So you think you’re a Digital Resident?

The turn of the 21st century has witnessed technology, in particular the Web, grow at an alarming rate. The Web is intrinsically linked into everyday life, however is used to different extents by different groups of people, and for different purposes.

Previously, Prensky’s (2001) ideas of digital natives/immigrants was proposed to express the way in which different people approach the digital environment. A native was defined as someone born after the 1980s, having grown up with the Internet, and an immigrant as someone who wasn’t born into the digital age. Natives were seen as being at ease in the digital environment, whilst immigrants could never be fully competent in this area (White and Cornu, 2011.). These terms were criticized due to the age segregation in which they inferred – scholars such as White et al. (2012) challenged this concept, finding no relationship between age and technological capability. Similarly, Margaryan and Littlejohn (2008) suggest that whilst digital natives have been surrounded by technology, they may not have the ability to use technology concisely for certain purposes such as to support learning. This is shown in my own technical abilities and preliminary struggles with uploading this blog post, despite being born as a ‘digital native’.

Criticism led to the evolution of the terminology to ‘Digital Residents’ and ‘Digital Visitors’ (White and Cornu, 2011)

digital-resident-and-visitorThe graphic above displays the distinction between the two extremes of the continuum – the terms do not act as binary opposition. People are not necessarily categorised as either a Digital Resident or Digital Visitor, they may lie between the two and their position may change according to context. For example, people may be a resident whilst at home, but in the professional context may use the Web in what would be considered a Visitor’s position.

Both the role of the Visitor and Resident are both effective and valued, and are of particular importance for study as technology can be used to revolutionise and shape learning. The use of the Web for educational purposes is increasingly prominent, particularly in University settings (Harris et al. 2010). Social learning is seen to positively facilitate learning as information can be expanded through the sharing of information via networks; this can be utilised through the Web in terms of blogging and comment feedback (Kerr, 2007). Through understanding that people use the Web to different degrees and for different purposes, and abolishing the idea that all students will be Digital Natives, allows for recognition that the amount of support and structure for all students varies.


Kerr, B. 2007, A Challenge to Connectivism. Transcript of Keynote Speech, [Online], Available:, [accessed 2016, October 16].

Harris, L., Warren, L., Leah, H. and Ashleigh, M. 2010, ‘Small steps across the chasm: ideas for embedding a culture of open education in the university, In Education Technology & Social Meida (Special Issue, Part 2), vol. 16, no. 1.

Margaryan, A. and Littlejohn, A. 2008, Are digital natives a myth or reality?: Students’ use of technologies for learning’, [Online]. Available: [accessed 2016, October 16].

Prensky, M. 2011, ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’, On the Horizon, University Press, vol. 9, no.5.

White, D. S. and Cornu, A. L. 2011, Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement., vol. 16, no 9.

White, D., Connaway, L. S., Lanclos, d., Cornu, A. and Hood, E. 2012, Digital Visitors and Residents Progress Report, [Online]. Available: [accessed 2016, October 14].



12 thoughts on “So you think you’re a Digital Resident?

  1. Hi Claire.

    I think you have provided a well-researched post, with good use of sources supporting your understanding of digital residents and visitors, even giving readers the background of the debate through Prensky, also White and Cornu.

    I agree with your point that some people cannot solely be classified as a digital resident or visitor, as when writing an essay I am a visitor (Webcat, Delphis), however a resident when relaxing on my mobile (social media). Your created image is also a good addition to the post.

    Your second paragraph is rather large, so for the next blog post maybe break your points down further. Also, just above your graphic, don’t you mean evolution of the terminology to digital residents and visitors?

    In the last paragraph you reference Harris, in terms of online secondary school education resources would MyMaths and Bitesize be a suitable example? You could hyperlink these into your blog.


  2. Hi,
    I like that awareness of individual variations has been raised in your blog. I personally think that it is necessary to emphasise individual differences when it comes to how education should develop. As every student learn in a different style and their ability to learn quickly and effectively also differ, therefore it is less likely that there is more distinct difference in technological capability between generations like Prensky (2001) suggested. As Bennet el al (2008) mentioned, there may be as much variation within the digital natives’ generation. Besides, according to psychologists looking at cognitive development, like Jean Piaget, there are variations in how every child learns as they proceed different stages of cognitive development.
    Nevertheless, the ever-existing ‘Nature vs Nuture’ debate is worth mentioning when it comes to looking at the technical capability. Since every person has a different upbringing and different background depending on the environment they grew up in – some grew up in prosperous families with many digital gadgets available to them and some grew up in poorer families that may not be able to afford things like computers and televisions. And as one might expect, their parents’ IQ and technical capability differ. Thus, one may start to think – is technical capability heritable, that is, to what extent is a child’s effectiveness or style of learning similar to that of their parents? And is that more to do with nature or nurture?


  3. Hi Claire,

    I enjoyed reading the part about your personal struggle to upload this post as an example of Margaryan and Littlejohn’s findings; I can also relate to the feeling of being lost when it comes to technology. Your descriptions of digital natives and digital immigrants is clear and to the point; I agree that these terms are incorrect due to the fact they only factor an individuals age and not their ability. Using a visual image makes it much easier to understand the new terms, digital residents and digital visitors, created by White and Cornu. I would prefer the graph to be a little less clinical, with some pictures perhaps, but it informs the reader really well nonetheless! You have stated the importance of social learning and I feel that it is something that should be implemented into our education system to see real benefits to people.



  4. Hi Claire,

    I liked the way in which you clearly outlined and explained the concepts of native and immigrant and the way the theory has evolved into the resident and visitor theory.

    The graphics you have displayed really helped me as being able to see it as a sliding scale and not as two different ‘boxes’ of belonging nails the theory down in my head and really pushes the complexity of the theory and starts to show me that maybe this debate surrounding online life may not be fully over.

    One thing that you really opened my eyes to was that different parts of peoples lives mean they full into individual catorgories. In my dads personal life he would be seen as a visitor as he uses it for basic tasks leaving no personal trace. Whereas in is professional he would be more a resident because he has different accounts and such leaving some of his identity online. I never thought about dividing peoples lives into segments in which they may fit different parts of the theory.


  5. Hey Claire

    I like the image used to explain the difference between a resident and a visitor theory, this saved you several words and allowed the point to come across clearly.

    I like the point you made that some people do not lie on either end of the spectrum but in between and the example you have used is a very interesting way to think about it, that being a resident in the workplace is part of your job, whereas in your domestic life you haven’t got interest for social media on the web.

    On the other hand, I would like the structure to be more clear, something I have picked up on while reviewing posts, maybe using subheadings, or breaking the paragraphs down? Overall I really enjoyed reading your post especially the conclusion. You have used solid examples to engage the reader.

    Well Done



  6. Hi Claire,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post. You used a a simple way to explain the details of digital native/immigrant but interesting as well. Your blog post is quite logically to introduce the relationship between digital native and immigrant and made me easy to understand it. The picture you used made me understand better what you want to explain as well. And I think you really did lots of research which makes your post looks so authority.

    I agree with your point and like your example”people may be a resident whilst at home, but in the professional context may use the Web in what would be considered a Visitor’s position.” which explained why digital native and immigrant have changed according to context. I think digital visitor and resident more reasonable than any other definition explain it in the present context.

    Looking forward your next post!



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