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  • Sayuri Okano Anzanello

Gen Z and Gen X: Educational Methods and the Use of Technology

Technology addicts. Would that be the best term to define Gen Z?

Born between the years of 1997-2012, Gen Z’s young adults and teenagers are known as “digital natives,” meaning that they have little memory of how the world was before smartphones, and tend to use modern technologies more easily than older generations. Recent research directed specifically to Gen Z shows that about 95% own a smartphone, 83% own a laptop, and 78% own an advanced gaming console, amongst many other devices. It was also proven that 73% of Gen X uses technology to access information such as the news, while 72% of Gen Z uses technology primarily for entertainment and communication. Gen X, born between the years 1965-1980, seem to have adapted quickly to the new use of technology, such as social media, communication, and even entertainment.

From school to university, Gen Z students seem to require the latest technology use in their classrooms, such as online videos, interactive learning platforms, and even game-based learning activities. Teachers are also encouraged to use more graphs, charts, and pictures when teaching Gen Z students because technology use has created a generation of mainly visual and self-paced learners. Independence is a big deal when it comes to this generation. They enjoy learning by doing, instead of the boring old lectures that the generations before were used to. As a Gen Z student, I can confirm all the statements above, we are used to having all the information we want simply by searching it up, very few still do research using books or encyclopedias purely because it’s not nearly as fast, self-explanatory, easy, and convenient as we would like it to be. For example, when studying for an exam, if we don’t understand a topic, it’s more likely for us to search it up on Google or YouTube rather than asking for help or trying to find the answer in a book.

Gen X, on the other hand, is known for being fiercely independent learners, prioritizing self-directed educational opportunities so they can learn on their own schedule. Gen Xers are used to having a guide rather than an expert teach them, as they typically do not want to waste any time. Although they can use technology and know how to do so, they still prefer to write down all their notes and stick to the methods they were taught. Most adults from Gen X only got access to the internet during university, if not later. Either by habit or preferences, most of them prefer to study using physical books, paper, and pen. I asked some older friends what their learning methods were, and 90% of them said they would rather write everything down on a paper claiming it’s easier to remember things.

This picture was taken in October of 2021, and it shows the clear difference between Gen Z learning approaches and Gen X learning approaches. At the bottom of the picture, you can see all of the revisions a Gen X student did for an upcoming test. Although she has a computer and earphones, neither one of them were used in lieu of the textbook. At the top of the picture, there are clearly only electronics such as the iPad, computer, earphones, and smartphones that Gen Z students use to complete tests and schoolwork.

In brief, there are very different learning approaches used by both Gen Z and Gen X, for most of the part about how they manage their time and use technology. Unlike Gen X that uses technology mainly for communication, Gen Z also uses it for entertainment and educational purposes. The main differences include the difference in research, learning/study methods, and preference in use of technology for different factors.


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