Generations in conversation

Generations in conversation

by Anne Clerx

I was born between 1986 and 2000. That makes me a millennial. Most of my friends are about the same age as me. So to look at different generations, I have to look beyond my own circle of friends. And where do different generations meet each other better than in a primary school? As a true millennial, I started talking to group 4/5. In other words: Generation Z. I asked about their hobbies, what they are good at and about the differences with their teacher and grandfathers and grandmothers. To complete the picture I spoke to their teacher, from the pragmatic generation, and the grandfather of one of the children, a baby boomer.


My own primary school time was already a few years ago. When I walk into the school for my conversations in the morning, I immediately notice the IWBs. Technology appears to be at the core of all conversations I have today. When I ask about the children's hobbies, a boy shouts that he likes to build with Lego. The others prefer to watch videos on YouTube, play games on the iPad, and watch vlogger Dylan Haegens. The first thing that comes to Miss Mathilde's mind when I ask her what the children do very differently than they do is: "They all have screens." The children say they can do better “on the iPad”, and they always give the teacher tips about the IWB. Teacher Mathilde agrees with them: "They are more handy with computers, keyboards, things like that."

No cell phone

The children say that their grandparents often do not understand mobile phones and games on the iPad. Fortunately, most grandfathers and grandmothers can call. The grandfather of one of the children, Mr. Henkens, is at school to read. The main difference between him and the children: "They can deal much more easily with things like a mobile phone, with texting." I ask about a well-known prejudice about baby boomers: they would have a technological backlog. It turns out to be correct in this case: “Yes, there is a backlog, and it remains. I only bought my first computer when I was fifty. And the developments continue. But I don't have a cell phone to date. That's a choice.”

Eight seconds, five devices

During the conversation with the children I suddenly hear: "Look, they are running in circles outside!" Immediately all heads turn to the window. There goes the attention. I ask the children if they are good at focusing. "No!" they say in unison. That generation Z would have a tension of only eight seconds  therefore seems quite correct. Fortunately, attention soon returns when I start watching television. Miss Mathilde did not have a television at home until she was seventeen: "But we were exceptional, we got television very late." The children have many examples of watching TV on different devices at the same time. For example, one of them says: “Sometimes I watch Netflix on the iPad in the small screen, and then I play a game at the same time. Then I play and then I watch! ” Two others say that they can even operate five or six screens simultaneously. They can do that better than the teacher, they think: "He can't even have a phone and an IWB together."

Grandpa Henkens is not good at operating different devices at the same time: “No. I can watch television and read a book, or read three different books at the same time. But I don't think you can watch a movie on your cell phone and a movie on television. ” The eight-second tension does not surprise him.

It also seemed to me almost impossible that Gen Z-ers can really operate five devices at the same time. Until I saw my brother sitting on the couch at home - eighteen years old and therefore on the edge of Generation Z. He watched TV, scrolled on his phone, played a game on the iPad and occasionally typed something on his laptop. All at once. He does not have a fifth device; but it would have taken no extra effort.

When I go home, all the children are quietly working on their tablet. Miss Mathilde has a number of children with questions. If they don't get it, they really do need the teacher's explanation.