3 Key Characteristics Educators Should Know About Generation Z

generation z

Move over Millennials and get ready for Generation Z. As an educator, you’ve already met Gen Z. Born between 1997 and 2012, the oldest members of this group are in their early 20s, but the vast majority of Gen Z members are moving ahead through America’s education system. As Gen Z members cycle through classrooms and start to make their way in the world, there are some key characteristics to know about Gen Z that can help us help them navigate into their future.

1. Digital Natives

What may be the most profound characteristic of Gen Z is that they don’t remember a world without modern technology. They are the first generation to grow up immersed in it, earning the nicknames the “Selfie Generation,” “iGen,” and the “Global Generation.” This makes Gen Z the first Digital Natives.

While Millennials are considered “digital pioneers” and grew up technologically savvy and connected to the world, Gen Z was raised in the era of smartphones and tablets, often swiping an iPad before they could talk. This means that teenage members of Gen Z are connected to technology in some way nearly every waking hour of the day.

Being digital natives can have both positive and negative effects on Gen Z. Having access to so much information at their fingertips means they’re able to be proactive in their learning and the opportunities are endless for their knowledge. But on the flip side, too much screen time can intensify feelings of isolation and lead to underdeveloped social skills.

2. Diversity

Another core characteristic of Generation Z is racial and ethnic diversity. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Gen Z will be the last generation that is predominantly white. A slight majority of Gen Z (52%) is white; 25% is Hispanic, 14% is Black and 4% is Asian. Diversity is the norm for Gen Z as they are more likely to grow up in diverse family structures such as a single-parent household, a multi-racial household, or a household where gender roles are blurred. As a result, they are less fazed than previous generations by differences in race, roles, or religion.

3. Emphasis on Education

Gen Z is on track to be the best-educated generation yet. According to the Pew Research Center:

“A look at older members of Generation Z suggests they are on a somewhat different educational trajectory than the generations that came before them. They are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to be enrolled in college. Among 18- to 21-year-olds no longer in high school in 2018, 57% were enrolled in a two-year or four-year college. This compares with 52% among Millennials in 2003 and 43% among members of Gen X in 1987.”

When nearly all learning and education moved online during the Covid-19 pandemic, Gen Z students and teachers had a never-before-seen experience as they were exposed to using technology online full-time to continue their education out of the traditional setting. The reality is, online learning was already on this trajectory, but the pandemic skyrocketed it to the mainstream. Gen Z adapted fairly easily when it comes to remote learning online, which has opened doors for them to continue their education from just about anywhere in the world.

Each generation brings its own changes and challenges, but one thing that won’t change is the trend toward a more digital world. As your school continues to adapt to Generation Z and how to navigate a technology-based education style, learn how EdTech can help your school leverage technology to improve education by making it easy and simple for schools and students to manage and access individualized digital content on any device.

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