by Gladys Childs, Ph.D.
Gladys Childs is the Chair of the Department of Religion, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Studies at Texas Wesleyan University and the Children's Director & Women's Group Leader at LifePoint UMC in Haslet, Texas. Gladys loves traveling and speaking to churches or leading retreats. For more information see: gladyschilds.com
In this last of a two-part installment, I will be following up from my previous discussion on who Generation Z is to talk about the implications for Christian education.
Currently, Generation Z goes from nursery to college age. Depending on what age group you work with, how you go about updating your pedagogy may be a bit different; but, the philosophical approach behind it will remain the same. As Christians educators, flexibility is the key to teaching Generation Z. We need to be learning guides who are able to embrace technology. Moreover, since Generation Z is use to high speed access to information, our pedagogy needs to move at a faster pace.
In terms of being a learning guide, it is a shift away from being the “all knowing authority” to someone who is going along with the students on a journey. An educator should be a role model and live out what the students are asked to learn. Generation Z is not as concerned with how much you know; they are more concerned about how much you care about them individually. As such, educators need to take the time to develop personal relationships with their students. Ask them about their parents, pets, teachers or favorite food. Go to their sporting event or concert. Simply, let them know you care about them outside of the classroom.
As I discussed in part one, this generation has come into being during a time of turmoil and with so much on the line, they are cautious. They want to know why they are learning certain material and concepts and how it will help them in the future. Therefore, it is crucial to explain why we are learning or doing something and incorporate it into real life situations everyone can understand. Sharing personal stories of how this information or skills have helped in your own life will also aid Gen Z to see the value of what you are trying to teach.
To further encourage student motivation and engagement, Gen Z need to put what they learn into action. Putting their learning into action through mission projects and aiding others is critical as this generation wants to make a difference. If they can see how being a disciple of Christ can change the world, then they will want to be a disciple. Learning just to learn is pointless, as Generation Z wants to live out their faith.
While embracing technology may come second nature to Gen Z, for the rest of us it may be a bit more difficult. However, it is important to try and engage students through that which they are familiar. Encourage students and parents to use any apps associated with your curriculum. Have a student/parent meeting in which you download apps that encourage bible study and theological growth. Use Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and other apps to encourage theological reflection during the week. I would recommend taking a look at http://ditchthattextbook.com/ a site by Matt Miller that shows how to integrate technology into your learning. He even has an article on “Deep Learning With Google Tools.” Just because you use technology does not mean it has to be shallow.
With the rapid pace of technology, Generation Z processes information at a faster rate. Therefore, an educator needs to create a climate to engage students quickly. Learning needs to include a variety of pedagogical techniques to keep the students stimulated and focused. If you need to spend more time than normal on a topic or if a student is wanting to go off on a related tangent, let everyone know you are going to be going a bit slower or let the student know you will address his or her question later and give the reason(s) why. If everyone understands the "why" behind what you are doing, they will not mind a slower pace.
In summary, Generation Z needs teachers who are willing to learn alongside them and who care about them deeply. Information needs to be taught within the context of real life situations and supported by technology. And, Gen Z needs application of material through opportunities to serve others.