Saturday, March 19, 2011

THE NEW COOL: REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY

GIVEAWAY ENDED
THE NEW COOL
A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, 
and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts
BY NEAL BASCOMB

ABOUT THE BOOK:
That Monday afternoon, in high-school gyms across America, kids were battling for the only glory American culture seems to want to dispense to the young these days: sports glory.  But at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, California, in a gear-cluttered classroom, a different type of “cool” was brewing.  A physics teacher with a dream – the first public high-school teacher ever to win a MacArthur Genius Award -- had rounded up a band of high-I.Q. students who wanted to put their technical know-how to work.  If you asked these brainiacs what the stakes were that first week of their project, they’d have told you it was all about winning a robotics competition – building the ultimate robot and prevailing in a machine-to-machine contest in front of 25,000 screaming fans at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
 
But for their mentor, Amir Abo-Shaeer, much more hung in the balance.
 
The fact was, Amir had in mind a different vision for education, one based not on rote learning -- on absorbing facts and figures -- but on active creation.  In his mind’s eye, he saw an even more robust academy within Dos Pueblos that would make science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) cool again, and he knew he was poised on the edge of making that dream a reality.  All he needed to get the necessary funding was one flashy win – a triumph that would firmly put his Engineering Academy at Dos Pueblos on the map.  He imagined that one day there would be a nation filled with such academies, and a new popular veneration for STEM – a “new cool” – that would return America to its former innovative glory.
 
It was a dream shared by Dean Kamen, a modern-day inventing wizard – often-called “the Edison of his time” – who’d concocted the very same FIRST Robotics Competition that had lured the kids at Dos Pueblos.  Kamen had created FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) nearly twenty years prior.  And now, with a participant alumni base approaching a million strong, he felt that awareness was about to hit critical mass. 
 
But before the Dos Pueblos D’Penguineers could do their part in bringing a new cool to America, they’d have to vanquish an intimidating lineup of “super-teams”– high-school technology goliaths that hailed from engineering hot spots such as Silicon Valley, Massachusetts’ Route 128 technology corridor, and Michigan’s auto-design belt.  Some of these teams were so good that winning wasn’t just hoped for every year, it was expected.
 
In The New Cool, Neal Bascomb manages to make even those who know little about – or are vaguely suspicious of – technology care passionately about a team of kids questing after a different kind of glory.  In these kids’ heartaches and headaches – and yes, high-five triumphs -- we glimpse the path not just to a new way of educating our youth but of honoring the crucial skills a society needs to prosper.  A new cool.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
NEAL BASCOMB has published a number of international and national bestsellers, including Higher, The Perfect Mile, Red Mutiny and Hunting Eichmann.  His books have been optioned for film, featured in several documentaries and translated in 10 languages.  He has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. He and his wife and their two daughters make their home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Neal Bascomb, see "The Relevant Facts" by going HERE on his website.
  
MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW: 
Neal Bascomb’s THE NEW COOL: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts, is the perfect read for anyone who is tired of hearing about how terribly bad our American schools are. If you think our children’s education is hopeless due to mediocre teachers, apathetic students, and programs that don’t work, please read THE NEW COOL. This is the important story of a California high school engineering teacher, Amir Abo-Shaeer, and the exceptional interdisciplinary instruction he used at the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, a public high school, and the young people he transformed into successful students and future leaders.

Amir Abo-Shaeer, knew that in many schools, robotics was an extracurricular activity as there is rarely time to fit it into the prescribed state mandated curriculum, let alone find a capable instructor. Amir integrated all the elements that produce a successful education into his teaching so that he could include Robotics as part of his year-long course work. Approaching this almost like a sport, students used team work, cooperative groups, hands-on learning, technology, and most importantly problem solving to create their end result, a project fit to compete! The course work was tough and demanding but the students rose to the occasion because of the manner in which their teacher worked with them. You will find reading this book that you are amazed this doesn’t happen everywhere. You will probably ask yourself, why doesn’t it?*

As a caring, albeit tough, leader, Amir knew his program could not work without support. Dean Kamen, a genius inventor and millionaire, who worries that with all the major problems our world is facing, we desperately need our schools to offer premier courses in science and technology, becomes a supporter.  Kamen created the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition with a goal in mind to be able to show that being smart is “the new cool” and to motivate others to follow in this way. Here is the best reason to take away the stereotype of “geek” and make anyone who wants to be in a program like this, a team player, just like in sports.

