Tag Archives: books

Summertime Reads from the LEARN Team

Photo by Link Hoang on Unsplash

As the on-going reflections and corrections of the 2017-2018 school year begin to swirl furiously in your brain, LEARN wishes to support you in turning essays into chilly cocktails, exams into sunny porches, book reports into BBQ delights and science projects into LEARN’s summertime reads recommendations. Summer vacation is no longer a tunnel dream, not simply a postcard on your desk to escape into, no longer a fictitious date on your personal calendar. It’s ok to start dreaming, fantasizing, planning, and of course relaxing – you made it! We hope you enjoy our reading recommendations for the summer of 2018.


Elizabeth Alloul – ESL Special Project

Innovators Mindset by George Kouros

George Kouros was a keynote speaker at the SPEAQ 2017 ESL convention in Laval, and gave an inspiring presentation on being an innovative educator-that I missed!

Who is George and what is he writing about?  I finally acquired his book, The Innovator’s Mindset, it is a book that teaches, inspires, and motivates the reader to help create a culture of innovation.

Next stop, his blog!  Happy summer!!

Kerry Cule – Online Teacher

Mandolin for Dummies

A few years ago, I started to teach myself how to play the mandolin. I have found that playing music increases my concentration, improves my coordination, and boosts my mood. While I’m no dummy, I’m looking forward to expanding my skill-set and learning a few new chords this summer!

Dianne Conrod – Principal, Virtual Campus

Canadian Gardener’s Guide
Lorraine Johnson, Ed.

Two of my favourite summer pastimes are reading and gardening, so it’s only natural that these two activities would overlap in the form of a gardening book. We have a lot of trees on our property, so I refer most often to the sections related to shade plants. This guide is a helpful reference for beginners and more seasoned gardeners alike and the colourful photos are inspiring!

Christine Truesdale – Director, Pedagogical Services

Broad Band
by Claire L. Evans

Broad Band, The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet weaves the history of the women who were the first ‘computers’, whose mental labour bore the original information technology and who “elevated the rudimentary operation of computing machines into an art called programming.” Author Claire L. Evans begins the story at the turn of the 20th C, when early use of the term ‘computer’ signified a job (mostly done by women), not a machine, and works her way through to the 1990’s, when cyberfeminists used the Internet as a platform for creativity and artistic expression. From Ada Lovelace, to Grace Hopper, to Brenda Laurel, these women were guided by their focus on the user, rather than the technology. Ultimately, they gave the machines their language and never lost sight of what should be the computer’s central purpose – to enrich our lives.

Julie Paré – Conseillère pédagogique


J’ai toujours aimé les mots, la poésie et la musique de Loco Locass, un groupe de hip-hop québécois formé de Biz, Batlam et Chafiik. Pour les amateurs de hockey et du Canadien de Montréal, vous avez surement déjà entendu leur chanson Le but. Cet été, j’ai décidé de retrouver la plume de Biz en lisant son quatrième roman Naufrage.


Michael J. Canuel Ed.D. – CEO

When by Daniel H. Pink

As the title suggests it deals with time, but more specifically, timing. Pink posits that when to do something and when not to is really a science and that knowing “when” to do something greatly influences outcomes. Not surprising until he starts to point out certain everyday realities and the value of recognizing patterns. When best to exercise, study, sleep, retire, collaborate, engage in critical reflection? An easy but enjoyable read.


Paul Rombaugh – Consultant


The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami

My summer read takes me back to the 16th century, to “La Florida” and that familiar story of conquest, but from the perspective of an unfamiliar voice. The Moor’s Account by Moroccan-American novelist Laila Lalami, is a retelling of the failed Narváez expedition of 1527. Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico, was one of only four survivors from the journey. A slave, his version was forever silenced in the testimonies of the others. Lalami’s fictional rendition gives voice to the experience of possibly the first Black explorer to visit the Americas, and through his lens to voices of the indigenous people who resisted them all.

Mary Stewart, Ph.D. Managing Editor, LEARNing Landscapes


I just picked up a bag of 18 French language books at a garage sale for five dollars, so I’ll be reading to my two year-old granddaughter this summer. Rose is already comfortable in French, and I’ll get to practice reading at a level suitable to me. Best of all, we’ll be snuggling together!

Audrey McLaren – Online Teacher

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
by Kathleen Rooney

is the life story of the title character. Lillian reminds me of Rosalind Russell’s character in His Girl Friday, except there’s no Cary Grant –  there’s only Lillian and the many characters she encounters in her New-York-writer career path. Also, there’s poetry.

Michael Clarke – Pedagogical Assistant

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

When my executive director asked me to include the book “Between the World and Me” in our public library, I pounced on it. I was immediately convinced of his incisive views on racial politics in America and bookmarked the book for this summer. Now, I can’t wait to read how his fears, misgivings, and hopes from just a few years ago so I can compare them daily to America’s ongoing identity crisis.


