Millennials are now the largest generation in the Canadian workforce, and within the next few years will begin to get real responsibility and influence in shaping our country's future.
With the school year now behind us, it's a great time to think about what the future holds for education in Canada and how millennial attitudes will shape this future.
Here are three key trends to watch out for.
Personalization of Learning
A key trait of millennials is how much we value ownership and personalization. We thrive in environments where we are given a voice and can pursue our personal interests, environments in which we are treated like individuals rather than part of the herd.
Today, interest in personalized learning is at an all-time high. According to Google Trends, search volume for the term "personalized learning" is 3x higher today than at any time over the last decade.
Schools like AltSchool, the Khan Lab School, and Summit Public Schools are experimenting with new models for classrooms where personalization of learning -- what, when, and how a student learns -- can happen at scale. Backed by the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, these initiatives are slowly but surely iterating their way to this new model.
Educators have always known the importance of ownership in improving student engagement, and today they're more vocal about giving students a voice in their own learning than ever.
In this case, the stereotype definitely holds true -- millennials are hooked on smartphones. Millennials are the first generation to have grown up with mobile devices, and the first generation of students who have never known a world without mobile devices is now reaching adulthood.
Today, more than 85 per cent of students in high school have access to mobile devices. Instant access to any kind of information or entertainment that we seek is not just an expectation, it's table stakes. This changes the dynamic of the traditional classroom drastically -- we're no longer beholden to waiting for teachers to disseminate information for us to learn. Gone are the days of borrowing books from the library or researching assignments using encyclopedias. We can find immersive, engaging learning content on any subject, and it's all at our fingertips.
This trend is only going to strengthen with the advent of consumer-grade virtual reality (or augmented / mixed reality) devices. With everyone from powerhouses like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google to startups like Magic Leap betting big on these technologies, a future classroom where each student can dive head-first into their own realities and learn anything they want isn't that far-fetched.
Value Over Validation
Youth unemployment rates are at record highs around the world, and the price of post-secondary education has been skyrocketing in Canada and the U.S. over the last couple of decades. Millennials are paying through the nose, and not necessarily getting what they paid for from higher education.
This trend has led to the rise of MOOCs, coding bootcamps, and other alternative models of post-secondary education -- models that provide technical knowledge and skills necessary to find jobs without the Ivy League prestige and price tag.
With the democratization of learning that MOOCs and bootcamps provide, the focus shifts towards the skills a candidate can demonstrate from the grades a candidate earned. As post-secondary institutions respond to this trend and adapt, there will be a trickle-down effect into K-12 education that prioritizes mastery of skills and competencies over grades earned -- exactly the kinds of models of education that enable personalized learning, and the kinds of models that AltSchool et. al. are experimenting with!
The Millennial Schoolhouse
We've maintained the status quo in education for centuries; we've embraced stability, security, and the inertia in innovation that comes with it. Schools today are changing rapidly, and the trends above suggest the change is only going to accelerate.
Bill Gates once said, "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten." My bet is that the schoolhouse of 2026 will look vastly different from the schoolhouse of 2016, and millennial attitudes will play a big role in driving the change.
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Find and foster different mentors for your varying skillsets. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been before to various acquaintances, friends, and professionals through our various social networks, which can be a huge source of support in a sometimes formidable technological world. Seeking out the help of someone a little bit more seasoned is one of the best things a millennial can do (just make sure to stay in touch with them). Having some outside perspective can help you sort out what you’d like to do in your life.
Everyone who has something to learn also has something to offer. While millennials are often branded as being a tech-savvy generation, that is often a simplistic view. Millennials do offer that, but, in many cases, they offer a far more realistic answer to certain situations. That’s why offering to mentor someone in the basics of your strong suit can be so useful for you and your mentorship student. By simply opening up your mind and thought process to another person, you’d be surprised how much both parties end up learning from it.
Despite widely reported issues surrounding our average student and personal debt, millennials aren’t actually doomed to a life of financial ruin. In fact, nearly half of all people in their 20s have started saving their money in a dedicated account. It turns out that the biggest hurdle facing millennials and their money isn’t a lack of ability when it comes to saving money, but a lack of trustworthy/good advice when it comes to money matters. To put it simply: we need to stop viewing our parents as the sole authorities on financial advice in our lives. Various studies show that millennials tend to struggle with finding a good source to provide financial guidance, and ultimately end up standing in place. We’re not saying to cut out the opinions and advice of your folks; they probably have some great tips and tricks (and, you know, respect your elders and all that) for you. But that advice should be paired with firsthand financial knowledge, and that’s on you to seek out and learn. You’ll be thankful that you took the initiative to understand (and control) your financial future, and so will your family back home.
Do you like Netflix? Of course you do. Do you like sleeping? You don’t even need to answer that. Are these in short supply sometimes? Now that’s the most problematic bit. One of the things that people often overlook in their lives is scheduling a block of “Me Time.” It seems like we stretch ourselves pretty thin in a lot of ways (work, relationships, home care, etc.) and when we crash, we crash hard. This makes dealing with the overwhelming nature of life and its endless possibilities extra tough. If your brain is in overdrive, how can you make a coherent choice about anything? It’s not impossible, but it’s still hard. That’s why a diverse array of business leaders and industry thinkers have been examining how we live our lives, and they’ve all come to the same conclusion: the work-life balance needs to be rebooted, and we can start by severely limiting how much work and digital noise we bring home with us. This is why it’s so important to budget out proper rest and relaxation time time for napping, relaxing, and binge-watching the shows in your Netflix queue. For every step you take towards realizing yourself and your dreams, make sure to take a moment to recharge and congratulate yourself for the forward momentum you’ve generated. You’re not being a Lazy Millennial; you’re ensuring that you’re not headed towards a midlife crisis down the road. Maybe the older generations could stand to take some advice from you for a change. The road map to Being A Millennial is being written every day, and there’s no right or wrong way to navigate this relatively unique point in history. But as long as you’re pushing forward and keeping your dreams in sight (no matter what form those dreams may take), you’re on the right path. Good luck!
Follow Vikram Somasundaram on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vsomasundaram