If you’ve been in education for more than 10 years, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that your typical student has changed. There are many contributing factors to this change (which I will address in this blog), but the important thing for us as educators to know is what the implications of those changes are and how we can better reach those students.
My son, now 2 years old, amazes me with the things he knows how to do with technology. Just yesterday he showed me that you can toggle between apps on an iPad or iPhone by hitting the home button twice (perhaps not new information for most of you, but for me it was). You see most of our students have never known a world without technology at their fingertips and can decipher information at a must faster rate than most people can comprehend.
Generation Z (birth years 1996 – present) is a much different group of students than those in the generations before them. They have experienced many things during their short lives that have changed what their generation’s main issues are. During their lifetime The Great Recession coupled with the increase of student loan debt has made Generations Zers very aware of finances and more cautious spenders. The passing of the Affordable Care Act means that students (specifically low-income) have few worries about healthcare and the impact of not having health insurance. During their lifetime they have had an African-American President and gay marriage has been legal; thus many of the students you have are more apt to believe in equal rights for all regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Lastly, Generations Zers have always had social media which has made them become more aware of their image and led to a difference in how this generation communicates with one another.
There are three other key pieces of information that you should be aware of about Generation Z:
- They are highly educated and a larger percentage will graduate from college than in previous generations. (Much of their education is online from places like YouTube and Pinterest.)
- They want to make an impact on the world and are very eco-conscious and concerned about humanity’s impact on the environment. (A larger amount of students do volunteer work than previous generations)
- This generation is much more diverse. (55% white, 24% Hispanic, 14% black, 4% Asian, and 4% multi-race)
Reading all this information you may have had some epiphanies on your own about how you could better teach them (I did as well when I first heard all this information from my Principal Lori Wyborney), but here are some take-aways that I had:
- We as teachers need to do a better job of chunking information and giving students more time to explore, discuss, and process that information.
- Student have very little patience for things they deem unimportant. Statistically speaking, the average Generation Zer has an attention span of 8 seconds. During those 8 seconds students will determine if the information being presented is worth spending more time on or if it’s time to move on.
- We need to give students more choice in what they are learning and the manner in which they show their understanding.
- Generation Zers are very creative and entrepreneurial. 72% of high schoolers poled want to own their own business and 76% hope to turn their current hobbies into a career.
- We need to be more of a learning guide than a keeper of knowledge.
- Students have all the information they need at their fingertips and can find information much quicker than we realize. (YouTube, Pinterest, Wikipedia, Facebook, etc.)
- We need to teach students the value of taking risks and overcoming failure.
- This generation is used to seeing other people’s lives as better than their own (think of what is often posted on social media) and worry about their image more than generations prior.
- We need to integrate more technology into education, but make it purposeful.
- Generation Z uses on average 5 screens (smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, iPad, etc.) and are adept at multi-tasking. Utilize online training like Khan Academy, MathXL, Rosetta Stone, etc.
Based on your reading, research, and/or observations of Generation Z; how can we better serve this generation in the classroom? What are some teaching strategies that you have found successful?
Aside from teaching, I also coach baseball (JV for the high school and AA for American Legion) and enjoy spending time with my wife and son.
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