Here’s what I’m currently reading:

1. Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America, by Jay Mathews

This book charts the creation of the KIPP public charter schools. I picked this up to help get inspired for the new school year, as well as to crib some teaching tips from successful teachers, and so far it’s working.

2. Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, by P.W. Singer

A fascinating look at the use of robotics in warfare. It is, by turns, scary, mindblowing, inspiring, and thought-provoking. I’m really enjoying the writing style, too – P.W. Singer writes with a strong knowledge of popular culture and even a sense of humor.

3. A History of Modern Europe, Second Edition: From the Renaissance to the Present, by John Merriman

Much of this is fairly dry stuff, but I’ve realized, during some of my recent reading about World War I and World War II, that I wanted to have a better handle on the broader scope of European history. This certainly provides it, even if it’s somewhat slow going at times. With luck, I’ll get out of the 1600s before September!

4. Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition, by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

I have to confess, I had hoped to complete this book early in the summer and use it as a springboard for creating fantastic new unit plans for the upcoming school year…but that didn’t happen. I love the idea that “understanding” is a multifaceted phenomenon (an idea that happens to come up in “Wired for War”, too, in the context of artificial intelligence). The book’s central premise is that it makes sense to know what kinds of understanding(s) you want students to have at the end of a unit of instruction, and then work backwards from there to figure out what and how you’re going to teach in order to get them to that point. I just haven’t managed to get very far yet. Two weeks left until school starts; I’m hoping I can make a pretty good dent by then and finish shortly after that.