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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
I bumped this book to the front of the line after reading the galley of Reflexive Practice: Professional Thinking for a Turbulent World which in turn bumped The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education that I had half-finished. The three together make for a stellar collection, with Reflexive Practice also being a 6+ and World is Open very possibly being 6+ as well. Only 98 out of my 1639 reviews have been 6+, so these are in the top 7% of everything I have reviewed. These are "world-changing" books.

Reading this book has been a real treat for me. The combination of white space and modestly-sized font has allowed a great deal of knowledge to be easily presented. I immediately noticed and especially appreciated the manner in which the author has woven the work (book titles) of hundreds of others into his own work. Early on he identifies five contributing literatures:

1) Thinking and learning dispositions
2) Teaching for understanding
3) Organizational learning and development
4) Causality and understanding science
5) Widescale online teacher development

I cannot help but place this author in the same league as Will Durant (e.g. Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition) as well as E. O. Wilson (e.g. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge). Although less philosophical than Durant and much less complicated than Wilson, this author delivers a perfect stew of dramatically relevant knowledge about how to teach people to learn to deal with complexity that we do not understand today.

The book's bottom line is on page 4: "The problem is that elements don't make much sense in the absence of the whole game." The author then goes on to list the seven principles that are shared in the balance of the book:

1) Play the whole game
2) Make the game worth playing
3) Work on the hard parts
4) Play out of town
5) Uncover the hidden game
6) Learn from the team...and the other teams
7) Learn the game of learning

As much as I want to "clarify" the above, I will leave it to the author--buy the book. This is a book that should be read by anyone aspiring to the future position of Secretary-General for Education, Intelligence, & Research.

Three core outcomes of education properly done:

1) Enlightenment
2) Empowerment
3) Responsibility

A few of the gems that made it to my fly-leaf notes:

+ Recognizing that there *is* a whole game comes before learning to learn
+ Learning is a much broader category than education
+ Holistic emphasis plus attention to the hard parts (vice rote) are the heart of the matter
+ Feedback is not necessarily informative--students may not know enough to understand the feedback
+ Transfer of knowledge can fail if teacher focuses on testable explicit examples instead of generic concepts
+ Multi-level multi-disciplinary thinking is the hidden game (I would add time and space thinking as well)

Six precepts:

1) It's never just about content. Learners are trying to get better at doing something.
2) It's never just routine. It requires thinking with what you know and pushing further
3) It's never just problem-solving. It involves problem-finding.
4) It's not just about right answers. It involves explanation and justification.
5) It's not emotionally flat. It involves curiosity, discovery, creativity, camaraderie.
6) It's not in a vacuum. It involves the methods, purposes, and forms of one or more disciplines or other areas, situated in a social context.

HUGE: Sciences teach problem-solving, not problem-finding, while Humanities do focus on problem-finding. As the "true cost" meme takes off, I certainly hope we will see more problem-finding and more accountability, this point by the author is alone worth another book with a multi-disciplinary multi-cultural cast.

On pages 89-90, in a discussion of teaching the hard parts, the author lists some of them and then discusses each in turn:

1) ritual knowledge
2) inert knowledge
3) foreign knowledge
4) tacit knowledge
5) skilled knowledge
6) conceptually difficult knowledge

Further on, on pages 147-148, the author explores inadequately differentiated and defined parts of the hidden game:

1) Categories and definitions
2) The logic of means and ends
3) Logical coherence
4) Meaning and intuitive judgment
5) Probability and statistics
6) Causal reasoning

Citing Lev Vygotsky (RU) he mentions social scaffolding and situation cognition, both of great interest to me. He then goes on to talk about various types of team or project learning, including studio learning, communities of practice, cross-age tutoring, extreme team learning, and perhaps the most important, let the student's drive their learning, not just be inert passengers.

He points out that we teach to an inverted triangle, placing too much time on facts, less time on existing models, very little time on how to create a new model, and no time at all on the art and science of inquiry or problem-finding.

At the very end (page 224) he charms me by properly crediting Dr. Marlys Witte, who in the mid-1980's created an "ignorance map" that was "designed to acknowledge and articulate not what we know but what you don't know.

"Known unknowns are all the things you know you don't know.

"Unknown unknowns are all the things you don't know that you don't know.

"Errors are all the things you think you know but don't.

"Unknown knowns are all the things you don't know you know.

"Taboos are dangerous, polluting, or forbidden knowledge.