Kristine Thibault – Coordinator of Online Learning, Virtual Campus

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

I wasn’t sure how to take it when I received this book for my birthday from one of my dear colleagues (you know who you are!) 🙂 I can honestly admit to NOT being a self-help book kind of girl, but Jen Sincero’s straight shooting, hilarious style has kept me reading on. The author delivers many truth bombs that had me reflecting on the unhealthy/unhelpful ways our thinking can sabotage our lives. So far, this read is funny, insightful, motivating and self-validating. Thanks for the gift!
Louise-Gilles Lalonde – Systems Administrator

Words of the Huron by John Steckley

Despite having been studied and documented extensively since the 17th century, the Wendat language has almost disappeared in Quebec, with only a handful of native speakers still alive today. Initiatives are now being taken to revive and promote Wendat inside and outside the Wendake reserve. This book is one of the reference material used in classes for learning the vocabulary, syntax and cultural context of the Wendat language. Sehiatonhchotrahk!

Chris Colley – Consultant

Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitchel Resnick

I love to play, I love to learn through playing. Lifelong Kindergarten explores how all deep learning stems from play, engagement, discovery, creativity, excitement, freedom to explore, choice… kinda like being in kindergarten for life. Mitch Resnick’s position is that education should be built on Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play!  This book explains how…

Rosie Himo – Administrative Assistant

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

The Danes claim to be the happiest nation on earth in terms of education, childcare, taxes and food. Read the book to find out if you agree and how we (as Canadians) compare to their living standards. The book is available for your reading pleasure in our LEARN library.

Sylwia Bielec – Consultant, blog editor

The Future is History by Masha Gessen

Come for the clever wordplay, stay for the unsettling glimpse of a culture at once so unlike our own, and at the same time terrifyingly close. As Russia appears more and more often in the world news, I thought I would try to learn more about this powerhouse country who holds none of our truths to be self-evident. A looking-glass kind of book, where you find yourself not knowing what you knew in the first place.


And on that note, have a great summer. I think we’ve all earned a little light at the end of this 2017-2018 tunnel!


2016 Summertime Reads from the LEARN Team

Summertime by Martti Vire

In the summer when the days are hot,
I like to find a shady spot,
And hardly move a single bit
And sit, and sit, and sit, and sit.
– Anonymous

As exam centres close, white boards scrubbed, classroom floors polished, art projects taken down, and cafeteria trays returned, our mindset begins to shift. Ever so slowly, the 2015-2016 school year fades away, as we dream of cottage lake docks, summer cocktails, BBQ festivities, and family vacations. Inevitably, time follows… time to invest in ourselves. Again this year, the LEARN team wants to support you in this endeavour with its summertime reading list.

Our criteria is simple: recommend a book you’ve enjoyed or one that is on your summer must-read list. We’d love to hear your book recommendations, please share in the comments below.

the life changing magic of tidying up
by Marie Kondo

ben_readsThis is a non judgmental space right?  My name is Ben and I will admit that sometimes I am not tidy.  This summer I will be reading the life changing magic of tidying up by Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo. You might notice that I took the book out from my local library, therefore, I won’t even have to stress about where to put it once I’m done.  Full disclosure, I have already started the book and learned a few things.  Firstly, ask yourself why you want to be tidier.  Once you answer that question, ask yourself why.  Once you have that answer, ask why again, and so on.  Eventually, you will come to the root of the matter.  Is that what they mean by self-help? I’ve also flipped through the later chapters, so I know that at some point I will take all my clothes and put them in a pile on the ground.  I will touch each one and ask myself if it brings me joy.  If not, I will thank the item for its service and donate it.

Sounds goofy.  But so am I.

-Ben Loomer, Pedagogical Consultant & Provincial Resource Team (Community Learning Centre Initiative)

La princesse des glaces
par Camilla Läckberg

JulieVous avez envie de vous évader, de lire un bon roman policier et de vous dépayser. Je vous suggère le premier roman d’une série de 9 de l’auteur suédoise Camilla Läckberg.

Rejoignez, dans la petite ville balnéaire de Fjällbacka, la romancière Erica Falck et l’enquêteur Patrick Hedström afin de résoudre l’énigme:  suicide ou meurtre ? Bonne enquête !

-Julie Paré, conseillère pédagogique




Vanessa and Her Sister
by Priya Parmar

This is  a fictionalized account of the lives of the Stephenson family from 1905 to 1912, focussing particularly on Vanessa Bell, the artist, and her relationship with her sister, Virginia Woolf, the writer. I like books that make me want to learn more and this one sent me scrambling to the internet – fact-checking, looking for paintings mentioned, investigating places they lived and visited, etc. Although it is fiction, the gist is true to what we know about their lives. I enjoyed learning more about the many famous people in their circle (the Bloomsbury group) and seeing how their lives intersected. A well-written book and a good read.

-Susan van Gelder, Pedagogical Consultant


Prince Edward Island: Red Soil, Blue Sea, Green Fieldsbev
by Wayne Barrett and Anne MacKay

A recommendation to travel by picture and word, and love the places that inspire us!

-Bev White, Director – Special Projects




Cheryl book blurb

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

This is a historical novel about a German boy and blind French girl leading up to and surviving through World War II. The author goes back and forth between characters and time. It is a deeply moving and compelling story that builds with every page. The story is not easily forgotten.

