It is considered that each generation has its own values, objectives, attitudes, challenges and models, and the characteristics of a generation are defined by exposure to common experiences and influences. Even though experiences differ from one cultural space to another, contemporary sociologists and psychologists are increasingly talking about generational features as landmarks to help us better understand young people, and last but not least to adapt communication strategies so that processes training to achieve their goals.
The human personality is the result of a long process of modeling and is presented as a synthesis of the acquisitions made by the individual (social component) and his personal possibilities (psychological component). The image we form of facts and events, the way we interpret them, the way we think about everyday reality, this form of social consciousness has been called “social representation”. In general, people act according to the image they have formed about reality, decipher situations and contexts with the help of a valorizing apparatus, which they perfect with each new social experience. Each has a “reading grid” of reality, built with the help of the significance of the concepts acquired, the attitudes and opinions formed, the beliefs assumed, etc. in a different way.
That is why in the construction of such a grid of the man of the information society the contribution of the technical means is significant. It goes without saying that these means did not exist or did not have such an impact five decades ago, so the young people of that time, the adults of today, had a completely different social representation.
In the act of establishing this social representation, the relationship between the learning process and digital tools seems to be very deep. Wim Veen, in Homo Zappiens, a famous work in the educational community, observed that young people have a lifestyle retouched by new technologies, which radically changes their behaviors towards learning (compared to those of their parents). From this perspective, the teacher’s insistence on requesting a discipline of intellectual work according to the linear model of knowledge leads to a guaranteed failure of communication with the student and even to the blocking of learning.
Symbolically, the Dutch professor attributes the labels HOMO SAPIENS and HOMO ZAPPIENS to the two generations. Their characteristics are clearly different, and in the table below we show, comparatively, these significant differences:
|HOMO SAPIENS||HOMO ZAPPIENS|
|Works at conventional speed||Works at high speed|
|Pays attention to a single work task||Pays attention to multiple tasks|
|Uses linear approaches||Uses nonlinear approaches|
|Starts learning using reading skills||Starts learning using iconic skills|
|Learns in isolation||Learns in community (connected with others)|
|Is competitive and collaborative|
|Learns by absorption||Learns by search|
|Separates learning from playful activities||Learns through play|
|Learns by internalizing reality||Learns by externalizing fantasy|
If we add to this comparative analysis the prediction that by 2025 two billion people will belong to the technological generation, it is obvious that contemporary society is undergoing strong changes, and the educational act must take them into account.
These generational features are the subject of numerous researches. Here are, in fact, in the opinion of specialists, these generations:
• Matures / Lost (people born between 1925–1945)
• Baby Boomers (1946–1964)
• Gen X (1965–1980)
• Millenials / Gen Y (1981–1995)
• Gen Z (1996–2010)
Today’s young people spend a lot of time in a virtual world, playing, writing or reading blogs, visiting and creating. All these activities did not take place a generation ago. Generation Z interacts with technology using one or more virtual identities, to publish information, photos, to socialize or to express their views. The intensive use of technology influences the cultural horizon, the body, the way they think or socialize, ultimately, the way they are.
Their technology skills are very high, they grow with the innovations that take place in real time. It is the first time in history when children / teenagers know more than adults about something important to society, such as technology. I am the generation that educates and informs itself. Use online and social media to do homework. They are smart and independent and want to do things on their own.
There are those who want to change the world. We don’t know yet if they will succeed, but if they don’t, they are definitely paving the way for the Alpha generation, the next generation. They are more mature than previous generations, more in control of them. They have an intense entrepreneurial desire, given that they have witnessed the hardships faced by those who raised them. Obviously, this strong contact with online environments and social networks does not exclude certain dangers that education needs to mitigate. For youth generation Z, the negative consequences of the excessive use of technology are translated by:
– Reducing patience. Young people want immediate answers and quick results, do not have patience to verify the accuracy of the information and the credibility of the sources, considering they have all the answers;
– Isolation in the virtual world, which deprives the young man of social interaction in front, affecting the development of social skills;
– dependence on technology, which is manifested by the need to be permanent close to the preferred device;
– The Z generation does not agree to work in an organization with a vertical hierarchical system. Balance service-time tends in favor of free time.
– Excessive use of left hemisphere diminishes empathy capacity.
Educational processes need to be adapted to take advantage of the beneficial effects of new technologies, but also to offset the negative effects associated with them. It is important to develop programs that stimulate the right hemisphere of the educators brain and to develop emotional intelligence (EQ), with all the components involved: self-confidence, self-control, motivation, empathy and social skills. For a balanced development of new generations can be one of the most important challenges of this millennium.
Gardner, H. and Davis K – The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World, Yale University Press, 2013
Ficher, N. – The Fundamental Concepts of Social Psychology, Dunod, Paris, 1987
Palfrey, J. and Gasser, URS – Digitally Born: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, Basic Books, 2008
Veen, W. and Vrakking, B. – Homo Zappiens. Game and Learning in Digital Age, Sigma Publishing House