Different generations have made their mark on the world through the years, guided by the guidance they received in the classroom – and Gen Z, those born after 1996, are no different. However, Generation Z is the first to have been surrounded by technology their entire lives. They have been in a data-saturated, device-driven world, and will continue to be influenced by it in years to come. This poses a unique challenge for educators; how can they prepare Gen Z for a future that is faster moving than ever before? We already acknowledge that the future job market will be impacted significantly by the ability to utilise technology and that teachers are already shifting their curriculums to incorporate future-ready digital-citizenship.
While many jobs will remain the same, valuable technologies are shaping how they are performed. This includes medicine, law, business, finance, industry, retail, and more. Technology touches everything, and Gen Z has never known any different. Having had millennials as test subjects and now utilising them as teachers will help, but if schools lack the resources to help a modern student excel in a modern world truly, then it is the world that will suffer. In fact, the oldest Gen Z students are already in their senior year of college, with more well and truly on their way. They differ dramatically from classes before them in that they:
- Are on Demand: Gen Z has lived in an immediate, online life. They are not impatient, but it is normal for them to rent a film on demand, shop online, learn from their phone, and much more. They have never been without instant access.
- Expect a Fit: Gen Z has always been a target market for algorithms and, thus, have always received personalised information.
- Are visual: Gen Z is a generation who likes to watch rather than read. They are easily stimulated by hands-on Visual entertainment and are more easily reached through screens than pages.
- Are Newly Social: Gen Z engages with the world in a new way; in a hybrid of online and in-person interaction. It is an integral part of their social behaviour and a primary form of communication and engagement.
This begs the question; how do we engage with this generation? The first step is understanding how Gen Z’s behaviour and attitudes are different from those that have come before. Educators can then shape and design curriculums that reach to students through their current mindset, rather than trying to oppose it. This might include:
- Embracing the use of personal devices and utilising them in learning
- Creating personalised learning experiences that focus on creativity, communication, and collaboration
- Utilise round-the-clock learning to ensure ongoing educational experiences and opportunities to study
- Embrace online submissions and assignments
- Educate about appropriate digital citizenships
Many of these changes are quite simple for many schools, and indeed are already being used to facilitate student success. It is important to realise that Gen Z is markedly different from any generation that has come before them, and they will lead the way for future groups – and indeed, the future of our world.