How to Ensure Digital Literacy Amongst Gen Alpha

We are heading to Web 3.0. It will prove to be the wildest benchmark in the technology and digital world to this date. As it seems full of hopes, the metaverse can be a wild dream, or a fad, for those who still have not adapted to digital technology or are basically digitally illiterate. While people who grew up in the internet era are predominantly ahead, for other generations, the usage of technology can still be a bit of a puzzle, despite the need for digital literacy being a hot topic these days.

Being digitally literate allows you to find, use, and create information online effectively and efficiently. Experts develop their knowledge of technology through exposure to it, problem-solving opportunities, and trial-and-error. The main plot of this article will be how we can foster these skills in students from an early age so they can continue to learn as the field advances and their career opportunities will be astronomically increased, as well as in any individuals and organizations wishing to advance and digitally transform their operations.

In other words, digital literacy is the ability to comprehend and use digital technology. In today's world, that means being able to deal with simple devices such as smartphones or computers, but in tomorrow's world, this means being able to seamlessly interact with AI, step into the metaverse with confidence and connect with the Internet of Things to simplify your life. It also involves avoiding the risks associated with technology if you have a solid understanding of digital literacy and how to behave in a digital world.

A Digitally illiterate Society: What Are the Consequences?

Using technology safely and learning its more relevant assets to become digitally literate at an early age is vital for adults and children today. Learning to read and write is important, but being digitally literate is equally important as the world shifts and settles into the digital age. Citizens must possess digital skills to fully integrate into today's society.

Formalities such as filing a tax return, looking for work, and establishing a business are mostly completed online. Now the question is, where does the digital divide leave those on the other side?

Tomorrow, when we live in a predominantly digitalized reality, it will be necessary for human beings to learn to properly use the latest technological developments and their consequences and even greater challenges.

Those who are most vulnerable to digital illiteracy suffer the most from it. Digital illiteracy is described as an inability to use digital tools consistently. According to the French national statistics office INSEE, it affects 19% of the national population.

How Does Digital Literacy Differ Between Baby Boomers, Millenials, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha?

Just to put into perspective, Baby Boomers were born post-world-war. No doubt they grew up in very uncertain times. Moving on, Gen X is the following generation born between 1965 and 1980, Millennials are defined as those born between 1981 to 2000, and Generation Z is defined as those born between 1996 and 2010. Generation Alpha, however, is the latest generation. Those born in the 21st century, specifically after 2010, are the generation following Gen Z.

While Baby Boomers mainly sat behind desks and learned rigidly, gen-Xers worked more in groups and learned interactively. Millennials were taught multisensorily and multimodally. Generation Z tends to be more realistic than the Millennials since the Millennials are considered "optimistic". One can easily conclude by studying their behaviours, how they react to current affairs, etc.

The Millennial generation and Gen Z are often seen as two sides of the same coin: Both are tech-savvy. Both generations prefer different technologies for their homes, which is notable. Our focus in this segment will be on Gen Z and Gen Alpha since these two have and will have the most impact on the future of digital literacy in society.

Let's start explaining Gen Z first since this generation literally grew up in a golden age of the digital world where they could see tech gadgets getting huge breakthroughs.

Gen Z

Our first truly digital native generation is Gen Z. Having grown up in a technological world, they have access to information at their fingertips, and social media use has become ubiquitous. Many Gen Z members rely heavily on social media apps to maintain relationships. 45% of adolescents in a 2018 study said they spent almost every waking moment online.

The Gen Z generation is not just a younger version of the millennial generation. The Gen Z generation grew up with the Internet of Things (IoT) and is more connected to technology than any other. A Millennial may know their way around a smartphone and the Internet of Things, but being tech-literate and tech-native are two completely different things.

In contrast to Millennials, Gen Z is obsessed with technology - it is who they are. Many Gen Zers grew up with technology, including smart home devices, smartphones, voice assistants, and social media. They are the "all digital natives." Most Gen Zers reported using smartphones before turning 14 in a survey. They were on the cutting edge of it all during rapid technological advancements, adopting the newest technology seamlessly.

Gen Z looks at technology from a different perspective

Unlike previous generations, Gen Zers expect more from their technology. It feeds their connected lifestyle, which also informs all of their decisions, such as where to live. Gen Z is heavily reliant on video calling apps, particularly due to the opportunity to communicate solely through video, and they want to be constantly connected digitally with their friends.

