gen z

3 things schools must know about the rising “phigital” student

Why education must adapt now in order to accommodate Gen Z—but how?

2. Individualization is Critical

This is where K-12 is leading the way in accommodating Gen Z.

The Stillmans note that while Millennials were raised by Baby Boomers who believe that if everyone pitches in then everyone wins, Gen Z were raised by an “angsty” Gen X, who “know that 401(k)s don’t always grow, jobs often get cut and there are no extra points for ‘participation’ in Little League,” writes Kaplan.

Because of this upbringing, Gen Z would rather focus on their own unique talents and interests, rather than pre-determined skills and interests agreed upon by a group. The Stillmans say that Gen Z typically likes to work independently and likes to create their own job or project title/description.

Mirroring this trend, innovative schools are making personalization and individualization of instruction for every student a major priority.

But outside of individualizing instruction through adaptive learning and LMS and teacher-based pedagogical strategies, some schools are going a step beyond by giving students choice in both learning materials and how they plan to reach project-based learning goals.

In higher ed, some institutions are allowing students to determine their own course placement, as well as tailoring their online programs to individual student preferences.

3. Real-World Relevance is a Must

With all of Gen Z in a phigital mindset, the real-world is never more than a click away. According to the Stillmans, this constant connectedness to a borderless world full of possibility means Gen Z is not afraid to try different things (often simultaneously), and is picky about wanting to work on projects or look for jobs that prioritize real-world issues and social causes that often align with their own.

In K-12, future-looking schools are designing the classroom to reflect the real-world by using innovative device strategies and incorporating entrepreneurial tactics throughout their learning. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both test scores and engagement have soared.

Other schools are taking a heavy cross-curricular approach, incorporating student choice and online elements to learning.

However, these schools emphasize that though student choice and digital strategies work well for students, it’s also just as important that these phigital learners are guided in their learning; which is why librarians have never been more critical to education than now.

In higher education, many colleges and universities have begun tailoring courses, like journalism, to the real-world by harnessing edtech to mirror current job expectations. They’ve also started creating entirely new programs to address current student and job market interests. In fact, emerging program creation has led institutional goals for the last few years as the number one priority among U.S. colleges and universities.

Many institutions are going a step further in not only allowing students to create their own pathway to careers through competency-based learning and credentialing alternatives, they’ve also begun partnering with industry to create tailored student pipelines to some of the world’s most desirable careers.

Bottom line? If education wants to attract prospective students, keep students engaged, increase student achievement, and launch students into successful careers, it’s time to go all-in on phigital.

Meris Stansbury

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