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UnCommon Learning

UnCommon Learning
Creating Schools That Work for Kids

Co-publication with Learning Forward

October 2015 | 264 pages | Corwin

UnCommon Learning techniques set the stage for mastery and true student engagement

Integrate digital media and new applications with purpose and build a culture of learning with pleasure!
Let students use real-world tools to do real-world work and develop skills society demands. Be the leader who creates this environment. UnCommon Learning shows you how to transform a learning culture through sustainable and innovative initiatives. It moves straight to the heart of using innovations such as Makerspaces, Blended Learning and Microcredentials. Included in the book:

  • Vignettes to illustrate key ideas
  • Real life examples to show what works
  • Graphs and data to prove initiatives’ impact

1. The Challenges That Schools Face
2. Culture Shock
3. Digital Learning Across the Curriculum
4. Makerspaces
5. Blended and Virtual Learning
6. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
7. Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials
8. Academies and Smaller Learning Communities
9. Connected Learning
10. Schools That Work For Students
Appendices A-D

"UnCommon Learning is a great look at the six most important EdTech trends in schools that work for kids: online and blended learning, BYOD, badges, maker, professional learning, and new learning environments. Eric lays out eight key steps to creating UnCommon Learning environments. Don’t miss it!"

Tom Vander Ark, CEO
Getting Smart

"For the past several years, Eric's mission has been to find effective ways to use technology to improve student performance. In 'Uncommon Learning - Creating Schools That Work For Kids' he shares the most impactful practices he has found. These practices provide a guide to move school reform, using technology, from a concept to a reality." 

Dr. Bill Daggett, Chairman and Founder
International Center for Leadership in Education

"Schools today are at a disadvantage when it comes to educating today’s learner, which necessitates a corrective plan of action. Eric provides not only ideas, but also practical strategies that have been implemented to create the type of learning that students crave and deserve. This book will change the way you think about school structure and function in an increasingly digital world."

Todd Whitaker, Professor of Educational Leadership and author of over 30 books, including What Great Teachers Do Differently

“In this urgent and practical book, Eric Sheninger argues that technology must become as central to students' learning as it is in the ‘real’ world. Uncommon Learning will teach educational leaders how to integrate technology into the classroom in ways that reflect today's complex, feedback-rich digital environment."

Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

"Sheninger, in UnCommon Learning, identifies key areas for growth within our current school systems. Most importantly, he lays out a simple and intentional path to addressing these areas with the goal of improving learning and the overall school experience for students. Educators, regardless of their role within a school, can use this text as a guide to create optimal learning environments for their students with the ultimate goal of creating schools that provide current, relevant and engaging learning experiences."

Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher), Award Winning Teacher and author of The New Teacher Revolution

"Get rid of excuses. Stop having conversations. Start taking action. Uncommon Learning is the guidebook that will get schools from apathy to action, from ignorance to influence, from the status quo to supercharged with excitement. Eric Sheninger has written another winner."

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher Author - Reinventing Writing Host - The Every Classroom Matters Show

"For students to succeed in today’s fast changing world, schools must join technology and teaching to prepare students with relevant knowledge and skills. Bringing passionate commitment and vast practical experience, Sheninger lays out concrete ideas and strategies for every school to transform learning to provide meaningful learning experiences for all students. This is a must-read for practitioners and policymakers.” 


Bob Wise, President
Alliance for Excellent Education

"There is a growing movement in this country and others to use what we have learned over the decades about effective teaching and learning to design the next generation of classrooms and schools. Eric Sheninger’s new book is a welcome addition that movement. He adeptly walks the line between practical strategies and motivating visions of the near and distant future."

Robert J. Marzano, CEO
Marzano Research

"This is one of the very few, really good books about digital learning – not just because of its clear and informative examples and rich cache of tools, but because its experienced and multi-award winning author, Eric Sheninger, explains how to develop and implement digital learning, indeed all learning, in a balanced, sustainable and self-critical way. Unlike most pro-technology books, this passionate yet practical book is more about the zen of changing than about the zealotry of what must be changed. Teachers, leaders and change agents in education everywhere should put this book right at the top of their reading lists."

Andy Hargreaves, Winner of Boston College Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award, 2015
Brennan Chair, Lynch School of Education, Boston College

“Too often, school improvement initiatives layer activities upon cultures and systems that are not ready to receive them. Uncommon Learning rejects the notion that something must be done in addition, and instead begins with changing the foundational culture of a school—consistent with NASSP’s Breaking Ranks Framework for School Improvement. Countless schools—and more important, countless students—will no doubt benefit from the guidance Eric shares.”

JoAnn Bartoletti, Executive Director
National Association of Secondary School Principals
Key features

There is a clear focus in every chapter on school culture, relevance, personalization, and sustainability. Throughout each of these chapters are vignettes illustrating key ideas and implementation tips so that the reader can begin the change process. Relevant links have also been incorporated into these chapters to add depth and provide further details on each initiative. Pertinent graphics and data related to how each initiative has had a positive impact on student achievement are also included throughout the book. An appendix at the end of the book provides additional resources to assist leaders with implementation.


Examples of successful uncommon learning initiatives that have been implemented at the AU school and elsewhere are described in most chapters.


Most chapters have a step by step implementation process (see Ch 3)

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

For instructors

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