How to teach Gen Z to be Collaborative, Innovative and Responsive

Monday, February 06, 2017

When I was eight years old, my third-grade teacher, Ms. Calov, taught me to be an inquisitive learner. Through her contagious enthusiasm, she turned me from an ordinary kid who did only what was required, to a perceptive student who asked for more projects and always connected what I learned to the world around me.

The kinds of soft skills I learned from Ms. Calov are increasingly important for Gen Z, the generation cohort after millennials. To be prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow, these students need to be collaborative, innovative and responsive to their environment. Here's a look at how today's teachers are fostering curiosity, creativity and other skills in their students, with help from technology.

- Mark McCrindle

Encouraging collaboration

School is no longer just a place to learn math, science and writing. It’s a place to learn interpersonal skills that will never become outdated—like how to collaborate, resolve conflict, clearly communicate ideas and teach others. Technology can encourage this kind of interaction. For example, since Gen Z is the first digital-native generation, teachers are asking students for help using technology and to show their peers how to use new tools. Students are working on group projects when they’re in separate physical locations, developing their ability to communicate through written feedback and explain the thinking behind their suggestions.

Encourage lifelong learning and innovative thinking

Teachers today are encouraging students to have a love of learning and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, so they can adapt to new careers and industries. The average employee tenure in the U.S. is 4.2 years, a decline from 4.6 years two years prior. In Australia, we’re experiencing a similar effect where employees are staying in jobs for a shorter duration—the Australian average is three years. This means Gen Z will have 17 different jobs in their life, and they’ll need to continue to learn new skills and how to use new tools as they progress in their careers. By designing learning tasks that have a real-world application, teachers are engaging their students as problem finders and problem solvers—roles that are crucial in any job.

Foster an adaptive mindset that’s ready for change

As the economy shifts and new jobs like VR engineers and cognitive computer analysts emerge, the next generation will need to be able to learn quickly and connect the dots between related topics. To teach these skills, many teachers are “flipping” learning —asking students to reflect on global issues and synthesize information from videos, podcasts and written material, instead of simply assigning a chapter in a textbook.

Six decades later, I still remember Ms. Calov. Her inspiration reminds me of a Mother Teresa quote: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Ms. Calov created many ripples by fostering a love of learning and empowering a community of learners. But with technology, every teacher can teach students lifelong skills to carry them through their careers.

Learn more by watching Mark’s recorded talk from Education on Air.

Generation Z at school

Friday, April 29, 2016

How well are our 19th Century Institutions connecting with 21st Century Students?

‘Schools are 19th Century institutions using 20th Century buildings to teach 21st Century students and we wonder why traditional education sometimes struggle to connect. So if they don’t learn the way we teach, then let’s teach the way we learn.’ – Mark McCrindle

The children of Australia are today’s students and tomorrow’s employees. And while each generation has passed through the student lifestage, Generation Z are the only ones to have done so in the 21st Century. They can be defined as being post-linear, post-literate, and post-logical.

They have been born into a time that has seen the printed word morph into an electronic form. Ironically, today an electronic document is perceived to have more currency, and therefore accuracy, than the printed page. Books give way to YouTube videos. The written word is replaced by icons and images. Education is shifting from structured classrooms to collaborative means, from textbooks to tablets and from reports to infographics and video presentations. Words in this global era are progressively replaced with symbols or universal icons. They have been labelled generation glass because it is this medium that communicates content: glass you don’t just look through but look at, and wear and carry and interact with.

Characteristics of today's learners

Post linear

While schools structure learning by subject, Generations Z live life in a hyperlinked world. For digital natives it is not a subject but a lifestyle. Teachers deliver formal lessons, yet students are experiential and participative. We test academic knowledge and memory in examinations yet they, with the always-on Internet, are living in an open-book world, only ever a few clicks away from any piece of information on the planet.

