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The 21st century student : an exploration into the evolution of teaching and learning practices required in a generation of digital change.

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The 21st Century is an ever changing context with rapid developments in technology affecting the manner in which we live, communicate and engage with the globe. These developments have contributed to creating categories of individuals who can be labelled as “Digital Natives,” who have grown up surrounded by technology and are comfortable using digital tools, and in contrast “Digital Immigrants,” those who have had to learn how to use technological tools, such as smartphones, wireless internet or laptops, in order to function in the current context. This is bound to affect teaching and learning strategies within the Higher Education sector, as generally “Digital Immigrants” will be facilitating “Digital Natives.” The need to understand how “Digital Natives,” process information, how technology is integrated into their studies is important in discovering the most effective teaching and learning strategies in order to fulfil 21st Century Higher Education outcomes. The study is situated within the local context of the Applied Arts, an area which has had less exposure than other disciplines. It is based in a private higher education institution, where access to digital tools and resources is prominent. The research method is largely qualitative in nature and involves the use of focus group discussions, reflective journaling and in class observations using a case study of ten active participants. The data is then categorised and analysed using a suggested framework, which combines the theory of Connectivism and Vygotsky‟s Zone of Proximal Development. The study is concluded with teaching and learning recommendations specific to Digital Natives as identified within the group of participants in the study.


M. Ed. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2014.


Educational technology--Study and teaching., Generation Y--Education., Theses--Education.