This behavior dictates their fear of missing out (FOMO). The question is, who is creating these apps? You guessed it: Millennials. It is necessary to equip Gen Z with the required digital skills much earlier than at the age of 18 to avoid being digitally illiterate.

Is the same opportunity available to high school students?

There are still deficiencies in the new Computer Science schools across the world, so the majority of students have the ability to use social media or their coding abilities in innovative, and enterprising ways.

The Youth Group is among the companies addressing issues related to digital illiteracy. A recent partnership between Team Together,— formerly known as Freeformers— and Facebook enabled it to provide digital skills to 300,000 people across the EU in countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Spain.

Despite living in the digital age, our society's traditional teaching institutions, such as schools and universities, do not appear to prioritize digital skills.

In this day and age, it is more important than ever to have an academic degree. It is common knowledge that having a degree in a certain field will give you a competitive advantage over those who do not have one. However, many people do not know that having an academic degree does not mean you understand how digital technology works.

The internet has made it possible for us to connect on a global scale. The internet also allows us to access information in seconds and share our thoughts with the world. However, many people do not understand how the internet works or how it affects them personally, let alone how to behave in the digital realm. This lack of understanding leaves many people vulnerable to issues such as cyber-attacks and data leaks, to name a few.

As technology advances at a rapid pace, it becomes necessary for people to learn basic digital skills, regardless of the background they are in, so they can stay ahead of technological trends happening right now, or their knowledge will be obsolete or useless in the future.

Gen Alpha

Generation Alpha is an unfamiliar term for most people. Australian social researcher Mark McCrindle coined this term in 2005 to describe an important phenomenon to understand.

As the first generation born entirely within the 21st century, Gen Alpha will be born between 2010 and 2025. The Alpha generation is also known as the iGeneration, or the Global Generation, and is a group of individuals who are technologically adept, connected, and skilled creators. Since technology progresses exponentially, Gen Alpha will mark the start of a new digital age, as they are the first true digital natives. With technologies like Alexa, Siri, and other ubiquitous housemates, the oldest students are just starting middle school.

Among the defining characteristics of their generation will be their unique digital savviness. Digital assistants like Siri, Google Now, or Cortana will be commonplace to Gen Alpha, as they will not be impressed by technological advancements. As the late Douglas Adams, famous author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, said in his book Salmon of the Doubt: "Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works". Aside from the direct effects of rapidly evolving technology, it is also likely to have secondary effects due to its pervasiveness.

Technology-wielding parents are glued to their phones, and kids are not playing in their neighbourhoods as much as they used to. In fact, 58% of Gen Zers feel uncomfortable when they are offline for more than 4 hours, nearly half of US teens use platforms like Roblox to socialize online, and the vast majority of teens consider their digital identity just as important as their physical identity.

There is a possibility that this could result in less support for social-emotional learning (SEL)—understanding this process as the vital framework through which people of all ages acquire skills in working toward their own unique goals, comprehending and managing their emotions, nurturing positive relationships with others, making informed choices and feeling empathy— at home and in their communities, making schools' roles in supporting SEL even more important. Like Gen Z, Gen Alpha will be highly comfortable with technology and used to access information instantly.

Generation Alpha: What Can We Expect?

Children born in the Alpha generation live in a world where technological devices are becoming more intelligent, everything is becoming connected, and the physical and digital worlds are merging into the metaverse. New technologies will shape their lives, experiences, attitudes, and expectations as they grow up. Unfortunately, often these kids are digitally native, though they fail to understand how to behave in the digital realm and be responsible digital citizens.

The year 2010 marked the beginning of Generation Alpha. This year's biggest news was Instagram's first download, the iPad's release, and "app" becoming the new word of the year. Consequently, this generation has been labeled "tech natives," "digitally literate," and "screenagers." As a result of responsive screens being placed in front of Generation Alpha before they could even speak or walk, some may say that Generation Alpha has been a part of an "accidental social experiment".

The advancement of technology in the 21st century has disrupted the way people connect, communicate, and interact with each other.

When smartphones and iPads were created, I do not think their creators intended for toddlers or young children to use them—let alone learn from them at school.