Generation Z and the emerging Generation Alpha are also the most technologically literate and socially empowered generation of children ever. They are highly intuitive and confident users of digital technology, with Facebook having been around more than a decade, and iPhones, iPads, apps and social media having been available to them from their formative years.

There are 4.5 million reasons to engage Generation Z, the students of today and university graduates, employees and leaders of tomorrow. What’s more, the future of education depends on understanding and engaging with these 21st century learners. In order to fulfil the demand for labour and to ensure the future of our employment sector, our education system will need to adapt to and accommodate the learning styles of today’s students.

Post literate

Note we use the term post-literate, not illiterate. They are writing more (emails) and sending more (text) messages, just in ways different to previous generations. The issue is that literate forms of communication alone just won’t connect in today’s visual world. Today’s learners are a multi-modal generation and therefore demand communication styles that engage multiple learning channels. While the chalk and talk teaching approach was the only style on offer in previous generations, this structured approach to classroom communication is far less engaging for today’s technologically savvy, multi-media, post-structured learners. Though many complain about the short attention spans of today’s youth, this is mainly exhibited in the context of old methods of teaching that largely involve passive models of communication.

Post logical

The language of today’s learners is one that communicates content as well as being exciting, social and creative. They value visual and interactive communication with quick and easy access to information. This is in distinct contrast to perception of the education system where learning and fun are seen as mutually exclusive. Learning must not just be an academic exercise- of logic and rationale, but a development experience- of social, emotional and visceral connection as well. The point is that students have changed, so approaches to teaching need to change as well.

Engaging with today's learners

It is excellent to see that schools and classrooms are responding effectively to these changing learning styles through the implementation of learning stations, shifting from ‘teacher’ to facilitator’, managing more group work, providing real world case studies, outdoor education and teaching through activity-based learning. This, to the credit of schools is how they’ve been able to engage with changing learner needs while maintaining educational excellence. That said, there are still more changes to be made. According to our survey on parents’ opinions on education, over 90 per cent would like to see schools work harder at engaging with students and making learning interesting.

Traditionally, children were pre-formatted to learn within a structured environment, having spent their preschool years in a household where formative character was set through routine, compliance and training. However, increasingly, many children enter formal schooling without such a background and when such a student does not complete year 12, it is said that ‘they failed school’ when actually ‘their school experience failed them’.

While in the past parents, extended family, Sunday school and the Scouts or sports teams all had a role in developing the character, values and socialisation skills of the child, today parents are juggling increasingly complex roles and the average young person is less connected with other formative institutions. Schools are increasingly the one social bottleneck through which young people pass and so have a key role of developing the whole person. That is, in addition to its academic aims, the education system is expected to develop people skills, character formation, life skills and resilience.

The four R's


Not only must our communication style be credible, but we must be credible also. This generation doesn’t expect us to know all about their lifestyle, nor do they want us to embrace their culture. They are simply seeking understanding and respect. If we are less than transparent, it will be seen.


Both the content and style in which we deliver it must be relevant to a generation which is visually educated and entertained. There is no point in going to a friend’s movie night with a rented DVD if they only have a streaming service. Similarly, we must communicate in the most appropriate format for those we are reaching. So in understanding the communication styles of our students we will be better equipped to reach them.


Education can either be teacher-centric (traditional), curriculum targeted (with a predominate focus on state-wide testing) or learner focused (responsive to their learning styles and needs).

In a generation education has moved from ‘classes’ to individual learning plans. As part of the shift from students confirming to the system to education responding to the changing times, needs and learners.


The old saying in education circles still rings true for today’s students: ‘they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!’ Communicating to this generation requires more than just good content and new technology – it needs engagement and involvement. The more we create an environment conductive to engaging with the head (knowledge), hands (application) and heart (inspiration), the more likely they learning will be embedded, opportunities enlarged and futures shaped.

