Collaboration is a 21st Century Skill

Avatars collaborating on making hair

Employers complain that the incoming workforce lacks what is needed.  Are we preparing our students appropriately for their future?   Tony Wagner in his book, The Global Achievement Gap discusses what he calls the 7 survival skills for the 21st century.  According to him these skills are:

  1. Problem-solving and critical thinking;
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence;
  3. Agility and adaptability;
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurship;
  5. Effective written and oral communication;
  6. Accessing and analyzing information; and
  7. Curiosity and imagination.

These are the kinds of things we discuss in our annual reviews with supervisors and we know these skills make us more productive and useful to the organization.

Most of these 7 skills are supported with project-based  participant production in a virtual environment.  Student production in virtual environments involves building, scripting and researching to develop content.  This type of activity lends itself to a collaborative atmosphere and the ‘network’ across which students collaborate can extend across the globe. (Collaborative building in Second Life – Palo Alto Research Center). Problem solving takes place while planning and again while producing.  Limitations must be considered and decisions about the best solution take place for effective results.  Students must use mathematics and communication skills as they work together to complete their intended product.  They may need to do some research and analyze information as they progress in their building.  Discovery can take place and a plan may change or students may need to adapt a plan and influence colleagues toward a different approach.  Of course, curiosity and imagination are always at play as students build what defies common perceptions and sometimes the laws of physics.  It is the process that is most important here, what the students have to do to achieve their goal – not the final product.

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