- Joan Green, Lynda Palazzi, Mike D’Abramo
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- Lynda Palazzi:
A great time to talk about Gen Ys and Gen Zs- a huge group from 11-30 now in our schools and workplaces. How powerful these groups are, with illustrative example. How to harness the skills and energy of these groups. Some challenges to face. Do we care enough? Who are “we”? The Barack Obama phenomenon as a prime example of caring. The Net Generation. New levels of intense curriculum. The need for different levels of teaching. Consequences of Canadians not having the skills that we need them to have. Attitude of employees . Fascinating issues in today’s workplace and an explication of what they are. The need for a different kind of supervision. A description of Gen Y and Gen Zs, especially with regard to work. The need to forge a new “work ethic.” Suggestions for skills we need to develop and role model in schools and the workplace. The challenge of welcoming and capitalizing upon the strengths of our young generations as critical to society’s ability to grow and change.
A descriptive review of Gen Ys and Gen Zs and other labels, and thinking about what they need to know, do and value to learn for a lifetime, achieve their goals and contribute to a civil society. The purpose of public education then and now. What is expected of these generations. The importance and significance of life-long learning. The price of losing our students. New times demanding new ways of learning. Recent research. Generation Zs as knowledge-builders. Fostering meta-cognitive skills. Key factors necessary to create the conditions for successful schooling – four indicators. “Hard Fun.” Expectations for Gen Zs. Using technology appropriately. A word about schools and their relationship to parents.
A similar thesis. The next generation of worker will have wholly different expectations when they join the work force. Personal and illustrative experiences of the speaker as a teacher. Leaving teaching and starting Youthography. What Youthography does. Some things to understand about young people. Where the expectations of youth come from. Why they have such high expectations from their work. Some illustrative anecdotes. Concluding positive remarks about the generation.
- Date of Original
- Nov 13 2008
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November 13, 2008
Former Toronto Director of Education, Founding CEO, Ontario Education Quality and Accountability Office
Member, GO Transit Board of Directors, Former Superintendent, Peel District Board of Education, and Former Director, Membership Services, Ontario College of Teachers
Director, Research and Strategy, Youthography
Education Panel Discussions
Chairman:Jo-Ann McArthur, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Heather Ferguson: President, The Hearing Foundation of Canada, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada
Reverend Canon Philip Bristow: Incumbent, St. Philip’s On-the-Hill, Unionville
Fannie Feng: Grade 12 Student, Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute
John C. Koopman: Partner, Spencer Stuart, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Ken Shaw: National Editor and Anchor, CTV News at Six.
Introduction by Jo-Ann McArthur
Today’s average 21 year old has already watched 20,000 hours of TV, played 10,000 hours of video games, talked on the phone for 10,000 hours and has sent or received 250,000 e-mails or text messages. You quickly understand why they are multi-taskers!
More than 50 per cent of them have created content on the Web.
They have grown up in a world of instant everything—information, communication and entertainment—and it all travels with them in a device small enough to fit in their hand.
Literacy in the 21st century has a very different definition. They are a generation of collaborators and digital learners. They think in “multi-media” and demand to be recognized, heard and engaged.
Yet the classrooms and workplaces of the 21st century look remarkably the same as they ever have. Obviously something’s got to give.
To help us boomers navigate through these changing times we have Ken Shaw, whom CTV viewers have relied upon for over 25 years to deliver a clear and comprehensive report on the news of the day. Ken is also a Director of the Empire Club.
Joining Ken is Joan Green who has had a distinguished career as an educator and leader in the public sector. She was Director of Education for the Toronto Board of Education, and, prior to that, served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent for the City of Toronto. She has also served as CEO of the Ontario Education Quality and Accountability Office and as a Commissioner on Education for the Province of Alberta.
Lynda Palazzi has served as Academic Director in a vocational school, Principal of one of the oldest independent schools for girls in Canada, and held a number of supervisory roles, including Acting Director for the largest school board in Canada.
Mike D’Abramo is Director, Research and Strategy of Youthography, North America’s only full-service research and marketing communications agency dedicated exclusively to youth.
Mike eats, sleeps and breathes young and youthful culture combining his experience as a former high-school and university educator with his technological savvy. I feel safe in guaranteeing that you will understand more about Generation Y and Z when you leave lunch today! Over to you Ken Shaw.
It is a great time to be talking about our Gen Ys and Gen Zs—that huge group from 11 to 30 now in our schools and workplaces.
