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Current Reading 2011




Davidson, C. N. (2011). Now you see it : how the brain science of attention will transform the way we live, work, and learn. New York: Viking.
A late bid for the best read of 2011. Davidson shares many of the views I have about outmoded institutional forms. She has a good eye for interesting and pointed experimental work in psychology. A quote for the mangers of contemporary education: If you are a successful entrepreneur in the United states, you are three times more likely than the general population to have been diagnosed with a learning or attention disorder (p. 9). This is not the source of the Davidson quote but reports the work of the author from whom Davidson draws. More to add





Ridley, M. (2010). The Rational Optimist. how prosperity evolves. Hammersmith, UK: Harper Collins.




Harford, T. (2011). Adapt : why success always starts with failure (1st ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
This is easily the best read of 2011. Beautifully written. Masterfully worked. I'd kill to write that well. Well, not literally! If ever you want an account of why 'management intensive universities (they know who they are!) don't work or why the 'know all bureaucracies' of education can never do anything that will be remotely helpful to kids... this is the book! It has nothing directly to say about education but the analysis, examples, argument is just wonderful



Shapin, S. (2008). The scientific life : a moral history of a late modern vocation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.





Randall, L.(2011). Knocking on heaven's door : how physics and scientific thinking illuminate the universe and the modern world (1st ed.). New York: Ecco.
A bit of indulgence. One of the more interesting folk from the strange world of theoretical physics. A fascinating and highly readable account. The relationship, in broad terms between the social and physical sciences has always been odd. There have been the occasional taking up of ideas from contemporary physical science and "applying" them to social science questions, e.g. nonlinear mathematics, aka chaos. Given the ongoing flood of fascinating science that appears almost daily it seems that social science is a little like a rabbit in a spotlight. No bad thing.





Lanier, J.(2010). You are not a gadget: a manifesto. New York: Vintage Books.
About half way through this important book. It's slow progress because so much of what Lanier argues provokes more thinking than the usual read. The guy has a serious command of a broad range of ideas and intellectual resources, all the while masquerading as a mere muso. This book comes closest to articulating my deep concerns about how we have engaged 'the digital'. I have so many pearling quotes already. Here is a taste: What computerized analysis of all the country's school tests has done to education is exactly what Facebook has done to friendships. In both cases, life is turned into a database. Both degradations are based on the same philosophical mistake, which is the belief that computers can presently represent human thought or human relationships. These are things computers currently cannot do. I think, thus far, easily the most influential book I've read this year.


Gawande, A. (2010). The Checklist Manifesto: how to get things right. New York: Metropolitan Books.
These kinds of books usually put me off even considering them. But on a rec (can't recall from whom) I got a copy. Fascinating. Located in surgical settings the stories are both chilling and revealing of the complexity of things medical. Things educational are as complex and, on balance, probably have a greater impact on the well-being of folk than much of the life-saving procedures described in this small book. I wonder about the complexity of education these days and how the folk in the trenches manage. This little book might offer a useful device for getting a few more things 'righter'.




Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. D. (2010). Macrowikinomics: rebooting business and the world. London: Atlantic Books.
Disappointing but useful in parts. Best for the gathering of interesting data examples some of which are well known. The section on education verges on the romantic. There is still useful links and data sources that are cited. For me the important contrast comes from what is happening is some of the physical sciences and the response to huge data sets, and what is happening in the social sciences of the non quantitative variety. There is a potential here for a sharper bifurcation between quant stuff and qual stuff than there ever has been, i.e. the sheer volume of quant data that is available regardless of its quality will stand in sharp contrast to the tiny volume of data that is sputtering from qualitative studies.


Serres, M., & Latour, B. (1990). Conversations on Science, Culture and Time (R. Lapidus, Trans.). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
I find it useful to go back to some of the earlier books I gathered aroundANT. Serres' take on time is a blast.



Sivers, D. (2011). Anything You Want: 40 lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur. Do You Zoom.
I usually don't buy this kind of book but took a punt and found it refreshingly open and interesting. It's a bit like asking fish about water but it has a couple of gems.



Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-Network Theory in Education. London: Routledge.
A seriously important book in terms illustrating the work that has been informed by variousANTsensibilities in education. Given the dependence of education on the sociology of the social, this book is both timely and important for any kind of rethinking in education theory.


Lankshear, C. (2002). The Challenge of Digital Epistemologies. Draft paper presented at the Annual Meeting of The American Educational Research Association New Orleans, 3 April. Retrieved from http://www.geocities.com/c.lankshear/challenge.html.
Revisiting some ideas that Colin and I kicked around ages ago. While this was framed from 'conventional' philosophy the mappings of various folk who are nibbling around the notion ofdigital epistemologiesis still useful. But, given the kinds of stuff that has happened since then it certainly needs a revisit.



Levy, S. (2011). In The Plex: How Google thinks, works and shapes our lives. New York, NY: Simon Schuster.
This is an organisation more or less geared to the exponential. A heap of smart folk using and continually improving the way they do stuff not incrementally but in what is to the user seamless shifts when in fact they are big leaps. I can't help but wonder given that it is built around "us" teaching "them" or teaching "the machine", what if "they" turned their minds to education. No bureaucracy, just a bunch of smart folk working on the challenge.



McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. London: Jonathon Cape.
A game changer. Apologies about the pun.


Hagel, J., Brown, J. S., & Davison, L. (2010). The power of pull : how small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion. New York: Basic Books.
A key text for me. Strong resonances with a lot I have been reading, writing and thinking about. JSBis one of my favourite thinkers. In many respects this is a book about edges, exponentials and everything else, i.e. it draws out, resonates with and further informs my wee interest inEdges, Exponentials & Education.



Johnson, S. (2010). Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation. London, England: Allen Lane.
Something of a mapping of a skill set for this century. Makes what is planned for schooling, at least in Oz, as one famous gene tech bod put it: galactically stupid. Just can't imagine an education bureaucrat joining any of the dots. To me, this is very much a book about pedagogy/learning in the current space. The conditions for good ideas that Johnson traces so eloquently represent an important set of ideas for how to teach and learn. That some of these conditions can only be found at theedgesof education is what you'd expect.




Gorur, R. (2011). Explaining Global Policy Phenomena Using the Small and the Mundane: A Network Analysis of PISA. Ph D, University of Melbourne, Melbourne.
Probably the best PhD I have read. For any ANT afficionados or afficionados of good writing/argument and analysis. ContactRhadikafor a copy.



Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Seattle: CreateSpace.
Provocative and important. One of the more pragmatic and realistic accounts of learning in an era of exponential change.


Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2011). Disrupting class : how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (Updated and expanded new ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
A reading of the many problems of schooling from folk who study businesses. Before you put on your garlic, yes, another from the dark side, this is an important book IMHO. The reading of schooling it does from outside is interesting, insightful and sometimes naive. The significant element in the book is taking Christensen's notion ofdisruptive innovationand developing insights about current patterns of schooling, particularly for various "non-user" populations and the role online learning plays.



Constable, R. L. (2006). What Deans of Informatics Should Tell Their University Presidents. Retrieved from http://www.informatics-europe.org/talks/Constable_eurotics_2006.pdf
The interplay of 'the digital' with the production, dissemination, curation of knowledge is not going away and this useful little paper maps a good number of the issues and has some juicy illustrations of what those machines are getting up to. Links to some of the observations made by Stevenson's account of machines 'generating knowledge' from data.


Nicholls, A. V. (2009). The Social Life of the Computer in Ramingining. PhD, Charles Darwin University, Darwin.
A wonderful ANT informed thesis (No. I was not an examiner!). It is available here.


Scholz, T. (Ed.). (2011). Learning Through Digital Media: Experiments in Technology and Pedagogy. New York: Institute for Distributed Creativity.
Available as a PDF download this collection of essays and resources is easily the best I have seen. Most of the folk writing are educators, i.e. they teach but it is interesting that the number of folk who are from 'education' as in the discipline is minimal.


Stevenson, M. (2011). An Optimists Tour of the Future. London: Profile Books.
This is an entertaining and highly readable account of the GRIN technologies together with a bunch of other projects and phenomena that Stevenson argues frames the near future.

Kawasaki, G. (2011). Enchantment : the art of changing hearts, minds, and actions. New York: Portfolio/Penguin.
More from the dark side and less interesting than Taylor's book but still some interesting ideas and insights.

Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2009). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New York: Penguin Books.
This is very much catch up reading. I have become intrigued by the idea set broadly described as behavioural economics.



Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.
I've always been a big fan of Sherry Turkle's work. It used to be that I'd have a good idea and then she'd publish a book about it soon after! A seriously important thinker re matters of computing technologies.

Rushkoff, D. (2010). Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. New York: OR Books.
Rushkoff is another of the influentials on my radar. This simple but important idea for me underpins so much of what is happening as knowledge production, storage and dissemination goes digital. Well. It has long gone digital in so many fields but what is intriguing to me are the associated shifts in what now counts as knowledge and the ever increasing role that machines play.

Flannery, T. (2010). Here on Earth: an Argument for Hope. Melbourne: Text Publishing.
I have been drawn to big picture stuff for a good deal of my intellectual existence. This is, like Kelly's book sweeping in its command of the physical and biological patterns of our little planet. Mark Stevenson reports one of the better quotes about earth from an astronaut he interviewed: I like this planet. I've got all my stuff here.




Kelly, K. (2010). What Technology Wants. New York: Penguin.
If you can have epics in non-fiction writing then this is it. A huge scope, fascinating insights and intriguing argument about technology. I found a number of points where the account might have been written by an afficionado of actor-network theory.

Taylor, W. C. (2011). Practically Radical: not so crazy ways to transform your company, shake up your industry, and challenge yourself. New York: William Morrow.
Yeah. OK. So I read stuff from the 'dark side'. Actually I think that the so-called 'dark side' has been doing what formal education is supposed to be good at for a long time and we have missed lots of opportunities to learn from these often wild, in an educational sense spaces.
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