Listen to Mark McCrindle on 2SER talking about the 21st Century classroom

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McCrindle in the Media

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

As Australia’s leading social researchers, the senior research team at McCrindle are actively involved in media commentary. From demographic analysis and future forecasts, to communication of key research findings and the identification of social trends, at McCrindle we are passionate about communicating insights in clear, accessible and useable ways.

Here are some of the most recent media pieces our research and team have been cited in:

Millenials found to be far more likely to quit work than other generations

“Millenials are a multi-career generation, moving from one job to another and from one job to further study or an overseas job. Mobility defines them,” he said.
“They’re a more educated cohort, they’re more tech-resourced. Even when they’re happy in a job they’re passive job hunters because they’re so well networked. People are approaching them on LinkedIn and they want to be future proofed.”
“They are looking for belonging and leading and shaping things. They want to be successful so if employers are empowering and involving them they will stay longer. A pay increase is a short-term fix but in the long term it’s all about engagement.”

Buyers Swap 'Traditional Aussie Dream' For High Density Apartments

McCrinde Research social demographer Mark McCrindle concedes many foreign buyers are getting into the market, but said the lift in demand was also due to more Australian singles, couples and families opting for apartments.

Australia's booming population was underpinning the shift, he said, by pushing up demand for property of which apartments were an affordable type. "In less than 2 weeks we hit the 24 million mark and that's an increase of a million people in just around three years, so it's pretty significant growth," he told The Huffington Post Australia.

Inside Sydney’s homes of the future: A city of cities as homes get smaller and taller

McCrinde Research social demographer Mark McCrindle says Sydney's residential landscape will be forced to change to cope with the population growth, with multi-use residential developments the way of the future and a move away from CBD workplaces.

“We’re essentially going to be a city of cities, with not everyone working in the CBD,” Mark explains. “People will work in the suburbs, in business parks, and we will have second, third and fourth CBD areas where you work, live and play all within the locale.”

Why money is a big issue for Australian retirees in 2016

Social researcher Mark McCrindle said financial instability was an enemy of retirees. After the GFC a lot of people had to change their retirement plans and expectations because so much was wiped off,” he said.

Falling house prices in several states were adding uncertainty to retirees looking to downsize, Mr McCrindle said, while there were social impacts caused by children failing to leave the nest. “Retirees can’t quite make their own independent decisions because they still have adult children living at home.”


According to Optus’ Renter of the Future report out today, three out of ten renting households consider themselves as “choice renters” who are not buying into the great Australian property dream. And when it comes to choice renters, they are three times more likely to be tech savvy.
The report, which was conducted by McCrindle Research shows that 2016 will see a new generation of tech-savvy renters who favour a lifestyle fuelled by freedom, flexibility and choice.
“We wanted to understand the renter and find out who they are. Demographically they’re got punch, geographically they’re got punch and as we’ve found from this technologically they’re amongst the earliest adopters,” said Mark McCrindle, social demographer.

Today's trends are coming at us faster than ever and have a life cycle that is shorter than we've ever seen before. Trends are increasingly global -- and with that, they're bigger, better, and faster.

From a generation who can track, monitor, record and analyse their every moment, to work that is increasingly being done in non-traditional places, here are some trends to watch in 2016.


Exploring the Sentiment of Sydneysiders

Monday, January 18, 2016

In August 2015, McCrindle Research surveyed 1,007 Sydneysiders on their attitudes and sentiments towards the current state and The Future of Sydney.

Future analysis of the sentiments of Sydneysiders has now been conducted, revealing the differences in sentiment within various demographic categories towards how Sydney is now, compared to 5 years ago and to how they perceive Sydney to be in 5 years’ time.

Males more optimistic

1 in 5 (20%) males are expectant optimists who stated that they think Sydney is better now than it was 5 years ago and it will be even better in 5 years’ time compared with only 14% of females.

Overall, 37% of males think that Sydney is better now than it was 5 years ago and 35% think that Sydney will be even better in 5 years’ time compared with 30% and 28% of females respectively.

