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Technology is no longer an adjunct to a child’s life. Today’s children have grown up with technology being very much a part of their everyday lives and experiences. Children, often referred to as Generation Alpha and born in 2010, will be the first generation entirely shaped in the 21st century and will be the first to live into the 22nd century.

Generation Alpha and the iPad arrived in the same year. They are “logged on” and “linked up”, true “digital natives”. They have been called the most “materially endowed and technologically literate generation to ever grace the planet!”.

Generation Alpha, and their immediate predecessors, Generation Z may never understand the annoyance of being wrapped in a phone cord while on a call or having to wait a week for camera film to be developed so they can see their latest photographs.

Alphas and Zoomers, the colloquial term for Generation Z, live in the screen age using multiple screens at one time, often simultaneously watching TV while scrolling on their phone and doing homework on a device.

These generations are socially and visually engaged, and as such, education must, and is, transitioning from a more traditionally-structured teaching and learning model to one that is faster-paced, visual and hands-on. Modes of delivery that better match and provide access to information for Alphas and Zoomers.

St Stephen’s School recently held their annual StaffExpo. This event is in its 10th year of operation and is centred on the philosophy of ‘professional development and personal growth’ for all staff employed by the School. This event includes a range of keynote addresses, curriculum development and updates, wellbeing activities and a whole school wellness day for staff to enjoy.

This year’s theme of Shaping the Future: Generation Alpha and Beyond provided the more than 300 staff an opportunity to gain insights into how we, as educators and those working in schools, provide engaging learning opportunities for students born in this century.

Sophie Renton, Managing Director at McCrindle Research, was one of two keynote speakers who presented to staff during StaffExpo. She explored the characteristics of Alphas and Zoomers assisting staff in highlighting the ways we can better work with and assist these students in their learning journey at school to better prepare them for life after school.

Educators need to shift their focus from only content mastery to meaningful and relevant classroom experiences that allow these “digital natives” to share what they know and build on that knowledge.

McCrindle’s report Equipping students to thrive in the new world of work reports that while Alphas see teachers as their best avenue to learn new skills (50%), they commonly use websites (48%) and Tik Tok (42%) as part of their go-to platforms for learning; research shows they regularly learn two new things per day on these platforms.

The information that was shared with staff at St Stephen’s School has already begun filtering into classrooms. One example of this can be seen in the Performing Arts area where some staff have incorporated educational Tik Toks relating to voice inflection techniques and accents into their teaching.

These generations are “the options generation with unlimited pathways”, according to Mark McCrindle.  He goes on to say that “we do them no favours to set them up with endless opportunities but no purpose.” This is the key: to instil a sense of purpose so that they can use the technological tools available to them with meaning.

Another characteristic that sets Alphas apart is their strong sense of social responsibility and justice. They have strong beliefs and want to stand for something. A majority of Alphas have influenced their parents into helping a cause. One example that the McCrindle research highlights shows that 80% of parents have had their actions or consumption decisions influenced to be more environmentally aware by their Generation Alpha children.

This generation aren’t afraid to stand for something, or to take the lead on their future, with almost 9 in 10 students (86%) anticipating working in only something they have started or as a side hustle. The research reflects the trend of Alphas as being more entrepreneurial as is evidenced by the changing focus from examination driven results to learning skills and adaptability.

Topics and issues around mental health, inclusivity, supportive communities for those on the margins such as LGBTQIA+, the pandemic and post pandemic world and emotional wellbeing are central to generation Alpha. These topics were addressed in presentations from Professor Stephen Houghton from UWA and award winning author Criag Silvey (Jasper Jones & Honeybee) as part of the St Stephen’s School StaffExpo program.

These issues will continue to be important for generation Alpha now and into the future. The “logged on” and “linked up” generation however, still see teachers as the number one resource for learning. The question we must ask is how will educators use this to help guide  generation Alpha into the world beyond the classroom?

This article was also published on Business News