When the pandemic hit, many kids had to attend their lessons online through Zoom. The sudden change has made parents more willing than ever to hand over their phones and tablets so their children can watch cartoons on YouTube.

Therefore, it is becoming more and more common for young people to use technology for almost anything, and we cannot reverse this trend; on the contrary, we must use it to our advantage, but responsibly.

The Alpha Generation Is Already Digitally Literate, So What Is the Real Problem?

As educators, service providers, and marketers aim to better understand Millennials' children, facts about this group are emerging more quickly. Each 15 to 20 years, a new generation of learners enters classrooms with expectations, skills, behaviors, and challenges shaped by their time's unique circumstances. They bring a fresh perspective and an updated focus on adapting education to their needs.

The Alpha generation is the newest and most developed group, but are their learning spaces ready for them? Unfortunately not.

In the past 100 years, the world might have drastically changed, but the way we teach our children remains exactly the same as 100 years ago; a large group of kids in a classroom, sitting forward-facing, listening to a teacher who explains something, gives an assignment or has a discussion with the students. To make matters worse, the pandemic forced children worldwide to learn from home, sitting hours in front of Zoom or Teams and being home-schooled by parents. Zoom fatigue is real for professionals, so for children with limited attention spans, online learning during the pandemic was challenging for children, parents, and teachers.

I would argue that teaching children is the most important task if we want to advance our society; after all, the children will be the innovators of tomorrow. The fact that we have not innovated our teaching methods in the past 100 years while having all these technologies available is remarkable to me. We stick to the old paradigm of teaching children traditional subjects in a traditional way, most of which will become useless in the next decade.

Instead, we should teach our kids research and analytical skills, so they know how to form an opinion and self-educate, how to be adaptive and deal with rapid change, and how to use and apply technology (responsibly) by teaching them programming, robotics, and ethics. Above all, we should embrace the latest technology, from AI coaching to virtual and augmented experiences, to prepare our children for a world that will look fundamentally different when they finish school.

Knowledge-seekers should be able to engage with more information easily and independently than ever before. Classroom experiences must shift from content mastery to meaningful, relevant, skills-based experiences to allow Alphas to share and innovate what they know. Learning will be redefined as a hands-on, active, student-driven, and potentially AI-augmented, process that will require classroom environments to change to accommodate this new approach.

Before we jump to Gen Alpha's needs, let's further define their characteristics to understand them better.

Characteristics of Gen Alpha

Generation Alpha refers to the first generation of human beings born into a world entirely altered by new technologies. In some ways, this new world is kind of like the one we live in, but with most aspects enhanced by technology. A Generation Alpha world would have some social elements that resemble the past but other purely futuristic aspects.

These are some of the features that are part of the development of this generation:

  1. Students from Generation Alpha began attending kindergarten in the years 2014-2015.
  2. It is common for Generation Alpha students to be adept at navigating digital tools and thinking digitally about how things relate to one another.
  3. Gen Alpha is highly influenced by online influencers and does such things to engage the attention of online influencers who speak their language.
  4. Generation Alpha kids participate in household decision-making, unlike other generations. They are providing feedback on their purchasing priorities, vacation plans, and purchases, among other things.
  5. Generation Alpha children embrace technology as a way of learning, connecting, and living.
  6. By the time they reach age eight, this generation is forecast to surpass their parents' technological skills.
  7. AI is part of their daily lives, and they know how to use Siri and Alexa (among others) from the moment they learn to speak.
  8. In ways many of our teachers have not yet mastered, they will use technology to learn and interact with content.
  9. Generation Alpha expects personalized learning from K12. Their learning will be motivated by meaning and purpose instead of being didactic or teacher-directed.

Generation Alpha will be the first generation with a global digital footprint – their lives are more linked to technology than any other previous generation. The global digital footprint is a testament to how diverse Generation Alpha will be, stemming from the varied cultural upbringings in the far reaches of the world.

This generation is growing up with a natural understanding of the technology they have access to. This familiarity may lead to a more evolved understanding of technology in their adult working years and potentially change the world for the better.

Next-Generation Learners: Understanding Their Needs

Many schools are just now beginning to cater to Generation Z's needs while using resources from Generation X and Baby Boomer content. We cannot just toss them in a one-room schoolhouse and hope for the best. It will not work the way it has always been done. Alphas will number nearly 2 billion by 2025. Even though the oldest members of Generation Alpha are still in elementary school, and many of them have not even been born, it is possible to estimate this emerging generation through demographic analysis.

