It’s not our imaginations; millennials are less patient than previous generations. Hyper-connectivity, super-fast internet, instant streaming – all of these have created a situation where, if they have to wait even 30 seconds for a response (from a website or a person on the other end of the phone), millennials will simply walk away.
That’s even more true for Gen Z’ers, the next wave of generation change. If millennials were “digital pioneers,” then Gen Z kids are digital natives, having been brought up with a tablet almost as soon as they could swipe. And not surprisingly, a survey by analysis firm Marchex shows that Gen Z’ers are even more impatient than their millennial “elders.”
There are enormous implications for that throughout society – among others in education, and especially in extracurricular education. The internet and social media have fostered an expectation that information, connections, and everything else a student needs to succeed will appear immediately when they are needed or wanted. Again, this has led to a culture of instant gratification, and it’s just reinforced by modern kids’ online lifestyles where everything happens almost instantaneously – and where frustration mounts very quickly when it doesn’t. Indeed, according to professors at Stanford University, millennials and Gen Z kids “can be demanding, discourteous, inpatient, time-consuming, and energy sapping.”
For teachers of subjects that traditionally take a lot of time and practice to master – such as a musical instrument – the instant gratification attitude of kids today is of even greater concern. Music lessons are generally an extracurricular affair, with students subjecting themselves to long hours of practice until they get their craft right. It’s hard enough for teachers to get kids to focus on required subjects that require a lot of concentration, like math or physics; if kids lose patience with those subjects because they can’t get instant answers or easily build skills, it stands to reason that teaching an extracurricular craft that requires at least a similar amount of effort and attention would be more difficult.
So what can teachers do? We believe that best way to teach millennials and Gen Z’ers is to fight fire with fire – to use the tools the kids themselves use, in order to teach. That goes for the workplace, according to experts – and it can work in education as well. Millennials, and Gen Z kids even more, use their smartphones for everything including communication, so if teachers want to reach out to these students, they should use the technology on those devices to communicate with them.
One thing students are very good at today is using apps, especially connected apps that are based in the cloud. Teachers can use that to their advantage, providing a learning experience that will enable them to reach out to students in ways they can relate to. Via an app, teachers can utilize features and tools that students are used to, ensuring that they learn what they need to know, and that they remain motivated to stick with their lessons. Some of these tools include:
- Video presentations to show students instruction, how to play an instrument or specific piece, and more.
- Apps that lend themselves to gamification, engaging students in fun activities that actually teach them while they play. Those games and activities can have a social aspect, connecting students in different locations. Students can collaborate to create new musical pieces, with the app stitching their work together. Different teams can participate in the event, so the activity has both a social and competitive aspect.
- A social aspect that creates an online community. The social aspect can be expanded to include online sessions with teachers and experts, in which students show off their skills and get feedback directly from teachers. Teachers can create a video chat where students can join an online jam session from home and the session can be recorded, for distribution by students on their own social media networks – thus creating even greater peer interest and motivation.
The technology to do all these things exists and has been used in various apps. An app built specifically for music teachers could take the best of interactive tech and use it to teach the students who were raised on that tech.
With the tools available, teachers will be able to reach out to students and overcome the difficult aspects of teaching millennials and Gen Z’ers. The key to working with them successfully is to operate on their “wavelength” – in the way they were raised, and the way they are used to. These tools and methods can help teachers do that, and ensure success, no matter what they are teaching.