Just last week in the U.S. presidential election, we saw how powerful they are. For the first time young people flooded the polls determined to make change. Inspired by a charismatic leader and enabled by the power of the Internet to communicate, build networks, organize data and develop grass roots fundraising, history was made. Given their numbers—27 per cent of the American population is now between 11 and 30—schools and businesses need to reflect how they harness the energy and skills of this group to create positive change while working alongside the rest of us. The current global financial crisis makes this even more challenging as the job market tightens and changes.
How do we do this? I believe by asking a fundamental question: “How much do we care?” We already know everything we need to know about teaching children, as difficult as that may be for some that are more challenged than others. The real question is: “Do we care enough?”
A difficult question; who is “we”?
The well-known African expression that it takes a village to raise a child has profound implications in our mobile, technological society where the village is now global. We have undergone social tsunamis in families and young people today may have more social networks online than in real life, making it harder perhaps to build strong positive real-life relationships.
Schools simply cannot do the caring, teaching and support on their own. Therefore, the “we” becomes all of us. How much do we care?
I suggest the Barack Obama phenomenon was a prime example of caring. Millions of young people cared enough to use technology to help ensure overwhelming victory. Don Tapscott’s latest book, “Growing Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World,” says this is the first time in the history of the world when children are an authority on something really important.
As a result, children today require far more complex skills, with a baseline of literacy, numeracy and problem solving that is non-negotiable not only for their learning, but for their future success personally and in the workplace. Let me assure you that for the most part, schools are doing their best to provide these new levels of intense curriculum. However, there is another side to this. Not all students can rise to the new expectations and they need different levels of teaching and support. Joan Green will be giving you examples of what is happening now in education.
If parents, for whatever reason, are unable to provide the support necessary for their children to learn, what is our role?
I suggest we cannot afford the economic and social failures of any of our population. Loss of human potential is tragic, not only for the individuals and families involved, but for our future development and security. Canada has no population to waste and future workplaces will have little room for those without high literacy, numeracy and technological skills able to work positively with others.
I want to talk about attitude. Much has been said about the sense of entitlement that some young people exhibit and their difficulty into blending into traditional working cultures. Don Tapscott calls this “bumping up against the ‘Dilbert Cubicle’ syndrome.” As a former HR head of more than 12,000 employees (and 11 unions), I guarantee most employee issues relate to attitude.
In today’s workplace, we face fascinating issues. You need a high level of empathy and sensitivity to juggle the delicate balancing act of gender, diversity, multi-generations, health and safety and accessibility. Now add to this our Gen Ys and upcoming Gen Zs.
They have been raised on the freedoms and fantasies, the instant communication and endless sources of on-going information, entertainment and social networks provided by the Web. Plugged into their earphones, with cells at the ready, they require different supervision, mentoring and support. They were not raised in eras of respect for authority and clear protocols governing dress, manners and forms of communications. They are bright, impatient, know how to access information and opinion instantly and have small tolerance for those of us more traditional in our approach. They may be more skilled socially at networking and communicating online than in person with their bosses and fellow workers.
They may not hear as well as we do—28 per cent of them have suffered permanent hearing loss by the time they enter the workplace according to research by the Hearing Foundation of Canada. The reason—they have been plugged into high volumes their whole lives.
They can work anywhere, at anytime, but preferably not too early in the morning. They frequently are the IT manager of their family as early as 10 or 11 and learning for them is on-going, whether they realize this or not. Another interesting insight, based upon 10,000 interviews in 12 different countries, Tapscott’s book concludes this group is “more politically savvy, socially engaged and family-oriented than society gives them credit for.” So trying to hire them into neat little boxes is unlikely to be highly successful. In fact, Dr. Sherry Cooper in one of her many books says they don’t even know there is a box.
You can see the potential for some interesting office drama, as different generations work together and may sometimes collide.
I believe we need to forge a new “work ethic.”
By this I mean a working environment and work ethos that reflects and supports gender, diversity, multi-generational and family needs; that capitalizes on the extraordinary new knowledge and skills of our young citizens; that allows us to work without penalizing new ideas, new patterns of behaviours, even considers new time frames and schedules.
If we care enough about our future, our productivity, our children and grandchildren, we have to consider how to engage our new generations into our work forces and keep them, without displacing or threatening the rest of us who offer experience, history and collective memories. Here are a few suggestions for skills we all need to develop and role models, whether we are in the schools or the workplace:
• Levels of literacy and numeracy to ensure a competent, successful employee as well as future learning and living life with enjoyment. This applies equally well to the office worker, the entrepreneur, the sorely needed trades people and the professionals, artists, musicians, technicians and sales forces of the future.
