Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Must Read: Education Nation

Most of the time, I know what review items are coming to my mailbox. Occasionally, though, Wiley, and its Imprint, Jossey-Bass, will send me a surprise. Education Nation is one of the surprises.

With education reform in the news this week, Education Nation, is certainly topical in light of current events.

A couple of things grabbed me from the get-go. First, George Lucas wrote the forward of the book. American Graffiti,-Star Wars-Indiana Jones-George Lucas? Yes, that George Lucas. The next thing that caught my attention is Milton Chen's background. "Big Bird Goes To China" - does that ring any bells for you? I must have watched that movie a hundred times with my kids. Chen was a production assistant in that movie. I had to wonder, how did George Lucas and staff from Sesame Street come together and what does this book have to do with it?

Wiley and its Imprint, Jossey-Bass, continue to publish books about education that come from a perspective that differs from the "gotta teach to the test" mentality. Again and again, they send me books that describe and richly illustrate the value, the why-bother, the how-to teach our children in ways that allow the students to be engaged, active participants. This is another of those books - and while other books I've been given had more specific audiences, Education Nation, in my opinion, is a must read for everyone.

Author Milton Chen gives us a big picture view and a zoomed in look at what creates learning. He takes the reader through what works and he provides many anecdotes that illustrate little pockets of success across the nation. As a homeschooler of a child on the autism spectrum, I know that homeschoolers are already using many of the strategies and approaches that Chen suggests, because we chose to homeschool in order to approach learning differently from the public school setting. Chen gives me ideas to use at home with my girl, ideas that are proven to work, ideas that I had not thought of. (Note to self: get the girl an iPod w/ a microphone.)

Some key words and phrases that get me excited: project based learning. social/emotional learning, active participation.

Chen describes guided participation in an education setting and does an incredible job explaining why it's important, how to implement, that it works. He explains new ways to meaningfully asses students once we move way from a "teachers deliver content" and "teach to the test" approach, and toward a "teacher as facilitator of student discoveries" perspective.

Technology and media play a huge role in our society, and Chen thoughtfully describes the benefits of getting more technology and media into the hands of students, sooner, integrating technology and media into learning.

My opinion is that every parent, every teacher, every taxpayer should read this book. Whether you're a homeschooler, a public schooler, a private schooler, you need to read this book. Chen argues that the United States has fallen behind other countries in terms of educating our children, and the current state of education has school staff teaching to the test, which does not translate into the kind of learning and education that keeps the U.S. up to speed with other nations.

Even homeschoolers and taxpayers who aren't parents have a stake in how students in our public schools are taught. These students will be our future leaders. We need to make our voices known to our state and especially our federal lawmakers as federal education policy is being shaped. National standards, teaching to the test of standards, may not be the way to educational success for the United States.

I think that many homeschoolers will read this and think, "WE are already doing a lot of that! That's one of the reasons we chose to homeschool."

You can read the first chapter online, here. The table of contents is here.

The book will likely lead you to the internet to http://www.edutopia.org/. There are almost endless resources there for teachers. Yes, intended for school-building school teachers, but useful for homeschoolers and homeschool co-ops as well. Edutopia has a page about Education Nation, too: http://www.edutopia.org/educationnation.

There are freebies available to anyone. For example, Chen describes using movies in the learning process. He takes us to http://www.edutopia.org/story-movies, which takes us to The Film Foundation and study guides like this one, available (free) to any teacher.


Jossey-Bass sent me a media copy of "Education Nation" at no charge. I am not financially compensated for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

2 comments:

The Glasers said...

I understand that Waiting for Superman hits the unions pretty hard. We have been lucky in that David's teachers have all been pretty decent. One had a hard time controlling class but it was huge (like 50 kids) and many did not want to be there (required course but no interest). He has the same teacher with a smaller class size and kids who care. It's like night and day.

themotherlode said...

Hey again Penny....LOVED what you had to say about this book. This really DOES sound like a must read. Again, thanks for the heads up on my blog; I really appreciate you taking the time to comment!

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