What makes them tick

A Gen Z Introspective

Did you know that the attention span of a Gen Zer is eight seconds compared to 12 for a millennial? Did you know that technology is their most popular career path, followed by healthcare and education? And when it comes to the social scene, they don’t care much for parties. It’s all about social media and gaming—the world is at the fingertips.

Here’s the thing: Gen Zers—those born between 1997 and 2012—will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum. And if you don’t know that they love shopping online (particularly via Instagram) or that they lean toward brands they grew up with, it’s time to jump into the game.

Sophia Catchings works with Gen Zers every day. As the Director of Education and Career Services for L.E.A.D. Inc. and the L.E.A.D. Center For Youth, she is helping inspire and equip Black girls and boys with the empowerment they need to live sustainable lives of significance. The 501 (c)3 nonprofit Atlanta organization, founded by C.J. and Kelli Stewart, uses sports-based youth development methodology to deliver a year-round program experience through Pathway2Empowerment programming, which includes activities centered on four pillars: athletics, academics, civic engagement and commerce.

“As educators, we are expected to create a diverse student-centered environment that enables individual strengths and dominant learning styles to emerge while integrating technology to foster real-world experiences,” Catchings says. “This facilitated style of learning directly relates to the characteristics of Gen Z and their beliefs.”

The foundation of L.E.A.D. is that a sense of community and belonging is an essential need of humankind as presented by Abraham Harold Maslow. A noted American psychologist, Maslow established a hierarchy of needs—a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization. What today’s K-12 educators are trying to do is build a community of support, resources and guidance, all of which help promote intrinsic motivation.

“When one has a sense of belonging, their attitudes, motives and contribution will be for the betterment of their environment and those in association,” Catchings says.

“When one has a sense of belonging, their attitudes, motives and contribution will be for the betterment of their environment and those in association.”

— Sophia Catchings, Director of Education and Career Services, L.E.A.D. Inc.

Stream. Capture. Connect.

According to Geek Vibes Nation’s “The Truth About Millennial and Gen Z TV Viewing Habits,” Gen Z is estimated to watch at least three hours of streaming content per day, with 39% subscribing to three to four streaming services. Driven by their digital and technological ambitions, Gen Zers are highly social self-starters with flexible mindsets and an entrepreneurial spirit. 

Based in Bedford, Texas, with schools serving the Fort Worth and Arlington areas, the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District’s curriculum approach is rooted in providing all of its students with the ability to become ready for their unique answer to “what comes next.” Dave Nielsen, Content Marketing Specialist in HEB ISD’s PR & Marketing Department, says that road includes anything from a college, trade school, the military or something similar. In the end, the goal is to enable its students to become their successful adult selves.

In a time when technology and social media play such an integral role in shaping how these students connect, promote themselves, brand their talents and gifts, and conduct business, the manner in which you guide them is critical. “We are continuously improving our curriculum over time so that we are consistently empowering teachers with data-backed education tools and techniques,” Nielsen says. “This helps ensure that each class is aligned with students’ previous and future courses in that sequence.”

Nielsen says that one of the most important things today’s schools must do is be mindful of the appropriate use of technology to support learning. Students—today and always—can tell when technology integrations are inauthentic. “Using a technology tool just because it’s flashy and new will often feel disjointed and can alienate students. HEB ISD ensures that our technology use in the classroom happens because the technology tools serve a specific purpose and are the best tool for the task.”

HEB ISD is rich with diversity, with students representing countries where more than 70 different native languages are spoken. Nielsen says that preparing students to compete on a global stage takes a concerted effort, with every department, campus and teacher working in unison to support student achievement. “Building a strong and aligned curriculum, improving as data becomes available and integrating technology appropriately all require a commitment of time and resources. HEB ISD’s A-rated results confirm the return on that investment, as our students tend to outperform their similar peers in other school systems.”

“Building a strong and aligned curriculum, improving as data becomes available and integrating technology appropriately all require a commitment of time and resources.”

— Dave Nielsen, Content Marketing Specialist, Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD

By expanding their breadth of knowledge and resources, Gen Zers continue to increase their buying power and influence stature—a combination that will reshape the foreseeable future of how consumers buy, sell and discover new brands. As with the generations before them, understanding these tendencies and being able to engage is of the utmost importance to today’s educators.

“Students are better able to thrive when they feel like a valued part of the community,” Nielsen says. “We want the future adults in our care to experience community as a two-way support system. First, students need to receive support from trusted adults. HEB ISD’s teachers and staff build a safe and welcoming environment every day, but we also create connections with local businesses and organizations so students see that the entire community believes in what they can achieve. This safety net of supportive relationships will allow today’s students to reach even farther to achieve their dreams.”

As the Digital Age engulfs them, Gen Z is filtering through around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day (that’s a billion billions of data). Helping steer them into the right direction will continue to take a village.


5 things you should know about Gen Z

Learn by doing

They learn best by doing, with 51% thriving through experiential learning. Only 12% find classroom lectures beneficial. (Barnes & Noble Education Inc.)

Driven By Digital

They are “digital natives.” More than 95% own a smartphone, 83% own a laptop and 78% own an internet-connected gaming console. (The Center for Generational Kinetics)

Who’s searching what

Younger members of Gen Z use three social platforms the most, including YouTube (95%), TikTok (67%) and Instagram (62%). When asked about giving up social media, close to six in 10 ages 15-17 said it would be “somewhat difficult,” while 48% of 13-14 year-olds think it would be “difficult.” (Pew Research Center’s “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022”)

Why social

Almost three in 10 use social media to find inspiration for things, and they’re 11% more likely to do this than any other generation. One of their top reasons for using social media is to fill their spare time and find content. (GWI’s “Gen Z in 2023”)

Feedback is a necessity

Performance reviews and feedback are important, with 60% saying they want multiple check-ins during the week, if not daily. (The Center for Generational Kinetics)