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  • Writer's pictureJanelle Safford

Tony Wagner's 7 Survival Skills: Questions to Ask!

Updated: Jul 7, 2018

In this video speaker and author, Tony Wagner, makes a compelling case for how our education system must change if we are to create the innovators needed to solve tomorrow's challenges. After watching, please consider these key questions crucial to understanding Wagner’s video, "7 Skills Students Need for Their Future."

  1. “What year was this video published?” Of course every point made in the video is important and all educators should be able to quote these 7 skills, but that is not the most shocking revelation. The most important, and equally tragic, point is that this video was published in 2009! Yes, almost a decade ago! Seriously, HOW HAVE WE NOT MADE ANY MORE PROGRESS IN THIS AREA?! Why are there still so many school districts that either refuse to hear this message or are in blatant denial about the fact that these skills are not being given priority? How can we continue to justify paying hefty salaries to school decision makers that do not, or will not, consider looking at the education system through different, more relevant, lenses. These new ways of approaching public education are NECESSARY for our student’s success!

  2. “What are the two most important things schools should be looking for in classrooms?” The answer must have the word EVIDENCE in it. Too many school districts are experts at saying what everyone wants to hear and they have learned how to frame data to back up anything they say. I have personally been witness to this. So to break this cycle of “let's look pretty on the outside” schools must get honest with themselves and ask the hard questions. Can we see EVIDENCE of critical thinking and problem solving and can we see EVIDENCE of independent learning?

  3. “How are today’s students using the internet?” I can almost hear the sarcastic answers now. I listen to many adults pop off answers such as, “all they do is play games”, or “they can’t even carry on a decent conversation because of those phones”, or “this generation will never know what it is like to have to really learn something, they can just go to the internet and look it up”. God forbid kids do the exact same thing adults do when faced with an unknown problem. Many adults, and yes teachers too, simply do not understand the dynamic that is taking place when people (students, yes they are people too) reach out to a group of like minded individuals with the same interests and knowledge base to collaborate and even “play games” together. Maybe students are using the internet to answer questions because they are being given questions that can be answered with a simple google search, so why wouldn’t they? What about all the time kids waste watching those silly, sometimes juvenile, YouTube videos? How tragic! Instead, maybe we should be using these “silly videos” as examples/inspiration for what students can create by assimilating information and somehow remaking it with their own twist. Maybe they could even learn by doing this...GASP!

  4. “What are three practical things that schools can do to make this ideology a reality in all school districts (not just the private ones)?” 1. We must get honest with ourselves by looking at a true picture of the data that matters in the lives of students. Things like real graduation rates, continuing education rates, surveys of new graduates, surveys of current students and teachers, and having the hard, honest conversations about the areas that we are weakest when it comes to preparing students for their future, not our present. 2. Stop isolating ourselves. School districts insist on pretending like they are the ONLY entity that has EVER had to deal with common issues. We must get out of our silos and learn from each other. This is especially true for small, rural districts that are often both geographically and ideologically isolated. What problems could we solve if districts would routinely collaborate with each other about common problems? I worry we will never know! 3. We must get away from the notion that teaching and learning involves “covering what the state says we have to cover.” This is the primary reason our students are not problem solvers and critical thinkers. Yes we are bound to cover the content, but Wagner states that the content should be the avenue for the competencies (the 7 skills) that students will need to be successful.

As you can see, I didn’t list the 7 Survival skills that Wagner is so famous for. I chose not to because after doing a quick image search, I discovered page after page of these skills already neatly arranged in various visually appealing ways (I will be attaching one of those to this post.) Although the images would make a great poster, the meat of the video is in WHY the skills are important and HOW we can begin to change the massive, slow moving monster we know as the public school system!

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