School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


James Swezey


21st Century Learner, Digital Native, Feeling Understood, Globalization, Relationships Technology, Transcendental Phenomenology


Educational Leadership | Educational Psychology | Secondary Education


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to explore the academic and social experiences of digital natives at Patrick Harrison High School (pseudonym) located in southern California. The research questions addressing the study were: (a) What are digital natives’ academic and social experiences; (b) How does feeling understood by teachers shape digital natives’ learning experiences; and (c) How does the use of social media, the Internet and digital devices contribute to 21st-century education as perceived by digital natives? Prensky’s (2001) theory on digital nativity, Gordon’s (1988) theory on feeling understood, and Vygotsky’s (1978) constructivist learning views informed the study. Participants came from a purposeful criterion sample consisting of 11 high schoolers who reported using digital devices, the Internet, and social media. The data collection came from interviews, a focus group, and drawings. The data analysis followed Moustakas’ (1994) strategies on the phenomenological reduction process that assisted in revealing the digital native experiences. The results of the study revealed three themes commonly shared among the participants’ that related to their digital, life, and school experiences. The study supported best practices for 21st-century learners.