• The ability to study, work and live in diverse communities that honour and learn from a multitude of perspectives.
• An understanding of the essentials of living healthy and active lifestyles, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Workplaces designed to facility this goal. (I want to work with Mike!)
• Use of emotional intelligence to empathize and relate to others, building compassionate relationships and strong positive social and family networks.
• Financial intelligence—out of our current economic challenges find ways to reinforce a sense of individual responsibility—buy now pay later; giving into continual instant gratification are hardly recipes for healthy futures, financially or otherwise. Everything has to be paid for at some time by somebody.
The reality is that our challenge of welcoming and capitalizing upon the strengths of our young generations is critical to society’s ability to grow and change. This reality may not be new. However, it is more challenging today than ever before in history as these young people are more adept at mastering technology and unleashing its power to change the world than we ever dreamed. Discussions such as we are having today are important first steps to understanding and unleashing this powerful potential.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to explore this topic with you and my distinguished colleagues.
I’m delighted to be here with my fellow panelists. On Oct 27, at the invitation of the Canadian Education Association, the public education advocacy group, People for Education, and the CBC, several hundred people gathered at the Glenn Gould Studio to talk about our country and our aspirations and what both mean for our schools and the students and the communities they serve. As the moderator of that discussion put it: “Economic crash, environmental crisis, demographic transformation, Canada at a crossroads: its population, its economy and its very environment are experiencing a seismic shift and it’s going to take more than being good at reading and math to thrive in the 21st Century.”
A strikingly similar topic to ours today as we think about what our generation Z students, sometimes called the 9/11 generation, need to know, do and value to learn for a lifetime, achieve their own goals and contribute to a civil society. Many in this room are baby boomers or zoomers as the marketers like to call us; most of the rest of us are probably the group initially dubbed “baby bust” and now known as Gen Xs born roughly between ’65 and ’80. Then, as one HR specialist says, things “get interesting.” We have Millennials, or Gen Y, sometimes called “echo boomers” born from 1980 to the late ’90s and most recently, Generation Z. Gen Ys are often jokingly stereotyped as plugged in, needy and demanding. Gen Ys expect individual recognition and support to pave the path to success, They want to be connected to the organizations they work for. They value relationships, personal development and new skills. Their younger siblings, the Generation Zs, were born from 1995 onwards. They are extremely technologically savvy and they know they are facing a very complex world. The Zs have never known life without cell phones and the Internet. They are deeply concerned about the environment, terrorism and violence in the world. The year 2008 marks the entry of the oldest “Zs” into adolescence; they are now the students in our high schools.
The first Ontario Superintendent of Education, John G Althouse, believed that the purpose of public education was to help students become privately happy and publicly useful. It sounds as good today as it no doubt did over 100 years ago. The question is, “Have we ever done it?” and how do we do it in 2008 for Generation Zs, who aren’t allowed to be kids for very long. They are growing up in a world, which is focused on achievement and outcomes. Social analysts say they will have more degrees, certificates and diplomas than any preceding generation. Being forced to grow up younger will make them more street-smart. Optimists predict that “Zs” will make great strides to deal with the challenges of the environment, global conflict and economic uncertainty because these issues, which have been imprinted on them from their youngest years, will inform their life choices. The “Zs” are thought to be a more sophisticated generation who will use technology and their own networks and innovations at a level of complexity and interconnection never before possible.
Groucho Marx once quipped that “the future ain’t what it used to be.” If students could once make their way in the world without life-long learning, that day is long gone. As Lynda said, in 2008, we now know with painful certainty that the haves and have-nots are determined by their capacity to learn, create and collaborate, both in and outside school. We keep many more kids in school than in the past.
But the price for losing some of our students to discouragement and defeat is much steeper than it used to be. If a school gives up on a young person in 2008, the impact is devastating for the student and for society because the safety nets of the past, both in terms of employment and personal options, are hard to find without the benefits of a dynamic education.
Our economic and social environments have been transformed by the richness of diversity, amazing technologies, mobility, unpredictable career paths, and the uncertainty of international events. If we once worried that our students didn’t have enough information about important things, we now have to be concerned about how they make sense of the dizzying array of information, ideas and issues that bombard them every hour of every day.
