Generation Z Learners
No matter what field you work in, you’ll know that understanding and knowing your customers, clients, and stakeholders is key to the success of your product or service. The field of education is no different, although in a private school, some might argue over whether our client is the parent or the student. While the students could be considered customers, the parents are working hard to pay for this service - it’s a tricky debate indeed, but ultimately, the role of high school educators is to prepare students to be successful in their future. This blog post will illuminate two key factors that educators keep in mind:
- We design learning experiences to help prepare students to be successful in their future
- Each generation of learners brings its unique dispositions and interests. These are shaped by their experiences in the here and now
What's different about Generation Z and why does that matter to teachers?
Also known as iGen, this generation was born circa 1997 – 2014; they are currently aged 6-24. As we design learning experiences for students, we must be sure that we know their interests and needs, preferences, and dispositions so that they may be receptive to and thrive in their learning. Do teenagers of today have the same dispositions, needs, and interests as teenagers 20 or 30 years ago? Their life experiences are very different. They are the first generation to have never not lived with instant access to global information via a mobile, digital device. Phrases such as “it was good enough for me in high school” and “that’s the way we’ve always done it”, don’t hold much weight with Gen Z, and here are five reasons why:
- They are less fazed than previous generations by differences in race, sexual orientation, or religion
- Gen X parents generally raise their Gen Z children to be independent and figure things out for themselves
- They believe that individuals are unique, which is part of their appreciation for diversity, whereas other generations have wanted to cover up differences or encourage people to fit in and be the same
- They are more likely to think for themselves and challenge existing beliefs
- They are ambitious and may challenge authority because they see the “old way” of doing things as obsolete
In a nutshell, this translates to a craving for hands-on, authentic, and relevant learning that they can apply to real life. Teachers at WIC are continually exploring new ways to provide this; for examples, please see the March and April blog posts.
Entrepreneurial Gen Z’s at WIC!
Elizabeth Sentner, Aligning Passion with Purpose
Grade 12 student, Elizabeth Sentner founded Teens with Tunes https://teenswithtunes.com/ in 2020.
Teens With Tunes has been a very rewarding experience as I could see that our volunteers were bringing joy to the residents. There were some sad moments when we felt the loneliness of some of the seniors, and knowing the fear they were feeling. I was honoured to be asked to play at a funeral for a resident who attended our first performance, which was very poignant. There have also been lots of heartwarming moments of toe-tapping, clapping, and scooter horn beeping! One resident said to me that we 'really took her back' which is the main purpose of Teens With Tunes, to brighten the lives of seniors through music.
Thomas Graham, Passionate about Team-Building
In a world focused on metrics and performance, I've noticed that we sometimes lose focus on the value of the journey and the learning process. By organically building a project from the ground up, we hope to provide students with that process, and help develop real-world skills as a result. It also gives students the chance to work with students outside of their classes and grades.
Grade 11 student, Thomas Graham noticed a gap in leadership opportunities in drama for students during COVID-19 due to shows being cancelled. Jumping on this opportunity, he has proposed the launch of a student podcast that highlights issues of importance to students and provides the leadership experiences he noticed were missing for younger students. A true digital native with a keen eye on his future, Thomas used LinkedIn to publicize his idea. A smart way to hold himself accountable to delivering on it!
Sarina Virani, Advocate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Grade 12 student, Sarina Virani like many students at WIC, is a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Recently, 27 members of the WIC community turned up at lunch to join in this conversation about pluralism.
My generation is not afraid to stand up. We’re not afraid to start these conversations. We’re not afraid to critically think and reflect on the necessity of social and systemic change. What we are afraid of is maintaining the status quo and continuing to uphold the systems and power structures that perpetuate inequity and injustice. For us, recognizing, understanding, and embracing differences is not a choice; pluralism is the only way forward.
Educators are aiming to prepare students for THEIR future, a future that we know is not clear or predictable. That’s one of the reasons why schools are placing a high emphasis on the skills and dispositions that will help them to be successful. Critical thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset will help the future workforce to create their own jobs where they don’t already exist; add empathy into the mix, and they will be well-placed to live harmoniously in society too. I believe the future is bright with Generation Z leading the way!
Sam Demma (image on summary page) was our keynote Wolves Den speaker in April 2021. The epitome of Gen Z, Sam is an entrepreneurial thinker, who, at the age of just 20 is forging his own future through his belief in the power of “small, consistent actions”. He is continuing to work with WIC students in our Focus Friday sessions. Please reach out to Jim Rieder if you are interested in hearing more about Focus Friday, WIC Institutes, or our work with Sam. email@example.com
About the Author
Director of Learning and Innovation
- Generation Z