Most of today’s learners are either Millennials (born 1980-1995) or Gen Zers (born after 1995) who have grown up as “digital natives.” Their smartphones and other devices are much more than communication tools or entertaining gadgets; they see their devices as necessities. Not surprisingly, many Millennials and Gen Zers seem to like online learning and engaging technology as opposed to the more traditional teaching methods that we grew up with.
It has been reported that the physical brain makeup of Gen Zers is different to that of a learner from 20 years ago – yes, this does make us feel exceptionally old! Crucially, the part of the brain that dictates the visual side of things is way more developed than that of older generations and even Millennials.
So how do we keep this very different generation engaged in the classroom?
Think digital. Millennials may have taken a quick glance at the traditional handouts in the classroom, but Gen Zers won’t even go that route. Use portals as a way to store everything – an e-book is definitely the answer. The digital Gen Zers can then have access to everything at their fingertips on their best friends.
Make information graphical. Visual elements are key! Gen Z learners love to communicate via memes and emojis, even though they can’t really spell anymore… Large blocks of text and endless sentences will make them lose their minds and attention span. Use different types of media, graphics and charts for the win!
Be relevant. Gen Z grew up with even busier schedules than Millennials did, so they like to maximise what little spare time they have that is not spent on their smartphone or in malls. Explain upfront why a lesson is needed and how it can be applied in the real world. We are afterall shaping the leaders of tomorrow. Give them the necessary tools and life lessons to become responsible adults.
PowerPoint slides with blank lines. Provide only partially completed PowerPoint slides to your learners. On each slide of a given lesson, there is a blank line or two. This modest amount of writing during a lesson helps keep learners more focused as they need to find the word to fill in on each slide. Simple but effective!
All in all, raising generational awareness, understanding what is shaping primary and secondary students and identifying the correct teaching methods may help us bridge the generation gap and reach learners more effectively. It is just a question of giving it a try!