Deep inside the Digital age, where the most constant thing seems to be change itself, our global education system needs an update.
Our children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces represent Generation Z, those who are growing up in an era of information overload. From a tender age their learning style is mostly visually presented, in the form of symbols, brand logos, characters and motion images. Students obtain more and more knowledge from online tutorials and how-to videos than from traditional classroom auditoriums. Teachers and professors today face the challenge of capturing the attention of iPad swiping students who are surprisingly informed about the world around them.
Within just a few decades we evolved from little ones building Lego castles into children programming their own robots. While Millennials (people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) still remember the dial-up Internet and using paper maps, Gen Zeds are spoiled with an endless number of digital opportunities, and therefore their expectations are much higher. About 51% of children have their own smartphones from the age of six, and later on they spend up to eleven hours average on social media, during which time 1/3 of their activity is spent watching video content. Facebook sees 8 billion average daily video views, and 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. According to the most recent study on video games, pre-school children play an average of six hours per week. Teenagers use game consoles twice as much. Since all major brands are investing in virtual reality, this technology has become more sophisticated and allows users to interact with their environment through multiple senses. After being overwhelmed by moving images and hyper-realistic visuals, Gen Zeds must find it really hard to pay attention at class and memorise lengthy texts that are illustrated with old-fashioned clip art!
Even if the given subject might be generally interesting, it is difficult to find pleasure in learning if the method is not adapted to the current environment. Today’s students refuse to be passive learners, and they expect to be able to interact with their own learning process. Their methods are typically more experimental than theoretical, and thanks to the rapid development and exposed practices of psychology, young people today are much more self-aware than previous generations. They can easily Google their rights, maintain an online presence worldwide, stand up for their beliefs, and think globally. They are the first generation given the privilege of limitless independent thinking and the freedom of choice. As they are used to endless possibilities directly proposed to them, young people today are hardly intimidated by the prospect of reaching out for better options.
Of course, many schools have adapted to digitalisation by using e-books and pursuing interactive learning. Not only can they help students obtain skills faster, e-books cost significantly less than traditional textbooks. Digital textbooks can incorporate video, online connectivity and multiple apps. Those who provide an e-learning platform benefit from millions of students’ participation from all age groups and from every part of the world.
Yet, there is still a long way to go. Traditional colleges seem to lose value as places with social benefits and networking opportunities.
Will education be able to keep up with the needs of the upcoming generations, or will the system will collapse as more and more students will drop out to pursue their goals as entrepreneurs instead?