Those four words capture Generation Z in a nutshell, according to marketing consultancy The Future Company. The age group born between 1995 and 2015 will comprise more than a third of the US population by 2020.
Gen Z kids have a notoriously short attention span of eight seconds. 11% are diagnosed ADHD.
Blink, laugh, share, forget
Snapchat, Gen Z’s preferred social media platform, is an excellent example of this experience. An image flashes onto a mobile screen. Maybe it’s adorned with a goofy filter — whiskers and ears — or inscribed with a silly caption (Hoppy to see you!). It lingers onscreen for exactly 10 seconds, then dissolves.
By then, most users have created an image of their own, uploaded, replied and searched YouTube™ for a new video.
After all, 10 seconds, is, like, forever.
Blink, laugh, share, forget
How do educators speak to this? Student distractability already frustrates faculty. Many teachers say they feel like they’re at constant war with the devices students regard as indespensible.
Some experts say the problem isn’t the students, the rise of ADHD or a lack of discipline.
Our educational paradigm is out of touch. Students have thousands of bells, whistles, flashing lights — and bunny ears — competing for their attention. In this a hyper-stimulating age, how can we expect them to pay attention to the boring stuff we teach in school?
Here’s some advicee:
Blink — Let images do the talking and keep classrooms wired. Gen Zers are the force behind the rise of the emoticon. This is a visual generation.
- 84% rank smartboards as helpful ed tech tools in a Barnes & Noble College survey of 1,300 middle and high school students in 49 states.
- 81% rank digital textbooks helpful learning tools, and an equal number say they like websites with study materials
- 80% like to use online videos from YouTube or similar sites for learning, but only 61% like a DVD or a movie
- A two-hour film is too long
Laugh — Don’t throw stones and don’t take yourself too seriously. We’re all afflicted with shrinking attention spans, according to a 2015 Microsoft Corp. report.
- Our collective attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds between 2000 and 2015 — just as the iPhone™ and Android™ came to dominate our lives
- Our attention span is one second shorter than that of a goldfish
- Gen Zers can’t remember a time when things were otherwise. They neither lament the loss of concentration, nor find it crippling
- Students can get a lot more done in eight seconds than educators. They’re superb multitaskers, easily working off five screens simultaneously – from phones, to tablets, to wearables
Share — Have students work together. Millenials are known for narcissism; Gen Zers have a collaborative outlook. It’s the “we generation,” not the “me” generation. Students prefer to study together in person and via Skype, according to the Barnes & Noble College survey.
- 80% say they prefer studying with friends
- 67% say studying with others makes learning more fun
- 64% say class discussion is the most helpful low-tech learning tool
- Only 12% rank classroom lectures an effective learning tool
Keep students talking in class and allow them to change the subject. It doesn’t hurt to go “off-topic” as long as you find a way to bring them back to the original focus now and then.
Forget — There’s the rub. Given the onslaught of information tugging at a Gen Zers attention, it’s healthy for students to filter things out. But how do educators teach students what to remember and what to forget? Learning and remembering are inseparable. This problem isn’t going away.
- 82% of students surveyed say they plan to go directly from high school to college
- A full 89% rate college as valuable
At least Gen Z hasn’t forgotten the importance of education.