2013 was the most intellectually exciting year of my life.
And all it took was a few books. Things really came together this year, and for the first time I feel like I'm heading in a coherent direction. The following works literally changed the course of my life.
Most of these are insights into how learning works. Maybe you'll find them as inspiring as I did.
Seymour Papert, 1980
To quote Bret Victor, Mindstorms is "perhaps the greatest book ever written on learning in general."
Papert shows how people learn and how we can design computer systems to fit
the learning process, especially for math.
This book is extremely dense with insight and is fundamental to
where I am today, both geographically and intellectually.
John Holt, 1964, 1982
John Holt observes children in
his classroom and slowly develops ideas about why even "good students"
are doing poorly. In doing so, he unpacks the school experience and shows in plain English why
modern schools are terrible environments for learning. This book
instantly made sense of my personal experiences
in school and I will never be able to think as I did before. Everyone who has anything
to do with education needs to read this book, and
probably all his other books.
Bret Victor, 2013
This is not what I want to share. The actual thing that blew my
mind from Bret Victor this year is currently unpublished. This talk
is only a glimmer (and a confusing one, at that) of a much, much larger
set of ideas that I suspect humanity will be trying to come
to terms with for hundreds of years.
Mitch Resnick and Eric Rosenbaum, 2012
There is no complete statement of the
Lifelong Kindergarten principles,
but this is the closest. A recognition of the power of playful exploration
and how we can design tools facilitating it.
I worked on the
Scratch website for 7 months this year
at the MIT Media Lab and picked up a lot through osmosis, including
some great friends. :)
Richard Rhodes, 1987
More than anything, this book captures the process of scientific discovery,
including the initial excitement and subsequent confusion and horror
as discovery collides with the rest of society.
Probably the best distillation of a time period ever.
John Markoff, 2005
A fantastic history of the beginning of computing, something I've
studied quite a bit in the past year. Like The Making of the Atomic
Bomb, it captures the time period well.
Ivan Illich, 1971
The incendiary writing style obscures what is otherwise
a valuable vision of what education
could be. I'm not really sold on any of the specific ideas, but
the broad ideas are an essential perspective on education thinking.
Andrea diSessa, 2001
What a true computing medium could look like and why it's important.
I can see this book being completely unintelligible to most people,
but I read it at exactly the right time to really get it. This was
crucial in my understanding of Bret Victor's and Alan Kay's work.
Film Crit Hulk, 2011-2013
Beautiful, clear analysis of every aspect of film. I can
never watch a movie the same way again.
sprout & co., 2013
The most important experiment in education I know of. Every
part of the plan for this new high school is thoughtfully designed in ways that are consistent
with social justice, education theory, the Somerville community, and reality.
Particularly important to me was seeing how
the ideas of Seymour Papert, John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and
Ivan Illich can be combined responsibly in practice.
It's to-be-determined whether the plan will work,
but for everyone's sake, I really hope it does.