Gen Z: Learning with the tech generation

by Sophie Heinz

The technological achievements of the past decades - above all digitalization - have massively changed our lives. Whether it’s communication, work, or our free time: every aspect is undergoing constant and fundamental transformation. Generation Z is the first generation to grow up and work in a technology-based reality. "Gen Z," those born between the mid-1990s and 2010, are not just tech-savvy, they are tech natives. For them, technology is omnipresent and, above all, taken for granted.

Accordingly, this generation thinks, behaves and learns differently than any other. This poses challenges for the education system. In order to respond to the needs and habits of Gen Z and at the same time prepare them for life and work in a technology-driven future, we need fundamental changes in the way we impart knowledge.

Interaction, participation, individual support

As digital natives, Gen Z has had access to interactive media throughout their lives, with 62 percent reporting being "always on" (Link1). They discover new technologies quickly and without help and figure out how to best use them and learn along the way. They also create much more instead of just consuming. Educational institutions - and employers - must respond and create an appropriate learning environment with new digital concepts.

So what options are there for educating the GenZ in a future-oriented way? Or is this generation largely educating itself? The "Class Of 2030"(LINK2) study conducted by Microsoft and McKinsey & Company sees three central building blocks for successful, future-oriented education:

  • Collaboration platforms open up new spaces for interaction and collaboration. Lesson plans can be customized. Students can be given personalized feedback in real time, not only from teachers but also from classmates. Together, they design and use materials and interact as equals. Communication takes place in all directions, students and teachers slip into different roles, since true collaboration strengthens social competence.
  • AI makes it possible to analyze students' learning progress and provide them with individual, timely and targeted support. Personalized offers enable comprehensive support for all pupils and students, regardless of, but taking into account, their background and social status.
  • Finally, mixed reality enables immersive and experimental learning that combines the physical and virtual worlds. Trying out different perspectives promotes cognitive development and strengthens social and emotional competence.

What is clear is that personalized learning is crucial for a shift toward a student-centered educational model that is tailored to individual needs.

Digital competence and responsibility

The education of a generation that is "always on" and obtains knowledge via social channels not only offers opportunities - such as the inclusion of online tutorials and explanatory videos on social media - but also brings with it responsibility. For example, educational concepts must help classify sources and strengthen information literacy and digital maturity.

Gen Z has different demands online as well as offline. More than their predecessors, they value meaningful work, while status and prestige are secondary. They are socially minded, they want to have a positive impact on the world and expect companies to have values that are actively lived. In education as well as in the workplace, knowledge and skills should therefore be applied to real-life and global issues. Only where knowledge leads to solutions does learning become a passion.

The learning concept of the 42 schools puts all this into practice. Peer-to-peer learning and a respectful feedback culture train teamwork and enable valuable soft skills to be developed. Cooperation and debate sharpen a sense of other perspectives.

Gen Z will work in jobs that don't even exist today and they cannot be prepared for yet. But they can learn to be lifelong learners. Modern education gives them the skills to be creative, to think critically and to face new problems with an open mind. Mark Sparvell, Education Leader at Microsoft, recognized this: "The job of schools, of education in general," he says, "is to create and keep creating the society we'd like to live in." (LINK 3)

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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