New times demand new ways of learning. It has been said that the person who does the work is the person who learns. If truth be known, Gen Zs aren’t good captive audiences so when they can’t relate to what is happening in the classroom where the teacher is “the guard to the portal of knowledge” rather than “the guide on the side,” they simply wait for the end of class so they can return to their real world of multiple literacies and questions that interest them.
Recent research builds a compelling case against some of the accepted truths of the traditional schooling model that sees the learner as the recipient of information from the teacher and static learning resources.
Contemporary students cannot be asked to be ingesters and regurgitators of ideas and information fed to them by others.
When Generation “Zs” who are curious and eager to achieve investigate a problem and share what they know with others, they become knowledge-builders. This is just what we need in the workplace and in Canada’s innovation efforts. When our kids learn significant things through their own investigations, they come to see that ideas are improvable and that they can make a contribution to their community of learners and beyond.
If the adults in their lives foster Gen Zs’ meta-cognitive skills, we will help them understand their own learning and make the most of it now and when they enter the work force. We need to provide constructive feedback that is really “feedforward” so they can, as one grade three student told me, “know what good work looks like and what comes next”! That young man will go far because when I asked him if I could use his quote on the brochure for the EQAO, he replied, “Speak to my mom and we can strike a deal!” If we get it right, Gen Zs will leave school able to be the innovators, collaborators, critical thinkers and civic contributors that our world needs and expects them to be.
We always have good intentions about creating the best climate for learning but sometimes we miss the mark. When I was Director of Education visiting an elementary school in Toronto, I had this dramatically brought home to me by the urgent advice of one student to another. This school was proud of a focused, individualized language arts program. On the day of my visit, two seven-year-old boys were happily waiting to see the principal to show her their written work as they were encouraged to do. The principal kept a terrarium outside her office with particularly fascinating frogs in it. As the boys talked about the frogs, one of the boys reached in to pick one up. The other boy quickly exclaimed, “Don’t touch that frog or they’ll make you write something about it!” A few years ago the Carnegie Foundation consulted widely to define the key factors necessary to create the conditions for successful schooling. The four indicators they cited align powerfully with what Generation “Zs” need and want:
• durable self esteem, based not on isolated successes but rather on moving with confidence and competence from one situation to another.
• flexible and inquiring frames of mind.
• emotional and social competence, empathy, and strong personal relationships.
• Finally, successful schools help Gen Zs make a contribution beyond their own immediate group.
University of Alberta professors Jardine, Clifford and Friesen have called optimal learning “Hard Fun”: hard because it is challenging and fun because it is engaging. I cannot think of a better way to describe the kind of learning that life in our rapidly changing world calls for. Just as Bill Maher said the other night on Larry King Live “America has rebooted,” so has education to meet the needs of our contemporary students and help them embrace learning that is not neat, is sometimes a struggle, unpredictable and full of exhilarating challenge. Just like the tough and complex workplaces and communities that Gen Zs will enter in adulthood. When they leave school, they will become citizens who will need to think critically and strategically to solve problems, new and old. They will continue to learn in rapidly changing environments and build knowledge from numerous sources and different perspectives. They will be called upon to understand systems in diverse contexts and collaborate locally and around the globe.
These attributes contrast sharply with the discrete, low-level skills, content and assessment methods of schools we may remember where the teacher was the information provider and the student the passive recipient.
Even instant access to the vast arrays of information that are at the disposal of Gen Zs is not, in itself, the key to learning for a lifetime unless we look squarely at how we foster imagination, involvement and analytical skill. Gen Zs can’t fathom the world without the technologies that their elders often fear and resist. However, as Seymour Papert warns, “Educators must avoid simply trying to strap the jet engine of powerful technology to the old worn-out frame of horse and buggy schools. If that is done, all that will happen is that the force will shake the buggy to bits and scare off the horses.” We want to be sure we don’t use technology to get bad results faster. When schools use it to develop connection, communication and higher-order thinking, students experience “hard fun” and collaborate, compete, contribute and create as they learn from the past, work in the present and help invent the future.
Finally, a word about schools and their relationship to parents. Parents send their best kids to school! Schools that are working well encourage parents in every possible way to model interest in learning. When parents, in partnership with teachers, have high expectations, honestly affirm efforts, and help their children own and understand the purpose of their work and give them some rope to explore, the stage is set for learning and success in career, community and life. As Lynda said, we all have a responsibility to try to level the playing field for children who don’t have the basics of support and challenge. When our schools and social structures assist families in providing both of these, children are more likely to participate in the “hard fun” of really learning. This is natural work for parents once they know how because most of us consider our own offspring to be very clever indeed.
