Reading List from MnSCU Keynote

I’ve had a few requests for more info about the books I referenced during the keynote address at the MnSCU ITS conference, Tuesday, April 27 at Cragun’s in Brainerd. Rather than reply to those individual emails, I decided to write a post about them instead.

Of course the star attraction was Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. This book basically set the stage for much of the keynote by begging the question about whether we in education have fallen into the same trap that he wrote about in the mid-1980’s about ignoring serious discourse in order to package and produce our content in an effort to attract viewers (err, learners).  I’ve already posted a stream of consciousness that was a direct result of my references to Postman as well as the iPad during the presentation. Therefore, I won’t dwell any more on that book in this post.

I also referenced Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina. You can also check out the website for the book where he freely shares much of the info contained in the book. The main point of his that I used during the presentations was the one about human multi-tasking. First I asked the audience to use the clickers and answer this question.

As you can see, about half of the audience (n=252) believed that the human brain can multi-task. Here’s a brief audio-book intro to brain rule #4 that talks about multi-tasking. Remember that we (humans) can task switch, but not multi-task in any important way (yes, the walking and chew gum can happen at the same time, but that does not require concentration). There’s lots of good info in this book that should impact the way that we teach, because there’s lots of good evidence in here about the ways that we learn. Highly recommended.

I briefly referred to a book titled 33 Million People in the Room when we were talking about cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, and all the other ways that people in the audience could connect with other people in their networks without leaving the room in which we were all sitting. Behold the power of the network.

I moved on to a series of quotes to see who could name this author, slash professor (or is it the other way around?):

  • “Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education & entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.”
  • “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.”
  • “I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say.”
  • “All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.”
  • “We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.”
  • “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
  • “The medium is the message” as well as “The medium is the massage

I didn’t refer to any particular book of Marshall McLuhan’s, but here are a few possibilities:

During the whole riff about the B.S. that is the discussion about the different generations, I referred to several books. I’m not going to give the “millennials-are-different” pro side any ink here – let’s suffice it to say that they are already way too over-hyped, over-published, and over-sold. However, I highly recommend the book that I referenced as pointing out a very different view which is heavily based on research and has a direct implication for how we are choosing to educate young people these days. That book is The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein. This is the book that I mentioned had upset so many people, but I think you’ll find that it was not written for the purpose of upsetting the non-believers; rather I think it was intended to be a wake-up call to society in general and educators in particular about how we need to stay vigilant in making education a place with rigor and relevance.

There were several other books that influenced my thinking in one way or the other, but those are the main ones that I referenced during the talk. Anyone who is looking to add to their reading list could do a lot worse than adding those titles to their list (except one – do you remember which one I said was a good concept but not worth buying the book?).

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