EdSurge Recommendations for What to Read, Watch and Listen to Over the...

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EdSurge Recommendations for What to Read, Watch and Listen to Over the Holiday Break

By EdSurge Staff     Dec 26, 2023

EdSurge Recommendations for What to Read, Watch and Listen to Over the Holiday Break

As instructors and students press pause for winter break, journalists at EdSurge are likewise taking some time away from writing and editing during the last week of 2023.

As we catch our collective breath, we’re pleased to offer you a few reflections about the stories we’ve enjoyed over the past year. Here, find recommendations for articles, books and podcasts that have resonated with us — some related to education and others that extend beyond. Enjoy!


I’m going to hazard a guess that it has never been particularly easy to be 13 years old. Bodies are changing. Hormones are changing. Friends and interests are changing.

But the experience wrought upon 13-year-olds today makes me downright grateful for my first year as a teenager. I had it so good!

Nothing underscores this more than Being 13, a multimedia-heavy feature by Jessica Bennett published in The New York Times in September. It deftly, artfully captures just how inundated children — specifically, three girls over the course of one year — are these days, thanks to social media and all the other byproducts of carrying a small computer in your pocket everywhere you go.

Pairs well with: the recent film adaptation of Judy Blume’s 1970 (but timeless!) novel, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” which will make you laugh, make you cry and cast into relief the experience of girlhood now versus 50 years ago.

Author John Green is best known for his young adult novels, including bestsellers “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Looking for Alaska.” I have read and loved them all. But I somehow missed that he published a new, different kind of book in 2021 — “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” a collection of personal, contemplative, funny and deeply human essays.

In each essay, Green examines an element or experience of being human today — the QWERTY keyboard, sunsets, Dr Pepper, Canada geese — and then rates it out of five stars.

The essays start off sardonically but become increasingly earnest and reflective. In a world where literally every experience — doctor’s appointments, national park visits, dry cleaning services — are reduced to numbers on a five-star scale, Green takes the concept and turns it on its head.

I give “The Anthropocene Reviewed” five stars.

Read more from Emily here.


While it’s not strictly about education, I’ve become an even bigger fan this year of the Hidden Brain podcast, which explores the science of what makes us tick. I was especially struck by the show’s two-part series on “The Paradox of Pleasure,” which analyzed the challenges of coping with the addictive lures of the internet and other tech.

I’ve been reading more Substack newsletters about education this year as well and have learned so much from so many of them, including Derek Newton’s The Cheat Sheet about academic integrity; Nick Fouriezos’s Mile Markers about rural higher education; and Ethan Mollick’s One Useful Thing, which has included many timely nuggets on AI in education.

The book I read this year that blew me away was “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin. The novel tells the coming-of-age story of three friends who start a video-game design company. Like “Ready Player One,” it’s packed with references to pop culture from the early days of computers and digital culture that made me nostalgic for a simpler, more optimistic time of tech. But Zevin’s book also turns out to be an unusual study of friendship, love and how those can intertwine in the act of collaborative creation. While the author has said she didn’t know much about the world of video games when she started the project, you’d never know that by how spot-on her references are (speaking as someone who was steeped in playing the games she describes). And the fact that the world of tech was new to her seems to have helped her bring a fresh perspective that inspired me to reflect on how we got to the tech-infused culture we’re now all living in.

Read more from Jeff here.


For those who don’t fit the cliche box, getting the education you’re owed has always been difficult. It comes out in all sorts of ways.

That’s why Sarah Carr’s piece about the consequences of faulty dyslexia screening struck me as powerful. Carr argues that changing the way dyslexia is diagnosed — Carr critiques the “discrepancy model,” which compares IQ to reading scores — could help lift reading achievement for many students. It would also, of course, improve their lives.

A man of highs and, more often, painful lows, Woody Guthrie composed America’s unofficial anthem “This Land is Your Land.” Despite that, Guthrie has become relatively unappreciated, though his influence on other brand-name songwriters from older generations, especially Bob Dylan, continues to be noted. Even the final verses of Guthrie’s unauthorized anthem get clipped, changing the meaning of the song by stripping it of its political message.