-Cheryl Pratt, Adult Education & Vocational Training Initiatives (CORAL)

The Night Manager
by John Le Carré

Rob_reads1I was inspired to pull John Le Carré’s  The Night Manager from my bookcase while I watched the TV adaptation. John Le Carré is far and away my favourite novelist, and I was surprised to discover that I had never finished this one (but I fully intend to). In fact, the bookmark that I found mid-book was a Club Soda ticket stub from sometime in 1993! Le Carré has a beautiful writing style, and his characters are always richly drawn. “The Night Manager” is the gripping story of a British expat hotel night manager in Cairo who is drawn into the dark world of spy craft in an effort to bring down a wealthy British philanthropist and business magnate involved in shady arms deals.


Up, Up, & Away
by Jonah Keri

My non-fiction recommendation is a book I received last Christmas. This book chronicles the history of the Montréal Expos baseball team from their arrival in 1968 to their sad departure in 2004. It is filled with wonderful anecdotes and makes a great breezy summer read.

-Rob Costain, Pedagogical Consultant

On Snooker
by Mordecai Richler

Well, I figured it was about time I read a book by one of Québec’s most famous authors.  And then I found out he shared one of my passions, and tells the story in an “outrageously funny” style.  But more than that, I can totally relate when he says in it, “Like a religion, a game seeks to codify and lighten life. Played earnestly enough, a game can gather to itself awesome dimensions of subtlety and transcendental significance.”

-Paul Rombough, Pedagogical Consultant


How We Learn
by Benedict Carey

Interesting book… not really sure it is summer reading but certainly worth taking the time to explore.  Heavy neuroscience made easy enough for me to understand.

-Michael Canuel, Chief Executive Officer


Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World

by Bill Nye

As a child of the 90’s, the chant “BILL! BILL! BILL! BILL!” marked the beginning of a scientific adventure.  Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was, and still is, a man who could bring the wonders of the natural world into focus, helping me and countless others to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for STEM.  In more recent years, Nye has become a staunch advocate for the fight against climate change.   I recently picked up his latest book called Unstoppable, where he re-frames the daunting reality of climate change as an opportunity for the greatest scientific advancements of our time.  While I have only just begun to read this book myself, I suspect Nye will do what he’s always done – inspire us to meet the challenges and opportunities of our time head-on.

-Emma Legault, Provincial Resource Team (Community Learning Centre Initiative)


Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space
by Janna Levin

After my first experiences of Maker Spaces, this book came as the ultimate validation of making and tinkering. Imagine wanting to make a device to record the sound of spacetime ringing, an instrument both scientific and musical, which could record the Lilliputian gravitational waves that would reach us only when great astrophysical masses such as black holes collide. This is a book about the journey of building a monumental measuring tool, from a brilliantly simple concept, to a 4 kilometre monster of precision, over a period of 50 years. I like it most of all because it conveys the struggles, the spirit and the ethos of all those who worked together to problem solve and tinker it into near perfection. Oh, and it works! The very year of its completion in 2015, a gravitational wave was detected and measured.

-Christiane Dufour, Pedagogical Consultant


50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do)
by Gever Tulley


This is an innovative, challenge-based book for children and adults alike!  The challenges range from licking a 9 volt battery, to making a slingshot, to sleeping in the wild, stand (sit) on the roof. Each challenge comes with How-To, requirements, materials, duration, difficulty levels, safety tips, warnings and a whole page for field notes. Pack as much outdoor playtime and curious exploration into those summer months as possible. Gever reminds us all how to be kids again in 50 really imaginative ways.

-Chris Colley, Pedagogical Consultant


by Kathleen Winter

I’m reading this book for a second time, which speaks volumes about how very good it is. Kathleen Winter’s lyrical, rich narrative, and honest characters make it oh so worthwhile! The topic (which I will not discuss here for fear of spoiling it for you) is timeless, and will resonate with anyone dealing with issues of familial diversity and personal challenge.

Hey, and why not read about winter in coastal Labrador while you laze on your deck in the heat of summer? The snowy landscapes may cool you down, but this beautiful coming- of-age story will warm your heart.

-Kristine Thibeault, Pedagogical Consultant


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
by Greg McKeown

This booked is a planned re-read this summer… I need a refresher!

Essentialism, sort of like Ben’s pick of the life changing magic of tidying up, is about being disciplined. It’s about figuring out what you care about most so that you can release some of the things that make you busy… but aren’t really that important at all.  Reading in my hammock, being by the water, and spending relaxed time with my family are all essential for me to have a great vacation. Tidying up? Not so much! Happy summer!

-Dianne Conrod, Principal – Online Learning


The Martian
by Andy Weir

Picture 20As a self-proclaimed science geek, I can’t wait to read this fictional account of astronaut Mark Watney as he struggles to survive after a dust storm that leads to him being stranded on Mars. Apparently, Weir did exhaustive research to make his story as scientifically sound as possible. After I read the book, I may just check out the movie (starring Matt Damon, need I say more?).

-Kerry Cule, Online teacher & Pedagogical Consultant


by Colm Tóibín


I am a simple Irish girl at heart. I loved this story about Eilis Lacey, whose heart is with her family in Ireland, but is looking for a better life in Brooklyn. Eilis and I could be very good friends. Easy summer reading for all. Enjoy!

-Peggy Drolet, Online teacher & Pedagogical Consultant


The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick Dewitt


Sometimes I read a book because of the first line on the first page, but this one had me at the title. I have a lot of brothers and sisters and so does my husband, from whom I stole this. Ssshhhh.

