I was teaching Algebra I to some eighth graders one day. I was 23 at the time, brand new, and the coolest teacher in the entire school. One student raised their hand at the end of the class and said…”you know, you’re in our generation, right? You are at the very beginning of our generation and we’re all at the very end, but we are in the same generation.”
I almost had a panic attack. But okay…they were kind of right! These kids learned like me, talked like me, and had similar ideals. But they were on the cusp. So much so that I already had problems with the levels of entitlement that I was not use to in my YEARS of being alive.
My colleague sent an article to us today, from eCampusNews. The article was about the differences between Millennials and Gen Z, their expectations for their futures, and what that means for e-learning.
This generation seeks to “have it all” in their careers, with 42 percent describing their future careers as “suiting their specific interests.” Their career choices also are quite different than current college-aged students: they tend to envision careers in technology, such as computer science and video game development, whereas Millennials are more likely to seek careers in the fields of health/medical and education.
True Gen Z individuals have not known a life that was not surrounded by technology. Those little eighth graders I taught still remembered the innocence of boybands, pretend play, and eating play doh.
However, we, as e-learning specialists and instructional designers, HAVE to be ready for these money-hungry heathens.
Unlike Millennials, who have broadly adopted technology, Gen Z has adopted a technology-centric lifestyle. They define themselves in online, digital terms. Gen Z doesn’t distinguish between devices or online territories. It is one continuous, multi-faceted, completely integrated experience – connecting social, academic and professional interests.
I’m only kidding, but not by much. These students are different. A lot different than what a lot of us are used to. To succeed in getting through to them is not reading a bunch of articles about how it’s going to be now…we have to live it. We have to immerse ourselves in the new ways of educating.
How do we do it? First of all, we’re in the right place. We are developing content that is readily available for all Gen Zidians.
This collaborative studying isn’t just happening in-person – technologies such as Skype, Facetime, chat/IM, Facebook and other online tools are being used to help foster group studying online as well. Whereas one may say the Internet has created a user-generated society, Gen Z is taking it to another level by engaging in the co-construction of knowledge, and likely the co-construction of their educational content in the future.
They want it faster, better, stronger…and we need to give it to them. Not to say that brick and mortar universities will be a thing of the past, but that we are the next big thing, if we aren’t already.
I’ll be honest. I chose online education for my M.Ed because I wanted my degree yesterday. These kids do not have TIME to go to school (if they decide to go to school at all) and sit in lecture halls and maaaaaaaybe learn something beneficial to their current start-up company they founded from the help of Kickstarter. They want that slip of paper in less than four years and REAL, WORTHY experiences in which they’re….entitled to 😉