What would these 7 skills matched to leadership in Texas schools look like? Are our leadership/management styles aligned to these 7 skills? When you watch a video about WolframAlpha–like this one–it’s pretty scary. I’d bet most of the questions are students are asking can be answered by this search engine…why aren’t we teaching them better? I suggest because we aren’t leading our schools to accomplish this.

Seven Skills as I understood them:

  1. Critical thinking and problem-solving: To accomplish this, we need more problem-based learning.
  2. Collaborative leadership: How do you work together to solve problems and innovate at a distance? How do you “win friends and influence people” over the network? There is definitely a need to know how to do this.
  3. Adaptability and learning: Not only do you have to be flexible and adapt (isn’t that humanity’s claim to fame, being adaptable in harsh environments?), you have to be able to learn quickly. This doesn’t sound like anything we didn’t need to do as we evolved…why are we not doing it in school?
  4. Take the initiative and be creative: Waiting for direction from others rather than taking the initiative and creating something can be a show-stopper. I know that I want people on my team who can take the initiative and create something new, something *I* never could have imagined.
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communication: this seems obvious.
  6. Accessing and analyzing information
  7. Imagination – This actually reminded me of Seth Godin’s purple cow

What I really enjoyed from this article was the steps at the end…I’ve paraphrased them a bit:

  1. Give students a complex, multi-step problem that is different from the ones they’ve seen in the past and, to solve it, they have to apply previously acquired knowledge.
  2. Students have to engage in parallel problem-solving–developing at least two ways to solve the problem–which requires some initiative and imagination. Then, share their solutions and rationale using effective communication skills (not just a Powerpoint, eh?)
  3. Teacher uses questions to push the student groups’ thinking. 
  4. Hold the team, and each member, accountable for the solution and the thinking that went into it.
You know, not unlike PBL at all.

Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists…” 

Source: BBC: http://bit.ly/caPQMk

What’s it like in YOUR neck of the woods?

    • Would You Hire Your Own Kids? 7 Skills Schools Should be Teaching Them
    • I look for someone who asks good questions,” Parker responded. “Our business is changing, and so the skills our engineers need change rapidly, as well. We can teach them the technical stuff. But for employees to solve problems or to learn new things, they have to know what questions to ask. And we can’t teach them how to ask good questions—how to think. The ability to ask the right questions is the single most important skill.”
    • I want people who can engage in good discussion—who can look me in the eye and have a give and take.”
    • All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage the customer—to find out what his needs are. If you can’t engage others, then you won’t learn what you need to know.”
    • Seven Survival Skills that all of our students will need to master in order to get a good job in the new “flat” world of work. I also came to see how these are the same skills young people need in order to understand and discuss some of the most pressing issues we face as a democracy in the 21st century.
    • 1. Critical Thinking and Problem-solving
      In order for companies to compete in the new global economy, they need every worker to be a “knowledge worker”—and to think about how to continuously improve their products, processes, or services.
    • “Yesterday’s answers won’t solve today’s problems.”
    • the challenge is this: how do you do things that haven’t been done before, where you have to re-think or think anew, or break set in a fundamental way—it’s not incremental improvement anymore. That just won’t cut it. The markets are changing too fast, the environments are changing too fast.”
    • 2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading By Influence
    • Teamwork, it seems, is no longer just about working with others in your building. And traditional top-down accountability structures are rapidly being replaced by horizontal networks.
    • “Technology has allowed for virtual teams,” she explained. “The way some engineering projects in our company are set up is that you are part of a virtual team. We have teams working on major infrastructure projects that are all over the U.S. On other projects, you’re working with people all around the world on solving a software problem. They don’t work in the same room, they don’t come to the same office, but every week they’re on a variety of conference calls; they’re doing web casts; they’re doing net meetings.”
    • “Kids just out of school have an amazing lack of preparedness in general leadership skills and collaborative skills,” he explained, “They lack the ability to influence versus direct and command.”
    • 3. Agility and Adaptability
    • think, be flexible, change, and be adaptive, and use a variety of tools to solve new problems. We change what we do all the time.
    • People have to learn to adapt.
    • adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills.”
    • 4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
    • “Leadership is the capacity to take initiative and trust yourself to be creative,”
    • One of the problems of a large company is risk aversion. Our challenge is how to create an entrepreneurial culture in a larger organization.”
    • 5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
    • “We are routinely surprised at the difficulty some young people have in communicating: verbal skills, written skills, presentation skills. They have difficulty being clear and concise; it’s hard for them to create focus, energy, and passion around the points they want to make. They are unable to communicate their thoughts effectively. You’re talking to an exec, and the first thing you’ll get asked if you haven’t made it perfectly clear in the first 60 seconds of your presentation is, ‘What do you want me to take away from this meeting?’ They don’t know how to answer that question.”
    • 6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
    • “There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps.”
    • 7. Curiosity and Imagination
    • “People who’ve learned to ask great questions and have learned to be inquisitive are the ones who move the fastest in our environment because they solve the biggest problems in ways that have most impact on innovation.”
    • “For businesses it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful.”
    • First, students are given a complex, multi-step problem that is different from the ones they’ve seen in the past and, to solve it, they have to apply previously acquired knowledge from both geometry and algebra. Mere memorization won’t get them very far in this lesson; critical thinking and problem-solving skills are required. Second, they have to find two ways to solve the problem, which requires some initiative and imagination. Just getting the correct answer isn’t good enough; they have to explain their proofs—using effective communication skills. Third, the teacher does not spoon feed students the answers; he uses questions to push students’ thinking—as well as their tolerance for ambiguity. Finally, because the teacher has said that he’ll randomly call on a student to show how the group solved the problem, each student in every group is held accountable. The group can’t rely on the work of one or two students to get by, and the teacher isn’t going to just call on the first student to raise a hand or shout out an answer. Teamwork is required for success.
    • And when most of the tests are multiple choice and require mainly memorization of facts—it’s definitely for the worse. It is the rare teacher—like the one whom I described above—who is willing to risk teaching students to think versus merely drilling what must be covered for the test.
    • Where in the 20th century, rigor meant mastering more—and more complex—academic content, 21st century rigor is about creating new knowledge and applying what you know to new problems and situations.
    • Tony Wagner is Co-Director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and can be reached through his website: http://www.schoolchange.org. This article is adapted from his book, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach The New Survival Skills Our Children Need—and What We Can Do About It (New York: Basic Books, 2008)

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