-Audrey McLaren, Online teacher & Pedagogical Consultant




Nothing: A Very Short Introduction
by Frank close

This summer, I’m reading nothing.IMG_3223

After a fun discussion with my son about emptiness and void in space, I’ve decided to re-read Nothing – A Very Short Introduction from Frank Close. It’s a small but fascinating book that explores the concept of nothing, all the way back to Aristotle. 150 pages of pure delight. Really.

-Louise-Gilles Lalonde, Senior Programmer


Tricky Twenty-Two
by Janet Evanovich

ChristyI started reading the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich a couple of years ago.  I was introduced to the series by a library friend of mine.  It is an easy read with action, romance and a lot of LOL’s.  The series consists of 22 books so far.  I am in the middle of reading Tricky Twenty-Two and hope the series continues.

-Christy Schwartz, Administrative Support – Online Learning

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
* The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer
by Sydney Padua

IMG_4173I’ve been immersed in STEAM education this year, so a graphic novel about the first computer that never was… the steam-powered Difference Engine designed by inventor Babbage and conceptualized by mathematician Lovelace seems a fitting summer read. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage * The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer is described by the author Sydney Padua herself as “an imaginary comic about an imaginary computer.”

-Christine Truesdale, Director of Pedagogical Services and Educational Technology

And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini

IMG_0398Khaled Hosseini also wrote The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. All three of these books give a view of life in Afghanistan through the lives of different families, at different times in the last 100 years. And the Mountains Echoed is probably the most powerful, telling connected stories through the voices of several different characters whose lives intersect over time. This is not a light read, but if you are looking for a grounding story about life in another part of the world that is emotional, thought provoking but still leaves you with hope, this book exemplifies the art of good story telling.

-Thomas Stenzel, Pedagogical Consultant

Le monstre
by Ingrid Falaise

imgpsh_fullsizeThis is the personal story of Ingrid, a Québec born actress who has written this very poignant first book. It is a story that involves the crossing of two very different cultures that are trying to come together under the false premise of love. It happened to Ingrid when she was 18, but it could happen to our daughters, sisters and even us. When they say love is blind, it can really be blinding. I chose this book for a quick summer read and I read it in a flash! It is well written, interesting, and will even get you to cultivate your French language.

-Natalie Dahlstedt, Online Teacher

My Life on the Road
Gloria Steinem

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 9.02.29 AM

I have started to read a lot of Gloria Steinem’s work. I was really young when I first heard her name. Since then I have learned a lot about her work, but until recently, had never read any of her own writing in great depth. Her newest book, My Life on the Road explores her feminist work through the lens of her very intentionally nomadic life.  Among many other things, I was impressed with how lighthearted and fun she is, while still focussing on such important issues.

-Mary Stewart, Managing Editor – LEARNing Landscapes




From everyone at LEARN, enjoy a relaxed and greatly deserved break… and happy reading!


For more great book recommendations:

50 books to read in 2016: TED-ED Educators and TED Speakers share their picks

The LEARN Team’s Summertime Reads


Editor’s note: This post was a labour of love for everyone on the LEARN team – and from a literacy perspective it’s always good to practice what you preach! 

With the 2014-2015 school year ALMOST a distant memory, the LEARN team wants to help you avoid that summertime brain drain that is bound to happen while you laze around swimming pools, beaches, lakes, porches, water parks and so on. Here are the summer book picks that we feel will help you stay mentally crisp, instead of fading away. Our criteria was simple: recommend a book you like!



The Physics of Superheroes
by James Kakalios

I found this treasure at a used book store last year, but haven’t had the time to read it yet! It highlights connections between comic books and physics, in particular where the authors got the physics RIGHT (I love it when the “science part of science fiction is accurate!). I’m hoping to include some of these connections in my physics classes next year.

-Kerry Cule, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant


The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
by Wm. Paul Young

Life is full of challenges. It’s easy to be taken over by the negatives. For me, this book is helping me to hope and to focus on the positives in everyone and the relationships we have. Put a little love in your hearts people!

-Doris Kerec, Administrator – Financial Services





The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology
That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
by Shawn Achor

Not a book filled with bumper-sticker platitudes, this is about science… neuroscience actually. Research proves that each one of us has the ability to shape and reshape the neural pathways in the brain. With practice, we can shift our mindset to the positive, which can profoundly affect our work and life. Well written and funny!

-Kristine Thibeault, Pedagogical Consultant


Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, And Good Food
by Jeff Potter

You’ll learn how to initialize your kitchen, calibrate your tools, play with hydrocolloids and the Maillard reaction… What’s not to love about this book?

-Louis-Gilles Lalonde, Programmer




The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes
by Andy Karr and Michael Wood

I love going out with my camera. It stills the mind, makes me live in the moment. This book is full of ideas on how to learn to look: finding the beauty in the mundane and the unusual, hunting out textures and spaces, searching for simplicity…   And it is packed with photographs by many outstanding photographers illustrating the concepts. So I will slow down, read, and take time to focus this summer.

