OpinionEmpowering Generation Z and Alpha with AI: Skills for the digital age
Empowering Generation Z and Alpha with AI: Skills for the digital age
What's the connection between AI's dominance over our economy, our shaky futures, and reshaping the education landscape?
Think about it for a moment.
The children we're raising today, Generation Z and Generation Alpha, can utilize (and are already using) AI for any knowledge-based task. Ask them historical questions, challenge them with math problems, instruct them to summarize articles, extract philosophical insights, or translate any sentence in any language - AI can swiftly handle these tasks. However, this AI-generated knowledge won't leave its mark on them, nor will it unlock their capabilities, skills, or sense of empowerment. This understanding has a clear implication - direct knowledge instruction is no longer relevant. We've known this before, observed the consequences of frontal instruction and spoon-feeding on students' engagement and readiness for the current reality. Yet, the massive integration of artificial intelligence into our world and the rapid pace at which it's infiltrating every aspect of our lives necessitate a swift and dramatic shift in education.
The implication of leaning on existing knowledge and integrating the use of ChatGPT and other Generative AI tools in education without a complete overhaul of the system means cultivating a generation that might be more efficient and skillful in using technological tools, yet easily replaceable by AI as it evolves and improves. For instance, if a student learns to write content rapidly using AI, eventually technology will create prompts and generate the content itself, undermining the student's role. Similarly, if a student learns to use AI to expedite her coding speed, technology could eventually understand the required code and write it independently. This calls for students to learn entirely different skills because existing tasks can be done by AI.
From Consumption to Creation
The concept of the Creator Economy, currently valued at $100-200 billion and rapidly growing, mainly relates to content creation, audience building, and monetization. The idea is to allow individuals to leverage their skills, expertise, and personal traits to create value and engagement. Now, AI challenges us to expand this concept further. What if, instead of memorizing historical knowledge, history classes ask students to project into the future? What if they're tasked with contemplating how to bolster an optimistic projection and counteract a pessimistic one? What if, instead of learning geography, they're asked to learn about Earth's recent changes and explore their link to climate issues? What if they’re tasked with watching the news and expressing their feelings through any preferred medium?
AI can assist at every step, but it won't lead the process. More than that, the creation of new content will compel them to navigate the world with a flashlight and magnifying glass, find clues in the known and venture into the unknown, map their paths in a world of uncertainty, and cope with lack of control. In a reality where alarming percentages of youth suffer from anxiety and struggle with depression, these new processes might equip them with relevant coping tools and mechanisms.
The Passion Economy
The digital advancements have given rise to another sub-concept known as the Passion Economy, which amplifies the connection between profession, happiness and self fulfillment. The notion of identifying one's passion and allowing it to guide towards fitting professional avenues is not a novel concept. For decades, we've been veering away from the paths of our parents, seeking new avenues for self-fulfillment. But the digital economy has rendered these avenues more accessible and precise. Professions have evolved, specializations have expanded, and people's ability to craft and market enabled more and more individuals to align their passion as an area of occupation and livelihood.
However, connecting with one's passion in 2023 is less straightforward than one might expect. Given the deluge of content, channels, and sophisticated algorithms that consume our time, the capability to discover and nurture that passion has become more complex.
Through frequent interactions with adolescents in recent years, I've come to realize that identifying areas of interest, sources of joy, or personal strengths is far from trivial. The forest of content and its inherent possibilities are growing, making the act of choice more challenging. The ongoing practice of exposure and selection is a skill that must be consistently honed to assist the generation of boundless opportunities in aligning with a purpose, persevering in training, and enabling them to bring initiatives and projects to the rewarding finish line.
Combining Push and Pull
As always, transitioning from the current state to a new one is complex and gradual. It's not about shifting from relying on existing content to creating new content overnight. Or moving from algorithm-suggested options (think Netflix, Spotify, Tinder, or standardized tests) to autonomous choice. Or about switching from looking outward to inward. The reality in which we're raising our children requires considering where they come from alongside understanding where they're heading. Connecting existing mechanisms to trend-setting and building new systems. Working with what we have and inventing what's missing.
To develop these new skills, we need to build on the current habits of youth - in schools, informal education, homes, gaming realms, and social media. Use these as foundations on which we can build new frameworks, work habits, research paths, passions, self-awareness, and awareness of the world. The upcoming school year, shrouded with instability in almost every aspect of life, alongside technological advancements pushing boundaries, offers an opportunity to rethink learning goals. To create collaborations between various stakeholders in the youth world, integrate governmental organizations with business entities willing to contribute. This is the golden chance for a comprehensive systemic change that empowers Generation Z and the Alpha Generation to fulfill their potential in a new reality.
Yael Shafrir is a Co-Founder of ReShuffle, a platform for practical English learning and life skill development.