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8 Important Education Trends in Generation Z

Posted on Tuesday August 16, 2011 by Staff Writers

Generation Z, also known as the Internet Generation and Digital Natives, represent the first one to grow up in a world where Internet access has always been available and plentiful. These hyper-connected and tech-savvy youngsters are changing how educators formulate lessons and interact with students. Many predict they could forever change how kids are taught at all levels by making technology an integral part of all classroom study. Whether you’re a teacher-in-training at a college or university, a parent seeking to better understand your child’s educational needs or just have an interest in the history of the generation soon filling American workplaces, here are some of the most important educational trends to watch.

  1. Interactive devices as classroom learning tools

    There are few places in the U.S. today, aside from the most remote regions, where mobile or Internet-connected devices aren’t mostly ubiquitous. These interactive tools, especially the iPad, are becoming a bigger and bigger part of education programs nationwide. With Generation Z students already proficient with technology, there is no learning curve. Teachers and students alike have been able to use the wide range of applications they provide to promote engagement and learning both at home and in school. Interactive textbooks, educational games, and collaborative projects are just a few of the ways educators are using tech to get the digital generation better involved.

  2. More homeschooling

    Homeschooling used to be a pretty rare phenomenon, but in recent years a significant surge helped make it much more mainstream. Increased popularity means more resources and support for homeschooling parents, many of whom chose the path in order to create a more individualized, self-directed learning environment. One of the tools making homeschool a lot easier is the web, where students and parents can connect with others and find a wide range of materials with which to teach and learn. Blogger and entrepreneur Penelope Trunk believes this Gen Z trend will lead to a group of young people more comfortable figuring out what they want to do and how they want to do it when it comes time to enter the work force.

  3. Collaborative online projects

    Blogging isn’t just a trend for geeks and tech nerds. Just about everyone from grandmas to bikers has gotten in on it, and classrooms haven’t been any exception. The tech-savvy Gen Z has helped push a wide variety of technologies into the classroom, and more and more teachers are embracing the power of web-based programs to engage students with their classmates and other children halfway around the world. It’s not all just blogging, however. Other kinds of online collaborative projects are common in classrooms as well, including podcasting, digital media, and even video editing and design.

  4. Focus on visual learning

    Studies have shown the brains of Generation Z kids are actually structurally different than those of their predecessors. It has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with how we use our brains to respond to the environment. For Gen Z kids, this means lots of web browsing and information overloading. As a result, the part of the brain responsible for visual ability is far more developed in this group, making visual forms of learning more effective and enjoyable. Teachers and administrators are starting to respond to these changes, with curricula focusing more on looking rather than listening.

  1. Treating learning as a game

    Treating learning as a game is not only more fun for Gen Z kids, it’s also more effective. One of the other major changes researchers see is a need for instant gratification. Games can offer that and motivate students to keep pushing towards a greater mastery of subject matter. Kids hooked on non-educational games can quickly be lured into trying ones surreptitiously teaching them as they go, which has proven an effective method for many modern-day educators. While games will likely never supplant traditional educational lessons, they are an additional resource that works well with the skills and needs of Gen Z students.

  2. Focus on critical thinking and problem solving rather than information memorization

    While there will always be things that students simply have to memorize, the Internet is slowly steering education away from rote strategies. Why motivate students to remember information they can quickly and easily look up online? Memorization hasn’t completely evaporated from the classroom, but teachers are putting more emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving over the ability to recall historical dates these days. These skills not only gel with the needs of Gen Z students, but they will also play a pivotal role in producing graduates ready to take on innovation and entrepreneurship once they hit the work force.

  3. A return to occupation-based training rather than college

    Let us be clear: students won’t stop applying to the biggest and best colleges in droves, no matter the generation. But with Generation Z, there will be a move away from seeking a degree right out of high school. Why? High educational costs have a lot to do with it, and many young people familiar with technology and have a few good ideas simply won’t need a college degree to get their careers started. More and more are seeking out entrepreneurship and business opportunities at a lower age. That’s not to say a college education couldn’t help out in those fields, but for many, the added income of starting earlier on a great idea outweighs the drive to get a degree — one that may not even be all that necessary.

  4. Learning in smaller bites

    One of the downfalls of Generation Z, like their predecessors in Gen Y, is that their constant multitasking has saddled them with a pretty short attention span. This can make them hard to teach, as they are easily bored and ready to move onto the next thing. Extended lessons can be hard to manage, so educators are tailoring information to be more bite-sized. Some teachers, like Daniel Watts of Elinor Lincoln Hickey High School in Sacramento, CA, are creating shorter, more straightforward lessons. This effectively relays the required information in a way that won’t induce restless shuffling from students ready to move on to the next topic.