Teaching Generation Z

I often thought that alphabets were used for writing words, but there it comes that each alphabet denotes a meaning, the so-called GENERATION –Z.  Being a 1980 model, it seems difficult for handling Generation Z. If they are Z who am I?  Generation A, B, or Y?

Well they remain the same but we can change to any letter depending upon our willingness to change and adapt to the new era and be aligned with various modern technologies.

‘Values remain same, Generation changes, it is we teachers who need to understand and master the art of injecting our values and tradition in them.’

Five general trends can be identified, broadly referring to:

1.The traditionalists, born between 1928 and 1944, who value authority and a top-down management approach;

2.The baby boomer generation, born between 1945 and 1965 who tend to be workaholics;

3.Generation X, born between 1965 and 1979, a generation who is comfortable with authority and view the work-life balance as important,

4.Generation Y, been born between 1980 and 1995 and who generally grew up in prosperity and have technology savvy;

5.Generation Z, born after 1995, who is still to come into the workforce, but tend to be digital natives, fast decision-makers, and highly connected

The typical Generation Z person, or digital natives as often referred to, was the first generation born into a globally (internet) connected world and therefore “live and breathe” technology. This is also true for the higher education environment where Generation Z students rely on PC-recordings instead of taking notes, are more tend to raise questions online, see a lecture as “come and entertain me” and does not like waiting for a response but demand instant information and communication

The brains of Generation Zs have become wired to sophisticated, complex visual imagery, and as a result, the part of the brain responsible for visual ability is far more developed, making visual forms of learning more effective.

Auditory learning, such as lectures and discussions, is very strongly disliked by this group, whereas interactive games, collaborative projects, advance organizers, and challenges, are appreciated

Gen Z is really the first generation that doesn’t know life without technology. To this population, Google, Instagram and smartphones are not just convenient tools — they’re necessary parts of life. Generation Z expects to be connected to the world and able to access information at any time. This translates to education as well.

Gen Z students want immediate feedback on assignments just as they do on social media. They also crave autonomy in their education. Students want to make decisions about what they learn and how they demonstrate their knowledge.

How can teachers adapt?

Rather than trying to draw students away from technology, consider how you can use it to provide information and engage with them. Here are five tips for teaching digital natives:

Use educational software — there are a lot of tech tools that can both make your job easier and keep Gen Z students engaged. In addition to full-service learning management systems, you can leverage software to create everything from interactive presentations to educational games.
Begin a dialogue — Long lectures aren’t the best technique for Gen Z students. They’re used to multitasking and skimming for the most valuable information. Try a variety of teaching methods to keep the class moving.
Use visuals to your advantage — like lectures, large blocks of text can result in students losing engagement. Using charts, graphics and multimedia can make the material more memorable.
Hold online office hours — for students who are used to immediately reaching people online, sending an instant message is likely going to be more effective. It’s also more efficient for parents of younger children to reach out directly than setting up a formal appointment.
Provide rationale — Gen Z students are used to constantly updated newsfeeds and have come to expect only the most relevant information. For that reason, explain upfront why a lesson is important and how it’s applicable in the real world.

How can teachers adapt?

Interacting with individuals who are different helps people anticipate alternative viewpoints and recognize that reaching a consensus will take effort. That’s clearly relevant to teachers. But educators need to take extra measures to support a diverse student population.

Explore your own culture — by understanding the social interests, goals and thought-patterns that influence your culture, you can better identify personal biases and recognize the value of the cultural background.
Make an effort to understand other cultures — Go beyond the surface and aim to understand how the diversity of your students affects how they see themselves and the world around them.
Think carefully about language — Language and dialect are key parts of culture. By examining how words are used, you can learn to communicate with students in a more meaningful way.
Use diverse books and materials — incorporating multicultural literature can help students identify more with the material and foster cross-cultural understanding.

Gen Z students experience high rates of depression and anxiety

It can be easy to dismiss moody or withdrawn behaviour as typical teenage angst.  A growing number of this generation is experiencing something more serious. The total number of teenagers experiencing depression increased by 59 per cent from 2007 to 2017. Potential contributing factors include academic pressure, high rates of perfectionism, and a lack of adequate sleep. All this is to say there’s a high likelihood that you will encounter a student with a mental illness.

· Work with students — Rather than using an authoritative teaching style, try engaging Gen Z students one on one. Be sensitive that their emotions may impact their learning.

· Use techniques that focus on positivity — this isn’t to say you should let bad behaviour go unaddressed, but you can use strategies that focus on empowering students. Try rewarding engagement with verbal praise and regularly reviewing ways that students demonstrate growth.

· Make accommodations — Educators can give assignment extensions, break tasks into smaller pieces, and offer to help students create study plans. They may also encourage students to help one another.

· Set the stage for success — recognizing success can give students much-needed confidence. Even though you must follow state standards, you can break up your curriculum into frequent milestones for students to celebrate.

· Consult the experts — School-employed mental health personnel can provide counselling, connect students to further services and collaborate with family members.

· Take a class — Learning from experienced educators can help you apply evidence-based research to your teaching. Some courses can even demonstrate how to create a safe place in which to talk about mental health.

Succeed in teaching Generation Z

Each new generation of students will bring changes to teaching and learning. You’ll continually find yourself adapting your instructional style to account for their interests, struggles and goals. But one thing that won’t change is the trend toward a more digital world.

As you begin to adapt to Generation Z traits, you’ll want to give extra consideration to making sure students are ready to navigate a technology-fueled work environment

As you can see, these ideas are different than what you may be used to as a teacher. But giving Gen Z the support and foundation they crave to be a success in the world will be very satisfying to you. Consider trying out at least one of these ideas in your classroom. If you see that it makes a difference, then you can incorporate another and so on. Before you know it, you’ll be connecting with your Gen Z students in ways you never thought possible!

Mr Yigal S. Banker: Mr Yigal S. Banker is the Executive Director of International Schools – Rahul International School and the Principal of RIS Mira Road. He has been in the field of education since the past 25 years and has his expertise set in academics and administration. His working profile has included his service in all curriculums – CBSE, ICSE and IGCSE. Winning many accolades, he has received a prime commendation from the Prime Minister’s office for promoting Defense through Education.

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