Forget Gen Z—let’s talk Gen Alpha! Generation Alpha takes up the seats in your elementary and middle school art room now and in the foreseeable future. While they are a generation that demands attention, their influence on the global stage only continues to grow.
Assigning the first letter of the Greek alphabet to the first generation born entirely in the 21st Century is fitting. Born from late 2010 to somewhere near 2025 and also known as Generation Glass, Generation COVID, mini-millennials, or Screenagers, the first Gen Alphas just became teenagers this year. Their values and characteristics will sharpen with age.
Gen Alpha is up and coming on the global stage! Here are six secrets you need to know to help them succeed in your art room and beyond.
Adapting to the next generation of learners allows art teachers to remain relevant and impactful in the lives of students. Generation Alpha is still young and needs supportive, empathetic, empowering adults to set them up for a lifetime of success. While Generation Z students are older, they are still in our secondary classrooms. They desire to understand the “why” and are passionate about activism and collective voices. Read more about Gen Z here and download the helpful resource below to see the key values of each group with corresponding strategies.
1. Gen Alpha is the first of its kind.
In many ways, Generation Alpha leads the way into a new world. Gen Alpha is predicted to be the largest, smartest, and wealthiest generation yet. Not only did Gen Alpha emerge the same year as the iPad, but they are also the first generation to grow up primarily or entirely in a world affected by COVID. Gen Alpha will introduce new ways of learning, working, and living in an interconnected, global landscape and will pave the way for all 21st-century generations.
Bring new energy Gen Alpha is sure to appreciate with these resources:
- 7 Things Art Education and Our Students Need From Us This Fall
- 5 Ways to Foster Creative Leadership in the Art Room
- 21st-Century Skills in the Art Classroom
2. Gen Alpha views technology as a way of life.
Though not the first generation born into a digital world, Gen Alpha is experiencing a new technological reality filled with smart tech, AI voice assistants, and augmented and virtual reality. Gen Alpha has had screens placed in front of them as pacifiers, entertainers, and educational aids before they could talk, the results of which are life-long and yet to be determined. What is sure is technology plays a role in every aspect of Gen Alpha’s lives.
Respond in your art room by:
- Introducing your students to digital artmaking tools and creative technology.
- Exploring the benefits and challenges AI brings to your classroom.
- Developing digital citizens capable of using technology responsibly.
- Teaching students to manage their screen time appropriately.
- Providing technology-free activities to help students decompress from screens.
3. Gen Alpha is big on ownership and independence.
Through their user-first technological experience, Gen Alpha has grown accustomed to having their needs and preferences taken into account. This desire to stand on their own two feet transfers into the classroom in Gen Alpha’s expectation for personalized education. They prefer learning at their own pace through highly gamified experiences. Gen Alpha is a generation of leaders who are taking their lives into their own hands.
Build the collaboration skills Gen Alpha still needs with these resources:
- How to Help Your Students Learn to Talk to Each Other Again
- The Lessons We Learn From Collaboration (Ep. 322)
- 5 Collaborative Projects for Any Time of the School Year
4. Gen Alpha considers family and connection vital.
Gen Alpha will likely spend longer at home than any other generation while they pursue post-secondary education and enter the workforce. The predominantly positive relationships Gen Alpha enjoys with their grandparents and millennial parents supported this likelihood even before the global pandemic. COVID-19 deprived Gen Alpha of key social relationships and resulted in the fear of familial illness and missing out on time with family.
Respond in your art room by:
- Hosting a family art night for your school community.
- Making a mural in a public place to foster connection.
- Socializing with parents at after-school sporting events.
- Including family-friendly activities in your annual art show.
- Inviting students to explore themes of home and family in art.
Note: Be mindful of different home environments and if needed, focus on broader themes of community instead.
5. Gen Alpha is more social and visual than ever.
The effects of the global pandemic on Gen Alpha stretch beyond a family priority to a distinct desire for social activities that don’t involve a screen. Audiobooks and podcasts are on the rise, as is movie-going for the big-screen experience. Despite evident screen fatigue, the future of education for Gen Alpha still lies in engaging and entertaining visual, multimodal, and hands-on learning experiences.
Engage Gen Alpha in diverse learning experiences with these resources:
- 4 Fun Ideas to Unprogram in the Art Room to Alleviate Student Stress
- How to Boost Learning Through Expressive Kinesthetic Art Practices
- Using Games to Engage Your Students (Ep. 378)
- 4 Benefits of Play and 5 Ways to Incorporate Play in the Secondary Art Room
6. Gen Alpha still needs all the support they can get.
Gen Alpha is freer and more confident than their Gen Z counterparts. However, well-being remains a top priority. Physiological and psychological vulnerabilities resulting from constant exposure to technology are difficult to ignore. Screen addiction, cyber threats, decreased attention spans, and social-emotional deficits are only a few of these challenges. This makes the guidance and support of invested adults crucial to Gen Alpha’s mental, emotional, and physical wellness.
Respond in your art room by:
- Integrating social-emotional learning through increased choice.
- Starting with a mindfulness activity like a mantra or meditation.
- Adopting a visual journaling practice to document and process life.
- Incorporating music, movement, drama, and other forms of expression.
- Slowing down projects to allow time to enjoy the artmaking process.
Your Gen Alpha students are the top players in the ever-evolving digital landscape of the 21st century. They are the first of their kind, integrating technology into every aspect of their lives. COVID-19 shaped their value for family and cemented a desire for entertaining and personalized multimodal education. As they strive to find balance and wellness in their technology-driven society, they look to you for support and guidance. The world may be rapidly changing, but your role in your students’ lives is more relevant than ever!
How do you connect with your Gen Alpha art students?
What stood out to you in this article and how will that shift your teaching approach this year?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.