One feature of the utopian learning environment created at Constructing Modern Knowledge is the well-stocked library of books designed to inspire, teach, and support adult learners at our summer institute. However, there are books whose ideas are the foundation for Constructing Modern Knowledge itself. That list is enormous since we recognize that we stand on the shoulders of giants.

For those educators brave and wise enough to be joining us in Manchester, NH this July 11th-14th, I humbly suggest the following books worthy of your attention before and after Constructing Modern Knowledge 2023. It is extremely difficult to distill such a list and not overwhelm potential readers. So, here goes nothing. Happy reading!

The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer by Seymour Papert

No one person is more responsible for the CMK than educator/mathematician/inventor/AI pioneer/epistemologist/author/philosopher/activist Dr. Seymour Papert. We use the tools and technologies he inspired and create the sort of learning environment he envisioned building a bridge between digital computational technology and learner-centered education traditions.

This is arguably the most important education book of the past quarter century. Papert worked with Piaget, co-invented Logo, and is the major force behind educational computing, robotics, and the Maker Movement.

Papert authored three books about education, each mines similar themes for a different audience; Mindstorms for academics, The Children’s Machine for educators, and The Connected Family for parents. It’s a slightly controversial view, but I believe that The Children’s Machine is his masterpiece. The book is completely relevant to CMK participants and should be read over and over again.

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager

In many ways, Constructing Modern Knowledge preceded and outlived the “maker movement.” Invent to Learn is our attempt to build a bridge between the bounty of creative new materials and technologies capable of amplifying human potential and a timeless tradition of learner-centered education. Chock full of resources, practical advice, and historical perspective, Invent to Learn just celebrated its 10th anniversary, has been called “the bible of the maker movement in schools” and is now published in nine languages.

Without the lessons learned from Constructing Modern Knowledge, there would be no Invent to Learn.

The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation edited by Carolyn Edwards and Lella Gandini

There is no better model of what is possible for educating children in a learner-centered fashion than the work of the past six decades in Reggio Emilia, Italy. While the acclaimed “Reggio Emilia Approach” emanates from municipal preschools, their powerful ideas are relevant to education at all age levels.

Constructing Modern Knowledge is enormously inspired by the work of our Italian colleagues and we are thrilled to feature them at this year’s institute, including in the fantastic Scintillae – play and learning in the digital age pre-institute workshop being offered on July 10th.

This comprehensive anthology can be read and reread for many years and is an essential addition to your personal professional library.

A Synthesizing Mind: A Memoir from the Creator of Multiple Intelligences Theory by Howard Gardner

For a decade, Constructing Modern Knowledge was blessed to offer a “fireside chat” with the great scientist, Marvin Minsky. At CMK 2023, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner will share his time and wisdom during this year’s fireside chat. His recent memoir is a great read the provides important insights into his remarkable life and contributions to knowledge.

Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte

I recently polled my social media followers, including raving “AI in education” enthusiasts, to determine how many read Nicholas Negroponte’s seminal book, Being Digital. While the survey was far from scientific, I was aghast to learn that approximately 75% had never encountered a book that did more than any other to describe a future in which our daily lives and learning would be transformed by digital technology and materials.

Long before other terrific books, such as When Things Start to Think or Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop – from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication by Neil Gershenfeld, MIT Media Lab Founder Negroponte wrote a book that should not be forgotten or overlooked.

Twenty Things to Do with a Computer Forward 50: Future Visions of Education Inspired by Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon’s Seminal Work

Our anthology of essays by four dozen veteran educators, visionary thinkers, and educators builds upon the seminal work of our Constructing Modern Knowledge Fellow Cynthia Solomon and Seymour Papert. Cynthia Solomon is the mother of educational computing and has been at Constructing Modern Knowledge since its inception. She will be featured on our Legends Panel this year.

In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization by Deborah Meier

MacArthur Genius educator Deborah Meier was a guest speaker at four different Constructing Modern Knowledge institutes. Although she won’t be with us this year, it seems important to recommend her optimistic and practical book about creating productive contexts for learning in schools. This book is particularly critical at a time when democracy and public schools are imperiled.

You want practical?

Here are two of our favorite books for bringing the CMK experience back to school. Their ideas are applicable at any grade level or classroom.

Paired Texts

In 1965, David Hawkins wrote a seminal article that is a favorite of CMK guest speakers including Cynthia Solomon, Deborah Meier, Lella Gandini, and Carla Rinaldi. That Hawkins article inspired a bit of classroom research and an article by Seymour Papert more than two decades later. This pair of short articles will give you a good sense of the Constructing Modern ethos as well.

Other lists of interest

I have already curated a list of the books I believe to be essential reading for anyone aspiring to be an educational leader and books I recommend for whole faculty summer reading.