-Susan van Gelder, Pedagogical Consultant


The Home by the Sea
by Santa Montefiore

This book tells the tale of a little girl (Floriana) abandoned by her mother and raised in abject poverty by her alcoholic father in Tuscany in 1966. This story is moving and mysterious, it’s about love and forgiveness… and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  The vivid descriptions of the Tuscan coast also kept me enraptured throughout.

-Rosie Himo, Administrative Assistant

paulbookUs Conductors
by Sean Michaels

For the pure pleasure of it I will be finishing Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, which I loved and just tore through in spring but then got sidetracked with all kinds of end-of-year commitments.  I crave books with simple yet rhythmic writing like Michaels’. So, not sure what I will find to follow it.  Any suggestions?

-Paul Rombough, Pedagogical Consultant


Irrationally Yours
by Dan Ariely

Not cosmological. Not theological. Not existential. Not flippant. Not profound. Not poetic. Not prosaic. Not too long. Not too short. Not meditative. Not self-help. And NOT irrational.

-Michael Canuel, Chief Executive Officer


Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love
by Rich Sheridan

I take a moment every week to celebrate and tweet  #3HappyThingsAtWork.  One book I will read this summer tells the story of a company that created an intentionally joyful culture, with profitable results! In Joy, Inc., Rich Sheridan shares how he built a workplace people love – work in pairs, daily short stand-up meetings, no walls, work-life balance, and Viking helmets!

-Dianne Conrod, Principal – Online Learning


Le baiser mauve de Vava
par Dany Laferrière

« Maman, veux-tu un baiser mauve de Vava? »
Dany Laferrière a transporté mon fils dans un imaginaire où s’entremêlent la poésie, la maladie, la vie, la tristesse, l’espoir, l’amour, les papillons jaunes et les méchants hommes aux lunettes noires. Et surtout, le baiser mauve à la princesse endormie, Vava.

-Julie Paré, conseillère pédagogique





Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel prize winning economist, delves into our biased misunderstandings of the world. He seeks to improve our ability to identify and understand errors of judgement and choice. I need the long summer days to explore this insightful trip into our thought processes.

-Bev White, Director of Special Projects





Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
by Ben MacIntyre

The story of Britain’s MI-5 intelligence service’s Double Cross system whose elaborate deceptions duped the Nazis and convinced Hitler the Allies would land at Calais and Norway instead of Normandy. The success or failure of a series of elaborate plots and double-dealings turned on egos, personal tragedies, money, sexual behaviour and heroism.  Vintage photographs of these flamboyant agents, their British and German senior officers and the code-breaking Bletchley Park personnel are interspersed throughout the book. If you’re not a war story aficionado but find what makes people and projects tick fascinating, I recommend this as an intriguing summer read!

-Barbara Goode, Adult General Education and Vocational Training Initiatives

thomas_bookJaguars Ripped My Flesh
by Tim Cahill

How can you go wrong with a title like Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, by Tim Cahill? Pure adventure escapism. Short stories of travel from around the world.

-Thomas Stenzel, Pedagogical Consultant


The Passion Driven Classroom
by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold

#youmatter – these 2 words will alter your students’ confidence. These words will change their outlook on learning. I am a huge fan of Angela Maiers. Her message is powerful: make sure your students know that what they do is important! This summer, I want to read more about what she suggests to “cultivate a thriving and passionate community of learners”.

-Peggy Drolet, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant



 Reinventing organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations
Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
by Frederic Laloux

Frederic Laloux looks at organizational models over time from an evolutionary and historical perspective. He offers us the possibility of a new paradigm based on case stories of existing work places and conditions for creating or transforming organizations beyond current levels of consciousness. The author uses a colour palette of red, amber, orange, green and teal to code the models – how can you go wrong… ; )

-Christine Truesdale, Director of Pedagogical Services and Educational Technology

Photo on 2015-05-29 at 11.01 AM #3

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects  and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share
by Ken Denmead

With a full nest of littles to entertain throughout the summer days, this sweet project book is exactly what is needed to get my kiddies outside, creating and inventing. Projects from making a board game, to creating a comic book, to building a binary calendar. When your kids say, “I’m bored,” you now have ammo!

– Chris Colley, Pedagogical Consultant

audrey_bookHe’s the Weird Teacher: And other things students whisper about me
by Doug Robertson

Doug is actually a Twitter friend of mine. He’s hilarious and deep, and apparently so is his book. He has written a second one also, which I may read if I like the first one. Taking all the creative energy he has to inspire his students, channeling it into a fun to read, meaningful guide to teaching.

-Audrey McLaren, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant




Photo on 2015-05-29 at 11.41 AM #4An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
by Chris Hatfield

In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Chris Hadfield talks about his early life and the events that led him to become an astronaut. He also talks about his training and his experience before, during and after his 144 days as commander of the International Space Station (ISS).

– Rob Costain, Pedagogical Consultant



The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to
Writing in the 21st Century
by Steven Pinker

I’ve started reading this because I love Steven Pinker’s other books, I love his most recent animated TED talk, and I want to be prepped for his visit to Montreal on October 22. It promises to be deep (as a cognitive scientist he draws on neuroscience), witty, practical and fun.

-Mary Stewart, Managing Editor of LEARNing Landscapes


Turning to One Another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future
by Margaret J. Wheatley

“Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk, and this is the edge of the roof” – Rumi. An unexpected book from a well-known organizational and leadership practitioner, dappled with poetry and whimsy, while staying grounded in the conversations that make us human and draw us together.

