Teaching and Learning Tip #42: I’m Anxious About (and For) iGen

November 6, 2018

Tip #42: I’m Anxious About (and For) iGen

Contributed by Julie Alderson, Department of Art

When I think about all of the things I worry about around my teaching - How do I make my content exciting and relevant to everyone? How do I get that quiet student to fully engage in class discussion?  Does that essay prompt even make sense?!? - the thing that freaks me out the most, honestly, is the concept of iGen.

Our colleague at San Diego State University, Psychology Professor Jean Twenge has lead a national conversation about our current crop of students – those born between the mid-90s and early 2010s. (See “Move Over, Millennials: How ‘iGen’ Is Different From Any Other Generation.”)  A recent article in the The Atlantic addresses similar issues: “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”  I find myself in many ways feeling disconnected from my students and unsure how to reach them.  Their experiences, beyond our racial and ethnic differences, are so very different than mine. What can I do?

Here’s a teaching tip from Stanford University about the creativity of iGens.  It notes that “Research shows that students in virtual settings are more likely to share opinions, feel less threatened to seek help from peers or teachers, are more motivated to learn, are more self-reliant, and feel less pressure to perform compared to students in real-world settings such as the classroom.”  How can we leverage technological and pedagogical tools to help students more effectively demonstrate what they’re learning? What might that look like? Wouldn’t it be fun to try?

We’ve been speaking in the CTL about providing resources around this topic of the iGen student.  We’re working to create additional resources on the CTL website describing the issues and challenges our iGen students face.  Look for future conversations and workshops to discuss and share the strategies you use in your courses to facilitate learning with this generation of students.

For now, I’m going to ask them about their experiences, their expectations, their shortcomings, and strengths. I’m going to start the conversation. It may be a discussion on Canvas, or a face-to-face check-in once a week. I might even use Stephen Brookfield’s Critical Incident Questionnaire. I don’t know yet. I do know we’re not the same, but I believe we can find middle ground. What will it take for both of us to move?”

Twenge, J.M. (2017). iGen: Why today's super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy--and completely unprepared for adulthood--and what that means for the rest of us. New York, NY:  Atria Books.