2021 Summer Reading List

Each Friday this summer, the Stevens Initiative will share reading recommendations for educators preparing for the new school year. Check back each week for our latest additions.


1. 2020 Virtual Exchange Impact and Learning Report | Read

Why we recommend it: Right now, many of us are reflecting on what we learned during the pandemic and how to continue adapting as we move forward. There’s a section in the report that speaks to just this: what educators learned during the pandemic that readers may find helpful for integrating into the new school year, even as they return to the classroom. While the information throughout is a valuable read for all, this may be especially interesting if you’re hesitant or skeptical about virtual exchange’s value in a post-distance learning era.

2. Planning for a Pivotal School Year: A K-12 Leader’s Guide to Get Ready for 2021-22 | Read

Why we recommend it: Even though there is great excitement and momentum about many schools returning to in-person learning this fall, we know that a lot of uncertainty remains. Through this four-part series, EdWeek will tackle questions about the path ahead and provide resources for how educators can use this summer to best support their students over the coming academic year. With a diverse offering of topics, videos, and practical tips, there’s an article applicable to all educators.

3. QFI’s Resources for Teachers | Read

Why we recommend it: This is a one-stop shop for classroom-ready lesson plans, activities, and interactive tools for teaching Arabic and the history and culture of the Middle East and North Africa region. Developed with teachers and education experts, these resources are age-appropriate and designed to easily align with learning standards.

4. How COVID Taught America about Inequity in Education | Read

Why we recommend it: The pandemic has exacerbated educational inequities both in the U.S. and abroad. However, it’s also presented opportunities for innovative solutions that use technology and emphasize the need for human connectivity. We know that improving the current educational framework is important to many teachers, and may be more top of mind than ever as they head into the coming school year – making this article especially relevant.

5. A Conversation on the Future of Education | Watch

Why we recommend it: While the last year has uprooted the lives of many, we know that educators were hit especially hard, making the need for support more important than ever. This video is a multi-faceted resource, with not only discussions of what the future of learning will look like, but also some brief introductions to platforms that may be helpful to you. Stretched for time? Watch the following segments to get a little bit of everything:

1:21-3:10: Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District discusses the state of learning loss due to the pandemic.

11:34-14:03: Adam Seldow, Ed.D., Director of Education Product Partnerships at Facebook gives an overview of Facebook’s Educator Hub and its resources for both teachers and parents.

25:17-28:32: Sal Khan, Founder & CEO of Khan Academy offers insight into maintaining engagement during virtual learning settings and what remote learning means for the workforce of tomorrow.

6. Comeback Time: Remote Learning Research and Solutions to Support Students | Read

Why we recommend it: Pandemic-related learning loss is a huge focus among educators, parents, policymakers, and others. How behind will students be? What can be done to bring them up to speed? If just thinking about these questions stresses you out, here’s an article that doesn’t dwell on loss, but instead focuses on what can be done. Read on to find research and possible solutions to help you navigate one of this fall’s most pressing challenges.

7. Constructively Engaging in Digital Communities | Read

Why we recommend it: We know that preparing young people to engage constructively, safely, and meaningfully in digital communities has been an important education topic for many years now, and that the pandemic has only further nudged it to the forefront. We love that this resource, a lesson plan aligned to common core state standards for grades 9-12, combines digital literacy with important themes of equity and inclusion. But even if you don’t teach grades 9-12, we think that many of these guidelines and activity ideas can be adapted to a variety of young audiences both in virtual exchange and larger online learning.

8. Online Schools Are Here to Stay, Even After the Pandemic | Read

Why we recommend it: We know that while online learning has been indispensable throughout the pandemic, it hasn’t come without challenges, concerns, and lingering questions about the future. Exploring all angles – from positive outcomes for students where in-person schooling was difficult, to discussions about ways ineffective methods could be reinforced if online learning becomes a permanent fixture of education – this article is a thought-provoking read for teachers and non-teachers alike.

9. 3 Ways to Disrupt Education and Help Bridge the Skills Gap | Read

Why we recommend it: 65% of children in school today will end up working in jobs that don’t even exist yet. What does this mean for education as we know it? While the pandemic remains a focal point for how education has changed and will continue to evolve, other factors like skills gaps and growing technology infrastructure loom large over how students will learn and eventually work in the future. For teachers thinking about these changes and how they can better prepare their students for the workforce, this article offers three helpful tips.

10. Students Must Learn to Think Critically. It’s Up to Us to Teach Them How | Read

Why we recommend it: Developing critical thinking skills is at the heart of many virtual exchange programs, and we know that it’s also a goal of teachers when preparing their students for the future. This article outlines a three-step process that can be used as a level-setting exercise for the first week of class, or any time it feels important to guide young people towards separating reliable information from unreliable, thinking critically, and arguing fairly.

11. Seven Ways Educators Will Be Teaching Differently This Year and in the Post-COVID Era | Read

Why we recommend it: As many pieces we’ve shared so far have indicated, the pandemic changed education as we know it and those changes are here to stay. This article, however, is a departure from the technical and policy-driven discussions and instead shares a more human side: reflections from four teachers on how shifting focus from rewarding speed to recognizing mastery, checking in one on one, and allowing students to have a cozy pillow or favorite snack nearby made all the difference over the last year, to name a few points. We think both educators and non-educators alike who have felt dismayed at talking to “black boxes” [on Zoom] or trying to proceed with business as usual will find this relatable and heartening.

12. 5 Ways Higher Ed Will Be Upended | Read 

Why we recommend it: We’ve shared a lot about how K-12 education has been altered by the pandemic, but not as much about the higher education space. This thorough piece covers 5 changes that we’ll observe in not only colleges and universities’ operations, but also in how the purpose and delivery of higher education as we know it will change. What we found particularly thought-provoking were predictions about emphasis on traditional markers of performance (like grades) shifting to competency and skills acquisition-based metrics, and growing employer recognition of “microcredentials” such as badging, since these trends parallel tools and skills virtual exchange programs aim to give participants.

13. Reasons for Hope | Watch

Why we recommend it: For our final summer reading list pick, we’re sharing what teachers are hopeful about for the 2021-22 school year. While uncertainty still looms, many teachers feel ready to take on what comes next. With videos of educators from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., this series will hopefully provide many reasons to feel optimistic despite the challenges that remain.