-Sylwia Bielec, Pedagogical Consultant & Editor of the LEARN Blog


Teacher Book Picks: Favourites from the Field

by Chapendra shared under CC
Photo by Chapendra Reading [Day 12] under a CC license

With the winter holidays quickly upon us, many educators across the province will soon be on a two week break from the classroom. Susan and I thought that this might be an opportune time to talk about books, in particular, books that highlight innovative classroom practice, suggest novel strategies to engage students, and provide insight into the mind of the learner. Yes, it’s time to get mentally re-energized people! So, we asked a few of our esteemed colleagues for their latest and greatest in terms professional development reads. Here’s what they had to say:

Audrey McLaren, online math teacher from Dorval highly recommends a recently published book, Flipping 2.0 edited by Jason Bretzmann.

Flipping 2.0 is a book made for teachers by teachers. It’s full of practical ideas for anyone interested in flipping their classroom. Teachers from many different subject areas and levels each contributed a chapter full of their experiences and insights in their own flipping journey. In this book you can find tips not only about teaching math, social sciences, English, and science using the flip, but also flipped professional development, as well as suggestions for what technology tools to use.

It bears mentioning that Audrey is no slouch when it comes to flipping her classroom and did in fact contribute one of the chapters in this book. (Way to go, Audrey!) So, if the ideas in this collection inspire her – they will surely inspire you too.

Peggy Drolet, online math teacher living in Quebec City, gives two thumbs to a book that has seriously impacted on her classroom practice, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.

As Burgess suggests on the front cover, “Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator”. What I love about this book is that the author is passionate about both teaching and his subject, history. He describes what that looks like and he shares it with his students: “When we model enthusiasm it rubs off on everyone around us.” In Part 1 of his book, each chapter is dedicated to explaining the acronym PIRATE: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask & Analyze, Transformation, Enthusiasm. Part 2 is full of inspiring examples of how to “Craft Engaging Lessons”. The last section is dedicated to advice on “How to Set Sail”.

When I reflect on my teaching practices, I constantly look for ideas on how to engage students in their learning. Burgess continually refers to teaching as “an adventure full of challenges and excitement”. You can follow him on Twitter @burgessdave. The hashtag #tlap is what drew me to his inspirational book in the first place. By following this hashtag, you too can engage in rich conversations with teachers all over the continent who implement his strategies.  Burgess hopes you will (like any good pirate!) “…explore unchartered territories and brave new adventures.”

 Aaargh – sounds like a great journey to embark upon!!

On the Platform, Reading
Photo by Mo Riza On the Platform, Reading under a  CC license

Teacher Neil MacIntosh, the Science Guy at Pontiac High, gave us his (very!) honest review and recommendation of Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie.

So, I was all set NOT to like this slender book, which at first blush, seemed to be a flavour of the month. I started reading without holding any great hopes as to its impact on my teaching or my thoughts on teaching. But…by about Chapter 3, I realized that I was completely into the text and ideas put forth by Hattie, Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne.

This is a follow-up to Visible Learning: a Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement.  The data for the meta-analyses have been left safely untouched in the last 100 pages of the text – no worries, gentle reader. What I found interesting and satisfying, and why I didn’t roll my eyes, was Hattie’s calm acknowledgement of the general ideas of teaching; the messiness, and the unrecognized efforts so many teachers put into their profession.  Some approaches that teachers have taken have worked and have helped student learning, others less so (learning styles anyone?).

Hattie’s analysis of the data suggests that almost everything a teacher does has a positive effect. However, teachers need to continually focus on best practices to improve student achievement, as well as to be aware of their own impact on their students. The biggest chunk of the book is about lesson preparation and delivery – what works and what doesn’t for both teacher and students. Changes need to be based on evidence…to be measurable. Hattie sees the teacher in the classroom as the primary agent of change, with the support of school leadership. “Teachers’ beliefs and commitments are the greatest influence on student achievement over which we have some control.” Thus, the title is apt: Visible Learning for Teachers, to help them in their practice.

Photo by J Brew Reading with Kindle in my Study under a  CC license

But wait, we also have books to share.

From Susan:

I love the book, Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom, by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager.  If you want to get a taste of what you will find, watch their presentation from the K12 Online Conference. The book is not just about making things but is also about the philosophy of education behind it – of people learning by doing. I’ve written in the past about the maker movement. Stager and Martinez lay out why it is imperative that students be engaged in creating and demonstrate how any teacher can move towards empowering their students to construct, to tinker, and to become problem-solvers in a student-centred environment.

Another book I continue to enjoy leafing through is only available from the iBook store in electronic version. It is currently off the virtual shelves but will be back soon, author, Tim Holt assured me. It is 180 Questions written by Tim with the help of other visionary educators. There are 180 ideas to ponder about teaching and learning accompanied by beautiful photos, live links to web sites and blog posts as well as QR codes embedded which lead you off to articles. This would be a great book to explore on your own or share one page at a time (180 school days) with colleagues. It would generate wonderful discussions as well as help practitioners be reflective about their practice.

