New Kids on the Block? Exploring technological preferences of a new generation


  • Brenda VAN WYK University of Pretoria



Agency, Microlearning


Over the past decades, reported research have continuously alluded to the impact of “digital natives,” “millennials,” and a range of reported “generations,” and warned about the need to adapt across all spheres, including education, educational approaches and student support. Higher education akin to these demands. Contemporary trends in student styles indicate an ever-expanding preference in using digital options. In essence, the use and application of technology and expectations hereof are changing with the emergence of each new generation. This necessitates a deepening in understanding, of inter alia, developments and application of educational technology and instructional design. With the disruptive technological changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), a new entry-level student, characterised by an increased digital imprint and a marked preference to using only mobile technology, surfaced and is already coined in literature as “the phygital generation”. Phygital is the concept of using technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world with the purpose of providing a unique interactive experience for the user. The term has first been introduced by the marketing and consumer industries. Here, smart and mobile technologies enable interaction and experiences for increasingly daily needs such as online purchases, traveling, learning, communication. The question is: how does this new trend affect teaching and learning? Evidently, students from this generation prefers to learn from microcontent and they are averse to voluminous content. Is there an understanding of the nature of the phygital generation, with its focus on mobile technology? Will this exacerbate the digital divide in marginalised communities? Framed by Critical Pedagogy, this paper interrogates the knowledge that a group of lecturers and their support staff in a Higher Education Institution in South Africa must accommodate a new generation of students. Using an interpretive design, qualitative data were collected from a purposively selected group of educators and support staff. Semi-structured interviews were used in this case to gauge their awareness and readiness to accommodate this new generation in their teaching and learning ecosystem. Findings are that participants are aware of the change but are not prepared for contemporary trends. Informed by critical theory, the paper offers critical indicators to address the gap.