually and epistemologically, the most important things now seem to happen *in between* empirical research (wenger …) & traditional theory (engestrom) on one side and “popularizers” on the other side. Stephen B. Johnson’s Emergence, for example, kicks much more than the sum of the empirical researchers he quoted.

  30. With reference to Sager’s and Siemens assertions questioning the value of “pop culture” books.

    I get very seriously concerned that we are guilty of academic elitism , Im familiar with all of the authors they referenced can recall being in a meeting with one of the authors named and a group of “practitioners” . The practitioners did not relate in any way to the “information” being given to them in pragmatic terms the highly theoretical perspective of the author was less than useless due to vocabulary, perception and motivation.

    If we as educators (and our institutions) are reliant on our own musings about our field as a primary catalyst for educational change and improvement as are guilty, in cybernetic terms, of “pathologicalautopoesis” we must learn and embrace perspectives from pop culture alongside our own more “worthy “(sic) works.

    A combination of the “worthy” theoretical and less worthy work suits me.

  31. Forget the books. Instead be a “mind reader” collaborating as much as possible in any way possible: human interaction through virtual worlds, blogs, face to face conversations, Twitter, online chats, anything where the electrons are still moving rather than petrified on pages like ancient insects in amber. The only exception as a book for me would be the Bible which has the property of perspicuity and can spark with any mind in any culture at any time and readers at any age. But even then I’d prefer online Bibles where variant texts, translations, comments, etc. are possible. And the Bible, too, was delivered through collaboration of persons (Divine & human) and person to person preaching.

    My point is that, especially on this topic, whatever you read will be dated a month maybe sooner from the time it was written. The only way to prevent that is collaboration and “mind reading” person to person with the learnin in the exchange. But I’ll stop before writing a “book” of my own here. :)

  32. What about the work in new literacies? Must-reads, IMO,incude:
    1. Lankshear & Knobel’s Everday Practices & Classroom Learning.
    2. The New London Group’s classic article in the Harvard Ed Review, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” (1996). Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.
    3. Cope & Kalantzis. Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures
    4. The white paper from Jenkins & the New Media Literacies Project: The Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century
    5. Kress. Literacy in the New Media Age (dense, but well worth it)

  33. Lots of great stuff already, but here’s my 2 cents:

    Martin Owen, Lyndsay Grant, Steve Sayers and Keri Facer, Social Software and Learning – Future Labs Report July 2006

    Maarten de Laat, Networked Learning, 2006

    Stephen Downes,The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On, 16-11-2008

    George Siemens, Knowing Knowledge, 2006

    Terry Anderson (ed.), The Theory and Practice of Online Learning (2008)

  34. I would also like to say that one of the failures I’ve seen in leadership is while these sources may provide a window into some changing opportunities for education, there is a cavaet that leaders often don’t participate, they just observe. Observation is fine but understanding I think has to come from true participation in connecting and learning with others in new ways. Unless they do that, I’m not convinced these readings alone will do anything.

    I’d also challenge both George and Gary in their despise of “pop-culture” type books. I think what’s exciting and meaningful to me is the blurring of lines between formal education and social media. I agree that educators may offer some unique insights and understandings when it comes to learning theory but I’m equally as excited by the fact that we learn with anyone, anytime and anywhere are don’t have to place everything in the context of educational jargon.

    This is not to dismiss the ideas of Papert and Wegner and I appreciate their desire to advocate for their perspectives, I just don’t think it has to be either or. I learn from lots of people and don’t really care if they are educators or not.

  35. If your dean is looking for a good basic overview of all the stuff that’s out there, I can suggest Meaningful Learning With Technology by Jonassen, Howland, Marra, and Crismond. For people like us who spend all day and night online, a lot of the content/tools it covers won’t be new to us, but for someone who wants to catch up on the underlying important stuff, this covers it.

    The chapters focus on the different roles technology plays in education: investigating, experimenting, supporting writing, modeling, community building, communicating, designing, and visualizing, then assessing meaningful learning. And in each chapter it gives examples of the tools and sites out there that can be used for these purposes.

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