Generation Y the most positive

1 in 5 (20%) Gen Y’s are expectant optimists with Baby Boomers having the smallest proportion in this category (14%) with 3 in 5 (60%) Gen X’s and Baby Boomers falling into the concerned pessimists category.

Over 2 in 5 (42%) Gen Y’s think that Sydney is better now it was 5 years ago but only 1 in 4 (26%) Baby Boomers feel the same way. Just over 7 in 10 Gen X’s (73%) and Baby Boomers (72%) think that Sydney will be worse in 5 years’ time, compared with just over 3 in 5 (63%) Gen Y’s.

City dwellers have a more buoyant outlook than those in the outer suburbs

The Central region of Sydney is the region with the largest proportion of expectant optimists at 20% with the South West region having the lowest at 15%.

However, the over 1 in 3 respondents from the South West region (35%) stated that they think that Sydney will be better in 5 years’ time, the highest proportion out of all the regions, followed by the Western Suburbs with 33%.

Families with dependents more upbeat

1 in 5 (20%) respondents who live in a household with children are expectant optimists compared with fewer than 1 in 6 (15%) who live in a household without children.

Almost 2 in 5 (39%) respondents living in a household with children stated that they think that Sydney is better now than it was 5 years ago compared with 3 in 10 (31%) of those in households without children.

Middle income earners most optimistic

Surprisingly, the proportion of respondents who are concern pessimists was higher in those in 2nd highest income quintile than those in the other 4 quintiles.

The largest proportion of respondents who stated that they think Sydney is better than it was 5 years ago was of those in the middle income quintile (40%).

The lower the perception of population size, the higher the optimism

Respondents who underestimated Sydney’s population the most (1 or 2 million) were the most likely to have been expectant optimists at 24% with those having the closest estimations being the most likely to be concerned pessimists (4 million = 53%, 5 million = 55%).

Q and A: An ageing population and the birth rate

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Is Australia’s population ageing partly because there are more women remaining childless, mothers having fewer children and overall fewer babies being born?

It is true that Australia’s population is ageing with the midpoint in our population – the median age having increased from 30 to 37 in the span of 3 decades. However this is largely due to increased longevity and not at all to do with declining births.

In fact Australia is in the midst of a baby boom with the numbers of births setting new records this decade- having exceeded 300,000 births per year, every year since 2008. This is almost twice as many births as Australia experienced in 1946- the year that saw the arrival of the first Baby Boomers. While the peak of Australia’s original baby boom occurred in 1961 with a fertility rate of 3.5 (babies per 1,000 women), which is almost twice the current fertility rate of 1.9, total annual births currently exceed the 1961 record of 240,000 births by more than 60,000.

So the current baby boom is much larger than this original 16 year baby boom (1946-1961) and the total Australian births in the 16 years from 2008 will produce almost 5 million babies – around 1.5 million more than the post-war boom.

Not only are there more babies than ever, but there are more women who are mothers as well. There are more than 6.5 million Australian women aged over 18 who have given birth which is almost 70% of them. It is the case that women are having children later in life with the median age of mothers having increased from 25.5 four decades ago to 30.8 today. However the fertility rates have increased not decreased in the last decade, up from 1.7 in the early 2000’s to 1.9 today. And as for the proportion of women in Australia who will have no children in their lifetime – it remains at 1 in 4 which is a figure unchanged over a generation. Therefore of the women who will have children, the average number of children is actually 2.5.

So Australian mothers are more numerous than ever, collectively parenting more children than ever and on average raising between 2 and 3 of this largest generation in Australia’s history.

More information can be found in Mark McCrindle’s book The ABC of XYZ: Understanding The Global Generations.

Q and A: Offline Parenting in an Online World

Friday, October 02, 2015

What are the key strategies to offline parenting in an online world?

