Another year comes towards to an end and its been another year of great reading for anyone with an interest in learning. Once again I have read from a wide range of areas, all with something to add to how I think of learning. Below you'll find my top recommendations for the year along with a short summary of what I got out of reading each book. I haven't put these in a top ten order this year, there were so many contenders for the number one spot! Do you think there is a standout number one? Let me know.
PresentationZen Design - Garr Reynolds
Probably no real surprise for anyone who has read my blog, I really like the way Garr Reynolds has brought a sense of design to slideware. PresentationZen Design is his follow up to the slide-show stopping Presentation Zen of 2008. It is really an expansion of the design section from the original book, adding a good deal of extra information and ideas along the way. I do not think there can be any doubt that design has an impact upon how learners interact with learning materials, this book is a real help for those who would like to make sure that the learning tools that they design are engaging and effective for learners. Oh, and one extra tip, Garr has his third book, The Naked Presenter about to hit the shelves, I'm sure it will be a great way to start my reading for next year!
resonate - Nancy Duarte
The power of story telling in learning is enormous, we all tend to remember information when its woven into a meaningful and engaging story. Nancy Duarte's second book, resonate, is subtitled 'present stories that transform audiences' . I found that I couldn't put the book down, there is a new idea and lesson on every page. The book mixes things up with a series of illuminating examples of great speeches and great communicators - not all of them expected, they range from Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King Jr to Mozart and Alfred Hitchcock. From each of her examples Nancy draws lessons for the reader and illustrates these story lessons through the use of a 'sparkline' that is a visual way of showing how a speech is constructed. A good deal of the work that I do is really about weaving stories for learners and I found that the book has provided many ideas to improve what I do.
Change by Design - Tim Brown
Change by Design just missed last years's list (I hadn't quite finished it) For those who mightn't know, Tim Brown is the CEO of the design firm IDEO who, in this book shares his ideas on how design thinking can be used within organisations to drive innovation.
The book presents through a range of stories/case studies and provides glimpses of the creative/design process used within IDEO. 'Design Thinking' has (to me) real applications to learning design and there are enough good ideas and new approaches within this book to make it well worth a read!
Drive - Dan Pink
Drive is an easily readable book, crammed with examples and anecdotes, Dan Pink looks to build a new way of looking at motivation. He argues that the established (old) ways of motivating, through what he terms, 'carrots and sticks' don't work anymore (except in particular circumstances) In short carrots encourage us to do something for a reward, sticks can be used to punish unwanted behaviours. Businesses and indeed learning uses both these approaches, bonuses for performance, A+ for excellence etc. Pink argues that there are better motivators in today's world and these are the trio of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Autonomy - we like to be self directed (informal learning), Mastery - we like to be good at things, Purpose - we'll work harder at things when we can see the bigger purpose. A good book and well worth the read!
Switch - Chip and Dan Heath
Made to Stick was Chip and Dan Heath's first book and in fact a key driver to me beginning this blog. So when they released their second book Switch this year I had it on pre-order from Amazon as soon as it was listed! This book is all about how to change, yourself and/or others. I won't go into detail here, except to say that they provide an interesting and usable approach to encouraging change, using a three step approach - Step 1 - Direct the Rider; Step 2 - Motivate the Elephant: Step 3 - Shape the Path. Now these might sound a little unusual, but the model is interesting and as learning is essentially about change, from what we know and do now to what we could do be, this book and it's model for change provides some new ways of thinking about things!
Better than Bullet Points - Jane Bozarth
I'd been meaning to read Better than Bullet Points for a while but only got around to it a few months ago now. As you might have noticed through my reading of PresentationZen and Slide:ology I have an interest in improving the use of Powerpoint and other slideware in presentations and learning environments. Powerpoint however is also used as a starting place for the development of elearning. Unfortunately a good deal of elearning is actually really e-reading and I was keen to see what Jane had to say about using Powerpoint more effectively in the development of elearning courses. Put simply, the book is a great resource for anyone who will be using Powerpoint in the development of elearning courses. The book focuses upon the effective design of elearning first and the use of Powerpoint second. Throughout the book and the included CD-ROM there are piles of practical examples and case studies. An essential addition to your bookshelf!
The Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Not a standard learning text by any means! The Black Swan is part philosophy, part economics, challenging your preconceptions and assumptions. I'm sure NNT (as the author refers to himself) would question many of my book choices here as many of them use limited examples and case studies to help to provide proofs for their ideas. NNT isn't a fan of generalising from limited observations, he's an empiricist who probably can only be certain of what he has seen himself. Why is it titled The Black Swan? Simple, for thousands of years (in fact forever) people in Europe would describe swans as being white, that was just a given. Just as the sky is blue, swans were white. But in Australia swans aren't white, they're black. Much of what we assume to be truths are really only theories waiting to be disproved, waiting for a black swan. What has it got to do with learning? Well here's one angle. traditional formal learning is about 'teaching' accepted practice, how to do things, what is right - it teaches what could be termed White Swan knowledge. Informal learning on the other hand doesn't have a set curriculum, it is flexible and ready for Black Swans. A challenging read, best done when you can get some quiet time to think, it also messes with your head a bit, but the outcome is a new way of looking at things and that is always good!
The New Social Learning - Marcia Conner and Tony Bingham
I read this book and said to myself The New Social Learning is the best book I've read for ages, and it is! It looks at how social media can help to create a whole new platform for learning within businesses. This quote from the book begins to explain the book's focus, "In large part, innovation and learning comes from the little moments between the activities we've previously thought of as 'real' work." Social media provides a way of sharing these 'little moments' it is a way of increasing collaboration within organisations, of breaking down silos of finding solutions to new problems in real time. This book is about what is happening in many businesses today and will continue to grow, people are social creatures and social media provides another avenue for people to do what they do best, to learn from each other.
Social Media for Trainers - Jane Bozarth
Social Media for Trainers is a really helpful book for trainers who would like a new addition to their suite of learning methods/tool. I won't go into how social media can be used for learning, Jane's book however provides a series of practical tips, case studies and ideas that trainers can use to support learning. Social media looked at includes Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, Wikis and a bunch of other tools. Whether you're across all these tools or not, this book is a great resources filled with really good ideas for using the new social media tools to improve your learners' experience.
OK, not a book and mine's still on it's way however I already know that it will be worth it. I've been using Kindle on my iPad and that's good, but having all my books with me in a lightweight reader will be great and I can get a new book right away without having to wait for delivery from the US. They're cheap too, mine's going to be the wifi/3G model, $189 Australian, I'll save this in 6 months by buying ebooks instead of 'real' books. I don't like writing in my books, (just a hangup of mine) but in the Kindle I'll be able to bookmark and highlight text to my heart's content, great for helping me find what I'm looking for. (BTW why a Kindle and an iPad? I can never get to use the iPad, everyone wants to use it at once!)
So, another great year of reading, ideas challenged and horizons opened. Looking forward to 2011 now!