Flippin’ Millennials! (and Zeds)

--Originally published at FLN – matthewtmoore

Dirty “M” word

I was speaking at a teacher’s conference in Chicago recently about the many changes in education and productive ways to approach them from a classroom perspective. I had a variety of topics for participants to choose from but when one participant picked “Millennials” there was both an audible groan from the others and a rush by the younger teachers in the room to disavow their Millennial association.  My co-presenter and I were shocked at the very vocal response the topic received and the finger pointing that ensued. The problem is, as educators, our job is to teach who walks through the door regardless of how closely or disparate their learning styles and inclination match our own.


Full disclosure, I am 40 years old and bring up the traditionally defined end of Generation X. The Millennials, Generation Y, are people generally born between 1980 and the millennium, thus bestowing the name.  A little quick math says that the students in our classes are at best the end of the Millennials and are most likely the beginnings of what the Pew Research Center and US Department of Health and Human Services calls the “Post-Millennial” generation.  Others have suggested Generation Z or the iGeneration, or even the Digital Native Generation.  The challenge with generation names is that it rarely solidifies until near the end of the generation and is descriptive rather than prescriptive.


Since no one has nailed down a name for the current generation of young people, I wish to throw my hat in the ring and suggest the “Zeds”.  To me the “Zeds” sound British, and therefore automatically sound smarter, or Australian which is also way cool.  “Zeds” also sounds like science fiction overlords and considering that the Zeds are broadly the children of my age group, having them as my overlords seems like a distinct possibility as I continue to age. Regardless the name and the exact date of transition, we need to understand our students and how best to interact, teach, and build relationships with them.

21 characteristics

My co-presenter and I had done a little survey for our presentation by gathering information from our students regarding the 21 characteristics of Millennials.  Our little survey was based off of a blog post entitled “21 Characteristics of 21st Century Learners” by Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton that can be found on her site by clicking this link. I encourage you to read her article.  The characteristics she lists are not exclusive to her article as they seem to surface with shocking consistency in various sources leading me to believe that as the Millennial generation closes their footprint seems well defined. I will not list the characteristics in whole so as not to coop her work but limit my comments to the characteristics I found most interesting for flipped learning in my verification of her proposal. Our survey took the characteristics and formed them into questions to which students indicated their level of agreement via a Google Form.  The full file of summary graphs can be found at bit.ly/talkingboutmygenerationresults 

Talking ‘Bout My Generation

Why flipped learning?  Why now? Why has flipped learning resonated? Take a look as a few of these results.


74.5 of over 200 students agree and another 23.3% at least somewhat agree that they should have input in their education.  The demanding nature and insistence on input can be both a laudable and less than endearing characteristic of the teenagers in my class and millennials in general.


93.2% at least somewhat wish for the opportunity to show their creativity.


Here we see a significant portion, around 37% don’t like memorizing, but the bulk seem to recognize that at least some rote learning and memorizing is necessary.  Our students are not entirely unreasonable and can see at least some purpose for committing some knowledge to memory.


Connection, connection, connection.  Connecting and communicating is a hallmark of the Millennials and the generation to come and as stated they again want a say in the terms.


Communication and connection naturally feeds into collaboration.  The collaborative style of communication is and expectation and becomes and assumption in learning.


Here again we see the desire for involvement and hands on learning, but also a significant portion that understands trial and error is not the only approach to learning.


It is hard to see any other option than learning by doing in the results of this question.  Learning by doing is a MUST.


The end of the Millennials and all of the Zeds are digital natives and have grown up with YouTube, blogs & vlogs, and maker spaces. Creation is important to our students and becomes a means of communication and learning.

If the shoe fits

When elements of choice, desire for connection and communication, opportunities for discovery, encouragement of creation are combined is it any wonder that moving basic skills and content to the digital and individual space is where these students feel most comfortable receiving the information.  When collaboration and interaction are considered, redefining the group space to provide community fosters powerful learning.   Allowing students choice and input seems to simply be an expectation.  With all things considered, flipped learning and the opportunities for mastery, discovery, independence, and applicable experiences that flip learning creates a climate for means that the methods and pedagogies developed since the millennium, and that have become practice for so many flipped educators, means we are poised to connect with students, and connect students to each other, in ways other teaching methods simply cannot.


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