As educators prepare to begin a new school year and welcome Generation Z (Gen Z for short) back into the classroom, it can be helpful to have tools in your teacher tool belt. In a world full of technology that gives students access to an array of knowledge at their fingertips, the way schools educate and engage must be relevant to Gen Z and relatable by communicating in a format they know and understand.
First, you may want a refresher of the key characteristics of Gen Z. Here’s an overview:
- Gen Z was born between 1997 and 2012
- The vast majority of Gen Z members are moving ahead through America’s education system
- They are Digital Natives – they don’t remember a world without modern technology
- They are Diverse – 52% is white; 25% is Hispanic, 14% is Black and 4% is Asian
- Emphasis on Education – Gen Z is on track to be the best-educated generation yet
So, how can you adapt to these characteristics in your classroom?
Gen Z as Digital Natives
Since much of Gen Z grew up learning how to use and iPad before they could even walk, they see Google, social media and smartphones not just as tools but as necessary parts of life. They expect to be connected to the world and able to access information at any time. This also means they want immediate feedback on assignments, just like they get on social media.
How teachers can engage:
Keep their attention. Gen Z students are used to multitasking and having many different mediums vie for their attention. Teachers can keep their interest by using a variety of teaching methods to keep the information interesting.
Using visuals such as charts, graphics and multimedia can help make the teaching material more memorable. Gen Z students are used to a constantly updating news feed, so tell them upfront why a lesson is important and how it’s relevant to the world while you have their attention!
Gen Z as Diverse Students
To Gen Z, a diverse population is the norm – nearly half of Gen Z members are racial or ethnic minorities. Another way to think about it is that Gen Z is so diverse they don’t even recognize it as diversity. They have been shaped by a society that celebrates diversity and openness. Members of Gen Z embrace change, are informed about social issues, and not afraid to take a stand to speak out against inequality.
How teachers can engage:
We found some great tips from ImagineLearning.
Check out a few below:
Learn about your own culture
Become aware of how the influence of your own culture, language, social interests, goals, cognitions, and values could prevent you from learning how you could best teach your students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Also, understanding and respecting your own cultural roots can help you respect your students’ cultural roots.
Learn about your students’ culture
Understand how your students’ cultures affect their perceptions, self-esteem, values, classroom behavior, and learning. Use that understanding to help your students feel welcomed, affirmed, respected, and valued.
Understand your students’ linguistic traits
Learn how students’ patterns of communication and various dialects affect their classroom learning and how second-language learning affects their acquisition of literacy.
Sometimes students can feel like a culture all unto themselves, and in a sense, they are! The tips above will help you navigate the diversity of Gen Z in the classroom.
Gen Z and Education
Generation Z is digital and technology is a part of their everyday lives. Teachers also have access to the digital world, which means it’s important to become skilled in different types of devices, programs, and applications that will be integrated into the classroom if they haven’t been already.
How teachers can engage:
You can utilize today’s digital technology in various ways to engage your classroom. For example, consider having a classroom blog where you can post articles, allowing the students to comment.
Gen Z is very visual, so YouTube may be a platform to help students and teachers view approved content for writing a research paper.
Gen Z has short attention spans, so consider short online quizzes, active learning activities where they can write short summaries in small groups, or using online game challenges to review material.
The most important thing we can do for Generation Z is to be aware of how they are learning in the classroom and be open-minded to implementing new ideas – especially when it comes to the digital world. Because coming up right behind them is Generation Alpha, poised to be the most educated generation yet thanks to instantaneous information available to them all the time.
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