Generation Z students and the ‘fear of technology’

This year a new generation of learners will be coming into the universities, the so-called ‘Z Generation’. These learners present universities with even greater challenges than the preceding ‘millennial generation’. But they also present us with significant opportunities for innovating learning and introducing more creativity into our learning practices. While the tools and apps are widely available and many technologies are being used in schools, technology acceptance has been lower in universities.

This quotation from a pre-service tutor who was part of one of my PhD student’s studies expressed it:

‘I thought I knew enough about technology to help me survive in the classroom. But after this unit I realise that it’s not the case. I want to speak the language of my students. I want to bring out the best in my students, and I need to overcome my fear of technology.’ (Quoted from the PhD thesis by Vanessa Camilleri, 2014).

Being able to overcome our ‘fear of technology’ is the first step to introducing our students to more engaging learning experiences, but the second step is to understand how technology cannot be separated from the pedagogy and context within which learning takes place. It is critical that our tutors are as relaxed and comfortable with available learning tools and web resources as we are with our theories and practices around learning, which is why academic development is such an important part of how we support our new teaching staff in the university.