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on October 17, 2011
The title pretty much sums up the book. I began reading this book over the summer. I was about 1/3 of the way through and decided to stop reading the book and return it to the library. Why? Because there was so much great content that I was spending more time writing out my notes than actually reading the book.

I recently purchased the book for my iPad so I could highlight and type my notes. This proved a much more productive method(and lead me to a thought on education practices) and allowed me to not only take away key passages, but also allowed for fluid reading.

There is so much great info in this book. As I currently help operate an online global project with 600+ elementary students, I found many things in this book to hold merit and raise valid questions about education. Combine this with my recent visit to High Tech High(which was included in the book) and not only understand the need for some change to education, but demand it to happen. The great thing is that change is happening.

Essentially, the author discusses 7 Essential Survival Skills that all students need.

Wagner presents seven "survival skills" that students should be learning in school in order to prepare for college and adult life:

* Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
* Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
* Agility and Adaptability
* Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
* Effective Oral and Written Communication.
* Accessing and Analyzing Information
* Curiosity and Imagination

Throughout the book he examines how these skills are being taught on the global scale and how much America has fallen behind the ranks in these skills. What is so great about his rhetoric and writing style is that it is not an all out bash on American schools. Being a teacher myself I have read plenty where teachers are just ripped apart. He focuses more on where things are going wrong and providing examples of schools that are on the right path to making change.

The skills shared here are all skills that everyone needs for whatever avenue of life they choose. Some parents and students are stuck in schools that they cannot escape. The great thing with these skills are that they can be taught at home.

Staying current with the development and changes in education I think things are moving in the right direction. I teach at a fantastic school and we even realize that changes need to be made.

I recommend this book to anyone who has an investment in education(which is pretty much everyone). You will walk away from this book with a better understanding of what is needed for our students and nation to get back to the top.

I will be using my 23 pages of notes for future blog posts on education, but since this is a review of the book I will save those rants for another day. A must read education book.
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on April 16, 2013
The engaging and personalized style of writing in Wagner's think piece, caught my imagination as well as fed my brain and rattled my beliefs. I am of an age that reflection is often very cluttered- TMI, too much infomation, I believe the kids call it. The overall message that I took away from the reading is one of perscective. I grew up post WW2. I was involved in the times of the 60's when the prevailing mind set was to solve most problems by learning something-usually at an institution of learning. My present day peers often say, I'd love to be able to play the piano, draw cartoons, write children's stories... I wish I had time to take a class to do that. My children, grown and gone now, found early-on that they would be called upon to hook up all electronic implements that entered our home. My grandchildren, as early as age four, sat at the computer that I only used to word process the simplest documents and discovered wonderfully complex programs to inform and entertain themselves. OMG...self taught!! They figured it out on their own. Reading Wagner's book, I realized that I had made some changes/growth in this regard. I would be a diplodicus if I had not learned FROM MY CHILDREN and the children I now serve that learning to learn is more the object of "schooling" than when I was their age. Read this with your mind alerts to the revising your schema of pedagogical possibilities and then consider changing the way you look at your personal educational mission.
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on January 12, 2012
This is a book that really gets to the heart of the problem that educators must face up to in the twenty first century. Is it better to regard school as simply a place that teaches facts and figures in a fairly regimented way or should education reflect the life and times that young people are growing up in, taking full advantage of technologies and everything else that is on offer these days to assist with the process of learning? Tony Wagner, rightly, opts for the later - and what's more, he has the evidence to prove it.

Until relatively recently, young people largely grew up blissfully ignorant of the world around them. Schools were expected to fill them with knowledge because that was their principal function. Of course, there were exceptions. The bright kids who read widely and hung out in the library have always been around, but these days young teens can readily access a vast array of information on any subject that takes their interest and their creative freedom to do so is seemingly unlimited.

Wagner argues that this should be the basis of education models in the twenty first century, rather than simply believing what has occurred in the past should be maintained in the future. By creating learning environments that both engage and energize students, they are able to gain substantially more from their time at school which ultimately flows through to their productivity as employees.

Teaching needs to become a much more highly valued profession. However, this will only occur when educators face up to the fact that the digital generation are fundamentally different learners from their predecessors and require a very different style of teaching.

This remains the key challenge for western education policy the world over. As Wagner persuasively argues, those who adapt to and reflect the new world order in their teaching will ultimately be the ones who reap the greatest reward in the future.
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on March 3, 2013
I am thoroughly enjoying digging deeper into this very well written book. My own background is somewhat similar to Mr. Wagner's. I was an electronics engineer and my career path developed in the following sequence: Design engineer (RF and microwave), Marketing Manager, Applications Engineer, Consultant, and Electronics Instructor at a Technical College.

