The launch of the iPad in 2010 coincided with the beginning of our current generation of children, Generation Alpha. There are now 2.5 million Gen Alphas being born around the globe each week.
We named them ‘Generation Alpha’ to signify not just a new generation, but a generation that will be shaped by an entirely different world. That is why we moved to the Greek alphabet, to signify this different generation that will be raised in a new world of technological integration.
How will Gen Alpha's experience of technology differ from Gen Y and Z?
Gen Alpha were born into a world of iPhones (in fact the Oxford English Dictionaries word of the year in 2010 when they were first born was “app”), YouTube (where there are now 100 hours of videos uploaded every minute), and Instagram (where life is photographed and shared instantly and globally).
While Gen Y and Z are very tech-savvy and digitally connected, Gen Alpha will be the first entire generation to have technology seamlessly integrated into their lives. Gen Y and certainly some of the older Gen Zed’s will remember a time before iPhones and social media, whereas for all Generation Alpha’s these devices will be a part of their upbringing from a very early age.
What advantages will Gen Alpha’s technological literacy give them compared with the older generations?
Gen Alpha babies will grow up to be smarter, richer, and healthier and will obtain the highest level of formal education in history.
Because their parents will indulge them in more formal education and at an earlier age, Gen Alpha will have access to more information than any other generation. Their formal education has never been equalled in the history of the world, with a predicted 1 in 2 Gen Alphas to obtain a university degree.
As a result of seamlessly integrating technology and devices into their lives from such a young age, Generation Alpha will have a better foundation to build their technological literacy.
What technologies shape the lives of Gen Alpha?
Technology has and will continue to change how we, and Generation Alpha communicate. It’s a world of ‘Screenagers’ where not only do they multi-screen and multi-task, but glass has become the new medium for content dissemination. Unlike the medium of paper, it is kinaesthetic, visual, interactive, connective and still portable.
Glass was something that Gen Y’s were told to look through and keep their fingers off. For Gen Alpha, glass is a medium they touch, talk, and look at.
Gen Alpha truly are the ‘millennial generation’, born and shaped fully in the 21st century, and the first generation (in record numbers) who will welcome the 22nd century.
Gen Alphas are logged on and linked up, digital natives. They are the most materially endowed and technologically literate generation to ever grace the planet!
About Ashley Fell
Ashley Fell is a social researcher, TEDx speaker and Head of Communications at the internationally recognised McCrindle. As a trends analyst and media commentator she understands how to effectively communicate across diverse audiences. From her experience in managing media relations,
social media platforms and content creation,
Ashley advises on how to achieve cut through in
message-saturated times. She is an expert in how to
communicate across generational barriers.
Download Ashley's Speaker Pack here, and view her speakers reel below.
Australia is in the midst of a massive generational transition.
Today’s grandparents are part of the Baby Boomers, born from the late 1940’s to the early 1960’s. This generation is followed by Generation X, born from 1965 to 1979 who, at the oldest edge, are moving through their mid-life.
Today’s new parents and those entering their peak fertility years are part of Generation Y, born from 1980 to 1994.
Today’s children and teens are Generation Z, born from 1995 to 2009 and Australia is home to more than 4.5 million of them.
From 2010 Australia has seen the start of a new generation and having worked our way through the alphabet, we call this new generation, the first to be fully born in the 21st Century, Generation Alpha.
Gen Alpha have been born into an era of record birth numbers, and there are around 2.6 million of them nationally. When this generation is complete, in 2024, Generation Alpha births will total almost 5 million over the 15 years from 2010, compared to 4 million births of the Baby Boomers for the 19 years from 1946.
Generation of 'upagers'
The oldest Gen Alphas commence Year 3 next year and will be the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever.
They are a generation of “upagers” in many ways; physical maturity is on setting earlier so adolescence for them will begin earlier and so does the social, psychological, educational, and commercial sophistication which can have negative as well as positive consequences.
Interestingly for them while adolescence will begin earlier, it will extend later. The adult life stage, once measured by marriage, children, mortgage and career is being pushed back.
This generation will be students longer, start their earning years later and so stay at home longer. The role of today’s parents therefore will span a longer age range and based on current trends, more than half of the Alphas will likely be living with their parents into their late 20’s.
'The great Screenage'
Generation Alpha have been born into “the great screenage” and while we are all impacted by our times, technology has bigger impacts on the generation experiencing the changes during their formative years.
