We are Generation Z! Digital natives and self-learners. We grew up in the age of technological innovation. We use technology for communication, entertainment, research, education, and work—basically anything you can think of. Technology and social media make up every part of our daily lives. Here is a little insight into how much of my generation utilizes tech, so we can understand each other a little better.
We Are Self-Learners
The internet is at our fingertips, and we use it to our academic advantage. Gen-Z will go to YouTube for extra help in our finance or calculus class before going to a professor’s office. “Why?” you might ask. Because YouTube gives us a plethora of tutorials, where we can learn at our own pace and in a different way. It is available whenever we need it, without bothering our professors, which can feel awkward or needy. When we find ourselves struggling with a dense reading in philosophy or sociology, we hit up our best friend, Google, and then … voila—we’ve found an analysis of our assigned reading in layman's terms to help us through it. We use the internet to learn whatever we need, whenever we need it.
Gen Z Communicates Differently
We have grown up in the age of instant and text messaging and social media. Email is not our preferred channel of communication. Instead, we just start a group chat or use GroupMe—an app that allows users to send text messages to each other without sharing cell phone numbers. This allows us to coordinate with our classmates for group projects, organize within our clubs on campus, and discuss our classes. It’s not that we won’t use email, but we might only check it once or twice a week, so it’s not great for emergency or short-notice announcements.
Remote Collaboration is Routine
Let’s be honest—sometimes group projects are a pain. Each student has a different work and course schedule and various personal responsibilities. We live and have classes in widely different places. COVID-19 aside, assigning a time to meet in person will likely inconvenience at least someone in the group … especially for the commuting, remote, or off-campus students. So my generation often eschews in-person collaboration in favor of remote coordination, with the help of technology. We will set up either a time to work together on a shared file (for example, in OneDrive or Google Drive) or a deadline to submit our work to a shared drive. We use Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets or Office 365 for collaborative editing of presentations and documents. These resources have allowed my generation to complete group tasks to everyone’s convenience and have made us comfortable with remote learning and working from home.
You’ve Got Options!
My generation works hard to meet your expectations and work with you. But if you’re looking for some strategies for better connecting with Gen-Z students, here are a few suggestions that we’d really appreciate:
- Create links to videos and quick guides from your website, so we can access and follow a required process on our own.
- Continue to provide online video appointments. This makes it easier for us to meet with you between classes—particularly if our classroom or dorm is nowhere near your office.
- Send emergency or short-notice announcements through text messaging or time emails so they announce things several days in advance.
- Make the most out of the Canvas Dashboard! Create a folder for additional resources, and fill it with YouTube tutorials or additional analysis to help your students.
- Take advantage of the Canvas or Pitt Mobile chat feature, so we can send messages to each other. (Canvas even allows for the creation of group chats.)
- Encourage students to download the Canvas and My Pitt mobile apps, so they can be used for mobile messaging between students and instructors.
In a nutshell, Gen-Z uses technology for instant, self-directed learning, communication, and collaboration. We use every aspect of technology to enhance our connections to each other and the wider world, and to help us be our best selves.
- By Eliana Trotman, Pitt IT Student Blogger