From Emojis to Clocks – Do We Need to Change for Gen Z?

Students Cant Tell Time

In the past few weeks I’ve seen two alarmist news stories going around about Generation Z and people changing to fit around them.

The first was that, apparently, Gen Z can’t read analog clocks since they mostly read the time via their phones or laptops, which display the time in digital format. It seems that in some schools, teachers are replacing regular clocks with digital ones in exam halls, to help students understand how much time they have left.

I was very suspicious when I first read it, thinking that it’s yet another attack on young people from those who want to create a clickable title. However, while chatting with a year 10 student I asked him what he thought of the news article – did he think that his generation can’t read clocks?

He replied that he himself couldn’t read an analog clock and when he asked me what the time was, he didn’t understand “half past two” but instead wanted me to tell it to him the “military time”.

While my fact-checking research was incredibly limited, I do think that there would be a number of students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, for whom this would be true. A quick google shows that studies are saying that modern parents are both spending more time than ever with their children – but also that parents are only spending 35 minutes a day with them. Inconclusive.

However, it is understandable that a single parent struggling with money isn’t going to have as much time to spend with their children teaching them things like how to tell the time. With the wealth gap getting bigger, there are more people at the bottom of the food chain trying to make ends meet – and that means that time usually spent teaching children skills is lost to other, more pressing tasks.

The second news story I saw was that teachers are using emojis to teach Shakespeare. An education expert has said that by using emojis in the classroom, teachers will be putting their state educated students far behind their privately educated peers.

Reading into it, it seems that there is a teacher who asked students to summarise each scene with an emoji, then explaining their reasoning afterwards. It’s not like they’re being asked to write entire essays in smilies. Can everyone just chill, please?

I have quite controversial views on Shakespeare in the curriculum in that I think it’s time for a Shake up (see what I did there??) and for other works to be the focus. The old English is a barrier for many people, though the plots of the plays themselves are able to be linked with contemporary experiences. I don’t blame teachers at all for trying to make these plays a bit more accessible to the students.

In both of these examples, we see teachers make changes to fit around students. I think that while Millennials like me are keen to change the world, but often have our own struggles and challenges, it will be Gen Z who ultimately reform the norm in everyday life. I think that clocks and Shakespeare are just the beginning – there will be so many other rules of life that will be broken because they simply aren’t fit for purpose anymore.

The last few generations have had to bend and shape themselves to fit into an old and outdated model of life, but now we live in a time where driverless cars are just on the horizon and AI threatens to take our jobs, we’re going to need to take a second look at how we go about even the simplist things and how we can make them better.

I feel that Gen Z are like proofreaders on modern life. They’re entering our world and viewing things with a fresh pair of eyes, and forcing us to make changes. It’s not for us to call them stupid or blame the adults in their lives for not preparing them for life, but perhaps we should instead be taking onboard these changes and seeing what can be improved.

Got a young person in your life? Ask them what they feel is outdated and in need of a change – I’d love to know!


  1. The thing about Shakespeare is that it’s often difficult for a class to read it- Shakespeare makes more sense if you *see* it. Some of that is the old English, some is the rhyming couplets, and some of it is that schools tend to take the dreariest of the plays to teach students.

    • Charlotte says

      Completely agree. Teachers can shove on a DVD of a film adaptation but it’s never really as engaging as seeing it in person – which is too expensive for schools to afford.

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