The year they began being born was the year the iPad was launched, Instagram was created and App was the word of the year. For this reason, we also call them Generation Glass because the glass that they interact on now and will wear on their wrist, as glasses on their face, that will be on the Head Up Display of their driverless cars, or that will be the interactive surface of their school desk, will transform how they work, shop, learn, connect and play.
Not since Gutenberg transformed the utility of paper with his printing press in the 15th Century has a medium been so transformed for learning and communication purposes as glass- and it has happened in the lifetime of Generation Alpha.
About Research Visualisation
In a world of big data, we’re for visual data. We believe in the democratisation of information, and that research should be accessible to everyone, not just to the stats junkies.
We’re passionate about turning tables into visuals, data into videos and reports into presentations. As researchers, we understand the methods, but we’re also designers and we know what will communicate, and how to best engage.
Whether you’re looking to conduct research from scratch, or if you have existing data that you want to bring to life – get in touch with the McCrindle team.
Our current generation of children, Generation Alpha (born since 2010), are the most materially endowed and empowered generation ever. They have been shaped in an era of individualisation and customisation where they can get their name printed into the storyline of books, embroidered onto their shirts or put on the jar of Nutella. Below, we share some insights into the consumerism trends of the emerging Generation Alpha.
Is the future of successful brands just tech-enabled toys?
Parents are increasingly aware of the negative consequences of too much technology time - the isolationism and anti-social impacts. However, there is a halo-effect for tech-toys which increase connectivity, facilitate community and develop social and global skills.
What kind of 'play' is most useful for brands to deploy now, in the digital age?
Parents are becoming aware of the life-skills deficit evident amongst the next generation. They are more formally educated, yet less proficient in practical skills, assessing (and when appropriate confidently approaching) risk, setting and achieving goals (whether sporting or otherwise), and developing hands-on competencies. Fun toys which develop specific skills such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), social competencies, entrepreneurial skills, strength and coordination, financial literacy, innovation and resourcefulness will be favoured by parents and educators.
What are the drivers that are impacting how toy brands engage with their consumers?
Educational toys - the future of toys is not just in the home but the classroom and the childcare centre. Education is beginning earlier with 3 and 4 year olds spending more time in childcare- and in facilities that have a focus on education and development. Therefore toys, of educational benefit are an essential part of the focus.
Free toys - another change we are seeing is that sponsored educational materials - once anathema to educational institutions, are becoming more acceptable as the barriers between education, business, and community blur. With education (and household) budgets under strain, corporations for altruistic and well as commercial motives, will increasingly be part of the education, community and child-rearing domains- with branded toys a means by which this support is delivered.
When I was eight years old, my third-grade teacher, Ms. Calov, taught me to be an inquisitive learner. Through her contagious enthusiasm, she turned me from an ordinary kid who did only what was required, to a perceptive student who asked for more projects and always connected what I learned to the world around me.
The kinds of soft skills I learned from Ms. Calov are increasingly important for Gen Z, the generation cohort after millennials. To be prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow, these students need to be collaborative, innovative and responsive to their environment. Here's a look at how today's teachers are fostering curiosity, creativity and other skills in their students, with help from technology.
- Mark McCrindle
School is no longer just a place to learn math, science and writing. It’s a place to learn interpersonal skills that will never become outdated—like how to collaborate, resolve conflict, clearly communicate ideas and teach others. Technology can encourage this kind of interaction. For example, since Gen Z is the first digital-native generation, teachers are asking students for help using technology and to show their peers how to use new tools. Students are working on group projects when they’re in separate physical locations, developing their ability to communicate through written feedback and explain the thinking behind their suggestions.
Encourage lifelong learning and innovative thinking
Teachers today are encouraging students to have a love of learning and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, so they can adapt to new careers and industries. The average employee tenure in the U.S. is 4.2 years, a decline from 4.6 years two years prior. In Australia, we’re experiencing a similar effect where employees are staying in jobs for a shorter duration—the Australian average is three years. This means Gen Z will have 17 different jobs in their life, and they’ll need to continue to learn new skills and how to use new tools as they progress in their careers. By designing learning tasks that have a real-world application, teachers are engaging their students as problem finders and problem solvers—roles that are crucial in any job.
