Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom

By Sylvia Libow Martinez
and Gary Stager
(Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, 2013)

Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager’s Invent to Learn is a persuasive, powerful, and useful reconceptualization of progressive education for digital times. Influenced by the work of Seymour Papert, Marvin Minsky, and Cynthia Solomon of the MIT Media Lab, the authors put forth a socially relevant program that engages students in creating software programs, experimenting with building computers, developing applications, and working cooperatively. The authors approach science and technology education from an alternative and resolutely progressive angle, drawing on Solomon’s thoughts on what constitutes “real” science: “It seems that, to many people, tinkering connotes a messiness and unprofessionalism that doesn’t apply to ‘real’ jobs in scientific fields. I believe the opposite is true—tinkering is exactly how real science and engineering is done.”

This book provides concrete instances in which making—learning by doing—can work in classrooms as an inexpensive, fun, and educational way to celebrate students’ creativity and ingenuity. With the current demand for more science and math in schools, the usual route emphasizes mechanical learning and continual evaluation in structured, competitive learning situations. As a much-needed alternative, Invent to Learn provides a vision of a libertory science education that integrates arts, digital technology, cooperative experimentation, and what David Hawkins calls “messing about.”  

Hold Fast to Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vision of a Life Beyond Poverty

By Joshua Steckel
and Beth Zasloff
(The New Press, 2014)

How can you help students not only get into college, but also succeed there? Hold Fast to Dreams explores the everyday challenges faced by Joshua Steckel, a high school college counselor in Brooklyn whose support and guidance don’t end at graduation. The book delves into the complex issues that surround higher education in the United States as students from poor and underserved communities negotiate both the grueling admissions process and the unfamiliar college landscape. Beautifully written accounts of 10 students portray their perseverance and intelligence, struggles and successes, as they pass through high school and into college. This book reaffirms the essential role teachers can play in the lives of their students, and raises important questions about the failed promises of higher education as the key to class mobility.