Parents today are faced with an unprecedented challenge of raising their children to be engaged offline in a world dominated by online options. A recent study conducted by McCrindle Research showed that whilst 44% of the older generations see the benefit of technology to children in enhancing learning and productivity, two thirds (65%) said that they believe that school aged students today spend too much time on technology.

In a society where digital is default, parents often feel the tension of raising their children in these technologically saturated times yet ensuring that they have the timeless characteristics and qualities to thrive in the offline environment. Parents see firsthand the extraordinary opportunities that technology facilitates, yet their experience tells them that managing their children’s screen time and ensuring they gain life skills and social skills is also essential.

We often forget how quickly this great screen age has emerged. Facebook went public just a decade ago and the tablet devices which facilitate so much learning and interaction such as the iPad arrived just half a decade ago. While many of the benefits to this first-ever digitally-based, wif- connected, social-media driven, global generation are evident, so are some emerging challenges. 1 in 4 Australians aged 15-17 have not participated in any form of physical recreation or sport in the last 12 months and for those aged 18-24 it is 1 in 3. These “screenagers” have a propensity towards increased sedentary lifestyles and based on the current overweight trends amongst Australia’s youth, by 2027, when all of Generation Z have reached adulthood, 78% of males and 62% of females in this generation are likely to be overweight. Young people spending hours in front of screens is not new. Today’s parents averaged around 3 hours of TV time per day during their formative years. However the TV screen is a “lean back” screen and did not generate the same levels of time use, sleep impediments and addictive patterns of the portable, interactive and connected “lean forward” screens of today.

Parents are the key influencers when it comes to shaping the priorities and lifestyle habits of their children, so households where active offline activities are modelled, prioritised and encouraged are likely to see the rewards of these behaviours established in the next generation. Parents have the opportunity to encourage their children to engage in physical recreation not just virtual entertainment, in offline communities’ not just online networks, and face to face interaction not just screen-based communication. And if the modelling and encouraging is too subtle, parents ought remember that they are paying the internet and mobile accounts and they are in charge. Oh, and every modem comes with an off switch!

More on effective parenting strategies can be found in Mark McCrindle’s book The ABC of XYZ: Understanding The Global Generations.

Generation Alpha: Mark McCrindle Q & A with the New York Times

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Q. So what comes after Generation Z - and how were they named?

When I was researching my book The ABC of XYZ: Understanding the Global Generations (published in 2009) it became apparent that a new generation was about to commence and there was no name for them. So I conducted a survey (we’re researchers after all) to find out what people think the generation after Z should be called and while many names emerged, and Generation A was the most mentioned, Generation Alpha got some mentions too and so I settled on that for the title of the chapter Beyond Z: Meet Generation Alpha. It just made sense as it is in keeping with scientific nomenclature of using the Greek alphabet in lieu of the Latin and it didn’t make sense to go back to A, after all they are the first generation wholly born in the 21st Century and so they are the start of something new not a return to the old.

Q. Will these generational labels survive the test of time?

I have found from my generational research that generic labels rather than descriptive ones are likely to last. Names like the Baby Boomers, which describe a unique demographic phenomenon at the birth of a generation, or even Millennials, based on the timing when the leading edge were coming of age, are aberrations. A label like Gen X, Gen Z and Gen Alpha provide a blank canvas on which a generation can create their own identity rather than have a descriptive label, relevant for just a segment of the cohort or for a period of time, pinned on them. And while some Gen Xers bemoan that label, for a while there it was “slackers” and “baby busters”, and labels like “latch key kids” and “the MTV generation” as they were also called seem ridiculous for this generation turning 50 this year. Similarly for the Millennials or Gen Y- labels like “the dot com kids” and “the iPod generation” are short-sighted.

Read Mark’s interview in The New York Times here.

Q. Are companies and marketers already starting to focus on this demographic?

There are more than 2.5 million Gen Alphas born globally every week. When they have all been born (2025) they will number almost 2 billion. They start school next year and will be the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever. They will comprise the largest generation of middle class consumers our world has ever seen and they are also “upagers” – older younger and influencing parental purchasing earlier and so it is no surprise that marketers are trying to better understand and prepare for this generation.

