Sunday, January 11, 2009

Seven Skills Students Deperately Need

Recently eSchoolNews had an article by Tony Wagner about the seven skills that students desperately need to acquire before graduating high school. Several groups have been offering advice as to how federal policy makers and state and local education leaders can transform education and help students obtain 21st century skills through technology.

One misconception is the fact that a lot of people think the skills that students need for the workforce and the skills needed to be good citizens are two separate things, but they’re not. Students who become successful in the global workforce will also be successful people at life. Employers want people who can ask good questions and people who can engage others in thoughtful conversations.

Employers know that technology changes so fast that they are not concerned if their employees know the latest version of software when hired, they want employees who know how to think. Teaching to the test is not helping the future workforce achieve success in the job market. The future workforce needs to be able to see a problem and come up with a way to fix the problem and not wait for the employer to tell them how to fix a problem. If students are not taught how to think beyond multiple choice answers and to find solutions to problems then the future employees for America will not be able to compete with the global market.

Many teachers who feel pressured to cover a lot of material to teach to the tests are not allowing students the time needed to search and work through problems, finding the answers on their own. The pressure is to cover “x” amount of material in so many days and prepare the students to take a standardized test. Many students today who graduate high school don’t have the skills to make it in college or the workforce.

The article states that education needs to move from content standards to performance standards and that education stakeholders need to think of ways to start assessing 21st-century skills. I think teachers need to teach the content and allow students to show what they have learned through performance standards. We need to design assessments that measure the performance and 21st century skills of the students. Many students who are bright are being turned off from AP classes and other accelerated programs because of all the testing. Students should be encouraged to study subjects they love but many times the subjects they love require too much testing which turns them away from the more challenging courses.

Today’s students are multi-taskers, who like visually stimulating websites, who want to be in constant contact with their friends who also use Web 2.0 tools and they enjoy working in collaboration with their peers. What we as educators need to do is find a way to motivate them to learn using Web 2.0 tools and the technology already provided by the school or through the technology the students use every day. Just going to the computer lab to type up a paper is not using technology. We need to teach the content while reaching out to our students in a more creative, productive way using the technology the students are using.

Here are the seven survival skills that students need by the time they graduate from high school:
1. Problem-solving and critical thinking
2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
3. Agility and adaptability
4. Initiative and entrepreneurship
5. Effective written and oral communication
6. Accessing and analyzing information
7. Curiosity and imagination

I agree with Tom Wagner’s quote from the article –
“We are making [Adequate Yearly Progress] at the expense of failing our kids at life. Something has to change.”

Website to access the complete article –

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