We have made it to the end of another busy year! The Kiwi summer break provides an excellent opportunity to relax, refresh and prepare for the new year ahead. If you need something to read over the break, look no further!
CORE’s Knowledge Curator Paula Eskett has once again collected book reviews from across the CORE whānau, showcasing a number of new titles to inspire your thinking and teaching practice.
Friedman, T. (2016). London, United Kingdom: Penguin Random House.
Harari, Y. (2018). London, United Kingdom: Penguin Random House.
Reese, B. (2018). New York, United States of America: Simon and Schuster.
Reviewer: Derek Wenmoth
Rather than focus on a single book for this review I have chosen to provide a brief overview of three books; all focusing on the theme of the future, the impact of technology on society and what it means to be ‘human’ in the midst of this change.
The three authors, a journalist, an entrepreneur and an academic bring their own unique perspectives to this challenge.
Thomas Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who writes regular columns in the New York Times and is well known for his previous best seller “The Earth is Flat”. Friedman writes with vitality, wit, and optimism, and argues that we can overcome the multiple stresses of an age of accelerations—if we slow down, if we dare to be late and use the time to reimagine work, politics, and community.
Byron Reese is the CEO and publisher of the technology research company Gigaom, and the founder of several high-tech companies. His previous book as also a best seller, titled “Infinite Progress: How Technology and the Internet Will End Ignorance, Disease, Hunger, Poverty, and War.” Reese writes from the perspective of an entrepreneur, but does more than simply explain and describe the world of AI and robotics, he focuses on how to think about these technologies, and the ways in which they will change the world forever.
Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli academic who rose to fame with the publication of his book Sapiens, originally written in Hebrew as a history of humanity, translated into English in 2014. He followed that with Homo Deus which is a gaze into the future. 21 Lessons provides a contemporary stocktake of where we are currently, and explores the issues facing us in the present time, challenging us with the decisions we will need to make as individuals and as society as we progress into this ever changing future.
My reason for providing this collective review is that when we read a single book on a topic like this it’s easy to become caught up in the particular set of arguments or thesis of that particular author, and lose sight of the bigger picture of the issue or issues at stake. The combination of these three books provides an eclectic mix of viewpoints which, while sharing a similar focus, differ in the perspectives provided, leaving the reader to synthesise for themselves the ideas to arrive at their own point of understanding.
My reason for choosing these three in particular is that they are each extremely well informed, well researched and profoundly challenging volumes. There is a plethora of books emerging at present on the similar theme, but many of these are purely descriptive or opinions of the authors, rather than providing the meaty, ‘metacognitive’ perspectives that these three do.
At the heart of what these authors provide are fascinating insights into Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and Bio-technologies and their extraordinary implications for our species.
In The Fourth Age, Byron Reese makes the case that technology has reshaped humanity just three times in history:
- 100,000 years ago, we harnessed fire, which led to language.
- 10,000 years ago, we developed agriculture, which led to cities and warfare.
- 5,000 years ago, we invented the wheel and writing, which lead to the nation state.
Reese then explains we are now on the doorstep of a fourth change brought about by two technologies: AI and robotics.
Harari arrives at a similar place, claiming that as humans we are currently facing three big challenges that are shaping our ‘future agenda’:
- How to prevent nuclear war
- How to prevent climate change
- How to learn to control new technology before it controls us
Friedman describes three key areas of non-linear acceleration that are shaping our future…
- The Market (digital globalisation)
- Mother nature (climate change, biodiversity loss)
- Moore’s law (exponential technological development)
While it may appear from these summaries that each author has a different agenda, their perspectives merge around building a picture of the future that is significantly different to what has been experienced in the past, and one that will present us with an unprecedented level of challenge in terms of who we are as humans. The change ahead is simply not a case of finding ways to adapt, but of considering how that future is being shaped by our own behaviour and decisions now, and then facing the consequences of what may happen when we are no longer able to make those decisions or act on them because a ‘greater force’ is doing that for us.
The challenge I’ve taken from these books is to consider the question that has challenged philosophers and academics for centuries, “how should we then live?” It is patently clear, from the three perspectives here, that our current ways of thinking about how we organise our personal lives, our business models and our political systems must all be up for review if we are to adequately prepare for, and shape, this uncertain future.
Throughout each of these books there are challenges that will resonate in the minds and hearts of educators. The future we imagine and are preparing our young people for demands action now. Our current ways of thinking and organising learning are being severely challenged and will require us to ‘let go’ of some of the things we feel precious about, and to act with greater determination to understand our role as ‘future makers’, rather than those who perpetuate the status quo. Essential to this is finding ways of working together, in collaborations, in networks, in communities – and not as isolated individuals with a ‘hero-mindset’.
The challenge is well summed up in the words of Harari…
“How do you live in an age of bewilderment, when the old stories have collapsed and no new story has yet emerged to replace them?”
Manson, M. (2018). New York, United States of America: HarperCollins.
Reviewer: Alyssa McArthur
This review has been written from my own personal point of view and is my opinion on some of the key points made in the book.
