By Superintendent Philip Pempin
Ever since the concept of the “baby-boomer” generation was conceived of, national media has continued to give a name each generation of Americans. Following the baby-boomers came “millennials”, then Generation X, Y and Z. These designations are used to research everything from purchasing habits to career choices, with marketers constantly trying to determine the best way to catch the attention of each group of buyers.
Children who are currently enrolled in our schools (ages 5 to 19) are known as Generation Z. According to research by Adobe and the New York Times, this group sees themselves as more creative and technology-savvy than past generations. That is no surprise to those of us in the education field.
These students are the first generation of true digital natives. They don’t remember a time before social media. Many of our youngest students are already using smart phones and other hand-held devices on a daily basis. The challenges of keeping this generation of learners engaged in learning are increasing every day.
A recent study by software company Adobe, and published at TheJournal.com, offered some interesting insights into how GenZ students see themselves, and how their teachers see them.
Insight 1: GenZ students see technology and creativity as “important and intersecting aspects of their identity. Students were most likely to define themselves as “smart” and “creative”.
Insight 2: Students are mostly enthusiastic for the future, but more than half feel “nervous” or “unprepared” for college and careers.
Insight 3: These students feel they learn best by “doing and creating”. The majority of students and teachers prefer this teaching method. Both groups want more hand-on learning experiences (lab work, creating content, etc.). They want evolving instructional materials to enhance creativity in the classroom.
Insight 4: Students believe that creativity will be an important skill as they enter the workforce.
Insight 5: Both teachers and students believe that technology will be important in future careers, with 94 percent of teachers responding that their students will work in jobs that do not exist yet.
Our District Leadership Team recognizes that we are dealing with a new generation of learners. That is why we place an ever-increasing emphasis on blended learning and personalized instruction. Our vision is: “Inspiring Students to be Leaders and Life-Long Learners”. The ability to continue to learn and adapt to new technology will be extremely important to our students as they move into adulthood.
One positive to come out of this study is that a larger percentage of students say that math, science, engineering, computers and technology are their favorite subjects. In the past those subject were viewed by some as difficult or not necessary in the real world.
As those of us in leadership roles look to the future, we know that we must constantly challenge ourselves to stay abreast of trends in the job market, and be prepared to invest in technology and staff professional development so that we can offer the best learning opportunities for our students. In Vermilion we feel that we are moving in the right direction, and that our staff understands what they will need to do to teach each generation of new students.