Teaching the Greatest Generation in Human Existence

What behaviors should we foster in these inevitable future leaders?

GUEST COLUMN | by Shen Megalaa


Born in 1989, on the cusp of the nineties, I grew up a digital native. I have fond memories of playing video games, from the first Nintendos, to the Xbox, and every generation of the PlayStation. I recall getting stuck on a game and watching a YouTube gameplay stream to help, then going down a YouTube rabbit hole to learn about the history of gaming in general, then accessing subreddits to help me better understand gaming plotlines, which at times, mirrored real, universal human themes. 

This motif is hugely significant because those experiences, if taken on their own, showcase some of the most booming industries of today and the future. The e-sports market is estimated to be worth $1.39bn and forecast to grow to $6.75bn by 2030. 

Skilled gamers today compete for prizes totaling millions of dollars. YouTube was acquired by Google 15 years ago for $1.65bn. Today, it generates $1.65bn every three weeks, making millionaires of viral streamers overnight. ChatGPT and other AI technologies sprung onto the scene a year ago and have become not only a hot topic but a very hot platform for learning and creation.

The Nineties Kids

To go back to my childhood, these experiences of gaming and YouTube helped foster a subconscious love of learning and a curiosity. What’s more, these experiences are hugely typical of people my age – the nineties kids. We saw the advent of technology, grew up with it and so naturally embrace how it drives continual advancement and change. Yet we also still understand the importance of traditional values and ideas. Today, we are skilled digitally, yet prefer to read non-electronic books.

The fact that nineties kids grew up on many of these technologies not only means that we are adept at using them, it also means that we have had to become highly adaptive – like the technologies themselves. 

A Stark Contrast

As an educator, a gamer and a self-proclaimed techie, standing in front of a classroom today contrasts starkly with how I was taught. I can make lessons dynamic, personalized and adaptive in a way my teachers could not. Digital tools and platforms make it comparatively quick and easy to provide tailored learning paths for students and to access data-driven insights that reveal progress and learning patterns, often in real time. This frees up time for individualized support, evolving the role of the teacher into a much more significant (and dare I say interesting) one of facilitator and coach. 

This professional transformation is only set to accelerate as technology continues to advance, and the number of AI-based platforms increases.

My Role, AI in Schools

Today, in my role as Vice Principal of Assessment and Data at Misk Schools, I use AI to build spreadsheets, support whole-school communication, and even for leadership ideation. But again, this is neither unique nor uncommon – it’s hugely typical. Given the gap between nineties kids and the generation before, it would be easy to get digitally complacent. But this would be a mistake, because the gap between my generation and the next is exponentially larger.

Today, my students learn four languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, and Python. Not only will they grow up to be adept communicators, but adept creators. In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson’s ground-breaking TEDTalk highlighted the detrimental effects of an education system that neglects creativity. His insights ignited a worldwide conversation within educational circles.

Facilitators in An Age of Self-Expression

Today, as technology transforms the teaching profession, I put forward the notion that schools are no longer the exclusive guardians of creativity, but rather facilitators in an age of self-expression; an age in which individuals have the freedom and tools to affirm and promote their creativity independently.

In fact, the next generation will be so great, so enormously qualified and technologically gifted, that leaders with 30 years’ experience in ten years’ time will most likely find themselves outdated by fresh graduates with far more skill.

What to Foster in Inevitable Leaders

This begs the question: What, then, should we foster in these inevitable leaders? Let’s use a driving analogy. For all the advancement in the car manufacturing industry, can we say that a driver with 30 years on-road experience is a worse driver than one who just scored their license and is operating a self-driving vehicle? No. As a matter of fact, the overall crash rate per 100,000 licensed drivers steadily decreases as driver age increases. We all know this. Time and experience have given older drivers the intuition to foresee almost every scenario before it occurs, and to prepare themselves accordingly. 

This analogy is important when faced with a classroom of bright young minds. Although they may surpass us in certain technological aspects, our strength lies in the leadership and life wisdom we already possess, and they have yet to gain. While direct experience cannot be instilled per se, we can instill the importance of three distinctly human behaviors that technology is not (yet) capable of replacing:

1. Cultivate Connections with Empathy and Modesty

Build relationships and support those around you.

Acknowledge and work on your areas of improvement.

2. Lead Authentically

Take responsibility for leading yourself first and foremost, before stepping up to lead others.

Proactively discover and develop your innate talents and strengths.

3. Be Curious and Pursue the Truth

Cultivate a genuine love of learning – and of challenge.

Become searchers and researchers of the truth.

This is more than a philosophy, it’s a practice. Today, when I stand in front of my students, with all humility I tell them that they are the greatest generation in human existence. And only after empowering them do I begin to teach.

Shen Megalaa, Vice Principal of Assessment and Data at Misk Schools, Riyadh, has experience across Sydney, Australia, Dubai, UAE, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Shen found his calling in curriculum and assessment design and education reform; he works to ensure that students are equipped with the professional and academic recognition they need to gain access to the best education at Higher Education institutions globally. Shen’s core belief is that students of the next generation will inevitably be the best leaders the world has ever seen, and his drive is to ensure that they lead in the right direction for the right reasons. Misk Schools is a PreK–12 private day school for boys and girls aiming to prepare the next generation of leaders, founded in 2016 by HRH Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Connect with Shen on LinkedIn.


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