At Dos Pueblos High School, the D’Penguineers, was Abo-Shaeer’s group of 31 high school seniors who were part of the engineering program. In THE NEW COOL we follow this particular group as they are motivated to create a winning robot even though it meant much hard work and not much experience. They brainstormed how to overcome their lack of experience and what needed to be done to come up with resources, and then what they needed to do with them in order to succeed! Neal Bascomb writes of a few of the students in more depth than others but I wish we could have gotten a lot more background on more of them. Chas, for instance, had a learning disability and yet didn’t let that hold him back. One of the students, Gabe, is a genius at programming but also faced problems at home as his father was dying. I think a little more about the real life characters would have made the book better for me perhaps because of being a teacher, or a mom, I just wanted to know how they fared and who they all were away from the classroom. I know that plays into their daily success or failure so very much. 

The robot that was the culmination of the students’ year in the academy worked and how they faired in the FIRST competition gives the story that bit of excitement to see how they perform. The academy is just the kind of educational system we need in our country and it surely doesn’t hurt when there are teachers like Amir Abo-Shaeer and sponsors who support like Dean Kamen. This is an important book for everyone but especially those who are interested in our educational goals for today and the future. I enjoyed the book and found it spot on and would highly recommend it.

…on a personal note:
*As a 37 year, now retired teacher myself, I can tell you several reasons why there aren‘t more programs like this when there should be. Over 15 years ago, I helped open a new elementary school where students were taught by a team of teachers using an integrated curriculum. Fourth and fifth graders in the same class worked in cooperative learning groups as well as independently to reach goals set for them, or goals they set themselves. I watched as children LOVED coming to school each day to learn about all their core subjects centered around one theme, for example one year we used “Tracks to Treks”. With their Social Studies covering American History from the explorers all the way through the pioneer days and beyond, we facilitated as they worked in areas of reading, math, science, language arts, and more all built around the theme. 


Our “little engineers” became PROBLEM SOLVERS! They didn’t complain that they “couldn’t do something” because they knew that was never the case as they were "all aboard for learning". They found ways to work things out. These students were with us for two years upon entering from fourth grade and we watched their progress through middle school  and as they became the best class to ever graduate from our International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Program high school. Many of these young adults came back over the years to report about their exciting and meaningful lives, and we watched them become successful members of our society. They were my finest years of teaching. However, in a span of 5 years, things started to change as from the top on down to the “lowly” teacher, we had accountability drilled into us in standardized testing in every way, shape and form. We were forced to give up integral parts of our program and before long, I watched as the love of learning went out of most of my students as the pressure of testing was forced upon them. All this said, relates to what Amir Abo-Shaeer has been doing with students. Using these integrated problem solving techniques, his students are showing how schools can be transformed and how all kinds of students can be successful as I can personally attest to.
GIVEAWAY

THANKS TO JULIE AT CROWN PUBLISHING,
AND RANDOM HOUSE, I HAVE ONE BRAND 
NEW HARDBACK COPY FOR A LUCKY WINNER!
 
--U.S. AND CANADIAN RESIDENTS ONLY
--NO P. O. BOXES
---INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
IN CASE YOU WIN!
--ALL COMMENTS MUST BE SEPARATE TO
COUNT AS MORE THAN ONE!


HOW TO ENTER:

+1 ENTRY:
COMMENT ON WHAT YOU READ ABOVE AND SIMPLY TELL ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS AND WHY YOU WOULD LIKE A CHANCE TO WIN THE NEW COOL

+1 MORE ENTRY: BLOG OR TWEET ABOUT THIS GIVEAWAY AND COME BACK AND LEAVE A LINK THAT I CAN FOLLOW 

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON SOMETHING YOU FIND INTERESTING WHEN VISITING NEAL BASCOMB'S  WEBSITE HERE
GIVEAWAY ENDS AT
6 PM, EST, APRIL 2!
 GOOD LUCK! 

46 comments:

debbie said...

This would be an interesting book. I don't know how to solve our school problems- but I have several ideas. I would love to see what he did.
twoofakind12@yahoo.com

Margie said...