From Kristine:

I just finished, The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis. This is a great book for anybody interested in how digital media is shaping the lives of our youth. What I like most about this book is that it is highly research driven but doesn’t feel that way because of how the research or “story” is delivered…through the comparative lens of three very different digital generations, as represented by Howard, Katie and Molly (Katie’s younger sister). The book is full of great interviews and anecdotes, as well as one very interesting study comparing youthful artistic productions pre and post app-suffusion.  I also appreciate that the authors don’t seem to be pushing any particular agenda and suggest that the technological world of today can either hinder and make teens “app-dependent” or help and “app-enable” them.

A book that is not all that new (2009) but that recently caught my attention is, Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. I have to admit that this is one that I’m saving for the holidays as I have yet to read beyond the introduction. As the parent of three boys, what interests me is that Sax not only delves into 20 years of clinical research to explain why boys today are less resilient and less ambitious than they were before, but he also provides strategies for educators and parents on how to re-engage them.

One final recommendation (and gift!) from Susan:

A book that is great to consult is Wes Fryer’s, Mapping Media to the Common Core. Available as an e-book it is full of ideas of ways students can be creating artifacts in any subject area to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the content. I have a couple of links to copies to give away. I would be happy to mail the cards with the information to the  first two non-LEARN educators who leave comments with great professional book suggestions. It would be wonderful to add to the list and share our favourite reads that stimulate us to think about our students and our craft.

With that…we wish you all happy holidays and happy reading!

Kristine Thibeault & Susan van Gelder

Why Our Schools Need the Arts: A New Perspective

Photo by S. Bielec
Photo by S. Bielec

I recently read Why Our Schools Need the Arts by Jessica Hoffman Davis (2008), founder of the  Arts in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Reading this book hot on the heels of Susan van Gelder’s post last week about Makerspaces, I was struck with its unique perspective on the Arts in education and its emphasis on the tangible art ‘making’ in all Arts domains: visual arts, drama, dance and music.

Like most of what I write about, I have a personal relationship to the topic. As a child, I attended F.A.C.E school here in Montreal. The acronym stands for Fine Arts Core Education and in the 1980’s it offered (and as far as I know continues to offer) its students Arts subjects every day taught by specialists. Today, I am not a professional artist, nor did I exhibit any overwhelming talent for singing, playing the clarinet or visual arts (although I was a fairly good actor). And despite all this, I strongly believe that who I am and how I see and interact with the world is in large part due to my experience at F.A.C.E.

“With an eye to what matters, along with and not instead of the teaching of subjects like science and math, arts advocates must argue for the lessons of engagement, authenticity, collaboration, mattering and personal potential.” (Davis, 2008, p. 28)
by permission from Teacher’s College Press

Jessica Hoffman Davis’ jewel of a book (it’s short, an easy read at 150 pages) was for me packed with Aha! moments and unique ways of putting into words what I believe about giving arts education equal air time with academic subjects. While primarily a book intended for arts advocates, I related as a parent and educator to what she wrote about how we can interact with the art-making process and product of children of all ages (and discovered that I was of course saying exactly the opposite of what I should be saying to my own pre-school aged daughter!). But the heart of Davis’ book is her presentation of the unique features of the arts, those aspects of life that the arts bring into learning that other subjects do not. It is through these five unique features that Arts education is positioned to meet the particular needs of today’s world and the world of the future (for more on education for the future, read an earlier post on the Cross-Curricular Competencies).

“I’m not saying there aren’t right or wrong answers associated with the arts, I’m just saying they might not be the most interesting aspects of arts learning.” (p.35)

The Heart of Why Our Schools Need the Arts: The Five Unique Features of the Arts

1 – Tangible product: Imagination and Agency

All the arts offer the child/learner the possibility of making something that can be experienced, that is, seen or heard at the very least. According to Davis, this tangible product (for example: sculpture, dance choreography, musical creation or performance, skit) allows children to think beyond the given, to explore the possibilities of “what if?”. What if I put on an accent, or lower my voice suggestively? What if I pinch this clay like so? In the moment, there are no wrong answers, only possibilities. The flip side of imagination and possibility is agency – the idea that we can be agents of effectiveness and change, that what we DO makes a difference to the outcome of a piece or a performance. What power! Imagine if we all felt fully capable and fully convinced that our actions were instrumental to our workplace, community, the world?

2 – Focus on emotion: Expression and Empathy

Davis’ second point is that the Arts allow children/learners to express and recognize their feelings in a variety of modes. Making art can be about expressing one’s current feelings, or expressing a feeling: “This is how I feel, this is how this piece makes me feel.” But sharing one’s art and exploring the art of others also makes one aware of and attentive to the emotions of others, to appreciate “This is how you feel”. Children who regularly engage in art practice develop an awareness of the role of emotion, both in themselves and in others. How many of us have been on teams or worked with others and experienced first-hand the impact of emotions on the group’s ability to generate new ideas and move forward productively?

