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A Generation with different skills, priorities and ideas Millennial's, Gen Z Digital Natives

Young people growing up in this time face quite considerable different opportunities and challenges to the generations that grew up before 2000. How do we in education ensure that we let our kids grow up in a safe environment, but at the same time make sure they are able to navigate the challenges and opportunities they face in a responsible manner. 

TechTarget defines Digital Natives as “generally identified as the millennial generation and the generations that come after; as of right now, this includes Generation Z. Millennial's and following generations have spent nearly their entire lives surrounded by computers, digital devices and the world of social media. This digital literacy has made these generations very comfortable with and fluent in the use of technology. As young adults, digital natives should be able to use modern technology proficiently, to find jobs and to better prepare themselves for everyday life.

Our and the young generations’ challenge now is to provide the right guidance to these young people to use technology to their advantage. In a world that is increasingly steered by technology - AI, social media, high tech jobs - there is a much greater need for an education that is not controlling but understanding and still firmly guiding young people until they have the right education and maturity to be responsible citizens of the world. 

I asked ChatGPT to “write me a short summary of what we need to focus on in education to take into consideration what Gen z prioritises in life; below is what ChatGPT responded and it fits my current philosophy and our pedagogical understanding of what we need to prioritise in education. 

To align education with the values and priorities of Generation Z, focus should be placed on several key areas:

  1. Digital Literacy: Incorporate digital skills training into the curriculum, including coding, cybersecurity, and navigating online information responsibly.

  2. Social Justice and Equity: Integrate diverse perspectives and address social issues in education to promote empathy, inclusivity, and understanding.

  3. Practical Skills: Offer practical, real-world skills training such as financial literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving to prepare students for life beyond the classroom.

  4. Mental Health and Well-being: Provide resources and support for mental health awareness and well-being, including stress management techniques and access to counseling services.

  5. Environmental Awareness: Emphasize sustainability and environmental education to empower students to address pressing global challenges like climate change and environmental degradation.

  6. Flexible Learning Environments: Adapt educational systems to accommodate diverse learning styles and preferences, including online and experiential learning opportunities.

  7. Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Foster creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation to encourage students to think critically and adaptively in a rapidly changing world.

By prioritizing these areas, education can better meet the needs and aspirations of Generation Z, preparing them to thrive in an increasingly complex and interconnected society.”

The emphasis in education on critical thinking, collaboration, empathy and mental health and well-being as well as flexible learning environments and adaptive teaching, is something we try to incorporate into our teaching and learning here at WIS. There is still a lot to learn, but that is another aspect of today’s learning environment - we are lifelong learners. 

In this regard I also suggest that parents read Ms. Marcelle van Leenen’s article in today’s Oryx. We need to help our young learners to learn to use their digital nativeness as an opportunity and not be controlled by it. They have to learn to still be in charge of their lives. 

Maggie Reiff

Secondary Principal 

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