Are we prepared to teach generations Z and Alpha?

When you were a child studying at school in Ecuador, surely you can remember the same human teaching you all subjects,  in the same classroom  during the school year. The exemptions to the rule were Foreign Language and P.E.

In high school,  you used to have one teacher per subject, having a period from perhaps 45 minutes to an hour and a half. This changed when the pandemic arrived in 2020. Teachers from different generations were pushed on to experience new methods to deliver knowledge, using technological tools such as educational platforms, controlling students behavior through a virtual classroom, as well as facing technical issues mostly relegated to institutional computer departments.

Nevertheless, something educational institutions should not miss out on and keep in mind are children from generation Z or centennials (1994-2010) and the ones from generation Alpha (2010- Until now) that were born in a completely digital era making them true digital natives.

Generation Alpha children process information quicker  and have gone through accelerated changes at their short age. Additionally, they are very creative and manage every single electronic device and multitask (Ability of doing several things at once) efficiently. They do not tolerate videos lasting more than 5 minutes. Seldomly,  they watch two hour movies. This, due to getting bored. Also, if they spend more than 4 hours sitting in front of a computer, they can get overwhelmed because it does not seem dynamic and fun.

We can not fool ourselves by thinking we are getting back to our “normal lives”: children sitting in their classroom receiving 7 hour of classes per day, being taught in a traditional fashion. As a consequence, they will face lack of attention and motivation. They are less patient and ask for immediate satisfaction of their needs according to their own different time frames.

It is already challenging for pedagogical teams to share knowledge to these generations, but it is not impossible.  I’m sure that with the right schedule and interactive activities it will be possible.

Taking advantage of their special learning skills, we can apply them to increase motivation and attention level during the class; for instance:

  • Carry out collaborative assignments to keep up socialization and teamwork.
  • Allow the use of mobile devices for work during class time, profiting from the countless digital and didactic options apps deliver us. 
  • Engage students with high quality multimedia content. If low quality resolution is in use, there will be loss of interest. One of their characteristics is that they’re extremely visual.
  • Foster their curiosity through research and maximize self-taught activities. 
  • Motivate them to create their own contents, leveraging from their endless creativity
  • Adopt a LMS platform to manage activities, materials, homework, discussion groups, since multimedia resources are highly valued. 

The teacher’s role must be to transmit their knowledge to this generation. Preparing classes with interactive content, getting current information about new apps and learning tools, searching references on how classes are done in other countries and learning about new trends that could be applied by students.

All educational institutions should have on their team a person  who stays at the forefront of tech advancements. It’s advisable to determine at least 5 hours a week doing research to implement and develop monthly training plans for teachers to keep them updated.

Digital transformation is all around us. That being said, educational institutions, their managers and teachers must be on the same page as their students. Failure to achieve this will surely impact in loss of admiration and respect from this generation. Dedication, responsibility, and commitment are already strong features found in teachers. Hence, we need to strengthen their tech capabilities for a full circle experience.

Blended Education: The challenge of 2021 for educational institutions

A few years ago, my husband tried to persuade the school where my daughter was studying to embrace the possibility of not taking her notebooks during that school year and allowing her to replace them with her Ipad. This idea came to life as I saw her skills using portable devices and how it helped her simplify and organize her learning process. However, the school denied this. 

Honestly, we were sure that this was going to be the answer, as the education was managed traditionally with face-to-face classrooms, whiteboards, notebooks, books, etc. Nevertheless, due to the covid-19 pandemic, education experienced a radical digital transformation changing the way in which classes were taught.

Nonetheless, during 2021 we will experience the progressive return to in-person education, where a new challenge arrives: hybrid education. But, how does hybrid education work? It is the combination of in-person learning with online environments using various digital resources for class management with students both online and in classrooms.

The challenge is rough but not impossible. I am sure that this can be achieved and will depend on the resource investment made by the institution and I am not just speaking about high tech devices but also the time allocated to process planning and training the community (teachers, students and parents). We must remember that every change causes a resistance in us as human beings. However, with the appropriate action plan and socialization, this will be achieved with real and effective results generating confidence in this new learning model. 

There are 4 key elements to achieve a successful understanding of the hybrid system, which are: 

  1. Tech equipment

It is a ¨must¨ to have access to a good internet speed and withband. Also, counting with equipment like: 180° or 360° videocameras, bluetooth microphones, digital whiteboards and laptops. 

  1. Digital platforms

The  school must have a platform that allows an accurate management of your virtual classroom, register all of your students’ progress and easen the workload of your teachers. As a complement, it is pivotal to have a video conference platform like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Blackboard Collaborate. These have all the necessary features to achieve an optimum control of your online session. 

  1. Content Creation

By using apps, previous collection of different kinds of content and didactic material, you will be able to create an interactive environment for students and capture their attention whether they are in the classroom or at home.

  1. Constant training sessions

Preparing your teachers for mastery of computer learning resources and implementing a more structured planning are key to confront technical issues. For this reason, it is recommended that each classroom have a teacher and an assistant.

The mistakes that must be avoided during the implementation of hybrid classes are:

  1. Neglect the connectivity strength of the institution

The school must ensure the class’ broadcast is optimal. It would be a serious mistake to only focus on face-to-face students and sacrifice the learning quality of online students. 

Also, we can apply the following formula that allows us to know if the connection is adequate:

Total students x 40% x 0.02= (compared to bandwidth)

  • 40%: this will vary since it is defined by the percentage of allowed capacity, that is currently 30%, and an additional percentage taking into account the number of teachers.
  • 0.02 is the 200 Kbps of average video transmission speed per student in normal to low quality.

2. Stop using the LMS platform

The learning center should not be focused on the classroom but on the chosen LMS platform, since the entire academic and pedagogical process will be recorded on it.

3. Do not do internal audits to measure the schools’ performance.

Constant monitoring will allow the institution to be aware of how digitally advanced is compared to the market and to position themselves as a referent in this new educational approach. It will allow the school to constantly measure the process, analyze if its teaching staff requires reinforcements in training, if students feel comfortable and can clearly understand their classes, if parents have confidence in the model, if connectivity is adequate, if the equipment purchased should be improved, etc., in order to make immediate corrections.

During the pandemic we have learned to adapt to change abruptly and education has been no exception. This is why it is important to be prepared for any change, to not be left behind and go hand in hand with this new era of digital transformation.