They are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet and are expected to be the most formally educated, digitally literate, longest-living, and globally connected. Understanding the expectations, needs, and challenges of Generation Alpha is essential to create optimal learning spaces for them.

Alphas have experienced more formal education from an earlier age than other groups of students. Many Alphas are also expected to continue their education in their later years, with many pursuing a university degree or some other formal education in the future. With these two trends, according to Mark McCrindle, Generation Alpha will be the most formally educated generation to date because, historically, future generations have access to more opportunities in many areas of daily life than their predecessors, especially thanks to the new advances brought about by technology. Nevertheless, it will also affect Alphas' developmental timeline, education expectations, and ability to function in the workforce, as they are part of the process of disruptive changes that we are currently living through and that will undoubtedly continue to develop in the coming years, so the expectations are on them, which can be challenging to cope with.

In addition, mobile technology has captivated and connected Alphas since birth. They are also known as the "Glass Generation", meaning they mainly communicate through glass-fronted devices. Generation Alpha has experienced positive and negative outcomes due to the ubiquitous presence of highly responsive technology and rapid access to anything online, including increased screen time, short attention spans, exceptional digital literacy, and deficits in developing in-person social skills.

Insights into Educational Needs

Alpha Generation learners learn through innovation, skill development, and engagement with real-world challenges. Their ability to collect information, prototype, create value, and interact within a global network is a natural extension of the tools and technologies they surround themselves with from early on, for example, on platforms such as Roblox or Minecraft. They will increasingly seek symmetry between their worlds inside and outside the classroom as they prioritize meaningful and relevant learning experiences.

If we consider Alphas and its previous generation, children have always learned through play. This compared to previous generations, who used colouring books, action figures and played in the open air. The era of personalized learning programs, learning through play, STEM-focused curriculums, and teacher training reinvention has become the day's order in educational systems to accommodate these tech-savvy young learners.

Unfortunately, the problem is that currently, the incorporation of technological tools to promote learning is a priority on paper, which means that it is a priority for governments around the world, even in developing countries, but in practice, it has not been effectively implemented today. Many initiatives have been announced to renew school and university curricula from government agencies to incorporate technology into teaching models, but they have failed in their implementation, which has slowed down this process a lot and perpetuates decades-old failures. As a result, the education systems worldwide are still not modernized for the new times.

The learning environment must be seamlessly integrated with immersive, adaptive, and responsive technologies to allow Alphas to explore their interests, capture their thinking processes, demonstrate their knowledge, and share what they know with their peers and the world. This generation of learners will be more excited by Extended Reality technologies and will have a greater impact when provided with embodied technology experiences.

As technology has become overwhelmingly prevalent in Generation Alpha's lives, it will be essential to cultivate the digital skills, soft skills and social skills they need to excel by creating a balance through grounded experiences and one-on-one interactions. All these skills are developed in the classroom, including regulating behaviour, interacting with others, setting goals, and developing habits of mind which, in the long run, will result in responsible and competent digital citizens for our changing world.

Alphas will continue to prioritize skill-building over content mastery as they progress through their education and pursue some form of higher education; their learning process will play the most important role in their formation. According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of elementary school students today will work in jobs that do not exist yet in 24 years. Consequently, higher education institutions must adapt to keep up with new careers and industries.

Through industry partnerships, Alphas will receive real-world learning, real-world experiences, and meaningful connections rather than traditional all-purpose degrees. Lifelong learning will increasingly become necessary for Alphas as their careers shift and evolve.

The Future of the Workforce

Considering the current trend of increased job mobility, Alphas are expected to have many jobs across multiple distinct careers in an ever-changing world. Learning will continue into their sixties and seventies as they adapt, grow, and expand their skill set. For Alphas to remain relevant and agile in their future careers, they will need competencies and character qualities in cybersecurity, nanotechnology, autonomous transportation, blockchain, machine learning, and virtual reality, among many others. In addition, they also need social skills such as adaptability, ethics, a strong understanding of how to behave in the digital world, and analytical skills, among others.

