8 Considerations For Teaching The Next Generation of Learners

The next generation of students is already here!

Generation Alpha was born in 2010 and their oldest members are just now entering our classrooms. These children are virtually born with devices in their hands and are already being labeled as Generation Glass.

‘NEEDS’ (Who needs what?)

Without explicit instruction, this generation already:

  • Intuitively navigates digital devices
  • Searches Youtube by voice for answers to questions, rather than Google
  • Learns by figuring out and trial/error
  • Is drawn to interactive media such as apps that let them make decisions or have choices about the direction of a game, the manipulation of a character, figure, or setting, and apps that let them create movies and music
  • Displays a strong desire for instant gratification

Teachers will need to consider the implications of the needs of Generation Alpha as they develop curricula, plan for meaningful lesson experiences, and support dispositions like Habits of Mind. To that end, here are eight contemporary learning considerations based on the unique needs of this next generation of students, though they will also support the right now needs of ALL students:

  1. PRODUCTS OF VALUE. Contemporary Learners want to make things–not just engineering projects in STEM or makerspaces, but they also want to produce their own media and make things that matter. The creation of new products will be targeted at audiences beyond the classroom and they will seek feedback and responses from those audiences. These students will have entrepreneurial identities and will need to be supported in the fruition of their ideas.
  2. DECISIONAL CAPITAL. Contemporary learners want to know that their input is valued and they want to have a hand in choosing WHAT and HOW they will learn. Choices matter very much to Contemporary learners, both those offered by the teacher and those that they come up with themselves.
  3. PERSONALIZED EXPERIENCES. In order to personalize something, it must be relevant, meaningful, and engaging to the individuals impacted. As an extension of decisional capital, student voices and the choices that come from those voices are what really matter to Personalizing Learning. Teachers can establish or co-establish learning goals, then develop a collaborative plan with students to meet those learning goals. To clarify, I do not mean that we should stick kids on computers and let them self-navigate a program that offers students a handful of teacher or vendor created choices and call that teaching or learning.
  4. CONTEXT MATTERS. Content is important, but CONTEXT matters just as much. Access to content and background knowledge is increasingly available everywhere and device agnostic. The big focal point for Gen A’s are around skills and what they will DO with their learning. Contemporary learners want to know the WHY of their work, not just the WHAT. This is partially an extension of Products of Value, insofar as students need to be working toward authentic goals that are meaningful and engaging.
  5. HABITS OF MIND. – Generation Alpha is going to increasingly be connected digitally, but not physically. They will need explicit instruction in learning to work with others: sharing, thinking interdependently, asking and answering meaningful questions, being empathetic, etc. These dispositions will be critical in the education of this coming generation if we want them to grow up to be collaborative and communicative global citizens.
  6. TECHNOLOGY. Generation Alpha will be the most technologically literate generation in the history of humanity. But the technology itself doesn’t matter. It’s what these students will DO with the technology to create products of value, discover information, collaborate, give and receive feedback, and foster innovations.
  7. FEEDBACK. Generation Alpha is not going to care about grades and traditional grading practices. They are not going to care about authoritarian structures that exist just because that is the way it’s always been. They are going to challenge long-held traditions and seek new forms of demonstrating not only what they learned, but HOW WELL they learned it. They will be uninterested in standardization and comparison to others; they will be want to be apprentices seeking mastery through conversation, trial-and-error, feedback, and growth cycles where failure doesn’t exist.
  8. TRADITION. Besides grading practices, there are some other traditional facets of school that will either enhance or diminish the learning of Gen A’s. This includes flexible environments, traditional notions around homework, school schedules, use of spaces in schools, blended learning opportunities, and connected devices that are as common as crayons.


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