What I’m Reading


Jane McGonigal

In a world of unimaginable events and unthinkable change, McGonigal provides some really useful tools to help us to help us see the future coming and be ready for anything.

This isn’t just a stuffy book about the future, it offers some really practical strategies to help us feel prepared, hopeful and equipped to plan ahead with optimism. There’s some great stuff in here that will be of interest to educators looking for ideas they can use to inform their future-focused programme design, equipping learners to see an ‘imaginable’ future.

Education to Better Their World

Mark Prensky

The sub-title of this book resonates strongly with me – “Unleashing the power of 21st century kids.” This is a must-read book for any educator who cares about the future of their students.

This slim volume traverses a range of issues that we must address in our traditional approach to education if we are to create opportunities to involve our learners in real, world-improving learning. I can see it being a very useful focus for a PLG within a school!

Empowered at a Distance

John Spencer

If you’re looking for some really useful ideas and strategies for powering up your work in virtual or hybrid learning, then this book is a great place to start.

It’s not just another great tricks guide to online technologies – but is anchored in pedagogical practice, providing practical strategies for building student ownership into the processes of inquiry, collaboration, creativity – and assessment.

The Future of Teaching and the Myths that Hold it Back

Guy Claxton

Without doubt my favourite book for 2021! Guy Claxton has been a significant voice in education for many years now, and this, his latest book, doesn’t disappoint! In his introduction he says : “It’s time for the educational slugfest to stop. ‘Traditional’ and ‘progressive’ education are both caricatures, and bashing cartoon images of each other is unprofitable and unedifying.”

Having laid down that challenge, Claxton then proceeds to systematically address all of the myths that he considers are holding us back, before building the case for what we need to focus on in order to create a new model of education – one that is genuinely empowering for all young people.

Lost Connections

Johan Hari

Subtitled “Uncovering the real causes of depression – and the unexpected outcomes”, this book has given me new perspectives on the world of depression and anxiety. Drawing from his own experience of being prescribed medication as a child for

Having laid down that challenge, Claxton then proceeds to systematically address all of the myths that he considers are holding us back, before building the case for what we need to focus on in order to create a new model of education – one that is genuinely empowering for all young people.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain

Zaretta Hammond

I listened to Zaretta Hammond speaking on an online conference earlier in the year. She impressed me so much that I ordered the book on the spot – and I haven’t been disappointed! It’s written for teachers and contains loads of expert advice and strategies that can be easily implemented.

Hammond expertly explains how to address the needs of underserved students by presenting high-leverage instructional strategies that are informed by the latest findings in neuroscience and cognition, as well as culturally-responsive instruction – but doesn’t bog you down with academic language, instead her ideas are accessible and easily applied.

Lost Connections

Johann Hari

At a time when we’re seeing an enormous emphasis on wellbeing in our schools – for students and for staff, this book provides some really useful ideas and understandings. One of the authors claims is that we use too many drugs and not enough understanding.

As the reviewer in the Guardian says, “Hari is by no means the first writer to call for a compassionate, common-sense approach to depression and anxiety, or to point out how medical and societal attitudes have fallen short. But his book brings with it an urgency and rigour that will, with luck, encourage the authorities to sit up and take note.”

Dive Into Deep Learning

Joanne Quinn, Joanne McEachen, Michael Fullan, Mag Gardner and Max Drummy

The authors of this book are all part of the team that developed the global NPDL programme. This is is my go-to handbook for when I am working with the NZ schools that are a pat of this programme.

This book is packed with all of the tools and frameworks you need to design deep learning programmes in your school, to measure progress and assess the conditions that will neable you to sustaain innovation and deep learning in your school.

The Growth Delusion

David Pilling

This is one of those books you want to keep coming back to. Described as “a revelatory and entertaining book about the pitfalls of how we measure our economy and how to correct them”, this book challenges the conventions of how we think about the economy and the principle of growth that underpins it.

As an educator I find lots in here that challenges the very foundations of much of our system and our curriculum. Pilling argues that we prioritise growth maximisation without stopping to think about the costs. This has huge implications for the future world that we are preparing those in our schools and kura for.


Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn

This has been one of my ‘go to’ books for the past couple of years now. It provides a compelling case for why we should be pursuing coherence in our classrooms, schools and system, and provides an excellent framework to guide you in doing so.

John Hattie says that Coherence is a book that demands action, and that it provides the blueprint for a new vocabulary of education action. I agree!

The Signals are Talking

Amy Webb

Author, Amy Webb is a quantitative futurist who founded the Future Today Institute. She explains how to discern “signals” and patterns among seemingly unconnected experiments, how to extrapolate possible future scenarios from them and how to devise appropriate strategies for each scenario. She also shows how to distinguish real trends from merely trendy ideas.

I particularly like her use of trends to help identify probable, plausible and possible futures – something we could do more of in education.

