Teaching the Uber Generation (and Beyond)


Meet the Uber Generation – they “sign in” when they want to work, “sign out” when they’d like a break, and they hop around different jobs trying to find their path. They pivot often, but this generation is led by thinkers and innovators—individuals who listen, interact and interpret much differently than generations past.

My 26-year-old daughter made that connection recently, and it’s stuck with me since.

We’re entering an interesting time where we’ve continually had to morph the way we teach, learn and conduct our everyday business to appeal to these trends how other generations had to do the same for their predecessors. The introduction of technology gave us access to the world in the palm of our hands, so it’s no wonder attention spans are limited—there’s so much to explore.

In order to keep the Uber Generation kids engaged and become an effective and enjoyable teacher for them, there are a couple steps you can take to create a dynamic learning environment.

Step 1: Prepare

Know your subject matter forwards and backwards so you can pivot just as much as they do.

I remember I would spend about 40 hours studying, learning and resolving all CPA Exam questions while preparing to teach a four-hour lecture. Everything was written on large, yellow sheets and then transferred onto abbreviated 3×5 note cards so that I had my notes during the lecture if need be. But realistically, by the time I taught the class, I had already memorized my lectures from all the prep work. The full course of lectures is over 120 hours and I’ve never had to do a second take (I’m discounting the one time my mic was dead and we had to start over, though).

Although it seems like a lot of legwork, two great things came out of this: 1) It took me less time to study up when I went to teach the lecture again in five months and 2) I could pivot just as much as my students did during class. Knowing the ins-and-outs of my subject matter allowed me to comfortably stay nimble so I could tweak my lectures on the fly—depending on what my students were responsive to and curious about.

Step 2: Practice

Hey, remember those 3×5 note cards? Use them for practice.

You can rehearse in front of the mirror, or better yet, get comfortable with your venue and run through the lecture in the actual classroom. That way, you know the layout and you can pinpoint where on the white board each example should go to keep things smooth and consistent.

Another tip? Try recording or filming yourself. I’ll admit, this is tough to do (and you probably won’t enjoy seeing or hearing yourself, because nobody does), but it helps to play it back and listen to the “ums,” the “ahs” and the long pauses so that you know where to tighten and inject a little bit more of your personality. While you are teaching, you’re also engaging with the students so that you can become effective (after all, what was all the prep for if not for being a better teacher?).

Step 3: Teach

This one seems obvious, right? Well, this one’s a little bit of an art.

Successful teaching is a two-way street. You provide information down one end of the street that the student receives from the other. But what if the student is on a completely different road and can’t receive the information? That’s where feedback comes in.

To speak on more relatable terms to the Uber Generation, feedback is your Google Maps. It allows you to keep the lecture focused on the key points and drive the message across to your students. Listen to the students and the questions being asked, and incorporate them into your future lectures. It also helps to keep track of how they’re feeling during the lecture. Got sleepy students in the back? Change your tone, ask questions that keep them engaged or try different types of teaching mediums (video, PowerPoint, whiteboard, guest speakers, etc.).

In the meantime, keep your energy up— don’t forget that you have more energy than anyone else in the room. That means keeping downtime to a minimum while talking (so that kids don’t have time to mentally drift) and moving around the lecture hall to stay dynamic. Eye contact with students also helps—that way, you’re speaking to them as opposed to speaking at them. Oh, and don’t be afraid to sprinkle in some humor—it helps students relate to you better, and it keeps things fun (everyone loves a good laugh).

Additional Helpful Teaching Tips: Engage in Active Learning

  • Ask Questions: Do this from the get-go to engage and elicit a response. I like to walk around the room and ask students a recap question—this shows me 1) who’s listening based on who’s answering and 2) who I need to engage more with. Doing this on the first day of class sets an expectation that you want them to participate.
  • Overlap Topics: Find where topics can overlap with real world examples. Students better understand when they can see a direct application of a concept they’re learning—it helps them think about it in a new perspective.
  • Repeat & Recap: It never hurts to repeat things twice—plus, a recap helps students put a neat bow around what they’ve just learned so they understand how it all comes together.
  • Go Old School—Use the Board: Technology is great and can be a useful tool in the classroom, but whiteboards and chalkboards do just fine sometimes. It’s the difference between flashing a formula onto a projector or writing it down alongside your students.
  • Mnemonics & Memory Aids: This helps make learning topics more engaging, and easier to remember.

As times change, so does your teaching style—but that’s just part of the fun. Sticking to those simple steps can help lead you to a successful, fulfilling role as a teacher, and keep you on top of your game—for the Uber Generation and beyond.

— Roger Philipp, CEO, CPA, CGMA

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