As a guy who reads a TON — and spends a TON of time annotating and highlighting my way through everything that I read — few books have caught my attention as quickly as Net Smart by Howard Rheingold, a book I flipped open while churning through several hours on the treadmill this weekend.

In Net Smart, Rheingold begins laying out a case for learning to master our attentionand our participation — in the online spaces that we are spending more and more of our time in.

There’s an urgency in Rheingold’s text — a sense of “we need to be more deliberate in understanding how digital tools are changing EVERYTHING” — that I think is oftentimes missing in the conversations that I have about teaching and learning in today’s hyper-connected world.

That urgency is apparent from page one, where Rheingold writes:

“The future of digital culture — yours, mine, and ours — depends on how well we learn to use the media that have infiltrated, amplified, distracted, enriched and complicated our lives…

“Knowing how to make use of online tools without being overloaded with too much information is, like it or not, an essential ingredient to personal success in the twenty-first century.”

(Kindle locations 88-102)

Better yet, there’s practicality in Rheingold’s text. 

Not only do I feel better prepared to articulate the “whys” behind the kinds of practices that I’ve believe in to the parents that I serve and the peers that I work with, I’ve picked up several simple ideas that I’m already planning to integrate into the work that I do with the students in my sixth grade classroom.

Long story short: If you’re curious about the kinds of key lessons that learners must master in order to efficiently leverage the power of learning online, Net Smart should be on your bookshelf.



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