I'm not a teacher, but I was always involved and interested in our kids' education. This book sounds fascinating; I'd love to read it.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

The author graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a dual degree in Economics and English Literature.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

+5 Swag
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

March Facebook fan bonus entry
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

bermudaonion said...

I'd like to read this because I think it's about time we started celebrating the successful kids in our schools! milou2ster(at)gmail.com

bermudaonion said...

I found it interesting that the author majored in English and Economics. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Carol N Wong said...

On my mother's side of my family, all the women and some of the men were teachers. When I went to family reunions, I was often asked "What will you teach?" I refused to become a teacher because I thought it would break my heart to teach kids to memorize for tests instead of develop a love of learning. I was priviledged to have some teachers who taught problem solving instead of rote learning. One of them was married to an ambassador to an African country and she came back to the U.S. after he retired. She was a joy to be with. She set up a small United Nations Counsel in out Social Studies classroom and we worked on how to solve world problems.I will never forget that.
.
I think that this book would be along the same lines and would help children forget what they cannot do and make them want to strive for solving the problem and enriching their lives with learning.

As a footnote, even though I never became a regular teacher, I did volunteer as a literacy worker and did enjoy spereading the love of learning to people who were rejected from the system.

CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

Carol N Wong said...

I tweeted:
http://bookinwithbingo.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-cool-review-and-giveaway.html Giveaway of 'The New Cool'

My Twitter name is Carolee888.

CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

traveler said...

I am interested in this book since it is an important and vital issue. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

traveler said...

I saw this author interviewed on t.v. about his book on Eichmann which was fascinating. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Carol N Wong said...

I went to the author's Facebook site and joined The New Cool Group. The post at the top was by Wei Low. Wei Low said that First Robotics changed her life. Without First Robotics, she would never had found her passion for robotics and engineering.


CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

petite said...

A book that explores something that is always being talked about. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

petite said...

The author's degrees are impressive as his writing. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

Tore said...

Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book because I would love to see how he solved our schools problems. Tore923@aol.com

captainliss40 said...

I work in education so love to read stories about what works and how to inspire kids...particularly in subjects that aren't always talked about. captainliss40(at)gmail(dot)com

Lisa R/alterlisa said...

http://twitter.com/#!/alterlisa/status/49156207444889601

(\___/)
(='.'=)
(")_(")

alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com
http://lisaslovesbooksofcourse.blogspot.com/

Enamored Soul said...

My mother's a teacher, and I often find myself discussing school issues with her - one thing she and I both agree on is how detrimental it is to a child's psyche, knowing that he will be rewarded far more for being a jock (sports scholarships) than a nerd! Plus, as Bascomb's title implies - when is it ever "cool" to be a physics nerd? Well, apparently in Barcomb's book it is. And that's the kind of world I'd love to raise MY children in (if/when I have them, that is! lol :P). I would love to read how a teacher makes a project like this important to his students, how he manages to make them care. I think this world needs more educators like that.

Thank you so much for hosting this amazing giveaway.

Email: Enamoredsoul@gmail.com or Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

Enamored Soul said...

I tweeted about the contest:

http://twitter.com/#!/inluvwithbookz/status/49246967896870912

Email: Enamoredsoul@gmail.com or Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

Enamored Soul said...

When I visited the author's website, I came to know that the author happens to be a Phi Beta Kappa member. I found this interesting because recently I discovered that 36 Nobel Laureates can be found amongst the Phi Beta Kappa members - and a few presidents as well, including Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush & Jimmy Carter. PLUS, one of my most favorite poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a Phi Beta Kappa member! How cool! :)

Thank you, yet again, for hosting this great giveaway!

Email: Enamoredsoul@gmail.com or Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

ktgonyea said...

Looks very interesting :)

ktgonyea at gmail.com

ktgonyea said...

GFC Follower (ktgonyea)

mamabunny13 said...

Teachers that inspire are heroes.
mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

mamabunny13 said...

tweet http://twitter.com/#!/mamabunny13/status/49814401083125761
mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

mamabunny13 said...

I went to Neil Bascomb's website and found out that his books have been translated in over ten languages.
mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

Amy said...

I'd love to win this book because I think good, great, inspiring teachers deserve as much support and credit as they can get. Teaching is very often a thankless job that requires much more than a knowledge of the subject matter. A good teacher has to have a desire to teach students as well as be a bit of a psychologist, a social worker, a counselor, a cheerleader, a coach and much more. It sounds like Neal Bascomb is all that and so much more. I would love to read this book!