Mr. Wagner describes seven "Survival Skills" required for students to succeed. When I teach electronics I normally include stories involving these skills in my lectures. Here are some of them:

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. Early in my career I looked for mentors and then became one. A key to long term success is a willingness to change job functions, at least once every five years. In the modern world the cycle has shortened to about once every year.
2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading By Influence. As an Applications Engineer for Tektronix (a manufacturer of test equipment) I got a lot of practice with this. I lived in Seattle, my Manager lived in Denver, my secretary was in California, and my engineering support came from Oregon and Texas.
3. Agility and Adaptability. I was making a small but steady salary when I was contacted by AT&T Wireless. They wanted me to be a Requirements Definitions Analyst for a group of software developers. I explained that software was not my field of expertise. Nevertheless they hired me and I successfully met the objectives they set for me.
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurism: I owned a Manufacturer's Sales Representative Company for seven years. I learned a lot but it was a financial disaster. I learned that I enjoyed risk, but I should use someone else's money instead of my own.
5. Oral and Written Communications: I ask my students to write a seven page report and give a 10 minute presentation about various technical topics. I frame this as a simulated job interview. The following books provide excellent ideas about making effective presentations: "Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins", by Annette Simmons, and "Getting Over Yourself", by Barbara Rocha.
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information: Early in my career I was shy about asking for help. As I matured I learned to be more proactive and discovered that I could even demand answers to my questions.
7. Curiosity and Imagination. I own three patents. One of my devices is now sitting on the surface of Mars. History's great inventions often involved mixing different disciplines. I enjoy reading about the process involved in making new inventions and have written many book reviews about this.

Mr. Wagner wrote an interesting chapter involving "Growing Up Digital". Communicating with students who expect instant gratification can be challenging. Another book that addresses this problem/opportunity is "iDisorder", by Larry Rosen.
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on July 23, 2010
Tony Wagner's latest book (2008) does a very good job at analyzing the important issue of rigor, and how today, American society has confused the quest for large amounts of knowledge sold in a shallow package (a mile wide but an inch deep) as the answer to our nation's educational woes. Just like a shallow river, this approach looks impressive on the surface, producing a lot of froth and whitewater, but is not very navigable. This merit-badge approach of padding transcripts with "rigorous" classes comes at a steep price. While students (many in our "top" schools) grind through advanced classes, preparing to pass tests, they forgo the opportunity for deep analysis and practical problem-solving (this coming from the students themselves). In an age of informational abundance, the skills and competencies businesses need most (by their accounts) like the ability to use information well, are missing in many of today's graduates.

Wagner looks at alternative assessments that measure students' abilities to problem solve, manage information, and apply content knowledge to real issues. He talks with students, staff; visits schools, and presents programs that have eschewed the shallow approach favored by most schools today. Unlike the uncritical flybys that we are used to seeing during most school visitations where everything is choreographed for the visitor, Wagner, having been a teacher and administrator, looks beyond the facade and is not afraid to speak his mind. Speaking in a frank yet balanced tone, he argues convincingly that we need a better definition for "rigor"---one that looks beyond mere content, while not ignoring content's importance.
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VINE VOICEon December 12, 2010
One of the BEST books you will ever read about the pathway for the reform and improvement of U.S. public education. PERIOD!

I am admittedly rushing, so here are a few morsels (any emphasis is mine):

Finally, I have observed that the longer our children are in school, the less curious they become. Effective communication, curiosity, and critical-thinking skills, as we will see, are much more than just the traditional desirable outcomes of a liberal arts education. They are essential competencies and habits of mind for life in the twenty-first century. P. Xxiii

"Students are simply not learning the skills that matter most for the twenty-first century. Our system of public education-our curricula, teaching methods, and the tests we require students to take-were created in a different century for the needs of another era. They are hopelessly outdated." P. 9.

We are simply not developing our intellectual capital to the extent that many other countries are. Perhaps our real competitive advantage as a country in the future will be in those areas requiring innovation-which in turn relies on curiosity and imagination." P. 75

The most important skill in the New World of work, learning, and citizenship today - the rigor that matters most-is the ability to ask the right questions. Old World rigor is still about having the right answers - and the more, the better.

Have questions about how to improve the U.S. public education system? You should. If so, this book is required reading.
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on June 15, 2013
This is a passionate book full of analysis and argument. It begins by defining "seven survival skills" for the XXI century, and goes on to identify how to develop them in young people, and reviews both bad and good practices in high school education. The author exposes the fallacy of improving by testing (teachers teach for the test instead of developing the best in their students), offers good ideas for principals and educational administrators (the learning walk, for instance), and reviews successful cases of high-schools in different settings. These are real and important issues.

I got to this book by following a Youtube video on Finland's higher education by the author - look it up if you can.
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There is much work to be done at the high school level, world wide. This book helps materially.
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on December 5, 2013
Very nice book about school incapacity to promote authorial learning, research- and elaboration-based, using other research methods (qualitative, dialogic, reconstructive, discourse...) with great mastery. He cultivates very comprehensive learning vision (one of the best I ever found in the literature), whose center are research and elaboration. He draws, however, too much from market arguments, although he recognizes that critical thinking involves to critique capitalist system...
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on September 21, 2014
The Global Achievement Gap resonates well with those concerned about educating the youth of today for tomorrow's world, not only in the US but all over the world. The need for a Holistic Education has never been as pressing as it is today and Tony Wagner provides the elegant framework and the language to start the discussion on how do we work together to provide a holistic education to our youth.

Mushtak Al-Atabi
Author of "Think Like an Engineer"
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on June 3, 2012
The book was refreshingly direct and clear about the challenges our society is facing and the flaws of todays educational system. Even though there are exceptions to the rules and themes that he identifies, in terms of the lack of consistency in what 'excellent teaching' is and the poor preparedness of high schools to prepare students to be productive citizens and job ready, I believe the content applied to a majority of high schools that exist. I also thought it was grew to hear the focus on 'creating productive citizens' rather than 'students who do well on tests', identifying the true end goal that educational institutions should drive towards.
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