Take a few moments and think about classes you liked as a child and then answer the following questions:
What was a “good” lesson for you?
What made you enjoy the lesson?
What made you uninterested?
What were the qualities of your best teacher?
Now consider that you are answering these questions from the perspective of a child today. I trust that many of today’s children would mention a technology that wasn’t available to you.
Welcome to the digital age where the natives are known as ‘Generation Z’. Children today (aged 14 and younger) are growing up as the first full generation that has never known a world without computers, the Internet, cell phones or social networking. With the way trends are heading, one might assume that close to 100 percent of Generation Z will be connected to social media, when these youngsters complete their formal educations. Generation Z certainly possess a range of technical skills already. I notice the competence children have acquired as a normal part of growing up in today’s world, they are often given an unusual status in their own homes, advising parents on the operation of the latest items of technology and even influencing family purchases of such items.
I have both the exciting and crucially important responsibility of teaching Generation Z. I must create learning opportunities built around quality relationships, quality teaching, and creative ways of learning and teaching – all assisted by the tools of the digital age. My role as teacher includes being a personal tutor, a mentor, and a fellow learner with my class as we explore the opportunities provided by the new technologies.
If the schooling we provide today is to be relevant to our Generation Z children, it must take full account of the opportunities and challenges that come with the digital age. Their world is very different to the one in which their parents and teachers were schooled. For a start, today’s children live and learn in a world of massive information-overload with Google at their fingertips. Rather than more information, they need to be educated in how to manage and make sense of it, in how to filter it intelligently and bring different pieces together in meaningful ways. I am happy to be at Matipo where we teach children how to sort through this mass information through the inquiry process.
A more important consideration may be not what is being taught to Generation Z, but just who is teaching these digital natives? Just last week I was looking at feedback given to a child that said “What does a PSP shop sell”. I could only laugh and know that if my nana or even my mum had read this piece of writing they would have wondered the same thing.
I have a 14-year-old brother who has grown up with teachers that have not been able to reach him. He is one of the main reasons that I became a teacher. I watched him struggle through the education system. I felt such pain seeing him feeling incompetent as he couldn’t do things that I was able to take for granted like reading and writing. He was only recognized as dyslexic when he entered into high school. I love that he is now able to exceed in the school system using the advancing technologies available to him. He also utilizes the new social technologies, such as iPods and mobile phones, MySpace and Facebook. I watch him use these to strengthen his friendships and his relationships that are both real and virtual. I am his sister classified as ‘Generation Y’. Our parents, of course are the ‘Baby Boomers’. I feel closer to understanding his learning and that of Generation Z having also grown up in the age of the computer. We have both taken on the opportunities provided by technology which has created the environment for our learning and development.
The future is lifelong learning for all – at any age, at any time and in any situation. This is the current challenge facing the world and the challenge I am looking forward to undertaking!
I, Georgia Falvey, am a Generation Y teacher who looks forward to learning alongside Generation Z.