"And finally, denials are all the things too painful to know so you don't."

As someone who treasures his photograph of Don Rumsfeld shaking Saddam Hussein's hand right before kissing him and then handing over the key to the chemical weapons delivery, and who has also done work on data pathologies and information asymmetries, this "grace note" deepens even further my appreciation for the extraordinary skill with which the author has both woven many complex theories together and presented them in a very learnable manner.

A tiny fraction of the books that complement this one apart from the others written by this author:
Reflections on Evolutionary Activism: Essays, poems and prayers from an emerging field of sacred social change
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Critical Path
The Hidden Wealth of Nations
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace
Five Minds for the Future

SIX STARS AND BEYOND. Extraordinary in every possible way including simplicity of presentation and value for the future.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2010
I think I can keep my review concise: have students engage in realistic activities that allow them to engage in the process of learning - in truly meaningful ways. Make learning thorough in that students see relevance in what they are learning and are able to construct meanings while developing both critical overarching knowledge and tackling the harder bits. Perkins, once again, has provided a very insightful view on how we should be respecting and helping shape the minds of our students.

If you are an educator, and have a passion for teaching (I hope that if you are you do) you should appreciate this easy to read book that will transform how you think and how you instruct. And - if you have lost your passion, this book may indeed bring it back. Although the book, and in general Perkins writings, are very easy to read, it is because he composes thought with a majestic style through the use of metaphor and cases (examples) that keep you in the game - in the game of reading. He simply introduces/addresses profound ideas with very digestible and thought provoking strokes of his pen.

Previous reviews have laid down quite a bit of detail - so I will simply add - what a great gift for education - don't hesitate.

His other books are as equally brilliant: Smart Schools
King Arthur's Round Table : How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2009
Every teacher, school, district, and government searches for the best way to educate the children in their care. If there were one magic way to accomplish this daunting task, we would have implemented it long ago. David Perkins' wonderful Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education addresses the problem of how the whole picture of education, from Kindergarten through University, fits together: how it interacts, connects, and becomes meaningful.
Perkins begins with the basic premise that most formal education in our world approaches ideas, concepts, subjects, and disciplines in a piecemeal approach instead of looking at the big picture. We are subject, in school, to what he calls "elementitis" and "aboutitis," or breaking down learning into discrete, unconnected bits that frequently - usually - never do get connected. It's a fractured curriculum, with a narrow focus on standards which are frequently based on disjointed accumulations of facts. We teach what's relevant to what's going to be tested. Perkins says we go through our years of schooling in this lurching, broken way, "with the whole game nowhere in sight."
So what to do about it? Perkins, along with Howard Gardner, is a co-director of Harvard Graduate School's Project Zero, which aims to investigate education and learning in a holistic way. Project Zero has supported the concept of Teaching for Understanding. Its researchers are in the forefront of studying what education can look like for the 21st century. Perkins proposes that we look at education with an eye for bigger goals than just accumulating disconnected pieces of knowledge, without discounting the need for skills and foundational knowledge.
To do this, he sets out seven principles of teaching that can make significant changes in how a teacher plans and implements a curriculum in any subject area, for any grade level. Suggested classroom practices are included, but more than that, the book is about different ways of thinking, for both teachers and students. Written in Perkins' delightful wry voice, Making Learning Whole is motivating, inspiring, and very accessible. Perkins recognizes past and current research into the process of learning, and cites numerous additional resources in which "visions of meaningful education seem to speak to three basic agendas: enlightenment, empowerment, and responsibility" (p.61).
The seven principles to get started on that vision, a wonderful extended metaphor to the game of baseball, are:
1. Play the Whole Game: Get students started on accessible, authentic ways of learning; get into the game instead of being always stuck at "threshold experiences."
2. Make the Game Worth Playing: Get students started with deep disciplinary thinking and investigating processes. Be able to answer the question, "Why are we studying this?"
3. Work on the Hard Parts: Find ways to support and fine-tune areas where individual students are stuck, without getting mired in "elementitis."
4. Play Out of Town: Stretch learning to new situations and applications, for tomorrow and not just for the test.
5. Uncover the Hidden Game: Pay attention to the deeper principles beneath the obvious.
6. Learn from the Team... and the Other Teams: Learning is social and constructed in communities. Put those learning groups and communities to work in "participation structures" to deepen experience and proficiency.
7. Learn the Game of Learning: Students can develop intellectual dispositions and learning habits of mind to become self-managed learners.

