Food for Thought

Thoughts to kick off 2019-20: What’s your why and who is Generation Z?

Image source: https://www.capitolpresence.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Hiring-Generation-Z-e1536931806839.jpg

Many of us are about to kick off another school year. We’re recharged, fresh full of ideas, some made into a final product while others are still mulling around in our heads. And then…

…it’s February. The shortest yet longest month of the year.

Maybe not all of you feel this way but February has always been the month where all things come to a slump. My toolbox is empty and I start to fall into rote patterns of teaching that make me feel ashamed. Where has my creativity and energy gone and how do I get it back?

What’s your why?

I recently read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and the question constantly haunts me…in a good way. “What’s your why?” has made me continually reassess why I do an activity, how I teach a lesson, and most importantly, to always remember by audience. I believe in teaching with tech in moderation, with intentionality, and not simply using it to check off a box on an evaluation. Choice boards provide differentiation and a number of mediums students can explore. Edpuzzle provides accountability. GSuite tools can put the responsibility and ownership into students’ hands…and the list goes on.

How, among the thousands of resources out there, do you navigate what is the most effective? Know thy audience. Let’s talk Gen Z, shall we?

Image source: hollyclark.org

Let’s situate this next discussion first. This 2:34 minute video is well worth your while (and quite enlightening): How to Communicate with Generation Z (YouTube)

“Our goal is not to prepare them for our future, but for their future.” -Holly Clark

I could not agree more with Holly Clark’s ultimate takeaway from this poignant video describing Gen Z. Gone are the days where worksheets and repetitious drills rule the learning. Yes, we all made it out alive and graduated after being subjected to piles of worksheets and hours of lectures, but the fact is that the world has changed. (There is arguable room if these were ever the best practices but let’s stay on one topic.)

Gen Z learners, those born after 1995, were born into a world of all things technology. They consume on five screens and technology is as much a part of their world as breathing. While their attention spans are admittedly short, this generation considers themselves entrepreneurial, innovative, and wanting to make a difference in the world. How do teachers fit into this equation?

Digital Responsibility and Engaged Learning

Regardless of how tech savvy this generation may be because it is second nature, digital citizenship is a component we cannot ignore. Fact-checking and valid resources, professionalism in communication – these only scrape the surface of how we can raise our students to be digitally responsible. In this day and age, these lessons need to be consistently and continually embedded into our lessons.

How do we reach them? Back to Holly Clark’s point, we are teaching their generation and not ours. A variety of teaching tools and methods need to be employed to keep constant student engagement. Put the lesson in their hands! Let them be the creators and take hold of their learning. Give them choices and different platforms to work with (Nearpod, Google Sites, Slides, and Docs, etc.), any of which can be collaborative and touch on the Four C’s (creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking). Let them explore and engage, coming to their own conclusions, developing outside-the-box ideas. Nurture their inquisitive spirit but also guide them to be responsible and professional learners.

Students need ownership. Students need to create and collaborate and develop communication skills that are even more crucial in this ever-connected global world than any generation before. If students graduate high school with little or no exposure to the tools around us, we are to blame, teachers. While it sounds like Gen Z is entrepreneurial enough to educate themselves, we would still be doing our learners a disservice by not exposing them to the mediums they will one day use when they are in the working world. The more exposure, the more experience can only lead to a well-rounded and adaptable individual who will be ready for most anything that comes his or her way.

In closing, I want you to continually ask yourself three questions over the course of the school year:

  • What is my why?
  • Am I teaching with intentionality or is [insert activity] just for the sake of checking a box?
  • Most importantly…Who am I teaching?

Have an amazing school year, and…