I had the pleasure of meeting 75 teachers from SMJK Ave Maria Convent on 12 April in a workshop we offered at Taylor’s College. This group of teachers got up early on a Saturday morning and travelled over 2 hours from Ipoh to Subang Jaya. I was amazed at their energy level in spite of the long bus ride.
The group had asked for a workshop about teaching Generation Z students. I must admit that I had to look this one up to be sure. There are as many different labels for students out there as there are motorcycles in Malaysia! 21st century learners, Net generation, Internet Generation, Connected Generation,…. are but a few. No matter the label, there are still some very distinctive characteristics associated with the students in today’s classrooms.
We started the workshop with a ‘Getting to Know You’ activity I call ‘Take Off, Touch Down’ where teachers switch places (airports) if they identify with the characteristics I call out. It’s an engaging and kinesthetic way of asking how many people use the internet in their classrooms, how many use facebook, how many use twitter, etc… Interesting stats collected: most of the participants use facebook but very few use twitter; less than 5 use the internet regularly in their classrooms; and most had not used Google Drive, although ‘Googling’ was a regular pastime.
As usual in any of my workshops I try to have a ‘Minds On’ activity for the lessons learning goals. I wanted to find out what these teachers understood already about Generation Z students. Of course I couldn’t resist the chance to connect with their prior knowledge using an interactive cooperative learning strategy. In this case we used a ‘Whip Around’ and used coloured ice cream sticks to call teachers names at random. The Whip Around is a favorite strategy I learned from the book, Checking For Understanding (Fisher & Frey, 2007) and is an effective way to check understanding of a particular topic. I tried this activity out with the use of Wipe Off boards I had purchased from the Daiso store (RM5 store). The wipe off boards were a real hit. The teachers enjoyed writing their Gen Z characteristics on them almost as much as they enjoyed being able to catch a good glimpse of their neighbour’s board. (That’s okay with me!) I discovered that there certainly were some common understandings of characteristics of Gen Z students: Gen Z students are hyper; independent; active; impatient;short attention span; facebook users; etc… This activity was a good segue into the next learning activities that focused on the teaching strategies necessary to teach 21st century learners. I shared an excellent prezi that eloquently describes these needs. (The prezi is available at http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OTIBDR4Dn2g). After reflecting on the kinds of changes we need to make in our teaching practice we examined Bloom’s Taxonomy (the revised Bloom’s) for ways that we can design tasks to generate higher order thinking. The Daiso wipe off boards proved useful again. Teachers with a Blue board were asked to design a ‘Creating’ question/task; those who had a Green board were to create an ‘Evaluating’ question/task, and those with a yellow board were asked to create an ‘Analyzing’ question/task. We then engaged in a Quiz Quiz Trade (a cooperative learning structure from Kagan, http://www.kaganonline.com) to share each other’s assignments and gather feedback to improve them.
Benjamin Bloom observed that, in 1956 when he created the taxonomy, approximately 90% of classroom activity was recall/knowing type activity. I asked teachers to try and approximate what the % would be in their own classrooms in 2014. They used the wipe off boards again to create a pie chart that indicated the % of each of the 6 types. A quick glance around the room revealed that most of us still spend well over 50% of the time in classroom activities that require students to recall or know–the lowest level of thinking. And yet, we are to teach students critical thinking skills!
Reflecting and self-assessing is certainly necessary if we want to change and improve practice. I think that we all left the workshop more aware of the changes we should make to teaching practice. Who says teaching is easy after all? It really is all about change.
It was a pleasure to meet colleagues from Ipoh and work and learn together with them. They had fun, but I did make them work very hard. I certainly hope they had enough energy left to shop in KL while here.