Gen Alpha has been playing, collaborating, building, and developing skills since they were young—on platforms like Minecraft or Roblox. And because they have worked with their peers from around the world on these games/platforms, this will change how Gen Alphas views work and what they expect from organizations as employees or customers.

As the world becomes more complex and challenges become global, Alpha's ability to innovate will guide them toward careers aligned with their values and provide opportunities to make a positive impact.

Do We Need to Change Our Education System?

There is no way traditional educational institutions can meet the need to incorporate technology into their teaching practices effectively, nor can digitizing existing content solve the problem unless there is a profound restructuring of the current academic curricula to adapt to the new times. Learning systems that are engaging, relevant, and efficient are urgently needed.

Private tech startups are innovating, gamifying, and creating better educational paradigms to meet Gen Alpha's needs. In many digital play-and-learn platforms, we already see higher engagement and longer sessions. Recent data has shown that classrooms with interactive game-based learning engage students for 93% of the class period. Through the use of augmented reality and other technologies, rich, engaging, and meaningful interactive experiences can be created.

Digital literacy is the ability to use technology effectively, ethically, and safely. It encompasses a range of skills, including decision-making in an online environment or in the metaverse; ethical reasoning related to electronic communications; research practice within digital libraries; and access to different data practices. Children need to learn these skills today to understand how their actions impact others and themselves.

Children need to develop a sense of responsibility and learn how to behave appropriately in the digital world from a very early age.

Educators have been working since 2001 to advance public education systems by leveraging technology, learning sciences, and engagement and empowerment research. Whether an implementation succeeds or fails, many lessons must be learned. To adapt to their thinking, here are some suggestions that schools need to consider:

Skills Over Content

We all believe it is safe to say that students have access to content and resources wherever and whenever they want, and it does, no matter what device they use. Rather than focusing on content, teachers must prioritize skills. There is already a WHAT available. Now, learning is all about "how" and "why". Metacognition and learning how to think are essential for students.

Flexible Learning

Generation Alpha demands authenticity and abhors isolated content without a clear purpose behind it. They will inevitably want to create valuable products that innovatively incorporate their learning to illustrate their knowledge. Across multiple content areas, teachers should consider learning outcomes that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in innovative and creative ways and share their creations with local and global audiences.

The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning, conducted in Chicago public schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, is an example of how this can be accomplished. They assigned mobile devices to students, including approximately 100,000 laptops and tablets, with which teachers could explain complex concepts in an interactive way.

Lecturers were able to explain formulas in mathematics better. When asked about the effectiveness of 1:1 devices in math classes, 53% of principals reported that such technology was effective for this purpose.

On the other hand, students were able to have lively discussions with their peers even when they were not in class or at school—for example, on social media pages and discussion boards.

Collaboration

Critical thinking and creative problem-solving have become increasingly important in recent years, particularly through collaboration. In my opinion, that trend will continue. The teachers need to enable students to interact digitally, make virtual connections, prototype, play games, make videos, and create virtual destinations, among other skills, to effectively translate them into the real world. As a matter of fact, students will need numerous opportunities to demonstrate their processes to accomplish something unique or solve an authentic problem.

Developing Soft Skills

In the classroom, Gen Alpha students will need to learn how to manage their own behaviour, deal with others' behaviour, self-regulate, and set goals for themselves and the (digital) community they live in. As well as developing human capital, social capital, and decisional capital, teachers will need to develop a variety of habits of mind with students, including empathetic listening, metacognition, flexibility, and problem-solving, especially when dealing with the digital realm.

A Few In-Depth Suggestions

Classrooms must become smart to accommodate Gen Alpha. Panels with interactive features are a smart and versatile way to organize classes on a central platform. The interactive panels and other technologies (such as projectors) must support Bluetooth since students will bring their own devices (BYOD). Each class must have fast WiFi to provide a fully online and cloud-based learning experience. But ideally, parents and educators should avoid using centralized cloud platforms owned by Big Tech unless the companies can guarantee responsible, safe and secure use of children's data.

As well, the physical layout of class interiors should be revised. Traditional class designs do not work well due to their rigidity and crowded nature. To facilitate mobility and interaction, desks should be spaced further apart and arranged so that students face each other rather than the teacher, if applicable.

There is a need for schools to implement technology infrastructure where it does not exist currently quickly. A fast and consistent connection to cloud services, particularly storage, is essential for the use of interactive flat panels, with the data ideally stored in their own countries.

