We are in an exciting time of education. The exponential growth in technology in the past 25 years has transformed our society. In the classroom, it allows us to engage students in ways we have never done before. Moreover, students currently in K-12 are significantly different from the generations that have preceded them, partly because of the boom in technology within our society. These unique characteristics pose new challenges and approaches to reaching these students.
Who are the students of Generations Z and Alpha?
Generations Z (ages 10-24) and Alpha (ages 0-9) are the children from Generations X and Y. Whereas their parents grew into a world where the internet, mobile phones, and wireless networking were brand new innovation, these are the first generations born with technology infused in the cultural norm. To them the internet is not considered an added tool, but a part of daily living. Mobile technologies are common accessories from childhood including tablets and smartphones. These generations of students are considered the most technology literate compared to those of previous generations.
How do these generations learn?
Students in Gen Z and Alpha display significant differences in how they perceive, process, and access information and learning. These students are used to manipulating concepts in a virtual setting. Gaming, creating online content, and interacting online is the norm. They are used to being connected to information. They’re digital media consumers and creators that embrace using online platforms such as YouTube, FlipGrid, and Instagram and sources of information and ways to communicate.
“There is a growing body of evidence – that is, yes, not fully validated and can be argued against – but pretty clear evidence that technology, social media, immediate access to the internet and smartphones are hurting kids’ ability to focus,”
-Dr Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech.
On the flip side, teachers have voiced their concern that the relentless multi-tasking lifestyle of these generations is leading to a lack of focus in the classroom. Already limited attention spans of children seem to be even smaller than before. Teachers are noticing that students get exhausted reading long passages of text.
How can teachers adapt their teaching practices and curriculum?
Tried and true teaching strategies of the past are not necessarily as effective as they once were. However, evidence shows they shouldn’t be completely abandoned. Educators need to find the right balance of utilizing the new inherent skills of these generations while practicing those they have more deficits with. We’d love to hear your input and experiences!
How are you adapting your teaching practices to address the needs and skills of Generations Z and Alpha?
What tools and methods (ex. apps, instructional strategies) have you found very successful and unsuccessful in keeping the students in these generations engaged and achieving?