Generation Alpha (Ziatdinov & Cilliers)
Technology is changing at a blistering pace and is impacting on the way we consider knowledge as a free commodity, along with the ability to apply skills, concepts and understandings. Technology is aiding the way the world is evolving, and its contributions to education are not an exemption. While technology advances will play a crucial part in future teaching-learning approaches, educators will also be challenged by the next higher-education generation, the Alpha Generation. This entrepreneurial generation will embrace the innovation, progressiveness, and advancement with the expectation that one in two Generation Alphas will obtain a university degree. In anticipating the educational challenges and opportunities of the future higher education environment, this research reflected on Generation Alpha as the next cohort of university students, considering their preferred learning styles, perceptions and expectations relating to education. The research employed a theoretical analysis based on the characteristics and traits that distinguishes Generation Alpha, spearheaded by technology advances. The empirical investigation considered three independent studies that were previous conducted by authors from Slovakia, Hungary, Australia, and Turkey to understand the challenges and opportunities pertaining to Generation Alpha. The research identified the influence of social media, social connections, high levels of perceptions and the Generation Alpha’s ability to interpret information as strengths to consider in future teaching-learning approaches in the higher education environment. This research concluded with recommendations on how universities could be transformed to ensure a better learning experience for Generation Alpha students, aligned with their characteristics, perceptions and expectations.
- Introduction to Generation Alpha
As it is known, Generation Alpha, the succeeding generation, are no strangers and soon to be frontiers of this highly digitized world. Technology is aiding the way the world is evolving, and its contributions to education are not an exemption. The recent COVID-19 pandemic outbreak resulted in a global uptake in distanced learning, which was forcefully implemented to continue education amidst lockdown restrictions and stay-at-home orders. In an attempt to foster social distancing and slow the virus’s spread (Viner et al., 2020), students and parents turned to mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops to access classroom information (Nadeak, 2020). Parents had to take on a role in guiding their children, particularly Generation Alpha, through their education during the distance learning set-up, more than they usually did during face-to-face classes. In one particular study, parents had mixed responses regarding the struggles imposed upon by distance learning. Some of them included balancing responsibilities, learner needs, personal balance, lack of motivation both related and unrelated to remote learning, accessibility, learner content needs, lack of pedagogy, lack of connectivity and resources, and need for teacher communication among others (Garbe et al., 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the debate on online teaching and related methodologies, and while academic institutions and universities are currently exploring delivery options, better student engagement and ways to enhance the student experience, it is clear that technology is heavily infused in the culture and environment of Generation Alpha, and it will just as greatly be incorporated into their education going forward. This paper aims to reflect on the differences between Generation Alpha and previous generations, particularly in regards to their education on the tertiary level pertaining to the teaching-learning experience, their perceptions and expectations.
2. The Anatomy of Generation Alpha
The parents of Generation Alpha are being more aware of both advantages and disadvantages of early exposure of their children to technology (McCrindle & Fell, 2020). While these parents embrace the benefits of the technology advances, they are likewise aware of the skills that the Generation Alpha student would need in future, especially pertaining to social competencies, entrepreneurial skills, strength and coordination, financial literacy, innovation, and resourcefulness and (McCrindle & Fell, 2020).
3. Reflection of studies conducted on Generation Alpha
The study of researchers from Turkey, Apaydin & Kaya (2020) investigated pre-school teachers’ perceptions of Generation Alpha pertaining to the classroom setup and learning process. The research adopted a qualitative design and included the inputs from teachers of private kindergartens in Antalya from 2018-2019. The research acknowledged the digital environment which Generation Alpha has inhibited upon their birth and noticed the technology literacy that most teachers and educators lack, pondering over its possible impact on the quality of education that will be delivered and served to Generation Alpha. The research highlighted some negative characteristics of Generation Alpha including, technology addiction, the tendency to be egocentric, and the tendency to violence (Apaydin & Kaya, 2020). High levels of perception, tapping out with music, effective use of numbers, being meticulous, and emotional were all positive characteristics of Generation Alpha. In terms of comparing Generation Z and Generation Alpha it was evident that Generation Alpha are more open towards knowledge and the generality of things, have high numerical intelligence, but limited social intelligence. Both generations share the similarity of a tendency towards technology (Apaydin & Kaya, 2020). According to the findings, Generation Alpha expects visual, aural, and kinesthetic methods to be used in classroom management, and they are more prone to distractions, which are crucial factors to take into consideration in creating a teaching-learning environment.
4.1. Future collegiate circumstances and expectations for Generation Alpha
Table 1: Analysis of research findings and implications for teaching.