They are in your schools now. And there are more coming—lots more. Are you ready for them?
This year, more than 3.8 million students enrolled in kindergarten at public schools across the United States. This Class of 2030 is part of Generation Alpha—the first generation of students born entirely within the 21st century. Born to millennial parents starting in 2010, this generation will total 2 billion people worldwide by the time the youngest members are born in 2025. Across the globe, 2.5 million Alphas are born every week.
So, what do you need to know about them? What will their challenges be? While the world is still getting to know them, here are three things that will define this generation, according to Mark McCrindle, an Australian futurist who first coined the term Generation Alpha.
- This will be the most diverse generation ever.
In the United States, babies born in 2011 already accomplished one never-before seen demographic feat. According to the U.S. Census Bureau projections, this is the first year that more than 50% of the children born come from minority families. That’s good news for the development of critical thinking skills. According to a research study by National Coalition on School Diversity, students in diverse learning environments are exposed to more complex conversation than students in more homogenous environments, which aids in the development of critical thinking.
But there will obviously be challenges, too. A huge population of English Language Learners will need extra support to thrive academically. Academic English proficiency holds the key to their success, according to the Center for Public Education. It can take English Language Learners—a group representing more than 400 native languages—four to seven years to get up to speed on the language used in textbooks.
- They will have the oldest parents of any generation.
According to the Center for Disease Control, women in their 30s are now having more children than those in their 20s. McCrindle reports that the average age of parents when they give birth to their first child is 30.8 years for women and 33 for men, both all-time highs.
The impact is a mixed-bag, with both physiological and psychological factors at play. Researchers have linked lower IQ, autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders to older fathers. Children born to older woman are more likely to have irregularities in their genetic code. At the same time, Translation Psychiatry research posits that children of older fathers have higher IQs and perform better in STEM subjects and the British Medical Journal reports that kids with older moms have fewer social and emotional difficulties—and fewer injuries—than those with younger moms.
- Their first babysitters were iPads.
Sure, millenials are considered digital natives, but Alphas take it to the next level. The first Alphas came into the world the same year as the iPad – 2010. Here’s how McCrindle described it:
Generation Alpha is part of an unintentional global experiment where screens are placed in front of them from the youngest age as pacifiers, entertainers and educational aids.”
Many of these kids have had a screen in their hand since before they could even talk. It’s more natural to them than paper. Some of the concerns with early exposure to devices are well-documented: things like delays in speech development and impeded social development. On the flipside, a 2017 Common Sense Media study reports that 67% parents say screen media helps their kids learn, and Psychology Today advises that screen time can help children over two develop coordination and hone quick reaction skills.
With so many variables and split opinions, it’s a challenge for educators to forecast how these characteristics will impact what this next generation of student will need to learn. When it comes to assessment, leaders can help prepare for the future by revisiting these core questions—what do we need to know about our students to help them learn? What assessments can provide that information reliably? Is the information easy to access and understand?
Are you ready for these challenges? We’ve put together a new quiz to help you find out. Take the quiz, and a receive a customized Take Action Guide to see what you can do right now to prepare.