Foster an adaptive mindset that’s ready for change
As the economy shifts and new jobs like VR engineers and cognitive computer analysts emerge, the next generation will need to be able to learn quickly and connect the dots between related topics. To teach these skills, many teachers are “flipping” learning —asking students to reflect on global issues and synthesize information from videos, podcasts and written material, instead of simply assigning a chapter in a textbook.
Six decades later, I still remember Ms. Calov. Her inspiration reminds me of a Mother Teresa quote: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Ms. Calov created many ripples by fostering a love of learning and empowering a community of learners. But with technology, every teacher can teach students lifelong skills to carry them through their careers.
Analysis by Eliane Miles on new research released this week from the OECD highlights the challenge for young people entering their working years, particularly considering their transition from education.
While unemployment in Australia at just 5.6% is one of the lowest in the OECD, the number of Australian young people not in education, employment, or training (NEETs) has increased by 100,000 since the time prior to the Global Financial Crisis (2008), rising from 10.5% to 11.8% of all those aged 16 to 24 – comprising a total of 580,000 young people today.
The challenges affecting youth unemployment most often lie in a young person’s transition periods. It is normal for young people to spend some time out of education and work – in fact, 2 in 3 young people aged 16 to 24 will spend up to 3 months out of education and work – but the challenge becomes when this period of time becomes greater and the ‘relevance clock’ begins to tick. When 3 months eventuates into a year, or longer, this can lead to cycles of unemployment. Today, 1 in 5 young people aged 16 to 24 spend 12 months or more out of employment, education, or training, and it is these young people that will face the most significant challenges as they try to enter or re-enter the workforce.
The demographic realities play a significant risk factor in young people falling into a cycle of unemployment. 60% of NEETS are women, and while just 3% of young people are indigenous, this percentage rises to 10% among NEETs. There is also a strong correlation between low educational attainment and struggles in entering the workforce - 37% of students who leave school in Year 10 end up not being in education, employment, or training, compared with just 11% of those with a tertiary qualification.
Watch Eliane Miles on 7 News below:
240,000 young people looking for work
Young people out of work are often stereotyped as “slackers” but in fact 41% of NEETs (238,000) are actively looking for work but unable to find a job. Helping these young people find work needs to become a national priority and a focus needs to be given to their education to employment transition. Studies tell us that the key transition in a young person’s life is from learning to earning – from study to employment. If young people are not job ready, they should be directed to a course or traineeship that will help them get job-ready. Greater collaboration between actors (schools, VET providers, tertiary providers, employment services, childcare providers, and employers) is needed, along with a broader focus on not just higher education but vocational learning.
The remaining 59% who are inactive NEETS
Questions are then most often asked about inactive NEETs – the 40% of NEETs who say they would not like a job, and the 19% who would like a job but aren’t currently looking. What is it that has discouraged them or dissuaded them from entering the workforce?
Educationally, we are seeing a significant push towards tertiary educational attainment. A generation ago in 1986, more than half of all students left school in Year 10 with most going on to start work/vocational training. Today, 9 in 10 young people go on to complete Year 12, and the majority of these enter higher education. Nationally, however, 1 in 5 university students drop out in their first year of university, clearly not being ready for the task at hand or convinced of the choice they have made.
And while we are seeing an increase in university qualifications (our predictions estimate that 1 in 2 Gen Z will have a university qualification compared to 1 in 3 Gen Ys and 1 in 4 Gen Xs), we must keep in mind that everything is not just about higher education or STEM skills. It’s about developing a broad skills base that will continue to sustain Australia’s growing economic and demographic footprint.
Challenges in the skills sector
While the VET sector has seen a 50% increase in students placed in apprenticeships since the early 2000s, the sector is also subject to significant inefficiencies. Traineeship and apprenticeship completion rates are low, qualifications are hard to navigate, some federal funding for programs has been withdrawn, and employment service providers geographically only target 60% of NEETs, leaving 200,000 youth un-serviced by employment services.
The benefits of work are more than just economic
In conversations with young people, it serves us to be reminded that jobs do more good for all of us than just money. They provide a young person with a sense of independence, self-esteem, and social connection, as well as the ability to learn and stay future-proofed. The longer that young people stay out of employment, the more they are to lose connection and become social disenfranchised, leading to greater problems.
