The greatest book of all time

In the interest of making this blog more accessible to a variety of folks interested in educational technology, and not just budding Linux geeks like me, I started thinking this weekend about interesting ways to bring technology into the average classroom. (For a little bit of background, see the talkback linked here) What are good ways, for instance, to incorporate technology into a history class or the English curriculum at your school?

In the interest of making this blog more accessible to a variety of folks interested in educational technology, and not just budding Linux geeks like me, I started thinking this weekend about interesting ways to bring technology into the average classroom. (For a little bit of background, see the talkback linked here) What are good ways, for instance, to incorporate technology into a history class or the English curriculum at your school?

The first thing that came to mind was an incredible book by Neal Stephenson called Cryptonomicon. Feel free to share some interesting reading selections below, but Cryptonomicon stands out for me because it touches on so many areas of American history (with some reasonable degree of accuracy), the history of technology, modern computer science, mathematics, and, obviously, cryptography.

The book is not for the faint of heart. The paperback is 1168 pages of historical fiction, peppered liberally with real math (equations and everything), World War II espionage, and several remarkable (and fairly accurate) appearances by Alan Turing. While the key term there is fiction, I learned more about World War II from this book than I did in any of my history classes. The book itself was engaging enough that I was actually inspired to do some research on the time period, particularly on the codebreaking that was so central to much of what we did in Europe during the War.

This is a book that bears discussion in class, whether English (for the literary pieces and twisting plot elements), US History (for the remarkably accurate depictions of "behind the scenes" WWII), a political science class, any fairly advanced mathematics class, or certainly, any computing course. Perhaps one of the best in-class exercises is to conduct follow up research and dissect the history from the fiction. Similarly, no discussion of computer science, algorithms, or modern cryptography is complete without mention of Turing's research.

True, this book appealed to me because I'm a mathy geek. However, as a quarter- or semester-long project, Cryptonomicon can drive a lot of high school class activities. If not, every teacher should read it anyway, since it's utterly brilliant and can at least provide fodder for in-class lectures for a day or two.