ChangSchoolTalks: Generation Z

Opening presentation at event ChangSchoolTalks 2015

Director: Joanna Tsanis
Writer: Joanna Tsanis
Producer: Naza Djafarova
Client: ChangSchoolTalks, Ryerson University


TRANSCRIPT: Generation Z: A Vision on the Future of Education 

Nothing beats learning something new. In fact, neurologically, happiness and learning are very closely linked.

So if learning is supposed to be so euphoric, then why does my brother resemble a cave person during exams?

[Pause]

It was 3am when I caught him drinking coffee straight from the pot. But he told me not to worry, he still had five hours left to study, and the exam was going to be multiple choice anyway – no creative or critical thinking necessary. I think the high grade he received on that exam was more a measure of his caffeine intake than his knowledge of Ancient Rome.

Unfortunately, this attitude towards learning is typical of my brother’s generation. Knowledge is supposed to make you happy- inspired. But for a generation of people constantly reminded of the impending doom that awaits them after graduation- that their job market will likely resemble a game of whack-a-mole, I think I can understand the apathy.

Both my generation and my brother’s generation are in a unique spot. While this competitive new world has entry level jobs wanting 5-year minimum experience, it has also provided us with unique opportunities in the digital and online realm. In the past few years, there’s been a ton of young entrepreneurs in app design, blog journalism, online businesses; we even have kids making six figures chugging hot sauce on YouTube.

[Pause]

Not that I’m recommending that, but the numbers don’t lie.

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My generation is the first of digital natives. We were born into social media, smartphones, tablets, the indispensable Google Maps app; the digital literacy that millions of professional people still struggle to grasp… is simply second nature to us. How many of you had a cellphone in high school? Let’s see your hands.

[Pause]

How about college or university?

[Pause]

After university?

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Well, I owned my first smartphone five years ago, when I was 9 years old, and so did roughly 70% of the kids in my grade.

My generation was born into the age of instant info. And thank god for it. Because it is estimated that in the next three years, the world’s collective codified knowledge will double every 11 hours.

So when the world is changing so rapidly, can you blame me for challenging a system created when people travelled via horse and buggy?

We should be looking to the future. And that starts with asking the right questions, like: how many more services are gonna be replaced by artificial intelligence? I’m already ordering French fries from a screen, and depositing cheques with my phone. In the near future, when text messages emit holograms, when CDs inevitably fall to extinction, and when paper is obsolete, what does this mean for me?

In this evolving digital era, what skills will the new world demand?

My generation was born into the age of instant everything. We connect with best-selling authors on Tumblr, promote awareness for global issues on Twitter, and admire the cosmic pearls of an Exploding Star on our NASA Daily app… and all of that in the span of one minute.

But don’t get me wrong, I shouldn’t laude my generation too much. We have some due self-reflection. I always wonder what a time traveller from the 19th century would think if I told him, we had a device that fits in the palm of our hands with access to infinite knowledge… and we still mostly use it to watch videos of cats.

[Pause]

Digital and social media is integrated in our day-to-day lives, and it will only become more prominent as the years go on. It seems inevitable that future educators will advance online learning tools, replacing note packets with YouTube videos, blackboards with smart boards, and textbooks with innovative websites where finding key terms involve a mere click on the search bar rather than a survey of an elusive index.

In a world where online resources contain boundless information, why are students still required to pay nearly a thousand dollars a year on textbooks?

The world is changing.

Businesses and institutions across the globe are acclimating to the digital age. I walked by a catholic church the other day, and the sign on the lawn said, “don’t forget to follow us on twitter, hashtag Christ is Lord”.

[Pause]

But are universities keeping up? Why is it, as my brother describes, an ‘epic poem’ to find his timetable on the university’s website? What’s it going to be like 5 years from now when I’m enrolled?

On October 8th last year, my friends and I celebrated We Day, a huge annual event that motivates young people to take action on global issues. We learned about the modern world, fundraised for charity, and met youth from across North America- did a lot of what you would call ‘networking’.

We Day was productive, educational and inspiring.

Why can’t I say the same about my social studies class?

Can’t I study sociology… and be sociable?

I want applicable skills- skills that will prepare me for the ‘real world’- the world beyond four walls and a blackboard. That’s what this means to me. Not only do I want to learn about the world; I want to be a force in it.

Changes can be scary. I mean if they scare me, I can’t imagine how you must feel. Some of you are still lamenting the death of cursive handwriting. Which, could someone explain to me, what exactly is the function of cursive handwriting?

[Pause]

Anyone know?

[Pause]

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

(If someone responds, point and say “That doesn’t count!”)

[Pause]

Anyway, all I’m saying is when one skill is lost- or in that case, antiquated- another one is gained. The digital age may seem like a catalyst for procrastination- a distraction from academic learning, but really, it is an opportunity- an opportunity to reach, motivate, and prepare us like never before.

It’s the age of instant everything, and everything is changing so fast.

By the time I have graduated university, the world could be unrecognizable.

[Pause]

Will I be ready?