The challenge of entry will only accelerate
As we look ahead to the next 10-15 years of Australia’s job market, we estimate that 5.1 million of Australia’s jobs will become digitally disrupted. Today’s savvy school leaver is training themselves for jobs that don’t yet exist. The reality is that new jobs which will be created are more complex than the jobs they replace. If a young person is locked out of the workforce today, it is likely that they will face an even more difficult re-entry in years ahead as the skills required to fulfilk workforce demands increase.
The challenge of financial independence will also accelerate
Commonwealth funding will increasingly become tighter. The economy has natural limits, and supporting an ageing population base and those with disabilities is naturally a more pressing national priority than supporting those who can work but are choosing not to. It’s just a matter of time before government benefits to NEETs will dry up.
Having said that, it’s also important to remember that 25% of inactive NEETs and 41% of NEETs looking for work in fact have not received any government benefits to support them. For these young people, support has largely fallen back to the informal economy, with support provided by family members and friends.
The earnings challenge for today’s emerging generation
It is in fact more financially difficult to get ahead early in life than it once was. In the 1970s, for example, when many Baby Boomers graduated from university, the average graduate starting salary was equal to the average full time adult wage, while today the average graduate starting salary of $54,000 is $26,000 less than average full time annual earnings. Student debt is also higher than ever, with more than 1 in 3 (34%) registered debt agreements belonging to 25-34 year-olds, and the average university debt estimated to be around $28,000. Today’s young generations are actually beginning their earning years in more debt than we’ve seen before. Not to mention the multi-fold increase in the cost of housing – a generation ago the average Sydney house price was 5 times annual average earnings while today the average house price is 13 times the average annual full time earnings of $80,000.
Keeping it in perspective
If young people can continue to accelerate their learning, they’ll have greater chances of success. Just 11% of bachelor-degree educated young people are still looking for full time work within 4 months of completing their course, and the strength of Australia’s economy is creating positive opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship for young people to place their stamp on Australia's future.
ABOUT ELIANE MILES
Eliane Miles is a social researcher, trends analyst and Director of Research at the internationally recognised McCrindle. As a data analyst she understands the power of big data to inform strategic direction. Managing research across multiple sectors and locations, she is well positioned to understand the mega trends transforming the workplace, household and consumer landscapes. Her expertise is in telling the story embedded in the data and communicating the insights in visual and practical ways.
From the key demographic transformations such as population growth and the ageing workforce to social trends such as changing household structures and emerging lifestyle expectations, from generational change to the impact of technology, Eliane delivers research based presentations dealing with the big global and national trends.
With academic qualifications in community engagement and postgraduate studies in international development and global health, Eliane brings robust, research-based content to her engaging presentations and consulting. As a social researcher, she has been interviewed on these topics on prominent television programs such as National Nine News and Today, as well as on radio and in online media.
To have Eliane Miles present to your organisation on Generation Z, the state of today’s education sector, or the future world of work, contact McCrindle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 8824 3422
Change. It’s happening all around us, and it’s easy to be intimidated by the scope and scale of it, but if we can observe the trends and the shifts, then we don’t have to become victims of change but rather we can proactively respond. That’s what’s key. Having the confidence to move forward strategically and proactively, to embrace the trends rather than hide from them.
Earlier this year Mark McCrindle presented Understanding the Times, Shaping the Trends: A Snapshot of the Changes Transforming Real Estate at the Real Estate Institute of Victoria National 2016 Conference. Here are some of his thoughts on trends shaping the Real Estate Industry.
How are generational differences impacting the REAL Estate industry?
Generationally, it is more important than ever to understand the six generations that we have in Australia. While the younger generations might not be active clients in terms of real estate vendors, they do influence parental purchasing and decisions a lot.
We can sometimes pre-qualify people based on our perception of where they’re at in their life stage, but actually there are a lot of people in their late 70’s who are still active in property, perhaps downsizing to buy their next place. Then you’ve got someone in their early 20’s who’s maybe not buying their own place, but perhaps looking at an expensive home because they will be living in that home with their parents. We have to understand the diversity of the generations and all of them may well be active influencers in the buying decision.
Do you have any recommendations on how the Real Estate industry can engage their community?
Sometimes the best connections are actual connections, not just personal ones. The events, the openings, the events where we invite the community along and talk about the area and what’s happening. That brand experience, where people can come to meet and greet with free pizza or cocktails, that sort of thing is what works well, people are looking for that social interaction.
Any tips for those working in real estate?
