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Gen Z: A new beginning or beginning of the end?

May 2, 2014
Generation Z is the name used for the group of people currently being born. Gen Z is the first generation born into a digital world, thus earning the nickname “digital natives.” Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, reviews some of the mobile learning and online tools used to education Gen Z students as presented at the 2014 American Dental Education Association annual session.
Generation Z is the name used for the group of people born after the Millennial Generation. There is no agreement on the exact dates of the generation with some sources starting it at the mid or late 1990s or from the mid-2000s to the present day.(1,2) This is the generation that is currently being born. Many members of this generation are highly connected, having had lifelong use of communication and media technology like the World Wide Web, instant messaging, text messaging, MP3 players, and mobile phones, earning them the nickname "digital natives."(3,4) Gen Z is the first generation born into a digital world. It is similar to learning a language in high school compared with being a native speaker.(4)
There is an inconsistency of when Gen X actually begins and ends, based principally on conflicting start and end dates for the preceding generations Y, X and baby boomers. Until the experts resolve their differences, we can assume that the babies to seven-year-olds of today are definitely Gen Z, and kids aged eight to 12 are on the fuzzy line between very young Gen Y or the oldest Gen Zs.(4) One researcher projects Gen Z will retreat from the past decade's materialism, have a a stronger emphasis on social justice, and be a generation of highly educated, technologically savvy, innovative thinkers.(4) Gen Z is smaller in numbers, but there is evidence to suggest that their influence, and the inherent and constant connection to the world around them, will surpass their size.(5) Gen Zs tend to be more realistic, versus optimistic. In a Cassandra Report, key shifts occurring across the Web, as well as the latest trends, data, and marketing implications vital to brands looking to connect with Gens Y and Z, are explored.(6) Forty-three percent of 7- to 13-year-olds feel that school violence and shootings will have the greatest impact on their generation, superseding the development of social networking and the election of the first African- American President. They may be experiencing an early loss of innocence, but their rearing has made them resilient and pragmatic. Instead of hiding from their problems, they want to understand and confront them.(6)
Gen Zs are savvy self-starters and can multitask. They are researchers and bargain hunters, and they expect to be able to test out products before they buy anything.(7) They need to be made to feel secure, and are seeking new opportunities to display their most inventive, beautiful, and brilliant creations.(7) Gen Zs are globally and social aware, and as activists feel compelled to recycle, conserve, and make green choices in order to protect the environment. They are well-positioned to have a meaningful impact in the current technology driven global society. This generation feels that knowledge is power and they define themselves by the information they share. At the 2014 America Dental Education Association (ADEA) Annual Session & Exhibition, Elise Eisenberg, DDS, MA, of the New York University College of Dentistry, shared a variety of mLearning (mobile learning) and online tools to educate Gen Z students in a rapidly changing environment. With mLearning, a person can learn when they want to learn, providing a data connection is available. Smartphones, tablets and netbooks allow students to engage in at-will learning, looking up information when they need it.(8)

Gen Z students are best engaged by using the educational materials available on mobile channels and social media sites. These mobile channels provide a tips, tutorials and complete lessons which ca augment didactic and clinical courses. Many platforms permit instructors to embed videos and quizzes, so students can learn at their own pace and receive immediate feedback. It is important to consider student learning and faculty teaching styles as well as available technology. Online courses must allow for active learning and emotional interactive engagement.(8)

Blended learning, a mix of virtual education and face-to-face instruction is happening now and is the wave of the future. The learner regulates the time, place, pathway or pace of learning. In a survey done by New York University, students reported that podcasts and webinars very helpful to their learning.

We must nurture this generation, make them feel safe, and understand digital learning and what it means to Gen Z individuals. To them, sharing means multiplying instead of splitting, and sharing everything with everybody. Openness and transparency are very important to them. Let’s collaborate with Gen Z, the most positive generation in many decades.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. ” — Albert Einstein

1. Horovitz, Bruce. After Gen X, Millennials, what should next generation be? USA Today. 5/4/2012
2. Jump up to Jeanine Poggi. Nickelodeon Targets 'Post-Millennials' in Upfront." Advertising Age. (Feb. 26, 2013).
3. Riedling, Ann Marlow (2007). An educator's guide to information literacy: what every high school senior needs to know. Libraries Unlimited.
4. Schmidt, Lucinda; Hawkins, Peter. Children of the tech revolution. Sydney Morning Herald. July 15, 2008.
5. Anatole E. Generation Z: Rebels with a Cause. Forbes. 5/28/13.
6. http://www.cassandra.co/report/.
7. http://www.cassandra.co/wp-content/themes/trendcentral/pdfs/IG_Tween_PR.pdf.
8. Generation Z Thrives on Mobile Learning as the First Digital Native Generation. Bulletin of Dental Education, March 2014, Volume 47, Issue 3.

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous RDH eVillage FOCUS articles by Maria Perno Goldie, click here.

To read more about generations and dental hygiene, click here.