This summer, I decided to give Guthrie’s autobiography, “Bound for Glory,” a try. It’s filled with quirky storytelling from a man who spent his life riding the rails. He knew better than anyone what it was to be laid low but his heart never stopped singing: “There’s a better world that’s a-coming / I’ll tell you why.”

Read more from Daniel here.


I interviewed Jen Manly in person this summer, and I’ve been following her Strategic Classroom account on Instagram ever since. (We had a great talk about why group work is terrible and how to fix it, so check out the Q&A if you haven’t already.)

Manly’s a college instructor, educational consultant and former computer science teacher. While I’m not a teacher, I enjoy watching her videos on all manner of topics — some recent uploads discuss allowing students to redo assignments and time-blocking a planning period.

Accounts like Manly’s are a great way for me to get insight into what teachers are thinking about day to day, but she might have something that’s an actual practical takeaway for you too (OK, yes, I high-key need the time management strategies she puts up).

If you’re in need of something inspiring or that will lead to a good cry, pull up whatever streaming service you’re subscribed to and add 2023’s “Radical” starring Eugenio Derbez to your queue.

The film is based on the real-life story of teacher Sergio Juárez Correa and his students at one of the worst-performing elementary schools in Mexico, located on the border with Texas and just a stone’s throw across the Rio Grande from SpaceX in Brownsville.

Juárez Correa is a passionate educator who insists that sparking a love for learning starts with letting his students follow their curiosity — and essentially direct the class. Spoiler: The principal and other bigwigs are none too impressed by his approach.

His young students in the impoverished community are fighting their own battles, like facing pressure to join the neighborhood drug gang or being parentified to the extreme. Then there’s Paloma, who lives in a shack by a landfill where her father scavenges for scrap to sell.

In my favorite scene, Paloma shows classmate Nico a telescope she built from the refuse near her home, and they climb a mountain of trash so they can use it to look at the SpaceX launch site being built on the other side of the river in Brownsville, Texas. She wants to be an aerospace engineer. Later in the film, Paloma’s father confronts teacher Juárez Correa over a NASA Space Camp brochure, asking the educator if he’ll also be there for the girl when reality sets in and her dream comes crashing down.

You absolutely have to see the ending. I was lucky enough to be the only one in the theater when I saw “Radical,” so there was no one to judge the absolute river of tears I cried (except the teenage employee who took my empty popcorn bucket on the way out). But you won’t have that problem at home!

The real-life Paloma was featured on the cover of a 2013 issue of Wired, which inspired the film, with the headline “The Next Steve Jobs.” The online version is called “A Radical Way of Unleashing a Generation of Geniuses.” See what they did there?

Read more from Nadia here.


This year, I’ve been fascinated with The Washington Post’s series about the rise of homeschooling in the United States. The newspaper’s data analysis shows that this form of education is growing quickly, and among different groups of families than in years past. It’s not just parents who are teaching their own children at home these days; now entrepreneurial people and companies are instructing pods of children in a variety of settings. While some families say that their kids are safer, or more comfortable, or better able to learn outside of the public and private school systems, there are also dangers associated with this largely unregulated form of teaching, such as children being abused out of sight. The series also takes a look at the experiences of parents who grew up being taught at home who are now venturing back into the public education system, seeking a different kind of education for their own children.

Being surprised by a great book is a favorite feeling of mine. This year I had that experience reading “Whose Names Are Unknown,” a novel from the 1930s by Sanora Babb about the devastation of the Dust Bowl.

Some scholars argue that this work of literature shouldn’t have been a revelation to me, or to other readers. As the Great Depression was lifting, a Random House editor was excited to publish the novel, which Babb, a journalist, wrote based on her experiences working with refugee farmers in government camps in California. But then — a writer’s nightmare — she got scooped, by no less than John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” So Babb’s book wasn’t published until 2004.

Babb’s evocative descriptions of farm family life strained by isolation and dwindling finances, and of the spare beauty of the Oklahoma plains, hooked me at the start, while the growing class consciousness of the characters kept me turning pages as the plot grew darker.

Read more from Rebecca here.

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