Move Over Millennials, Gen Z is Coming!

I have written a lot about teaching millennials in my scholarship and prior posts. Now I’m realizing it is time to start thinking about the next generation that will hit law school: Generation Z (“Gen Z”). Gen Z was born between 1998 and 2016, so its oldest members are close to 21 years old right now. So, they will be in law school soon.

What can we expect from them? Gen Z has only known a world of terrorism, recession, racial unrest, corporate scandals, under-employment and uncertainty. They’ve also only known a world of portable devices, multi-tasking, social media, and complex social issues. Similar to millennials, technology has shaped their daily lives and their world view. They do not know of a time before the internet, they like to stream content, often in small bits, like through YouTube, and consume most technology on their phones and computers. While some of us, for example, may seek “how to” information in a brochure or pamphlet, or even an online manual, Gen Z will often look for this same kind of information on YouTube. They like to learn by seeing, not just reading or listening. Gen Z uses social media differently than millennials, as they are more aware of the public nature of their posts. Gen Z also embraces diversity. This may be because they are the most racially diverse generation in America. Members of Gen Z are also more likely to say they have friends of a different sexual orientation. Although they are too young to be thinking of marriage themselves, their preference for inclusion means they strongly support marriage equality.  They enjoy group work and collaboration, so long as they see the greater goal to be achieved by the work.

What does all this mean for teaching?  The experience of learning is important to a Gen Z student. They do not want to sit through a long lecture, when they can watch  the same content through multiple engaging podcasts, or videos. So, for educators, the question is, how can we engage this learner without compromising the educational process?

• Allow technology use to take advantage of their drive for self-learning. Instead of taking devices away in the classroom, incorporate them into activities that promote and teach searching for and recognizing credible information.
• Build a connection with students beyond the walls of the classroom. A Gen Z learner is constantly connected to their social network. Consider using social apps for questions. For some learners, this may be the most comfortable way for them to ask questions.
• Lastly, try breaking content down into sizeable bites. Capture their attention with visuals. Gen Z prefers microlearning, though you’ll need to remind them of the bigger context. Keeping it simple, but sparking their curiosity can hook them into paying attention.

 

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One Response

  1. Thank you Shailini for continuing the discussion you began here back in 2016 in your post Survivor: Law School Edition? https://bestpracticeslegaled.albanylawblogs.org/2016/10/09/survivor-law-school-edition/ and in your Maine Law Review article. I was particularly struck by this line above “Gen Z has only known a world of terrorism, recession, racial unrest, corporate scandals, under-employment and uncertainty.” WOW!

    I am reminded of Dr. Patricia Baia’s post back in June which focused on multi-modal learning and provided great tips and techniques for teaching the smartphone generation. https://bestpracticeslegaled.albanylawblogs.org/2018/06/25/teaching-to-the-smart-phone-igen-generation/

    Both challenge me to grow as a teacher and to embrace what this generation has to offer instead of bemoaning continually the way digital technology is manipulating human creativity and engagement!

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