Generation Z has the right stuff and with our help, “Yes, they can!”
My “thesis” is very much in line with what has been said before me: the next generation of worker will have wholly different expectations when they join the work force.
So first, how did I get here?
I was a high school teacher and after three years I expressed my dissatisfaction with the system to a friend who worked in marketing. He told me about this idea he had that young people today were so different and thanks to the Internet and other technology, the whole country is going to change dramatically in the next generation. I responded as any friend should after hearing this: I bought him another drink.
But he pressed me for a serious response and he was right. I saw it in my classroom. In 1997, I taught a computer class of 32 (or more) students and told them the entire class will be conducted online. All assignments will be e-mailed and grades distributed online. Of my grade 9 students that year only two had an e-mail address. One year later I taught another group of grade 9s and only two didn’t have an e-mail address. In that same classroom, I was introduced to Napster, merely a month after it was released. I first used Google there. One class, one year. A lot of education.
So what happened to me? I left teaching and helped start Youthography. Our raison d’être is to understand young people for businesses, governments and not-for-profits.
When you are called “Youthography,” you can get a lot of weird calls. We got one in 2004. It was from a mining company. Yes, mining. I know what you’re thinking: I thought they stopped letting young people work in mines. You are right they did. In fact, the call was about how they couldn’t find young qualified applicants for most jobs. Then we heard from parts of the nursing profession. Then those in banking. Then those in government. We still haven’t stopped hearing from people in government. They all want to know, “What’s with the kids these days? Why do they all expect to get promoted tomorrow and treated like experts on day one?” So we started dedicating part of our business to this phenomenon.
First thing we have to understand: young people start growing up at a young age and take forever to reach full adulthood.
Caring for themselves after school, reaching puberty and making decisions about education all happen younger than previous generations.
At the other end of the scale, 42 per cent of unmarried 20–29-year-olds live at home.
This generation is graduating, getting married and having children three to four years later than previous generations.
Kids grow up faster and take longer to finish growing up. When you see that 25-year-old in your office who you think needs to grow up, you’re not wrong. He or she isn’t done yet.
And we haven’t even talked about expectations. It’s hard for a young employee to be patient because they never had to be.
Where do expectations come from?
• When they want to reach someone, they can e-mail, phone, text or IM the person on the handheld device they’ve had for most of their life.
• Mobile phones now are digital camera Internet devices that play music. Things always get better and/or cheaper.
• Text books are obsolete. Google is always right.
• Facebook represents a fundamentally different way of thinking, just like technology has converged, so have their lives—work, home, social, consumer, school, media—all merge in one place.
This brings us to the question of how does this affect business, especially with regards to employment. Youthography has been conducting research for four years on this topic and the results have been pretty clear: skills matter more than money (although money is still really important). They have no fear of changing jobs. About 65 per cent of them work in a field not related to their education.
Why do they have such high expectations from their work?
• They are the most educated generation in Canadian history. There has been a massive increase of degree holders and post-grad degree holders over the last decade.
• Debt: when it costs more, you expect more. This generation carries so much debt that of course they expect their degree to accelerate their way up the ladder.
• They’ve been told they can become anything they want for as long as they’ve been alive. They’ve also been told they’ll have seven careers in their lifetime so if this job doesn’t work out, it’s cool and I’ve got other options. I have a colleague in music marketing that told an ambitious 20-something on her staff that she wants to promote him but asked if he would be willing to wait six months so that he could become their lead in London, England. The staffer treated it like the bridge to nowhere: thanks but no thanks. He quit and travelled Asia for six months and then showed up looking for his old job back, thinking nothing of how his decision could affect his employer.
They simply see the world through a different lens than you or I. They live in a different time and grew up under different conditions so we shouldn’t be surprised. A government client we worked with had a great story that put it into perspective for me. She had a 24-year-old staff member join the team who, after her first month, racked up a few unexplained absences. When confronted she responded simply, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be here every day.” She was told she had to and you’ll be happy to know, she’s had a perfect attendance and a strong performance review as well.
And that brings me to my closing. While most of what I have shared today might cause alarm, it shouldn’t. These kids will grow up. When coached properly, no one will work harder for you. They’ll be on their BlackBerrys getting work done while they are out on the town late at night (I’m certain most of you have got some important business e-mail well outside business hours). They’re innovative. They want to succeed and make their world a better place.
It made be our changing world right now, but it’ll be their world soon.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Heather Ferguson, President, The Hearing Foundation of Canada, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.