21st Century Learners: Changing Conceptions of Knowledge, Learning and the Child





21st century learning, Knowledge Economy, globalisation, digital learners


The term ‘21st century learner’ emerged at the turn of the millennium and evoked a certain type of certain type of digitally‐agile and self‐driven learner. These ideas about 21st century learners have been widely and uncritically adopted in New Zealand policies and practices in recent years. This paper examines the origins and substance of this term against the backdrop of globalisation and Knowledge Economy discourses and emerging ideas of ‘digital natives’. It considers the implications of these ideas on conceptualisations of the child, the development of deep learning, the impact on relationships between adults/teachers and students and on social equity. It concludes by suggesting that the term 21st century learner needs onâ€going critique if we want critical, informed citizens in our democracy.




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Author Biographies

Kate Hirschman, Victoria University of Wellington

is a student at Victoria University of Wellington and has interests in education policy, digital technologies, citizenship education, initial teacher education, and 21st century teaching and learning.


Bronwyn Wood, Dr, School of Education, Victoria University of Wellington

is a senior lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research interests centre on young people’s citizenship education and practices and the impact of education policy on social equality in society.