At the core of these skills are the 7 survival skills listed by Tony Wagner in the Global Achievement Gap. First and foremost students need to be active critical thinkers and problem solvers. Students are presented with difficult choices and a world that needs practical problem solvers that can think about the ramifications of their solutions. Within my classroom, I encourage students to think beyond their first thoughts. In a lesson on human impact on the Earth, it was established that if change does not happen then the Earth will have critical consequences. A common solution for this current problem is to colonize other planets. Instead of stating no, I had students explore the solution to see if it was a practical solution. After exploring colonization as an option, students realized that other solutions may be more practical and ideal. As you can see from my example, I also integrate collaboration as much as possible. Since there is over 7 billion people on this planet and counting, it is essential to collaborate and communicate. No longer do we live in a world where extroverts can remain as hermits, instead we are asking everyone to help solve problems.
Another survival skill is the ability to learn and re-learn. Wagner lists this as his third survival skill, adaptivity and ability but I believe this skill is more related to learning. In the 20th century, there was the discovery of Pluto as our 9th planet within our solar system. But with new technology, it was learned that Pluto is in fact a small exo-planet belonging to the Kuiper Belt. The classification of Pluto is not the only thing to change with new technology. Students need to be prepared to learn and re-learn information. Students need to learn there is no ending to learning, just a new phase and new methods to learning. Often I have worked with people who have not read a book since they graduated high school. These co-workers alway were the ones to complain about their current job and complain about the lack of mobility in the workforce for them. What they are experiencing, is the life of someone who is not able to learn and continue to learn. Wagner lists his 4th essential skill as initiative and entrepreneurship but I believe the main skill is the ability to be innovative and think outside the box. To be an entrepreneur in today’s society, one must think beyond what has already been created. The phone has been invented but people like Steve Jobs found a way to be innovative and re-think the cell phone.
Since there are 7 billion people and counting, it is critical that students know how to communicate in multiple formats. Students will not only communicate via text but also verbal communications. Students may interact with people via text while on a Skype conference. Therefore if students are prepared for the 21st century, they will be prepared to communicate on a variety of media types. Wagner’s 6th survival skill is the ability access and assess information. I believe this is tied to the 3rd survival skill of being able to learn and re-learn. Since information is being created and presented at every moment of the day, students need to learn how to access and evaluate this information. This is part of the digital citizenship that is integral to my curriculum. Often I see students refer and quote wikipedia. Although I do not deny the power of Wikipedia, I teach students to use that as their first stepping stone in research. I have students going beyond a Wikipedia search, learning about how to critically evaluate information for accuracy.
The last survival skill of the 21st century is imagination. With unbounded imagination, the limits for creating is infinite. Wagner lists this skill as curiosity and imagination but if education promotes imagination, curiosity will come with it. I believe the integration of STEAM will promote imagination. Students can use technology to integrate art. In my classroom, I try to integrate creative opportunities and creative expression into a large number of lessons. I believe that integrating art will provide students with opportunities to be creative. In a lesson about genetics, I had students determine the genetically inherited traits and then express them in a family portrait. In the activity, students noticed how there may be some similarities in traits but they can be expressed in a variety of ways. This was apparent in the drawings of the family’s hair. All family members had curly hair but each member had a different method of styling the hair. This activity promote creativeness while teaching about diversity.