Generation Z, also known as zoomers, is the first cohort of true digital natives — basically younger than Google. They have strong learning preferences and different ways of processing and assimilating information.
If you ask teachers, who generally belong to previous generations such as Millennials, Gen Xers, and even late Baby Boomers, they will tell you the same. They prefer visual input and are used to having information at their fingertips.
At the same time, they like to use new technologies and are very creative, thoughtful, and open-minded. Needless to say, with the proper intellectual stimulation, they prove to be excellent learners.
So, what can teachers do to engage them and allow them to bloom? Well, a mix of technology and visual knowledge is a good start.
Meeting the needs of Gen Z students with visual learning
Let’s begin with the definition. Visual knowledge is a set of abilities that allow an individual to find, interpret, assess, use, and create images that facilitate the understanding of a specific context: social, ethical, artistic, technical, scientific. So visual intellectual stimulation should apply across fields of knowledge, regardless of content.
We believe that with the right technical tools, teachers will be up to the task.
Knowledge as images in motion
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a cliché, but it captures the essence of zoomers’ learning preference. If they prefer to process information visually, images should be the primary method of disseminating the information. For instance, teachers should use diagrams, infographics, pictures, mind maps, and other visual tools to present content.
Also, students should be motivated to create their own visual strategies while learning. For instance, they might prefer mind maps for note-taking instead of a classical method, like the Cornell system. Mind Meister is an excellent tool that they can use for mind maps and note-taking.
Multimodal content for more engaging lessons
Video didn’t kill the radio star, nor the writer. If the visual stimulus is the preferred choice of Gen Z students, a multimodal mix might make them engage more in the learning process.
Video, audio, and written materials can be more appealing and engaging when blended into a coherent and entertaining lesson. For instance, a video input can be explored in a more complex learning activity, like a quest.
The same goes for audio materials, like radio shows, podcasts, or audiobooks. Animoto is a great solution for teachers who want to create educational videos. For the less experienced with video editing, there are templates that you can modify according to specific needs.
Video, audio, and then text?
Writing was invented first, then came audio and video.
What if we could reverse the journey to boost students’ interest in literature and reading? For instance, most of the time, classes begin with the text. Then, if there’s enough time, we move on to audio and video materials.
Instead, what if we start with watching a movie based on a novel, analyze it, and then have students read the text. It’s not about replacing the study of the text with the movie (or the audiobook); it’s all about changing the order, especially for more difficult novels or subjects.
Recycling old teaching methods — effective as they might have been — won’t work for most young students nowadays. This is why adapting content and creating a new pedagogy for Gen Z students is worth our time. Otherwise, we risk denying them the right to an engaging educational journey and missing many teaching opportunities.
Veronica is a University lecturer with years of experience in language learning, a translator and interpreter, and a life-long learner.