Alpha Generation learns differently - what are we willing to do for them?

About a month ago, I attended a lecture by Sasha Cerber at the Meital conference for integrating technology in higher education in Israel.

Sasha, a design instructor in the ceramics and glass design departments at Bezalel Jerusalem, talked about new technologies of scanning, design and 3D printing in design studies.

Sasha told us that his students no longer wish to use design software (which I learned) but rather prefer to use very intuitive smartphone applications - and get an equally good product using with very little effort.

While studying for a bachelor's degree in design at Bezalel, I molded with material, sculpted and designed objects with clay or wood. Accordingly, I got dirty and breathed a lot of dust.


A few years later I used both Photoshop and Illustrator software. Years passed, and as part of designing physical learning spaces in many schools I also used another software to create laser cutting files for various hard surfaces in a factory. I also experimented from occasionally with creating digital objects for a 3D printing.

In those days I felt some "distance" or remote from the objects I had designed. A distance that these (old) graphic software caused.

Generation Z students who are in the design class today were born into a completely different reality.

They can sculpt directly and "feel" the material using new app for designers or get into a Metaverse to do so!


Design studies put emphasis on learning from experience, learning from mistakes and repeated attempts to improve. There is a whole method of receiving feedback called “work review” that takes place as part of the learning process and takes place within the group under the guidance of the teacher. The learner is expected reflect and improve while re-experiencing or re-designing objects.


Experiential learning is a common in pedagogy today even outside the training of designers contexts. In fact this is an approach formulated by John Dewey.

The approach has many familiar examples. Sometimes the experience involves learning by creating an object, scientific experiments and more. We will often see it when learners interact with technology in school settings. Perhaps in the near future we will already be able to observe learners designing virtual environments as a learning task in cultural studies, the Bible, geography or history.


Experiential learning in cyberspace or Metaverse

"Material" is not only something physical that you touch with your hands, rather, it can be an object that reacts to your avatar in a digital environment or within a digital application that allow you to manipulate 3D images.


For example, watch a video showing the use of the Nomad app on an iPad combined with a digital pen. The talented Angela Kalokairinou drew a dolphin using a regular paper and pencil, scanned it to her iPad and further sculptured a 3D digital dolphin image.


Another app that Sasha introduced at the meeting was Putty 3D

Imagine you have a soft clay ball, just inside your phone, and you pinch it and shape it with your fingers on the screen ...

Do you want to stop reading and immediately download to iPhone? (There is no version of Android, unfortunately)

I'll be waiting for you here, take your time.

Do not forget to send this app to all your friends who have children at this age ...

Wait, are you sure this fun app has an age?


Many teachers build learning assignments that encourage creativity.
Only few teachers are familiar with design or art assessment and use them regularly in their classrooms.
However, now we all have an opportunity to add some more creativity to our schooling. That approach will help most of our students to engage learning and actively experience it.

I have been asked about the field of design and research.

During my years at Bezalel I have learned about cultures through exploring their designed objects.

For example - learning about cultures by researching their pottery, jewelry, clothing and furniture taught me about the daily lives of the people, about their beliefs and customs, no less than reading the textual historical documentation, which was usually introduced in my high school history class.


If in high school history teachers gave me tasks that allow me to express my learning through the creation of objects and clothing details translated into the present tense - learning would enrich me and cause me great pleasure, sweeping and motivating me to love the profession.

Expanding learners' choices to represent the knowledge they have learned in a variety of ways is an important principle in the UDL approach.


The path I took (at least in the beginning) was design and art, and the ways I understood went through the visual, the material and the practical experience. Many like me sit in classrooms today, and I would also venture to say, that today generations are even more visual and even more looking for learning though experience.

For them, for this wonderful alpha generation, I suggest adopting tools and technologies that welcomes to touch materials and use more learning experiences.


I argue that learning by experiencing is the right way to teach the alpha generation, and that the new tools that available to us today should be brought into the classroom to make this way of learning more common.

Are educators flexible enough to choose these tools and create new learning tasks in their specific learning situation, for specific learners, to achieve specific goals, to stimulate motivation?


As usual, I would love to get comments on these ideas here on the blog.


Good luck, 21st-century teachers.


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