The goal of the Help @ Home project is to help parents become better connected with their student’s digital lives.  Each week, we’ll explore topics designed to help you reach that goal.  To do that, I think it is important that we as parents have a better understanding of how kids who have grown up in a technology-rich environment view and interact with the world.   

Generation Z – The “Netflix” Generation
Generation Z does not formally have a birth year defined yet.  Various agencies have different age ranges that make up this group.  The common thread across the board is that generation Z are the individuals that follow the Millennials and that the oldest members of this group are barely out of high school.  For our purposes, we’ll assume that Generation Z includes all of the children that are in our PreK-12 schools today.  This is the group of children that have never known a world without things such as the Internet, YouTube, social media, smartphones, and online gaming.    In “Learning Transformed,” the authors refer to Generation Z as the Netflix generation.  It’s a great analogy when you take a moment to think about it.  Similar to Netflix, these kids have on-demand access to ever-changing content across topics that interest them on an ever-expanding list of devices.  They have instant access to more information than any other generation in human history.  

What does that mean to parents?
Our kids have become content connoisseurs.  While their choices of where to focus their energy are endless, their time is not.   They’ve developed a finely tuned ability to filter out the noise in an environment where they are so many things shouting for their attention.   A 2015 study done by Altitude determined that Generation Z has an 8-second filter.  8 seconds!  If the content isn’t deemed to be worthy in that short amount of time, they’ll move on to the next option.  

Here’s an excellent example of this in my personal life.  My youngest son (two and a half year) enjoys some screen time like everyone else in the family.   We’ll set him up on YouTube with a quick, initial search for what he wants to watch (Surprise eggs??!!).  Once he selects a video, the second hand begins ticking.  The chosen video must have enough good content to get his attention before all of the preview videos on the right-hand side of the screen pull him away.  If the video doesn’t draw him in quickly, he’ll move on until he finds one that does.   He’s a toddler and has already begun to develop this filter.

As kids get older, they begin to rely on trusted sources as well as trending lists when seeking out high-quality content.   The sources build their credibility through social networking and can quickly become “instacelebs.”  We’ll cover those in a future publication.

The point is that whatever they are looking at (the web, videos, etc.), it must be engaging, and it must do so quickly.

 

What does that mean to educators?
Educators must also be able to match that level of engagement in their classroom to stay relevant.  Fortunately, we are seeing a shift in classrooms to implement more educational technologies at the point of instruction.  There has been an influx of new, free, web-based tools in the last few years that are revamping traditional methods of teaching.  Combining these tools with a 1:1 environment (one device for every student in the class), can help increase engagement in the classroom.

Quizlet Live is an excellent example of one of these.  Reviewing material for an upcoming quiz or exam was painfully boring when I was in school.  If we were lucky, the teacher might have turned the discussion into a jeopardy style game to add a little magnificence to the mundane. Quizlet takes a different approach.  A teacher provides the site with twelve review terms and definitions to be reviewed.  Once the teacher is ready, students join a session by entering a unique session code from their smartphone, Chromebook, iPad, etc.  When all the students have joined, the teacher clicks “Go, ” and the students are divided randomly into teams made up of 3-4 people.  Students quickly find their new teammates, and the game begins.  On their screen, each member of the team will see a small portion of the twelve terms loaded by the instructor.  The same definition is displayed on all of the team’s screens, but only one person has the correct item on their screen.  Teams have to collaborate and discuss before choosing the right answer. The first team to get all 12 correct wins.  Choose correctly, and a new definition is provided.  Choose incorrectly, and the team loses all its points and must start over.  

Instead of a traditional review session that requires little participation by students, this free tool encourages collaboration, critical thinking, and communication among all of the participants. Quizlet Live along with a host of other tools (such as Kahoot, Padlet, Quizizz) are making a real difference in the classroom.    

Many parents are unclear of how we use technology in the classroom.   This is just one of the examples we’ll cover through the Help @ Home series this year.

Assignment
Every week, I intend to provide an activity you can do as a way of reinforcing what was covered.  Ask your student(s) what online tools they use in their classroom and which ones they like using (and why).   

Resources

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Help @ Home is free and is available to anyone. While the project is currently being sponsored by the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District, you DO NOT have students in the district to sign up for this weekly communication.