Inquiry-based learning, blended learning, educational games, and more are all essential to Gen Alpha's learning style. With cloud server access, students and teachers can access content and tasks from anywhere. Also, cloud servers can access centrepiece interactive displays quickly and conveniently.

The potential benefits of augmented reality and artificial intelligence in education

Moreover, research has shown that passive teaching methods are ineffective in transferring knowledge. The least effective method is a lecture. Long-term retention rates of the knowledge shared in a typical lecture where the teacher stands in front of a class and talks are around 5 per cent while reading about a topic only marginally improves the retention rates to 10 per cent. However, participatory teaching methods drastically improve memory retention rates, with group discussions bringing it to 50 per cent and learning by doing to 75 per cent. Hearing and reading can be useful in some use cases, but the best would be to learn by doing, and that is where AR and VR come into play. After all, practice makes perfect.

Fortunately, educators are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence and augmented reality to make learning more accessible.

For example, students who struggle with geometry can use augmented reality to see and manipulate 3D forms. Another application of AR in education includes global perspectives — visualizing other cultures through virtual field trips that teach children about different parts of the world by allowing them to interactively engage with content related to those places.

Abstract concepts can be difficult for students to grasp. Giving teachers opportunities to help students learn these concepts creates assistance with the abstract that may not otherwise be available to all learners.

Imagine a history teacher that offers VR classes combined with a discussion with the group after the class has experienced Ancient Rome using virtual reality. It would allow students to actually go into a virtual environment, interact with the teacher and fellow students, pause or play back a scene or session, and notice new things every time they visit or replay a scene. It would allow the children to experience a new environment in a safe and controlled environment and explore knowledge from a different perspective while being fully engaged. We could teach children the world of quantum mechanics by literally stepping into the microscopic world or showing the effects of climate change on any environment. The potential is endless, and it would probably result in a fun learning environment and the best ratings for the teacher and school. Moreover, celebrity teachers can teach millions of kids simultaneously in an immersive environment as long as the required hardware becomes available to as many children as possible.

Virtual reality will make it much easier to keep children and students fully engaged and attentive without the fear of wandering off compared to a Zoom, Teams, or in-person lecture. Of course, it would most likely not be healthy for kids to spend more than one to two hours per day in virtual reality, although more research would be required to understand how virtual reality impacts children's brains. Metaverse natives will be wired differently, literally, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Using the opportunities for interaction and experimentation that augmented and virtual reality offers, teachers can enhance classroom experiences, teach new skills, inspire student minds—and get students more excited and eager to explore new academic interests.

Application of deep learning techniques in education

Educational data mining is a branch of machine learning that uses techniques such as predictive modelling to analyze student performance. These techniques can be used to build predictive and descriptive models that discover knowledge about phenomena.

For instance, predictor models can predict students' performance on a test. Descriptive models use big data to learn the best strategies for learning and education. Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) use techniques like these to provide individualized studying strategies.

Deep learning AI techniques, such as Deep Neural Networks (DNN) or Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN), can be used to analyze and assess students' weaknesses before providing customized learning materials.

The use of artificial intelligence-based systems will change the way teachers teach, and students learn. Learners may have difficulty trusting software that is not fully developed or does not respond like a human would to their questions; however, this can be overcome by teaching learners new digital skills or redesigning AI pedagogy, so it mimics people more than machines.

To address these challenges, researchers are studying how to make AI systems more effective, learning how best to teach them through different pedagogies (such as reinforcement learning), considering the user experience and content interactivity.

Is There a Reason for Focusing So Much on Generation Alpha?

One simple reason is that they are the youngest and will be in the majority after 30 years. A Grant Thornton study estimates Gen Alphas will live the longest, be more educated, and have the greatest generation of wealth.

However, the most important reason to focus on Gen Alphas is that they are our chance to move our society from one based on state and corporate surveillance to a society where we use digital tech to empower people. The Baby Boomers and Millennials sleepwalked into the digital age without thinking about the consequences, resulting in state and corporate surveillance because people generally prefer ease over security and privacy.