Teachers, you will love this book! It will inspire you to remember that the most important goal of learning is understanding, and the criterion of understanding is performance: whether the learner can "think and act flexibly with what they know" (p. 49). It will help you go beyond the ordinary routines of skill lessons to look at how your teaching and your students' learning can be transformed. Perkins provides a guide for the "choreography of learning, an effort to organize learning for greater timeliness, focus, effectiveness, and efficiency" (p. 17). Educators of any stripe or level, school administrators, district board members - you need this book also. If education is going to be meaningful in significant ways in our time, we need to be playing the whole game all through school!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon August 9, 2011
It would be redundant for me to detail how David N. Perkins cleverly uses baseball as a metaphor for education -- other reviews here have already done so at great length. I'll focus more on the theory-to-practice ratio and state that this book is decidedly one of theory, as you might expect of a Harvard professor. Not that this is a slight. Books of theory and books of practical teaching strategies and activities each have their place. This book, then, provides a good research base for many of the practical ideas floating out there by people like Rick Wormeli and Jeff Wilhelm and Kelly Gallagher.

Given its theoretical blood, the book can thank its author for at least having a conversational tone. Perkins is an engaging "speaker" and, based on the book, one would predict his classes would be entertaining and erudite at once (not a bad combo!). At times he can drift a bit too much into abstractions, but overall, the book reinforces the importance of giving students "junior versions" of "whole games," that is, start-to-finish assignments that replicate authentic practices seen in the real world. Students will buy in if the work is worthwhile, shown to be relevant to THEM, and challenging. They actually WANT to work under those circumstances. And yet so many teachers continue to play the school games their OWN teachers played twenty and thirty years ago. Bits and pieces. Work and assignments you would only find in a school. That sort of thing.

If you haven't read a lot of modern educational theory, this is a great way to be introduced to many of the trends. And if you have, it will be a great way to see the foundational bases (another baseball metaphor for you) of all of your beliefs going forward.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2012
If someone posed the question to me of "If you could take just one book with you to a desert island, an island where you'd open up a school," then I'd choose this book, without hesitation. As a teacher for many years, I can say that this book is a wonderful dream come true.

Using highly-interesting stories and metaphors to explain his ideas and principles, the author will soon have you shaking your head in agreement with him, at the same time wondering why so few of these ideas, or anything similar, have ever been implemented in our schools.

He starts from the ground up, showing us that one of the main problems in today's schools is how they teach the many "elements" of subjects, but fail to bring together "the big picture" for students. The difference is huge.

With the overabundance of information and distractions facing our students today, finding cohesion and clarity amongst all the noise is essential. As far as this book is concerned, that's just the beginning. It explores creativity, curiosity, the desire to learn, as well as the practical benefits of real world learning. If you could put a price on all the wisdom and knowledge that you'll discover in the pages of this book, it would be more than a thousand times greater than what's printed on the cover.

For those who haven't yet read this book, run and get yourself a copy of it today.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2009
I loved this book! It explains why I hated school and yet have had a lifelong love of learning. I resonated with every page as it explains my own frustration with why public schools kill the spirit of learning. Simply read the introductory story about learning to play the game of baseball and you'll see the logic behind why whole learning is so powerful! I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I expected a stilted academic read, but instead found this book to be written with passion. It is academic literature. The author pours himself into each page with a topic not only relevant but meaningful. Whether you are a parent, student, or educator, find the time to read this book and then share it with a friend or colleague who cares about learning or should.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2012
I think the push toward "teaching the test" has really left actual learning behind. This book is a must-read for all teachers -- especially those who want to really teach and not just cram info for tests to be forgotten later!
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on March 8, 2015
Worth investing in for reference and quotes! What a dream: using the whole brain, interdisciplinary approach in schools. Egads! Change the 19th century view of education? YES!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2013
By following David Perkins's prescription for education we could teach children to think more deeply and gain a greater appreciation for the learning of many concepts presented in our schools. Students could also learn to transfer what they have learned in the classroom to the world in which their parents live. Unfortunately, Perkins's precriptions do not lend themselves to achievement testing which is the darling of politicians, so we won't see a push to incorporate his well thought out and truly educationally sound approaches to what makes for a solid educational approach. In addition, school administrators, especially those at the central office level, may find incorporating Perkins's approach challenging when their focus has been to keep raising student test scores in an incredibly shallow evaluation system.
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