I thought Wagner's book The Global Achievement Gap (2008) was unimpressive, until I reached the last chapter. The final chapter does what Heidi Hayes Jacobs text, Curriculum 21 failed to do: To show us what 21st century education could look like. How might this text be useful?

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Hey Jeff,

I just started reading Wagner's book so I'll have to let you know how it might be useful, but have your read 21st Century Skills by Trilling and Fadel? I read it previously and am interested in how Wagner's ideas tie in with 21st Century Skills considering he makes reference to them in his book.

I did hear Wagner speak back in February, both publicly and personally, and was impressed. I look forward to reaching the last chapter after reading your comments. Do you have a blog or book discussion going on these ideas? I'd be interested in joining.


Hey Jeff, 

I just read, at your suggestion, the Trilling and Fadel. It had good bits. I felt that it, too, was much like the beginning of the Wagner book. Good generalizations (you'd expect it to quote Pink etc.), but it doesn't do as goo a job as Wagner does in that final chapter, at least I didn't think so. As I mentioned elsewhere I wasn't so impressed with Heidi Hayes Jacobs Curriculum 21, but I do think she does a better job in her TEDx talk. The interesting thing is how we're all working toward what this 21st century education needs to look like. I'm reminded of the futurists at the beginning of the 20th century: They were ready to blow up museums in favour of new technology. We're currently too stuck in the 'old ways', yet we'll have to be careful not to throw away all that is good in favour of that which is unproven. Perhaps the 12 years in Asia make me think there must be a middle path!

Hey Jeff,

I have not finished Wagner's book yet, but did watch his video from the link you supplied. After watching the video I can understand why you might have been unimpressed with the beginning of the book. Much of what he says in the short video is the first 3/4 of the book, right down to the stories he tells. So I found the video lacking since I'd already read the book.


I think Wagner would agree with you in that we should not through away everything and start over, but I believe education has drifted off course. Too much of education is focused on test results, and less on student accountability after graduation. How can we expect students to be responsible, productive members of society when for their past 18 years all they needed to do was pass a test. A test which they were prepared for by teachers.


Futurists are saying similar things about the iPad2 and other technology. How great it will be and how much better students will be with these new devices, but I tend to disagree. Yes they are nice pieces of technology, but will they really make students smarter? More critical thinkers? More innovative? I teach in Japan and here technology is hot, but not like what it is in the states. The cell phone is #1. I watch how education is progressing here and I feel Japan is going the road of the US, too much reliance on the test. I have been bringing in more critical thinking into my classes, but it is not easy since so many students want me to give them the answer. It is a slow process, but I feel I am making progress. I agree with you, there must be a middle path.


I have just begun Wagner's last chapter and am impressed with High Tech Highs curriculum. I wish I had more time to devote to finishing it right now.




I, too, teach in Japan (yeah us!), at n independent school, so we're not too worried about outside tests, fortunately (save, to some extent, the APs). 

We're moving 1:1 next year, and as the recent purchaser of the Ipad 2, I have concerns about tech, too. I thought Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows did a great job in the chapter "The Juggler's Brain" on explaining the effects of the internet and technology on the way we think or can think. That said, my students in English 9 are currently finishing a movie project using 'tech', but the assignment has had them return to the text and their movies must "make an argument" (cf. Everything's an Argument Lunsford & Ruszkiewicz, 2007, Boston: Bedford St Martins). So long as we keep technology the tool for learning, and not let it become the learning, nor the tool for the sake of the tool, we'll probably be ok!

The times are exciting!  

Hey Jeff,

What is the name of the independent school? Must be nice not to have to worry about the tests. I work at a university in Nagoya, so I do not have to worry as well, but classes are so compartmentalized. I wish there was more cross-curriculum teaching by the faculty. It is easy to see why students do not follow a topic when I see them once a week for 90 minutes.

I finished Tony's book and agree with you, the ending had the most information, but felt if you are new to this topic, the beginning was important. I think the two biggest issues I face at the university are:

1) critical thinking and innovation. Japanese students are always waiting for me to give them the answer. It has been hard for me to teach them how to think through a question/problem, but once they understand how, they do it very well. I am starting to use more problem-based learning in my classes.


2) collaboration: many of my students do not want to work in groups with others who are not their friends. They always complain that one person ends up doing all the work while others go along for the ride. I have been trying to help them peer-edit each others job in a project, but they are rarely truthful. I continue to work on this, and try to get them to see the benefits of collaborating with others, but am open to any suggestions. For a culture that prides itself on groups and the group work ethic/mentality, Japanese seem to me to be more individualized when it comes to school work. I am trying an idea from Tony's book, each person in a group is responsible for the answers. For example, students are in a group discussing 3 questions. I give each student in a group a playing card, then randomly match a card with a question. The student that has the matching playing card needs to answer the question. So far it seems to keep them working together and being a part of the discussions.


If I can get students more involved in these two areas I feel they will see substantial growth in their English language skills. Plus they will be more prepared to enter the global work environment.


I agree with your statement that we need "to keep technology the tool for learning, and not let it become the learning, nor the tool for the sake of the tool". I do the same in my classes. We use a lot of technology, but it a tool for learning and expression with a distinct purpose in the lesson. Many presentations I see just use tech because it is there, like Powerpoint, and to me that is not beneficial to teachers or students. I will begin my doctoral studies at Pepperdine in educational technology in the fall and I'm really looking forward to finding better methods for both in/out of class use of tech.


Take care!


I find the book impressive from start to finish. The importance of the text is waking people up. Anyone in education has to see that many of their colleagues have their heads in the sand. In most schools being better than your rival is more than enough. If you're tops in your district you tend to assume you need not improve. The book should inspire teachers to realize that isn't enough.


I'm interested to know what specifically you found "unimpressive" about the opening where he lays out the 7 skills desired by business leaders. 

Hi Kev, thanks for the reply. I found it unimpressive only in that I think what he lays out there has been said a lot before. And perhaps because I had seen his video before which does the same thing, but much more concisely. It was really the last chapter that I found brought something new to the conversation, something that a lot of books are doing adequately.



Great how can i get a copy of the book


You can try amazon.com or google Tony Wagner and you can order it from the publisher.





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