Well I’d sum it up with the 4 R’s of Real Estate in the 21st Century:
Keep it real and authentic
To adjust and adapt
Keep it relational in terms of how we connect
We can’t just rely on yesterday’s wins, we have to adjust and adapt to remain responsive to the needs of today
ABOUT MARK MCCRINDLE
Mark is an award-winning social researcher, best-selling author, TedX speaker and influential thought leader, and is regularly commissioned to deliver strategy and advice to the boards and executive committees of some of Australia’s leading organisations.
Mark’s understanding of the key social trends as well as his engaging communication style places him in high demand in the press, on radio and on television shows, such as Sunrise, Today, The Morning Show, ABC News 24 and A Current Affair.
His research firm counts amongst its clients more than 100 of Australia’s largest companies and his highly valued reports and infographics have developed his regard as a data scientist, demographer, futurist and social commentator.
Owning your own four bedroom house on a decent block of land with a big backyard and outdoor swimming pool used to be the quintessential 'Great Australian Dream'. But with rising property prices and increased living costs, that dream is being redefined.
what is the Average Australian Profile?
The average full time annual income in Australia is $80,000, which is bumped up a bit because of high income earners. Even though we are living longer now than a generation ago, the average retirement age is little changed, at 61.5 years.
The cost of housing is up with average rent prices per week at $485/week and the average house price (capital city) is $765,730. In Melbourne it is well above this and in Sydney it is around $1 million. This is where the challenge is for Australians: 40 years ago the average house price was around 5 time’s average earnings and now you can see it is almost 10 times the average annual fulltime earnings.
Other than affordability, what else are Aussies looking for?
Lifestyle is key. People are opting to live in higher density areas for the sake of convenience and location- within close proximity to transport, restaurants – the café culture as it has been called. Our Urban Living Index shows a strong correlation between the most urban/densified suburbs and those with the highest liability ratings.
Australians are opting for a lifestyle of Minimalism - we are 'decluttering' our lives and putting more value on the intangibles like travel. Generation Y aren’t opting for a big home with garages to store all their stuff but more of a focus on the easy-livability of apartment living. Indeed many baby boomers are downsizing from their larger homes in the suburbs to this style of living too.
Renting, as opposed to buying, what some of the benefits?
The ability to change locations easily is well regarded – the average Australian renter stays just 1.8 years per home. Our research shows that 1 in 3 renters are actually 'choice renters' and they choose to rent for lifestyle reasons, not primarily for affordability reasons. These choice renters are twice more likely to be living in medium and high density housing than the average Australian and they are almost 10 years younger than the average Australian. The ability to upsize and downsize easily and the flexibility to travel for extended periods of time is a driver for them. ‘Rentvesting’ is also becoming a ‘thing’. This is where people choose to rent in an area they like, but buy somewhere more affordable and use this as an investment
Generation Y are struggling to attain the Great Australian Dream – are they going to be ok?
There is a challenge emerging of "generational inequity" as shown by this infographic:
Gen Y’s have the least wealth of the working generations and their proportion of Australia’s wealth is less than half their demographic share, while the Baby Boomers who are a quarter of the population, own more than half of Australia’s wealth. (More information on this topic can be found here)
This is why Gen Y is reinventing the Aussie Dream and while they do still like the idea of owning something of their own, it is not just the big home with the back yard in the suburbs. But many in this generation will be absolutely fine thanks to the massive intergenerational wealth transfer set to happen in the next 20 years as those aged over 65 transfer much of their total wealth of $2.5 trillion.
We were delighted to have been commissioned by Optus to conduct research into the increased use and implications of online selfies with a focus on the role played by parents in guiding their children’s online behaviour. This national research has been launched in partnership with Optus and their Digital Thumbprint Education Program, and revealed some interesting insights into the attitudes of Australia's next generations towards online safety and selfie regret.
Social media has taken the world by storm, with Facebook reaching 1 billion active users in 6 years. Today, Facebook has already exceeded the population of China at 1.4 billion users, while YouTube boasts 4 billion views per day. The report reveals that young adults (aged 18-25) and parents in Australia share in this statistic, with over 9 in 10 (93% and 92% respectively) of those who have at least one active social media account being active on Facebook.
The research found that one in four parents (25%) own a social media account to monitor their child’s online activities.
It also found that teens say they obsessively compare their life and achievements with others, with one in three admitting they regretted one or more selfies they had shared online. A quarter of 18 to 25-year-olds said they were affected by FOMO – the fear of missing out – and so were hooked on social media.
