About Greg Toppo

I grew up in Port Chester, N.Y., long before it became a foodie mecca. I attended St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M., the Great Books school, and went on to earn a teaching certificate at the University of New Mexico. I was a teacher in public and private schools for several years before landing my first job as a general assignment reporter at The Santa Fe New Mexican, a great little newspaper and one of the few that still competes daily with a crosstown rival. Every time the real education reporter would call in sick on a Tuesday, they'd remember that I was a teacher in a former life and send me to the school board meeting.

Eventually, I embraced my fate and began enjoying the new insight that being a reporter gave me into the way schools work. A couple of years later, working at the Associated Press in Washington, D.C., I became the AP’s national K-12 education writer. I covered the congressional debate on No Child Left Behind and, of course, the National Spelling Bee. This is my best lede ever. A close runner-up.

I moved to USA Today in 2002, and in 2005 I broke the story of the U.S. Education Department's pay-for-punditry arrangement around No Child Left Behind. The stories generated a government-wide look at propaganda in federal programs.

I co-led the team that investigated cheating in U.S. public schools nationwide (though my colleagues Marisol Bello and Jack Gillum had the real bombshells in D.C.).

I have also interviewed a few heroes, including Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, children's author Jon Scieszka and, in a heart-stopping encounter, Cookie Monster. I was, thankfully, off camera.

In 2007, while attending a Carnegie Hall event headlined by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, I broke the news that Dumbledore was gay. You're welcome.

In 2010, I was awarded a Spencer fellowship at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. For years I’d been puzzling over the fate of reading in America – it seemed at the time that technology had all but doomed the poor paper-based book.

But I soon found myself drawn to a broader one: What are kids paying attention to these days? That led inevitably to video games, which were becoming an unstoppable cultural force. Almost as soon as I began poking around this topic, I found teachers like Peggy Sheehy, Shawn Young and Ariana Wyatt who were trying to sneak games and gamelike thinking into classrooms – not because they loved games, but because they loved children and wanted something better for them. The result is this book.