Prensky’s original concept of Digital ‘Natives’ and ‘Immigrants’ expresses the proficiency of one’s online capabilities with the main contributor being age (Prensky, 2001). In his article, Prensky explains that those who were born at the cusp of technological advances and grew up with technology are more adept in using it, referred to as ‘Natives’. The ‘Immigrants’ therefore are those who had grown up before the rise of; the internet, e-mail and social networks, and as a result have had to adapt to a new language.
As time progresses our online presence is becoming a big part of our personal and professional lives and the assumptions of Prensky are being questioned. Thus the advent of a newer, more relevant classification. Digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’. What does this mean exactly? Well here is how it works in practice.
I have taken the liberty to illustrate this with my own experiences and online profiles:
What it means to be a visitor
Essentially we classify people as digital visitors if their internet use is focused and organised (White, 2008). This means that someone is using the internet for a specific purpose and once satisfied, they log off and rejoin the real world. Such activities, as shown above, include; checking e-mails, google searches and YouTube.
What it means to be a resident
Being a resident is slightly different. A good way to think about it would be like an online extension of yourself, and much like yourself, you need looking after. Here, people spend a part of their life online in order to contact friends or family and even become visible in the professional world. Residents therefore do not just use the internet to find information, they also express themselves and socialise while online.
Below, Professor David White of Oxford University further explains the concept of digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ and the differences between the two:
So anyone can be competent with technology, contradictory to Prensky’s original hypothesis, which has seen much criticism, Prensky included (Prensky, 2009). The main difference is how people want to use the internet, rather than whether they can use it at all.
How we use the internet and whether we want to be a ‘visitor’ or ‘resident’ is completely up to us. However, there are benefits to being proactive online with regards to education, so engage and make the most of it.
Harris, L., Warren, L., Leah, J. and Ashleigh, M. (2010) Small steps across the chasm: ideas for embedding a culture of open education in the university sector [Accessed 6 February 2017]
Prensky, M., (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. [Accessed 6 February 2017]
Prensky, M., (2009). From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom [Accessed 6 February 2017]
White, D., & Cornu, A. L. (2008). Tall blog. [Accessed 6 February 2017]
White, D., (2014). Visitors and Residents. Video. University of Oxford: Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPOG3iThmRI [Accessed 6 February 2017]
White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). [Accessed on 6 February 2017]