What attracted me to the book was the slightly naughty title ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’. In this day and age I feel we are programmed to care about everything and anything. It affects everything we do from our mahi to our personal lives; when really we need to figure out what we truly care about and what matters to us. It’s not just handed to us, we learn through our own experiences in life. I thought that reading this book would be a step in the right direction to help me lighten up and care less about the pointless dramas life throws at us.
The world we live in today has lots of not so great factors e.g. unhappiness, unsolved problems, depression, anxiety etc.; but it also has the good factors including happiness, problem solvers, and people willing to help. We are usually quick to forget about all the good factors as we are constantly dealing with our next issue or problem. Many people just like to complain and they can’t complain about the good factors which is why we hear more about the not so great factors.
A number of not such great factors affect my life daily and I was curious. I wanted an insight into someone else’s way of thinking about life and its problems and that person ended up being author Mark Manson.
I found the book to be funny and relatable in the stories Mark Manson used as examples to explain his theory as to why the human population think and act in the way they do. I didn’t take into account every thing he said (sorry Mark!), but that’s the good thing about this book; you can take what you want from it and use the techniques which align with you. They make you think! Sometimes I found myself having to stop halfway through a chapter just to think about whether or not I agreed with what the author was saying. It was like a mini counselling session for myself.
I honestly enjoyed reading this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking into changing their mindset or re-considering their own personal values. Life can be full of surprises and this book provides some interesting insights into how we can handle them.
Walker, M. (2018). London, United Kingdom: Penguin.
Reviewer: Pete Sommerville
An extract: ‘Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory, makes you more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?’
The wonder drug can be hard to get your hands on. But it seems it’s worth the effort.
Everyone needs to know how our modern world has conspired against sleep. Matthew Walker clearly describes the damage we do by ignoring the importance and complexity of the role sleep plays in our lives.
For example, we can all be divided into two genetically determined groups: morning larks and night owls, each influenced by different circadian rhythms. There is nothing owls can do to become larks which is tough because work and school norms overwhelmingly favour early rising larks. Owls are forced to ‘burn the proverbial candle at both ends. Greater ill health caused by a lack of sleep therefore befalls owls, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke.’ There is evidence for viewing lack of sleep as a factor in the onset of depression and schizophrenia. Early school starting times are disastrous for the mental health of teenagers.
If you regularly clock in under seven hours a night, you’re doing yourself a disservice as grave as that of regularly smoking or drinking to excess.
McQuaid, M., & Kern, P. (2017). Australia: Michelle McQuaid.
Reviewer: Ara Simmons
Who doesn’t want to feel good and function well? For many of us work will make up a good chunk of our lives so why wouldn’t we want to thrive.
By regularly engaging in wellbeing habits and activities we can build on our wellbeing. In this book, the authors distill research from the past three decades and serve them up as practical activities which we can try on for size in our everyday lives.
The wellbeing blueprint provides a “how to” guide from initially supporting us to measure our own wellbeing right through to supporting us to create our own wellbeing plan.
Personally, I think it’s a gem of a book and something which I come back to regularly to provide me with doses of inspiration. For those of us with an academic thirst the book comes filled with a bumper store of references for further exploration.
Street, H. (2018). Australia, Wise Solutions.
Reviewer: Ara Simmons
So when we are creating positive schools what are some of the things we consider? Does context ever come into it?
Children not only need to learn, but they need to live well too but sometimes the decisions we make as schools can get in the way. In this book Helen Street asks us to be curious about what the social side of wellbeing looks like – considering community approaches instead of competition, looking at motivation as opposed to compliance and control as just a few teasers and then serves up a contextual model for wellbeing together with next steps on how to begin.
This book is for anyone who is interested in the conversation of creating positive schools from the inside out where health, happiness and positive engagement are all considered as an integrated whole.
Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER Press.
Reviewer: Jacky Young
I have been working in a secondary school recently helping them to review their Year 12 NCEA L2 course, focussing on the key competencies to enhance student learning instead of focussing on the traditional ‘credit farming’ they had been doing previously.
NZCER have produced a deck of cards called Remixing the Key Competencies: A curriculum design deck, where each cards lists an example of a learning activity on the white side and the relevant key competency on the other coloured side. We used them in a variety of different ways:
- Lay out all cards white side up. Teachers select 2-3 cards that relate best to something they were doing with a class in the last day or 2. Talk about what they were doing, hoping to achieve etc in that lesson. Turn cards over. Taadah – which KC were you embedding?
- Lay out all cards white side up. Select activities that best match up to a unit of work. Turn over and look at the frequency of KCs being covered. Where are the gaps? Which ones currently dominate? What do you want to do about this?
- Fan out all cards. Pick one from the deck (a bit like a magic trick!) Turn it over and talk about what it would look like in your classroom if you designed an activity like this.
Lots and lots of ideas. Also blank cards so you can write your own. The school liked them so much they are going to buy their own set. They think they will get lots of use out of them when they start to review other year levels to be more inclusive of the KCs. All staff were fully engaged in this ‘gamification’ of curriculum design.
We have a set in our CORE Education library, but I liked them so much I bought my own.
NZCER also do a deck on remixing NCEA across learning areas (NCEA L2) and the Science capabilities.
Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the CORE Education whānau!
We trust you have a safe and happy holiday break, the CORE Blog will return in 2019.