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].