Q. How do you try to gather intelligence about a group of people this young?

We can learn a fair bit about them by analysing some key area starting with the demographics which gives us some forward forecasts: age of parents (older), cultural mix (more diverse), socioeconomics (slightly wealthier), family size (smaller), life expectancy (longer). Then there is the research of their parents, the Millennials (or Generation Y) which gives us a sense of how they will be raised (moving more frequently, career changing, materially endowed, technologically supplied, outsourcing aspects of parenting such as child care etc). Finally there is the analysis of the youngsters themselves and their formative years and we can learn a lot from this too (app-based play, increased screen time, shorter attention spans, digital literacy but less social formation etc).

Q. Technology was obviously a defining factor for Generation Y and has been even more so for Generation Z. How much more tech-intensive can the lives of Generation Alpha possibly become and what might be the consequences?

Generation Alpha are part of an unintentional global experiment where screens are placed in front of them from the youngest age as pacifiers, entertainers and educational aids. This great screenage in which we are all living has bigger impacts on the generation exposed to such screen saturation during their formative years. They began being born in 2010, the year the iPad was launched, Instagram was created and App was the word of the year and so have been raised as screenagers to a greater extent than the fixed screens of the past could facilitate. For this reason we also call them Generation Glass because the glass that they interact on now and will wear on their wrist, as glasses on their face, that will be on the Head Up Display of the car they learn to drive on, or the interactive school desk where they learn will transform how they work, shop, learn, connect and play. We were raised in a world where glass was something you looked through but for them it is something you look at. For us it was “hands off the glass” but for this kinaesthetic generation, glass is a hands on medium. Not since Gutenberg transformed the utility of paper with his printing press in the 15th Century has a medium been so transformed for learning and communication purposes as glass- and it has happened in the lifetime of Generation Alpha.

Read Mark’s interview in The New York Times here.

What are some other social factors, beyond technology that seem likely to shape the Generation Alpha identity?

They are upagers in many ways: physical maturity is on setting earlier so adolescence for them will begin earlier- but beyond the physical, social, psychological, educational, commercial sophistication begins earlier- which can have negative as well as positive consequences. Interestingly for them while adolescence begins earlier, it extends later. The adult life stage, once measured by marriage, children, mortgage and career is being pushed back. This generation will stay in education longer, start their earning years later and so stay at home with their parents later than was previously the case. The role of parents therefore spans a longer age range- often still with the adult kids at home even into their late 20’s. This generation will no doubt stay with this trend and in Australia we’ve labelled the stay at home 20-somethings the KIPPERS which stands for Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings!

What comes after Generation Alpha?

Generational definitions are most useful when they span a set age range and so allow meaningful comparisons across generations. That is why we define the generations by the following years of birth:

Baby Boomers: 1946-1964

Generation X: 1965-1979

Generation Y (Millennials) 1980-1994

Generation Z: 1995-2009

Generation Alpha: 2010-2024

And so it follows that Generation Beta will be 2025-2039.

If the nomenclature sticks then we will afterwards have Generation Gamma and Generation Delta etc but we won’t be getting there until the second half of the 21st Century so there is plenty of time to reflect on the labels!

Read Mark’s interview in The New York Times here.


Mark McCrindle is an award-winning social researcher, best-selling author, TedX speaker and influential thought leader, and is regularly commissioned to deliver strategy and advice to the boards and executive committees of some of Australia’s leading organisations.

Mark’s understanding of the key social trends as well as his engaging communication style places him in high demand in the press, on radio and on television shows, such as Sunrise, Today, The Morning Show, ABC News 24 and A Current Affair.

His research firm counts amongst its clients more than 100 of Australia’s largest companies and his highly valued reports and infographics have developed his regard as a data scientist, demographer, futurist and social commentator.

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