On the shelf

What Tufts authors are writing about

Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom
Teachers College Press, November 2007

Marina Umaschi Bers, assistant professor of child development and adjunct professor of computer science

In a book that topples some of the current thinking in child development and education, Bers offers examples of how computers and robotics can be a powerful tool for young children to learn about science, technology, engineering and math. Research has found that kids’ attitudes about science, math and technology take shape during the early schooling years. “I believe that this is a seminal work,” said David Elkind, former professor of child development at Tufts. It is generally thought that young children who spend too much time tethered to a computer don’t learn to interact with their real-life playmates, and as they get older, the real world becomes subsumed by a virtual one. “Is it better for young children to play with wooden building blocks or new electronic toys?,” asks Mitch Resnick of the MIT Media Lab, where Bers did her doctoral work. Blocks to Robots “cuts through this false dichotomy,” Resnick said, “presenting a compelling framework for using new technologies that builds upon the rich tradition of manipulative materials while opening exciting new learning opportunities.”

Dynamics, Ergodic Theory and Geometry
Cambridge University Press, 2007 (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Publications)

Boris Hasselblatt, professor of mathematics, editor

Based on the topics from the Clay Mathematics Institute/Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Workshop on “Recent Progress in Dynamics” in September and October 2004, this book contains surveys and research articles by leading experts in several areas of dynamical systems that have recently experienced substantial progress. One of the major surveys is on symplectic geometry, which is related to classical mechanics and is a research area that has recently experienced explosive growth. Other papers cover hyperbolic, parabolic and symbolic dynamics as well as ergodic theory. Students and researchers in dynamical systems, geometry and related areas will find this a fascinating look at the state of the art.

The Good Teen: Rescuing Adolescence from the Myths of the Storm and Stress Years
Crown Publishing Group, October 2007

Richard M. Lerner, the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development

For many parents, the thought of the teen years conjures up more dread than all the sleepless nights of infancy and scraped knees of childhood combined. Teens are obstinate, inconsiderate and defiant. They sulk and stress, and they are prone to bad decisions and unreasonable behavior. Who can blame them when popular wisdom tells them that their lovable 12-year-old will be replaced by an unpredictable, emotional volcano at age 13.

Lerner believes adolescents have gotten an undeserved bad rap, and that today’s teens are basically good kids who maintain healthy relationships with their families. “The research I’ve done shows that every young person has strengths, and if we find a way to take resources in our families, our schools, our neighborhoods, align them with the strengths, we can make every young teen thrive,” he said. In The Good Teen, he presents the five personality characteristics, called the 5 Cs, that fuel positive development: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character and Caring. When the 5 Cs coalesce, a sixth emerges, Contribution, where young people contribute to their own development in an energetic and optimistic way. He also prescribes specific ways parents can foster the 5 Cs at home and in their communities.

Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure
MIT Press, June 2007

Ray Jackendoff, the Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy and co-director, Center for Cognitive Studies

This book extends Jackendoff’s pioneering theory of conceptual semantics to two of the most important domains of human thought: social cognition and theory of mind. It represents a breakthrough in developing an integrated theory of human cognition and will be of interest to linguists, philosophers, psycholinguists, neuroscientists, cognitive anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists. Jackendoff argues that linguistics has become isolated from the other cognitive sciences, at least partly because of the syntax-based architecture assumed by mainstream generative grammar. He proposes an alternative parallel architecture for the language faculty that permits a greater internal integration of the components of language and connects far more naturally to such larger issues in cognitive neuroscience as language processing, the connection of language to vision, and the evolution of language. He offers sharper criteria for a satisfactory theory of consciousness, examines the structure of complex everyday actions and investigates the concepts involved in an individual’s grasp of society and culture. Jackendoff discusses his new book in the Authors@Google Series.

This appeared in the November 2007 issue of the Tufts Journal.

Have a new book coming out? Let us know: karen.bailey@tufts.edu.