3 – Ambiguity: Interpretation and Respect

What struck me was this third one – ambiguity. The Arts lay the foundation for understanding ambiguity as children engage in interpretation of their own works and in the works of others. As they interact with a work of art, they realize: “My contribution to this art relationship matters. What I think matters”. When they listen to what others see and think when they interact with a work, they realize that there is no single answer, no right answer. The artist can have one thing in mind, but can accept that what you see is valid as well and that it adds to the conversation. This ambiguity and lack of clear-cut right or wrong answers allow children/learners to realize that what others think matters, that there is between the artist and audience a conversation that is fluid and meant to be engaged in fully. In a world where we are constantly confronted by opinions and views that differ from our own, having the ability to navigate these differences and nuances with equanimity is a valuable skill for team members and leaders alike.

4 – Process orientation: Inquiry and Reflection

Educators of all academic stripes have long championed process over product and learning from mistakes or wrong answers. Making something new is fraught with the potential of fruitful errors, of the oops! discussed in Makerspaces. When exploring the unknown (an unexplored medium, a new artist or work), inquiry takes on an added urgency as learners ask: what do I need to know in order to move forward? Because making art is tangible, students see immediately the impact of their inquiry (process) on the product and are reminded once again of their agency in directing that process. In addition, making art creates very real opportunities for reflection at each step of the process: How am I doing and what will I do next? These reflections are not just nice to have, but occur naturally as children/learners are confronted with an in-progress piece. Every addition, or repetition demands a step back and an assessment: How did that go? What do I think now? Drawing attention to this natural reflection process can certainly help learners gain self-awareness in all academic areas.

5 – Connection: Engagement and Responsibility

Here in Quebec, as elsewhere, educators strive to increase student connection to school and to life through projects and extra-curricular activities. The Arts often provide the backdrop for these initiatives, with plays, concerts, art fairs and performances common in many schools. Indeed, “the arts in education excite and engage students, awakening attitudes to learning that include passion and joy, and the discovery that ‘I care'” (Davis p.76). Caring about something, about anything, is the pathway to engagement in all spheres. Discovering that they are united with human beings everywhere in their ability to make art and to make art for a variety of the same reasons allows children/learners to be open to others across cultures and times.


We are fortunate that our Quebec Education Program outlines rigorous competencies for each of the four Arts – the challenge now is to make sure that the time allocation for arts is adequate to fully develop these competencies and take advantage of the five unique features that the Arts bring to education.

Jessica Hoffman Davis has written other books about the Arts in education, including the follow-up to this book, Why Our High Schools Need the Arts (2011). Her voice is compelling and her use of narrative brings to life her ideas about art education for her readers. My copy is full of highlighted passages and exclamation marks and I am sure yours will be too!

Why Our Schools Need the Arts by Jessica Hoffman Davis (2008)  is available from Teachers College Press.

To read more about the Arts in education

Quebec’s Culture in the Schools Program (to bring an artist into your school)

Why Arts Education is Crucial and Who’s Doing it Best – Edutopia

Arts Smarts – Génie Arts

To read more about Jessica Hoffman Davis

Kristen Paglia’s Review for the Huffington Post

Interview with Jessica Hoffman Davis on Tinkerlab

Interview with JHD on the Art:21 blog Part 1 and Part 2

Jessica Hoffman Davis’ website

How I Will Spend my Summer Vacation

Photo by Anne Adrian under CC license

I know the general public pictures teachers with their long vacations, lolling on beaches or travelling here there and everywhere. I know some of you do some of that, but I also know that many of you take time during the summer to recharge for the next school year. And recharging is not only about getting one’s physical energy back, but also about learning, reading, connecting in order to better meet the needs of the students in your classrooms.

Although I am no longer in the classroom, I, too need to recharge – to keep learning. I plan to attend some virtual events, read some books that I have been saving and to connect with like-minded educators through online communities. While I would love to be attending some face-to-face conferences, the expenses around the conference and travel make that prohibitive. So here are some things I will be doing on my summer vacation.

ISTE: While I would love to go to this conference, it is just not possible. I plan to attend some of the ISTE unplugged sessions virtually. These take place the week of June 25. These are informal sessions and are streamed through Blackboard Collaborate. The schedule is not yet complete, but usually there are many inspiring sessions presented by educators, many of whom are classroom teachers. A number of the main conference sessions are posted after the conference and can be watched at one’s leisure. I’ll post a link when I have it.

I hope to make time to listen to past sessions of some of the virtual conferences (Global Education Conference, the Library 2.0 Conference ) and check out some of the archived sessions from Classroom 2.0 Live!


One book that has been waiting for me is Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson. The subtitle is “How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Learn”.  It has been recommended by a number of people in my professional learning network.

I have started reading The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser. It is about how the web is tracking you and filtering the ads and information you get when you search on the Internet. You can watch a TEDTalk by him here. It is so important that we be informed users and understand how the Internet is using us.

Some topics I want to explore this summer:

Design Thinking 

Design Thinking for Educators provides a framework for educators looking at their own practice.

I’m interested in how Ewan Macintosh applies design thinking to how students should be learning. I plan to read his blog posts on this subject. He is an educator from Scotland who works with schools around the world.  Here is a great blog post by him which outlines what design thinking is.

Life Practice Model

Ginger Lewman, who works in Kansas has written extensively about the Life Practice Model of project based learning. I need to delve more into that.

Will I make it through all that? I hope so. Then I’ll have lots to share with you in the fall.

What will you be doing to rev up for next fall (after you power down a bit)? Are there books you plan to read? Topics you plan to explore? Please share so we can learn from each other.