If we continue on our current path, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of previous generations. We must break free of established paradigms and create new ones that guide Gen Z and Gen Alphas toward responsible digital citizenship.
So a significant part of our expectations and investment should favour them. Apart from it, there are more reasons, as I mentioned below:

They will have a greater sense of entrepreneurship

Since the next generation will have access to more information, people, and resources earlier in their lives, they will become more entrepreneurial than their predecessors. Many Alpha entrepreneurs will likely start businesses before the age of ten. According to a recent Centre for Entrepreneurs report, young people have started twice as many businesses as Baby Boomers did when they were starting out in life.

As entrepreneurs, they will be more successful thanks to taking more risks and building relationships earlier than Millennials, Gen X, and boomers, in addition to the important access to technology that they will have at their disposal.

They will be more independent, educated, and prepared to take on big challenges in the future

Looking at the trends, we can see that Gen Alpha will be fundamentally different from Gen Z. It's not just a matter of technology and communication. Gen Alpha also reflects a shift in our education system towards independence, inter-dependency and collaboration, as well as our economy moving more towards technology.

These young people will be preparing to take on big challenges like global warming and international conflicts. For this generation to meet these challenges head-on, they must be provided with resources that teach them the skills necessary to succeed in the modern world.

How Does the Parent's Role Fit In?

Parents who belong to the Millennial generation are fond of indulging and seeking out the best they can afford so they can feel like they are being rewarded for the accomplishments they have made. They want their children to have these things as well. As a matter of fact, Millennials often offer their Gen Alphas mini versions of the grown-up versions. Imagine all the mini versions of what the parents have as play kitchens and ride-on cars.

Just like that, they also need to consider the best quality education for their Alpha children, which is practical and futuristic. No matter where they may be in the world, Generation Alpha is influenced by the same movies, music, fashion, and food. For them, tech, blogs, friendships, and vocabulary have no boundaries in this wireless world.

To prepare Gen Alpha for a global economic environment, parents must prepare them for such a situation. To future-proof Generation Alpha, character qualities and digital competencies will be as crucial as competency-based training.

It is worth highlighting that Millenials need to understand digital technology, but they are as—or even more so—illiterate when it comes to using computers and other devices. How can they teach their children how to deal with the hyper-connected world if they themselves don't know?

Many parents post photos of their children on social media all the time, ignoring privacy issues and their children's wishes not to be photographed or exposed, so Gen Alpha has come to regard this behaviour as normal—which should not be.

Startups Focusing on Digital Literacy for All Generations?

College costs are rising, resulting in more debt for students, while post-college economic returns are flattening out. Yet learning is more important than ever, especially in an era of rapid technological development and growing automation. Traditionally oriented higher education institutions cannot handle the scale of the challenge. In the future, we will need a new class of institutions.

In the meantime, new educational technology companies are rising to the challenge. In the wake of a $700 million valuation and over four million users accessing its content, Scaler has announced that it will launch learning communities in the United States. A Gallup study found that only 34% of university faculty are engaged in their jobs, making them some of the least engaged workplaces in the world.

We are entering an era where augmented and virtual reality merges with distributed ledger technology to enhance traditional higher education. Adverse has partnered with PolygonMATIC to create a metaverse dedicated exclusively to education. A company specializing in virtual education uses blockchain technology to "decentralize and democratize" education. ASU's Dreamscape Immersive and Nicosia's Open Metaverse Initiative are two examples of traditional higher education institutions piloting metaverse initiatives with virtual reality.

Let's learn about some already available startups:

Learnable

Learnable combines artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality to enable teachers to create and share rich learning resources. Explicitly designed for African teachers, it facilitates the transmission and reception of high-quality content over low bandwidths. It simplifies creating lessons and managing learners' performance and assessment. Through this initiative, founder Shoriwa Shaun Benjamin hopes to bridge the digital divide, helping many students from accessing educational content due to poorly developed technology.

Ekatra

With Ekatra, students can participate in micro-courses using text messages, thus enabling low-data/no-data learning. This tool is designed to assist institutions in creating and deploying micro-learning, which it explains is an effective and efficient method of educating students online.

Ekatra is a text-&-audio application based on text and audio technologies. With this platform, organizations can help underserved high school students become career-ready, teaching them skills that will help them succeed in the workplace and life. The Ekatra application is accessible using any mobile phone - it does not require special apps or devices.

Despite the learner's use of basic technology, it is not suited for large-scale implementation due to the use of AI and machine learning tools.

