Teaching Tomorrow’s Skills Today


Technology is changing the dynamics of the teacher-student relationship in the millennial generation, and more so in Gen Z

We are living in an age of unimaginable change happening at unbelievable speed. The driver of change is digital technology and the Internet.

As Jennifer Fleming, Associate Professor in California State University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, said, “Teaching in the Internet age means we must teach tomorrow’s skills today.”

Therefore, blackboard and chalk, and kids seated primly in rows facing the teacher, – the familiar classroom setting of not-so-long ago, is redundant today. American philosopher Eric Hoffer says, “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

With the Internet, information is just a press-of-a-button away. Andrew Kim, of the Steelcase Education Solutions team [1], said, ““Technology is changing the dynamics of education, especially the relationship between teachers and students.”

Teachers realize it is not possible to teach their students the way they were taught. “Digitalization of reality”[2] with the exponential growth of technology, requires a completely new approach to education. Disseminating established knowledge[3] of the past has, up until now, been the starting point of the conventional approach to education. Students studying law  would analyze existing laws, regulations and selected cases as examples, with the conviction that understanding how history dealt with situations would help solve problems in the future, by applying old doctrines and precedents to new parallel situations. This “backward-looking” approach to education was once accepted as sound, and the role of the educator was hierarchical, with the teacher having all the knowledge to be imparted to the student.

However, much of this information is available on the Internet today, so teachers are compelled to create a different role for themselves in the classrooms. With increasing use of laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices, classrooms have become spaces where knowledge is created, not consumed. And teachers are using technology to create more personalized and self-directed experiences for students. In fact, teachers are trying to help students stimulate quick and creative “out of the box” thinking. Instead of loading information online for students to consume and thereby preserving the traditional student-teacher relationship, teachers are in the process of creating more inclusive and flatter learning environments such as “Learning Labs” where students are compelled to work in teams and visualize different scenarios, with their attendant challenges and solutions.

Therefore, education has evolved from a “Fact” transferring teaching system[4] to one which entails more exploring and building a future together with other students. The issues are challenges of a digital age and solutions will not always be obvious. Original ideas are naturally considered as having premium value.

Students of the digital age[5] are not interested in becoming “textbook smart.” They are aware that facts can easily be found online. What they seek is sharing experiences and stories, to enhance their own experience, by learning from the successes and failures of others.

Recently, the Mayo Clinic conducted a study to better understand how millennials learn. Researchers found that millennials progress well in a collaborative environment, with feedback, technology and mentors.

Millennials, however, are impatient with traditional learning systems. Some want to sharpen their skills without bothering with a traditional degree. Others would happily embrace a fast-paced program which is completely online.

Professor of Math at Harold Washington College in Chicago, Illinois, Ignacio Estrada, said, “ If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”

According to a study done by Barnes and Noble College, Gen Z studentstoo resist becoming passive learners. They balk at the idea of attending classes taking copious notes and memorizing them for an exam later. What they want is to be fully engaged in the process, and consequently, blending into the learning process. 51% of students[6] surveyed for the study, said they learn best by doing, while 12% said they learn better by listening.

Gen Z is partial to learning with digital tools such as Skype and online forums, where students from other schools can participate alongside them. Being as much or even more into technology than the millennials, Gen Z students seek deep integration of digital technology into education, seamlessly connecting academic experiences with the personal.Furthermore, they anticipate the availability of these learning tools when and where they need them, for in their view, learning is not limited to the classroom.

Gen Z, with unlimited and consistent access to new information, has turned out to be a more career-driven and self-reliant generation than even the Millenniials. 89% of them[7] perceive a higher education degree is extremely valuable.  Where Millennials preferred careers in the health and medical or education fields, Gen Z prefers careers in technology such as computer science and video game development. What is more, 13% of them are already entrepreneurs in theirown startups, while another 22% plan to own a business later.

Gen Z is therefore leading change in the field of education, compelling educators to use new learning tools, adopt innovative teaching styles, with unlimited access to resources. They are paving the way for a more learner-centric approach to college education, with themselves as directors of their own future.

As George Couros, Canadian educator of innovative teaching says, “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformation.”


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