Technology dominated the discussion topics Tuesday at the Barton Community College Board of Trustees study session. At these monthly meetings, trustees take no formal action but they receive information on all aspects of the college and often receive background information that will be important in the future when something becomes an “action item” on the agenda.
At this particular meeting, trustees learned more about the Nex-Tech Active Learning Classroom that was unveiled last month and they visited another classroom with some of the same technology for a live demonstration. And, they learned about Esports and why Barton may want to add competitive video gaming to its list of collegiate sports offerings. Adding swimming, wrestling and bowling in recent years has drawn more students to the college and now Barton needs to look ahead. The Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are all grown up and it’s time to look at how to attract students who are part of Generation Z.
The oldest members of Gen Z may already have gone to college and are in the workforce. This demographic covers birth years from 1995 to 2015, making them anywhere from 4 to 24 years old this year.
Members of Gen Z are described as “digital natives.” They had internet access and smartphones at a young age and are heavy users of mobile devices. They spend a lot of time on social media.
The Barton trustees are already aware of Gen Z trends, and so are our K-12 educators. Teachers are told that technology is a defining characteristic of this Post-Millennial generation, and that Gen Z students learn best by doing/creating.
The old methods of teaching some subjects may still work, but the technology exists to create a better model, and that works for older students, too.
How much schools are willing to spend on new technology — whether it’s for touchscreen smartboards and adaptive learning software or Esports arenas and subscriptions, is an interesting topic.
Experts such as Brian Greenberg, CEO of Silicon Schools, have stated the obvious. In a 2017 article in Business Insider, Greenberg said, “technology’s benefit in the classroom is all in the way it’s used. ... The real story for the future of education will center around how educators structure and run their classrooms.”
That being said, technological advances are changing how the lessons are presented, and teachers should have the best tools available as we invest in the future.
As for Esports, there’s controversy concerning whether playing video games can truly be called a “sport,” but there’s no doubt that Gen Z is involved in them. Whether they are offered as a club or as a varsity sport, this is also worth looking into. Kansas Wesleyan University’s teams compete in League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League and Hearthstone, and they plan to add Smash Bros. The KWU Esports team has its own room, equipped with state of the art PCs and gaming amenities. Johnson County Community College has an Esports Club and a computer club, as well as a video game club that’s open to everyone. It also offers a course in developing computer games – a craft that applies math and physics. So, it’s not out of line for Barton Community College to consider a future Esports program in some form.