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Gary Stager on Last-Minute Gift Ideas

If you're looking for a last-minute gift idea for a friend or colleague, why not consider one of my


What do YOU Mean by Learning by Seymour Sarason (Heinemann)

At 84, prolific author Seymour Sarason may have written the best book of his career. The psychologist who has written about the "predictable failure of school reform" for decades explains that educational progress is impossible until we each make an effort to define what we mean by learning. Such simple conversation is a perquisite to the creation of productive contexts for learning. Nearly every sentence in this book is quotable.

From hardware to software to a bevy of books, here are one educator's choices.

Stupidity and Tears: Teaching and Learning in Troubled Times by Herbert Kohl (New Press)

Herb Kohl's latest masterpiece should inspire educators to keep up the fight in the face of increasing challenges. The book helps explain the often paradoxical forces confusing teachers by hypothesizing that people trapped in a dysfunctional system are prone to behave in ways contrary to their own self-interest. Kohl's tales of needy students and committed teachers remind us of why we chose to be educators.

The Big Picture: Educating is Everyone's Business by Dennis Littky with Samantha Grabelle (ASCD)

Dennis Littky's most recent school, "The Met," is often hailed as a successful model of high school innovation. Littky is now involved in the scaling up of his educational theories in schools across the country through the Big Picture Company.

Children's Books

Another generation of kids deserves to fall in love with Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (Puffin Books); Kids love The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller (Henry Holt), the Time Warp Trio books by John Sciezka (Puffin) and The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater (Alladin).


Keyspan USB Server

This ingenious little box allows you to connect up to four USB printers and scanners to one network connection so you may control the devices from any computer on the local network. Mine works like a charm, although it would be nice to have some documentation.

Airport Express

This low-cost pocketsize device does three jobs. It's a wireless network router, a wireless repeater for extending a network or a way to play your iTunes music wirelessly when you connect a pair of speakers to the Airport Express.


Contribute 3

Contribute may be used to simply create beautiful Web sites, based on built-in templates, but it's real power is in allowing others to customize existing sites.

Have a fifth grader design a Web site with Dreamweaver or Contribute and then give teachers or parent volunteers a copy of Contribute 3. With the software they may add pages, update content and publish it on the Web without harming the site.

Toon Boom Studio & Toon Boom Express

Toon Boom Express and its big brother, Toon Boom studio, are affordable tools for the hidden animator in all of us. You will not believe the professional-quality animation you can create.

Salling Clicker

Salling Clicker is a $20 miracle for Bluetooth cell phones. It turns your phone or PDA into a remote control capable of controlling all sorts of software, peripherals, and best of all, your multimedia presentations.

MicroWorlds EX Robotics

MicroWorlds EX Robotics is the latest generation of Logo-based multimedia authoring and learning software for children. The software now includes the ability to integrate LEGO or Cricket robotics in your interdisciplinary projects.

Slick Volumes 7-8

These new plug-ins from GeeThree offer a zillion impressive new effects, transitions and titles for enhancing iMovie productions. The ability to superimpose a scoreboard on your movies justifies the entire investment.

Gary Stager,, is editor-at-large and an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University.