The EDISON Alliance

EDISON Alliance, organized by the World Economic Forum, also promotes and extends digital inclusion worldwide. Its goal is to make digital opportunities affordable and accessible to everyone by 2025 by reaching out to as many students as possible in several regions of the world and providing quality educational programs for everyone.

"The time for gradual change towards digital access and adoption has ended," says Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the Forum. Our mission to bring connectivity to all must emphasize its critical nature as an essential component of many others - and we must also champion those who care about education, health, climate, equality, and growth in their missions.

Call-a-Kahaani

In Call-a-Kahaani, learners learn life skills and a mindset for continuous learning through stories and an interactive voice response (IVR). Due to its ability to be accessed via any telephone without the internet, this technology can be used in areas with limited or no digital infrastructure.

The learners listen to four-minute narrated stories interspersed with scenarios that measure their learning needs and outcomes. Following that, they are invited to share their stories and interact with others on the platform.

By exposing learners to the protagonist's decisions and choices and their implications, the interactive stories and challenges aim to develop independent decision-making skills. There have been over 22,000 calls so far, totalling over 34,000 minutes of call time from over 15 states in India.

MasterClass

MasterClass allows users to take online classes and learn from world-leading experts in their fields. Masterclass features instructors who offer unique insights that can only be gained from achieving the greatest achievements in life, including Stephen Curry, Gordon Ramsey, and Annie Leibovitz, in categories including cooking, music, sports, filmmaking, and much more.

A Cloud Guru

Educators can learn cloud computing online with A Cloud Guru, an EdTech company. There is a wide array of cloud-focused coding courses available on A Cloud Guru's platform, which offers students a more engaging learning environment than traditional online education does.

When it comes to helping people who are considered illiterate regarding the use of digital technologies, Comcast has helped lift many people beyond the digital divide. Google IT offers young professionals access to specialized training and certifications that they may not have otherwise been able to attain. The team from Subaru provided donations and conducted specialized training in advanced java and now QA. Akamai presented Linux training. Dell supplied equipment that makes all of this training possible.

The above are just a few examples of how corporations can assist our community in bridging the digital divide.

Increasing internet access is going a long way toward reducing the digital divide, but we must also remember the second barrier: digital literacy. Companies and organizations can help alleviate this disparity by providing opportunities for digital education.

Gen Zers and Gen Alphas will continue to be a big market for education technology startups. In the future, digital literacy will be an essential skill for Gen Alpha and other Millennial generations to be successful.

How will teachers educate them in this technological area? Will research and development become a greater component of this change? How do we get to that point?

These are all questions we will need to start addressing now, as there is a growing and important market to meet these challenges in the coming years.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt this is a very important subject that is close to my heart, and it is part of my mission at the Digital Futures Institute. My final verdict about the topic is that while the digital revolution is already in full force, I believe it is now more important than ever to ensure that we embrace technology, become more digitally educated, and do so responsibly and safely. As such, I think it is the responsibility of all educators to incorporate responsible digital literacy skills into their courses and to recognize their value in the evolving 21st-century marketplace.

To better serve the next generation, and to further our democratic tradition of civil debate and discussion, we must take steps now to ensure that every student has access to technology. To realize this vision, we must commit ourselves to preparing young people not just for college and careers but also for an ever-changing world where technology is at the center of daily life.

Dr Mark van Rijmenam
Dr Mark van Rijmenam

Dr Mark van Rijmenam is The Digital Speaker. He is a future tech strategist who thinks about how technology changes organisations, society and the metaverse. Dr Mark van Rijmenam is an international keynote speaker, 4x author and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Datafloq and the author of the book on the metaverse: Step into the Metaverse: How the Immersive Internet Will Unlock a Trillion-Dollar Social Economy detailing what the metaverse is and how organizations and consumers can benefit from the immersive internet.

He is the publisher of the ‘f(x) = e^x‘ newsletter, read by thousands of executives, on the future of work and the organization of tomorrow. The Digital Speaker has spoken in 20 countries across the globe and collectively inspired over 100.000 managers, directors and C-level executives.

Dr Mark van Rijmenam is The Digital Speaker. He is a future tech strategist who thinks about how emerging technologies change organizations, society and the metaverse. Van Rijmenam is an international keynote speaker, 4x author and entrepreneur.

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