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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

Top 3 Professional Learning Reads

It’s no secret that I love reading professional, and personal, learning books. You’re my #PLN, my people, you get it! For this post, I’ve teamed up with a member of my #TLAPdownunder #PLN, fellow Aussie, Cameron Ross. Cam is an ICT Coach at a secondary school in Melbourne, and also engages in a fair bit of reading...I’m pretty sure we’ve even read a number of the same books. So we decided we’d share our Top 3 reads that have guided us and we have learnt from, and not surprisingly there are some similarities. 🏴‍☠️😉

Number 3 - Karen

Dare To Lead - Brene Brown

Favourite Quote: When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending. And when we don’t own our stories of failure, setbacks and hurt - they own us.

Top Takeaway: Rumbling with vulnerability, being willing to have the tough conversations with an open heart and mind so we can serve the work and each other. It requires a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to be fearless in owning our own parts, and to listen with as much passion with which we want to be heard.

Impact on Practice: Using Rumble Language and Engaged Feedback to keep conversations productive and brave.

Life Changing Lesson: From Brene Brown more broadly, rather than solely from ‘Dare To Lead’ - Insight into how shame drives behaviour, and how people use armour; how to lean into courage and embrace vulnerability; how to strive for and cultivate wholehearted living.

Number 3 - Cameron

Shake Up Learning - Kasey Bell

Favourite Quote: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable - the key to digital learning is blending what we know about good instruction and assessment with technology to take the entire effort to a new level.

Top Takeaway: The Dynamic Learning Framework has five specific strategies that goes beyond traditional learning and make it more dynamic. As a teacher, it inspires you to extend your classroom activities, an example of which is beyond the four walls which discusses ways in which students have the opportunity to connect and learn globally.

Impact on Practice: Engagement and the many different learning characteristics that are provided as part of the book. At the end of each chapter, it allows the reader the chance to reflect and build on the learning which is easily transferable straight away to your classroom.

Life Changing Lesson: With the current remote learning environment we all face as teachers, reading this book has again provided me with a range of tools that has allowed me to reevaluate how my classroom tasks are aligned with my students learning outcomes. It has given different ideas around how I can develop tasks through purposeful planning to ensure that each student in my class is catered for and can achieve their own goals.

Number 2 - Karen

Inquiry Mindset - Trevor Mackenzie with Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt

Favourite Quote: Students need to understand that questions are the root of learning and that their own wonderings will be honoured and cultivated in the classroom.

Top Takeaway: The role of questions in inquiry - they are the heart and foundation of an inquiry mindset, and stimulate wonderment, curiosity, student voice and opinion.

Impact on Practice: Harnessing the power of provocations to prompt wonder, curiosity, thinking and questions to engage students in reflection and learning.

Life Changing Lesson: Planting seeds of curiosity that bloom into passions. Students don’t always know what they are passionate about. We need to identify what students wonder about, what they marvel at, what piques their curiosity enough that they want and need to know more. This is what will spark passion and drive them to seek answers, solve a problem, create something new, or share their interests and talents with the world. If you'd like a little insight into what a day of inquiry with Trevor looks like, you can read my workshop reflection, "Inquiring about Inquiry".

Number 2 - Cameron

Don’t Ditch That Text - Matt Miller, Angie & Nate Ridgway

Favourite Quote: When used purposefully, technology assists us in monitoring learning and provides our students with a greater variety of ability-sharing than do paper and pencil tasks.

Top Takeaway: DITCH IT! - Any acronym for me is a winner and with this textbook it definitely packs a punch. Digital, Identification, Taking their attention captive, Channeling the real world, How to employ tech to vary content, Improve student content and Teaching with Transparency. Each letter within the acronym represents a separate chapter which in turn allows teachers the chance to reflect and develop activities for immediate use.

Impact on Practice: This book provides teachers a number of practical ideas to find a middle ground on where the use of classroom devices are able to meet our students’ needs. As a teacher that predominantly works with the use of technology in the classroom, I’ve found this book to be a great guide to find tips on how I can handle different strategies, build meta-cognitive practices. One of my school goals for this year is to provide a wider range of differentiation to my activities in the classroom, and this provides it extremely well.

Life Changing Lesson: As differentiation is an area of my teaching that I am always wanting to improve upon, having clear examples in this book have given me ways in which I am able to intentionally differentiate in each class I have. Differentiation has now given me a newfound passion to upgrade my pedagogy and offer greater authenticity to my students and maintain student attention in a wider range of topics.

Number 1 - Karen

Teach Like a PIRATE - Dave Burgess. Surprise! Haha, not really.

Favourite Quote: You can offer no finer gift or higher honor to the world than to find out what your ‘drum’ is and then play it for all it’s worth.

Top Takeaway: The PIRATE acronym makes the concept of student engagement, and teacher fulfilment, so clear. It lays it out in six simple elements: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyse, Transformation, Enthusiasm – and voila, you have a system to guide you on your journey. Your treasure map! In each section, Dave shares many personal stories and experiences, asks some tough questions and challenges you every step of the way. As I read each section, I was able to reflect on my own teaching and identify where I could make improvements – and I was inspired.

Impact on Practice: Increasing Engagement; Creating Learning Experiences; and Using Hooks. (I’ll let you in on a secret...the costume hook may be my favourite 😉)

Life Changing Lesson: No lesson, just simply life changing! I read this book at a time when I was at a crossroads in my career. Reading this book reignited my passion for teaching and kept me in the game! I am astounded by how many experiences I’ve had in my life since, that I truly don’t think would have occured on the path that I was on. You can read about them all in “Twelve Months of #TLAPdownunder.”

Number 1 - Cameron

Lead Like a Pirate - Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess

Favourite Quote: As leaders, our ability to do what’s best for kids often lies within our ability to inspire, influence and support the adults in our system.

Top Takeaway: ANCHOR conversations - These begin well before you even set food in the classrooms and they start with you as the leader. ANCHOR is an acronym that has six components that work together in one conversation, but also work just as well as a stand alone. ANCHOR stands for Appreciation, Notice the Impact, Collaborative (Captain - Directed) Conversations, Honor Voice and Choice, Offer Support and Reflection

Impact on Practice: In my role where I am always striving to improve my practice and learn how to become a better leader, this book has provided me with a range of tools in which I can embrace and use in the classroom and in developing tools to share with staff. The biggest impact though was to reinforce the idea between Passion, Enthusiasm and Rapport are some of the top drivers in being an effective leader.

Life Changing Lesson: “When you read Lead Like a Pirate, you will understand that you are not alone”. George Couros

The book provides so many different observations which helps leaders of any level to be guided in working through their day. It is a book that provides passion to leaders about moving themselves and others forward.

Honourable Mentions


Be REAL: Educate from the Heart - Tara Martin; Innovate Inside the Box - George Couros with Katie Novak


Hacking Assessment - Starr Sackstein, Innovator’s Mindset - George Couros

If you've also read one of these awesome books, or maybe you've found your next professional read, we'd love to hear from you!


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