"While at first it may seem self-obsessed to put photos up on Instagram of yet another selfie or the lunch we are about to eat, there is actually more to it than that. Individuals are taking photos of themselves to share their experience with others – it’s keeping in touch, trying to connect and communicate.” - Mark McCrindle.
Find out more about the findings of the study in the below infographic:
Around 1 in 10 Australian babies last year were given one of the Top 10 baby names; a total of 28,640 out of the total Australian annual births of 298,200. There were 2,283 boys named Oliver and 1,737 girls named Charlotte last year.
Charlotte takes top spot after Olivia’s 3 year reign
Charlotte, with 1,737 occurrences is the top girl baby name in Australia for 2015, taking the top spot from Olivia which is now in 2nd place.
Olivia was the most popular girls’ name in 2014 but has now fallen behind by 67 occurrences.
Charlotte was the most popular baby girls’ name in almost every state while Olivia was top in VIC and WA.
Oliver most popular in the states but Jack more popular in the territories
Keeping the top spot from 2014 is Oliver, the top boy baby name in Australia for 2015 having overtaken Jack and William which were 1st in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Oliver was the top boys’ name in all 6 states (NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, WA, TAS) while Jack was the top boy baby name in the Northern Territory.
There were 421 more instances of Oliverthan William, an increase on the margin of 191 from 2014. In 2015, there were 2,283 boys named Oliver, 1,862 named William and 1,802 named Jack which is a decrease for both William and Jack on 2014.
Top 10 Girl's name trends and insights
Most of the top 10 girls’ names from 2014 have held on to a top 10 ranking in 2015 except for Ruby which has slipped out of the top 10 down to 13th place. In Ruby’s place, Grace has reached top 10 status. Charlotte, Amelia, Sophia and Chloe all improved on their 2014 ranking with Olivia, Mia, Emily, Sophie and Ruby being the ones which have dropped. Ava was the only name to retain the same ranking.
Top 10 Boy’s name trends and insights
Oliver remains to be the top boy baby name of 2015, holding this position strongly since 2014. 9 out of the top 10 boys’ names held onto their top 10 ranking with Alexander falling out of the top 10 to 15th place, with Lachlan (rank 10th) taking his spot. While none of top 4 names changed positions, Jackson dropped from 5th to 7th and Thomas, James and Ethan increased their rank within the top 10 names.
7 new boy’s and 9 new girls’ names enter the top 100
The names Spencer, Jesse, Arlo, Harley, Darcy, Jett and Lewis have entered the list for the boys’ at the expense of Bailey, Mitchell, David, Aaron, John, Phoenix and Anthony.
As for the girls; Aurora, Billie, Eve, Daisy, Aisha, Leah, Gabriella, Maryam and Maggie have entered the top 100 with; Lexi, Jade, Indie, Pippa, Amelie, Amber, Elise, Natalie and Lacey dropping out of the list.
George and Charlotte; A royal influence
The original category of celebrities – the royals – have not only captured the loyalty and affections of modern Australians but continue to significantly influence their choice in baby names.
The birth of the Royal Princess in May 2014 (Charlotte Elizabeth Diana) has also contributed to the royal baby name trend. Like George’s rank, which increased from 71st in 2012 to 36th in 2015, in 2015 we saw the name Charlotte gain 1st position, taking the top spot from Olivia in 2014.
How well are our 19th Century Institutions connecting with 21st Century Students?
‘Schools are 19th Century institutions using 20th Century buildings to teach 21st Century students and we wonder why traditional education sometimes struggle to connect. So if they don’t learn the way we teach, then let’s teach the way we learn.’ – Mark McCrindle
The children of Australia are today’s students and tomorrow’s employees. And while each generation has passed through the student lifestage, Generation Z are the only ones to have done so in the 21st Century. They can be defined as being post-linear, post-literate, and post-logical.
They have been born into a time that has seen the printed word morph into an electronic form. Ironically, today an electronic document is perceived to have more currency, and therefore accuracy, than the printed page. Books give way to YouTube videos. The written word is replaced by icons and images. Education is shifting from structured classrooms to collaborative means, from textbooks to tablets and from reports to infographics and video presentations. Words in this global era are progressively replaced with symbols or universal icons. They have been labelled generation glass because it is this medium that communicates content: glass you don’t just look through but look at, and wear and carry and interact with.
