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Generation Z is made up of device wielding students who know everything there is to know about technology. Growing up with a tablet in hand, these kids approach learning in a vastly different way than their predecessors. So how do teachers adapt? How can they keep their student’s attention long enough to convey their message? Here are ten innovative ideas that can help educators reach this tech-savvy group.
Today’s student can snap, tweet, DM, and post in their sleep. Instead of taking their phone away for social media use, try encouraging it. Let them edit grammatical errors in celebrity posts and tweets, or let them research differing opinions for in-class debates.
Take it outside.
Students who spend hours and hours in classrooms will welcome the change of scenery. Whether you plan an applicable field trip or simply choose to hold class in the schoolyard, this change of pace can be just the ticket to wake your students up.
Generation Z is full of gamers. From gaming systems (think Xbox and PlayStation) to computer gaming to handheld devices, games are a way of life for these students. Capitalize on something you know they love by using game-based learning techniques. Today’s digital gaming apps keep students engaged. They end up learning new concepts without even realizing it.
Act it out.
When teachers use role-play techniques to teach a concept, they give their students the opportunity to participate in active learning. Active learning is popular because studies have shown it increases conceptual understanding and knowledge retention. It’s also a great way to keep Gen Z students moving and thinking.
In its basic form, this approach may work better with older students who understand why their answers are being challenged. Argumentation (similar to debate) is a learning approach that is said to build reasoning skills. Practice this with your students and let them argue for and against both sides. This concept can also be used successfully in group learning. Let the groups brainstorm their positions and then let them challenge other group’s ideas.
Show, don’t tell.
Innovative teachers know that showing is far more powerful then telling. Attention spans vary by age, but, on average, you lose a student after just ten to fifteen minutes of lecturing. If you have a 50-minute class, you better be prepared to mix things up.
Be willing to share.
Share the responsibility of teaching by letting the students do some of the instruction. They can teach on a topic or concept as individuals or in groups. Not only will they have to be prepared, they will see how challenging it can be and possibly gain some sympathy for your day to day grind.
The Five Senses
Traditional classroom instruction stimulates our hearing and our sight, but what about the other three senses? Taste, touch, and smell are also power senses capable of creating strong associations. Studies have shown that smell can trigger more memories than even sight. For tactile learners, the sense of touch is a game changer. Taste may be the least thought about sense when we think about instruction, but it can play a key role in learning too. Next time you teach history, let your students sample food from that time period. You can use the same approach when teaching geography.
The Flipped Classroom
The flipped classroom puts the Gen Z student in the digital driver’s seat. What would normally be taught during class time is now available online for students to self-teach at home. Homework is done in class to solidify the concepts the student learned the night before.
Group learning can be applied in multiple approaches mentioned here, but don’t forget the value of pairs. When students learn in a pair they are forced to engage. Large groups can make it easy for a more timid or reserved student to essentially blend in and hide. That isn’t possible when working in pairs.
Generation Z is a generation of tech-loving children, youth and young adults who have the world at their fingertips. Because technology continues to change the way we work, learn and live, it makes sense that education has to adapt too. While some fundamentals of learning will never change, the methods for instruction must. Gen Z requires teachers to think outside the box. It requires innovation. Innovation is key to engagement and an engaged student is one who will succeed.