Generation Alpha is here with us. It’s also referred to as the phygital generation, because they do not draw a distinction between the physical and digital world.
They do not know what it is like to live without technology, because they have never had to. Generation Z was mostly born on the periphery of the explosion of technological gadgets.
How does one teach such a generation? How do they learn best? According to Mark Sparvell, Education leader at Microsoft, the answers lie with Generation Z, born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.
And that is what Microsoft’s research dubbed Class of 2030 and Life-ready Learning set out to do: ask how Generation Z would have preferred to learn instead of the increasingly redundant ways through which they were taught.
In Kenya, our answer is in the new curriculum, the Competence Based Curriculum, which is designed to equip students with skills. A summary from a document, Education ImaginED, shows that education must have learner agency, where the learner is an active participant, it must be socially embedded, thus grounded in real relationships.
It should also be personalised, meaning it is connected to the learner’s passion, builds upon their strengths and skills, and empowers them with the tools that they want to derive change and ultimately recognise that different learners face different challenges and might need different levels of support.
“It needs to be competency-based, with a shift towards mastery, recognising different rates and paces of learners, placing the role of assessment as continuous and focused on informing the learning process, not just on measuring achievement and closing the feedback loop. Learning to learn and learning for the students being able to describe and how they learn best,” says Sparvell.
A skill that makes all the difference and that emerged in research such as Emotion and Cognition in the Age of AI is emotional intelligence.
To help develop emotional and social learning, and personalised learning in the classroom, Sparvell points out some methods teachers are using across the globe. He said that one strategy that people use is to start the day with a check-in, to make personal connection with students. Many teachers use this at the end of the day also, to review and reflect.
Build emotional vocabulary
Other teachers also provide opportunities for social learning in pairs and small groups. To learn how to learn together, work in groups, develop emotional literacy, to be able to talk about emotions and be able to solve problems together.
Sandbox environments like Minecraft are also ideal places for students to come together, solve problems together and also navigate conflict resolution together. The learners should also be helped to build an emotional vocabulary so that they recognise, understand, label and express emotions beyond happy/sad.
“There are great changes in technology, which is impacting across businesses and economies. There are changes in the employment market: jobs lost and jobs gained,” says Sparvell. “In 2018, the WEF released the Future of Jobs report, which was one of the pieces of research drawn across the Class of 2030. There are new jobs being created and jobs being reduced or removed,” he adds.
This means that job security is becoming more and more uncertain by the day, and the gig economy is rising, where young people will be working in multiple contract scenarios, needing to be able to quickly adapt.
According to the report, nearly 50 per cent of companies expect to have a decrease in full time employees by 2022. Some jobs will increase in prominence, others will and new ones will emerge.
“The question is to prepare young people to be able to navigate that context. For example, we see roles increasing in process automation, in data and information security, data analyst roles, software and app designers, social media managers. These are all roles today which will increase in prominence, plus we shall see new roles created, such as human-machine interaction designers, block chain specialists, robotics and engineers,” says Sparvell.
Young people will be entering into a world of work that barely exists today, and it is not just current students who will be affected. By 2022, 50 per cent of all employees will require significant upskilling and re-skilling.
Different skills will be required, and according to research, some of the most sought-after skills will be analytical thinking, innovation, the ability to show originality, persuasion, active learning, creativity, initiative, negotiation, resilience and flexibility.
“My challenge to educators is to think about their system or school. Are they preparing young people to develop and apply those skills?” Poses Sparvell.
A report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on world mental health situation this year placed Kenya as the sixth most depressed country in Africa. That could imply that the country is not doing well on emotional intelligence, which will be problematic in the education sector and for the society if not addressed.
“We see it as a global problem. Anxiety and depression are a major problem for learners. They are stressed, depressed and exam-obsessed. According to WHO, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. So emotions matter. They affect our attention, memory, learning, decision-making, the quality of relationships, physical and mental health and well-being, how we perform and our creativity,” says Sparvell.
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