Digital resident makes more sense than digital native

Marc Prensky’s digital native metaphor has made the rounds of every educational conference imaginable.  While it’s provided a base line for discussion, it quickly moves to polarizing groups.

We found that our students could not be usefully categorised as Digital Natives or Digital Immigrants. I.e. This distinction does not help guide the implementation of technologies it simply provides the excuse that some people ‘just don’t get it’ which is why your new approach has failed so badly

I discovered this link today from Alice who led me to a post that uses the terms “resident” and “visitor” rather than immigrant and native.  Native implies born and raised, you can’t become a native. You either are or you are not. Anyone can become a resident. It’s a choice.

This Visitor, Resident distinction is useful when considering which technologies to provide for online learners. For example if your learners are mainly Visitors they are unlikely to take advantage of any feed based system for aggregated information you may put in place. They are also unlikely to blog or comment as part of a course.

As I read this, I thought of my class of pre-service teachers. I’m definitely trying to turn them into residents. But I hear that when you visit a new country, it’s best to learn to live like the locals. Who knows, you might even decide to stay. I hope some of my students will become permanent residents.

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  • Dean,
    Interesting concept. I am generally reluctant to apply a label or metaphor to any user of technology. Yet, I must admit the original blog account of the two terms is quite interesting and plausible. I have been reluctant to apply labels as a continuum applies to the usage set of technology users. The post author acknowledges this and also wonderfully points out that age and gender are not relevant with the Resident and Visitor distinctions. This is good. Thanks to yourself and Alice for pointing to this link.
    Cheers, John

  • Raj

    I think the resident/visitor idea works – because there are some of the “native generation” who are certainly not “natives”. They would barely qualify to be visitors, while others “dilly dally” around one or two technology memes and are surely “visiting”. Good stuff.

    Rajs last blog post..Vincent Laforet agrees that the 5DmkII is a game changer

  • Like John, I’m not really the type of person that likes to pigeon-hole others, but this resident/visitor metaphor sits better with me than the native/immigrant dichotomy. I’ll certainly be exploring all of these terms in my Ed.D. thesis – see my proposal here!

  • I used to be a digital immigrant, but now I’m definately a digital citizen.

    Elona Hartjess last blog post..Are our kids as smart as other grade 8 math and science students around the world?

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  • As you say, resident and visitor are less polarizing terms. Even for the experienced, “resident” gets rid of that I-was-here-first silliness. If you haven’t yet seen the movie, it’s first-run. (Early adopters might envision themselves, three or four decades along, starting every other sentence with “When I first started with Twitter…”)

    Dave Fergusons last blog post..Schools: dipsticks and demonstration

  • Hmmm… does it really matter? Native or resident? Immigrant or visitor? I think the point is that we are moving towards a time that we are all digital citizens.

    Anguss last blog post..Something to think about…

  • Angus,

    The difference is slight but Prensky uses the term “native” which for some implies, all our students intuitively know how to use technology and thus as teachers we just give them the tools and away we go. Conversely, it implies that adults have such a hard time becoming native.

    At least with resident, everyone starts on equal footing. I think it helps teachers realize they can learn this stuff and don’t have to feel that students are so far ahead.

    The digital revolution is not about age but rather access.

  • My fellow on Facebook shared this link and I’m not dissapointed at all that I came here.

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