Generation Z, or Gen Z for short, is the first generation to have grown up with access to the internet and technology from a young age. They are digital natives who have never known a world without smartphones and social media. This presents both opportunities and challenges for educators. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens in the US go online daily, with 45% saying they are online almost constantly (Lenhart, 2015).
As education entrepreneurs and school leaders, it is essential to understand the unique needs and characteristics of the students you serve. In the 21st century, that means understanding and adapting to the digital landscape in which they live.
Gen Z students are highly adept at using technology and can be a valuable resource for incorporating it into the classroom. They are used to finding information quickly and can often troubleshoot technical issues on their own. According to Forbes, Gen Z students are “digital learners” who expect “personalized, interactive and adaptive learning experiences” (Pomeroy, 2018).
On the other hand, the constant presence of screens in their lives has led to shorter attention spans and a need for constant stimulation. It can be difficult for teachers to compete with the distractions of social media and other online entertainment. The New York Times reports that Gen Z students’ “brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing” (Rich, 2018).
So, how can we effectively teach Gen Z students in the digital age?
#1 Incorporate Technology
Incorporate technology into lessons: As mentioned, Gen Z students are comfortable with technology and often expect it to be a part of their learning experience. Integrating technology, such as using online resources or creating multimedia projects, can keep students engaged and make learning more interactive.
#2 Set Boundaries
Set boundaries: While it is important to embrace technology, it is also crucial to set limits on its use in the classroom. Establishing rules around phone usage and internet access can help students focus on their studies and prevent distractions. According to EdTech Magazine, setting boundaries can “encourage responsible tech usage and minimize distractions” (Watkins, 2019).
#3 Teach Digital Literacy
Teach digital literacy: With the abundance of information available online, it is essential for students to learn how to critically evaluate the sources they use. Teaching digital literacy skills, such as how to spot fake news or how to protect their online privacy, can help students navigate the digital world responsibly. The National Association for Media Literacy Education recommends teaching students how to “analyze media messages and understand the role of media in society” (Media Literacy Education, n.d.).
#4 Foster Face To Face Communication
Foster face-to-face communication: Despite their comfort with technology, Gen Z students still value in-person interaction. Encourage students to put down their screens and have discussions and collaborate with their peers in person. According to Forbes, Gen Z students “prefer in-person communication and value face-to-face interactions” (Pomeroy, 2018).
#5 Emphasize Real-World Problem-Based Learning
Emphasize real-world, problem-based learning: Gen Z students are known for their entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make a positive impact on the world. Incorporating real-world, problem-based learning into lessons and highlighting the ways in which the subject matter can be applied in the real world can help engage and motivate these students.
By understanding the unique characteristics of Gen Z and the role technology plays in their lives, educators can effectively navigate the digital landscape and provide a well-rounded education for their students.
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