Thank you!
Aimala127(at)gmail(dot)com

Amy said...

Neal Bascomb was a journalist in London and Dublin after which he moved to New York City where he worked as an editor at St. Martin's Press, all this before he wrote four books.
And The New Cool is going to be made into a movie!

Aimala127(at)gmail(dot)com

Laura H. said...

How refreshing to read about teachers that truly care about their students' success! Although my kids have been out of school for a while I still remember those teachers who were there for the paycheck and those who felt that education was not just a job but a process!

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

Laura H. said...

Tweeted giveaway: http://twitter.com/#!/MamaHendo3/status/50269760675512320

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

Laura H. said...

From the author's website I learned that his book, "The Perfect Mile", is about a fellow Kansan, Wes Santee, who is also a University of Kansas Jayhawk alumn! Rock chalk!!!

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

Laura H. said...

#1 March FB fan bonus entry (Laura G. Henderson).

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

Laura H. said...

#2 March FB fan bonus entry (Laura G. Henderson).

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

Laura H. said...

#3 March FB fan bonus entry (Laura G. Henderson).

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

Laura H. said...

#4 March FB fan bonus entry (Laura G. Henderson).

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

Laura H. said...

#5 March FB fan bonus entry (Laura G. Henderson).

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

mamabunny13 said...

When you think about it teachers are real heros...well maybe not all of them but a lot of them are.
mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

debbie said...

I think that this type of teacher is going to be more important in the future. I am so concerned with what is going on right now between many states and teachers.
twoofakind12@yahoo.com

bloggingmom said...

This is a very timely book. Education is always a hot button issue. I would love to read about what can be done to solve its problems. Thanks for the opportunity to win this book.

garczynski (at) aol (dot) com

Margie said...

This is a comment for your review...in response to Brooklyn Bridge. It is amazing what kids can accomplish when they are really challenged and believed in. The teachers make the difference, by flaming their curiosity.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Enamored Soul said...

I can honestly say that the Book trailer for this novel completely and totally inspires me EVERY TIME I watch it. How can one watch that trailer, or read the amazing description of this book and NOT want to read it? In this day and age, where technology is taking the world by storm - it is still considered a bad thing to be a "nerd". But I love that in this book there's a teacher, an educator that is changing that. A person who pushes these children to think beyond TODAY, where people might consider them 'weird', 'geeky' and 'nerdy' and think of the future in which they will be PIONEERS.

I love the quote from the book trailer:

"You can quote them, disagree with them, glorfiy or villify them - but the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they CHANGE things, they push the human race forward."

Also, I love the quote that says,

"Because the people who think they're crazy enough to change the world, are the ones who do!"

because it makes me think of my mother, who is a teacher and strives to make a change in the life of all of her students, one day at a time. And also, to all my wonderful teachers, and educators all over the world! A BIG THANK YOU! :)

Email: Enamoredsoul@gmail.com or Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

holdenj said...

The New Cool looks like it's a perfect storm of teaching ideas and a great sponsor to boot. I think it's great that a large amount of teamwork went into their project, because that's a skill those kids will take right into the workplace.
And I'm sorry to say Karen, that I've heard stories such as the one you related about your program before. It sounds wonderful, especially the grouping of the kids and staying with them for both grades, that kind of continuity can be great.
Thanks for the great info and chance to win!
JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

Laura H. said...

Teachers are some of the most underpaid professionals, considering how much time they spend out of the classroom preparing lessons, grading papers, etc. Not only are they underpaid but often times have to use their own money to buy school supplies. Something is wrong when the people who are such a huge influence on our children's lives can barely make ends meet!

BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

Enamored Soul said...

+5 I signed up for SwagBucks (although right now, I have NO idea what to do). Lol :P Hope that helps! :D

Email: Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

Misusedinnocence said...

One of my goals is to become a teacher and I think this is a fascinating way of looking at learning and would really like to give it a read.

misusedinnocence@aol.com

Amy said...

I think this book sounds fascinating and the author, Neal Bascomb has come up with a wonderful way to teach children and involve them in their learning: "active creation". This sounds to me like a book teachers, parents and even kids should read!

Aimala127(at)gmail(dot)com

Carol N Wong said...

April Fools!

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