Characteristics of today's learners
While schools structure learning by subject, Generations Z live life in a hyperlinked world. For digital natives it is not a subject but a lifestyle. Teachers deliver formal lessons, yet students are experiential and participative. We test academic knowledge and memory in examinations yet they, with the always-on Internet, are living in an open-book world, only ever a few clicks away from any piece of information on the planet.
Generation Z and the emerging Generation Alpha are also the most technologically literate and socially empowered generation of children ever. They are highly intuitive and confident users of digital technology, with Facebook having been around more than a decade, and iPhones, iPads, apps and social media having been available to them from their formative years.
There are 4.5 million reasons to engage Generation Z, the students of today and university graduates, employees and leaders of tomorrow. What’s more, the future of education depends on understanding and engaging with these 21st century learners. In order to fulfil the demand for labour and to ensure the future of our employment sector, our education system will need to adapt to and accommodate the learning styles of today’s students.
Note we use the term post-literate, not illiterate. They are writing more (emails) and sending more (text) messages, just in ways different to previous generations. The issue is that literate forms of communication alone just won’t connect in today’s visual world. Today’s learners are a multi-modal generation and therefore demand communication styles that engage multiple learning channels. While the chalk and talk teaching approach was the only style on offer in previous generations, this structured approach to classroom communication is far less engaging for today’s technologically savvy, multi-media, post-structured learners. Though many complain about the short attention spans of today’s youth, this is mainly exhibited in the context of old methods of teaching that largely involve passive models of communication.
The language of today’s learners is one that communicates content as well as being exciting, social and creative. They value visual and interactive communication with quick and easy access to information. This is in distinct contrast to perception of the education system where learning and fun are seen as mutually exclusive. Learning must not just be an academic exercise- of logic and rationale, but a development experience- of social, emotional and visceral connection as well. The point is that students have changed, so approaches to teaching need to change as well.
Engaging with today's learners
It is excellent to see that schools and classrooms are responding effectively to these changing learning styles through the implementation of learning stations, shifting from ‘teacher’ to facilitator’, managing more group work, providing real world case studies, outdoor education and teaching through activity-based learning. This, to the credit of schools is how they’ve been able to engage with changing learner needs while maintaining educational excellence. That said, there are still more changes to be made. According to our survey on parents’ opinions on education, over 90 per cent would like to see schools work harder at engaging with students and making learning interesting.
Traditionally, children were pre-formatted to learn within a structured environment, having spent their preschool years in a household where formative character was set through routine, compliance and training. However, increasingly, many children enter formal schooling without such a background and when such a student does not complete year 12, it is said that ‘they failed school’ when actually ‘their school experience failed them’.
While in the past parents, extended family, Sunday school and the Scouts or sports teams all had a role in developing the character, values and socialisation skills of the child, today parents are juggling increasingly complex roles and the average young person is less connected with other formative institutions. Schools are increasingly the one social bottleneck through which young people pass and so have a key role of developing the whole person. That is, in addition to its academic aims, the education system is expected to develop people skills, character formation, life skills and resilience.
The four R's
Not only must our communication style be credible, but we must be credible also. This generation doesn’t expect us to know all about their lifestyle, nor do they want us to embrace their culture. They are simply seeking understanding and respect. If we are less than transparent, it will be seen.
Both the content and style in which we deliver it must be relevant to a generation which is visually educated and entertained. There is no point in going to a friend’s movie night with a rented DVD if they only have a streaming service. Similarly, we must communicate in the most appropriate format for those we are reaching. So in understanding the communication styles of our students we will be better equipped to reach them.
Education can either be teacher-centric (traditional), curriculum targeted (with a predominate focus on state-wide testing) or learner focused (responsive to their learning styles and needs).
In a generation education has moved from ‘classes’ to individual learning plans. As part of the shift from students confirming to the system to education responding to the changing times, needs and learners.
The old saying in education circles still rings true for today’s students: ‘they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!’ Communicating to this generation requires more than just good content and new technology – it needs engagement and involvement. The more we create an environment conductive to engaging with the head (knowledge), hands (application) and heart (inspiration), the more likely they learning will be embedded, opportunities enlarged and futures shaped.
For more information on our education services, including research and providing content and presentations for School Professional Development Days, Executive Staff Sessions and Parents Evenings, please refer to our Education Pack below, or get in touch - we'd love to hear from you!