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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Future of Education – Understanding Generation Z

What does the future of education look like? Will online learning platforms and touch-enabled 3D images replace textbooks, classrooms, and… teachers?!

I personally believe that technology will NEVER replace teachers. Regardless of how high-tech our world may get, no touchscreen device or voice-activated bot can educate our children on values, life skills, and human interaction.
However, I also believe that there is a need for the education sector to realize that times are indeed changing, and whether we like it or not, the way WE used to learn in the classroom is no longer effective in the 21st century.

Because of technology, kids today do not need adults in order to get information. The Internet has given kids access to uncensored content too much too soon, and it is our responsibility as parents and teachers to provide the CONTEXT – to guide them in organizing and interpreting what they see.

This, together with some helpful ways of understanding today’s youth, is something that I was blessed to share as one of the speakers at the recently concluded 8th Education Summit in Balanga, Bataan on August 30 and 31. The summit was organized by the City of Balanga in partnership with the Department of Education, gathering thousands of parents and teachers to learn about the latest developments in the field of education.
In line with their theme “Embracing Change in a Collaborative Community for Positive Results,” my presentation centered around understanding what I called the Generation Z, or the young people born between 1994-2010.

This generation of kids was born when the Internet was born, so they never really knew what it was like to be “offline”. They drive through information superhighway and have access to what they need at, literally, their fingertips. Growing up, these kids have been practically pacified with technology by parents who give them an iPad just to stop crying. So, would you be surprised if you find a toddler expertly navigating an iPad few minutes after using it for the first time?
In other words, SPEED has become a norm in their lives, and living such a fast-paced life has brought about the following paradoxical characteristics of this young generation:
  1. They are good at multitasking, but have a short attention span. Because of the many options and distractions available, it’s easy for them to switch their focus from one thing to another. It has been reported that kids today have an average attention span of 4-6 seconds, while goldfish have an 8-second attention span!
  2. They are quick to catch up on ideas, but find it hard to make long-term commitments. Scary as it may sound, this generation may grow up to be adults who would have gone through a dozen jobs in a single year, or would want marriage to have an expiration date.
  3. They want to be the best, but can easily get depressed if they aren’t. Most kids today grew up in small families – many are an only child – so they have been conditioned to believe that they are special and loved and that the world revolves around them. When they grow up and go out into the “real world,” they’d encounter other kids who have been told the same thing, and suddenly, getting what they want has become harder than they thought it was going to be.
  4. They want to live a life of purpose, but avoid the trivial but essential task. The speed at which everything comes to these young people today have led them to some type of conclusion that “if it’s not easy, it’s not for me.” Therefore, they dislike doing things that would seem “too hard”.
  5. They are eager to change the world, but want it to happen overnight. Welcome to the world of INSTANT – instant noodles, instant coffee, instant everything. Young people today have a great need to learn the value of patience and persistence.
As adults – and more importantly, as the generation that created the technology, medication and environment that brought about this new way of life for the Gen Z – we are called to open our hearts and minds to new ways of parenting and teaching this young generation. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to share this knowledge to my fellow Bataeno parents and teachers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the people who made the Education Summit possible, and for giving me the wonderful opportunity to be part of it. To the honorable Mayor Francis Anthony Garcia, to DepEd Balanga headed by OIC – Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Carolina S. Violeta (who, by the way, is one of my most unforgettable Grade 5 teachers!), and to my fellow speaker, Mr. Joseph “Otep” Titar.

In celebration of National Teachers Month this September, I salute all teachers for their invaluable role in building the future of our nation!

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