The Good Ancestor

Roman Krznaric

If you’re concerned about the impact of short term thinking in our modern world then this is the book for you. Roman Krznaric’s Good Ancestor is inspiring, revealing six profound ways in which we can all learn to think long. It will engage you and provoke you to action.

I agree with the U2’s The Edge’s book cover recommendation: “The Good Ancestor is full of revelations for everyone who cares about the legacy they leave. This is the book our children’s children will thank us for reading.”

Check out the Good Ancestor’s microsite for more.

What School Could Be

Ted Dintersmith

The man behind the film Most Likely to Succeed, a feature-length documentary on education, Ted Dintersmith spent most of thre 2016 school year visiting schools across the US, documenting what he found in this inspiring account of teachers in ordinary circumstances doing extraordinary things, showing us what leads to powerful learning in classrooms, and how to empower our teachers to make it happen.

Check out the What School Could Be website for more

Human Kind: a hopeful history

Rutger Bregman

An excellent read – my top pick for 2020! It is thought provoking, informative and counter-intuitive. Bregman challenges our predisposition that as humans we are inherently wicked or inclined to think and do bad things. Using a plethora of research and stories, he uses research to present examples and evidence of human kindness throughout history, complete with references. Highly recommended.

Unscaled: How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts Are Creating the Economy of the Future

Demant Taneja with Kevin Maney

A great read for the modern age – the author argues against the prevailing paradigm of ‘big is better’, and demonstrates how small, unscaled companies can pursue niche markets and successfully. The book explores how unscaling will affect six industries-energy, healthcare, education, finance, media, and consumer products-and how to benefit from this revolution.

Range: Why generalists triumph in a specialised world

David Epstein

An engrossing read for educators, parents, business people – anyone really! Full of well researched stories and examples that provide support for the argument that in most fields especially those that are complex and unpredictable?generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Strongly recommended!

Putting Students First

Marsha Jones, Laureen Avery, Joseph D’Martino

This book tells the story of a 20-year journey of transformation of schools in the Springdale School District in NW Arkansas. It is part memoir and part history, sharing the story of what is possible when like-minded educators work together to address radical change. The narrative, written by one who lived it, shares the journey of the district, the experts who helped guide them and the practical applications that are in place to support the concept of personalisation of learning.

Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less

Greg McKeown

An excellent read for those who are feeling tied down by the burden of ‘too much to do’ and trying to cope with the increasing complexity of everyday life. This isn’t a book of tips and tricks, it’s about adopting a way of life that will make it easier to navigate those things that may currently present as barriers or obstacles and cause us to become stressed or fatigued in the work we do.

The Righteous Mind

Jonathan Haidt

Described by the NY Times as ‘a landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself’, this book explains in well-researched ways why you hold on to your moral beliefs and why many people disagree with you. I found this book profoundly interesting at many levels, and useful in the thinking about why we so often fail to see things the same way when it comes to thinking about the future. 

The Uninhabitable Earth: a story of the future

David Wallace-Wells

This book tells it as it is! Incredibly well researched and drawing on data from a wide range of sources, Wallace-Wells paints an incredibly grim picture of the future if we continue down the track we’re on and fail to act. The section on the ‘elements of chaos’ is particularly informative and challenging. A real challenge to how we should be thinking, talking and acting about the planetary threat from climate change. 

The End of Average

Todd Rose

Subtitled “how to succeed in a world of same-ness”, this book revolutionised my understanding of the problems we’ve created in our education system based on our use of the universally accepted, yet scientifically untrue notion of ‘average’. Rose explains this with lots of memorable stories and examples – a big challenge for educators to re-think the foundations of our assessment approaches, and how we ‘measure’ success. 

What’s yours is mine: against the sharing economy

Tom Slee

This book is a challenging read for all of us who are embracing the disruptive power of social platforms that encourage the breakdown of the ?middle man? in our transactions. The author argues the so-called sharing economy damages development, extends harsh free-market practices into previously protected areas of our lives, and presents the opportunity for a few people to make fortunes by damaging communities and pushing vulnerable individuals to take on unsustainable risk.

Empower: What happens when students own their learning

John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

This is an easy to read and inspiring handbook for educators seeking ways to embrace the idea of learner agency in the classroom. The authors argue that we need to move beyond focusing on engagement and into empowerment. Here, students own every part of the learning journey so that they grow into self-directed, lifelong learners. 


Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund

Subtitled ?Ten reasons we?re wrong about the world and why things are better than you think?, this is a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases. There is inspiration in here for educators working with learners to help them understand the importance of evidence over opinion, and how, by working on that basis, we can actually make a difference in the world.

Thank You For Being Late

Thomas Friedman

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.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Yuval Noah Harari

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.

The Fourth Age

Byron Reese

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.