Digital Residents, Visitors and Education

Digital technology is used increasingly for a variety of purposes: social networking, recreation, marketing, research, media and learning. Theories by Prensky (2001) – although highly criticised – gave us an important framework and a typology for how individuals use technology in their day-to-day lives. The movement from “Digital Natives and Immigrants” (initially suggested by Prensky) to “Residents and Visitors” has come to light for various reasons. For example, it focusses on age-related groups rather than an individual’s skillset, and does not take into account variation within the groups (Bennett 2008). However, these frameworks are highly useful as they support learning theories, thus they can be used to implement successful and effective electronic education. (White and Conru 2011)

A Resident is someone who spends a significant amount of time on the web and uses it to create an online persona; allowing them to network and build relationships. They maintain their online presence for most aspects of their life (professional, study and recreation) and use the web to put their ideas and opinions forward. A Visitor is an individual who simply uses the web as a tool and limits their time on the web for when the need arises. They do not maintain an online presence and are often sceptical of services that offer them the ability to reveal their identity online. (White and Conru 2011)

White (2013) demonstrated how “visitors” and “residents” are not necessarily distinct categories, and how majority of internet users are a mixture of both, depending on their motivations. This shows that there exists a continuum between the two categories. White’s mapping process explores an individual’s engagement with digital and web environments. I have drawn up my own map (shown above). This has shown me that I am currently a visitor and use the internet for personal rather than professional means.

As we are progressing through the digital age, our use of technology is becoming more versatile. Understanding the different way individuals use the internet is useful in modifying educational techniques. This TED talk explains the role of technology in present and future education.

From personal experience, schools and universities have adapted to using more technology to advance and refine learning techniques. This ranged from as little as using during maths lessons at school, to the use of anatomy videos/podcasts, iPads in the anatomy lab and Aclands video anatomy for medical school education.

Screenshot from Scott Border’s anatomy Show me Tell me videos, from the University of Southampton MedSoc page


Marc Prensky (2001) “Digital natives, digital immigrants,” On the Horizon. 9(5) Available at:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf, [Accessed 9 February 2016]

Sue Bennett, Karl Maton and Lisa Kervin (2008) “The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence,” British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5):775-786. Available at: [Accessed 9 February 2016]

David, S. White & Alison Le Cornu. (2011). Visitors and Residences: A new topology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9) Available at:,%20Aslib%20Proceedings%202009.pdf. [Accessed 9 February 2016]

David S White (2013) Visitors and Residents mapping process: the video. Available at: [Accessed 9 Feb 2016]

Screenshot from Scott Border’s anatomy Show me Tell me videos, from the University of Southampton MedSoc page. Available at:




  1. Hi Shriya, I really enjoyed your blog. I found the map on your use of the internet particularly interesting and thought provoking. It is interesting how your ‘email’ block within the diagram occupies both institutional and personal aspects, has this always been the case?. It is interesting, that through this unique online module I am now using platforms such as twitter as a means of institutional communication, which before I had only used for personal means. I was wondering why you consider yourself overall to be more of a visitor rather than a resident and if you think this will ever change? I know personally I was reluctant to use sites in a personal residency sense for fear of exposing my views and personal details online, however as I have understood privacy settings to a greater extent and realised the power of the internet to publicise headlines or initiatives I have become more of a resident. I also agree that technology has advanced learning techniques, your example of video anatomy learning is a good one, this is a topic in which visual learning is vital for many students and this medium definitely enhances the learning of such a topic.

    1. Hi Richard! Thanks for your feedback
      My Email block is used for personal as well as instituitional reasons because I send myself lots of photos I can’t store on my phone! I know it’s a bit silly because there are other outlays for this (dropbox maybe) but I’m sort of stuck in my old ways. I also keep in contact with some old friends this way, so I guess my use of emails is personal.
      I’m hoping, like many others, that my use of the internet and technology will change so that I am more of a resident. Ultimately, I want to create a presence that I can be proud of and that I can use for professional means.
      My reasons are very similar to yours, privacy is the main issue I would have in becoming a “resident” of the internet. White (2011) wrote in a presentation within his TALL blog about students which reflects my feelings perfectly:

      “Many students do not see the point of creating a digital identity and are wary of the privacy implications. Visit web, use services in sophisticated manner but choose not to become a resident by leaving a digital identity behind when they log off. This shows why lack of engagement may not solely be an age- or skill- based distinction” D. White, 2011.

      Although it might be a bit off topic – I read a book about a girl who created an online forum in admiration of a TV celebrity, however she discloses a lot of personal information on the forum. In the story this puts her into a lot of danger; this may not happen as much in real life I believe the message behind the story to be correct. What do you think about the matter?

  2. A great blog post Shriya on the first topic. I really like the resources you have used and linked to, as well as your personal anecdotes throughout. I think you have really well explained each of the concepts and the necessary background material without spending too much time on any one part.

    You say you are more of a web visitor than resident based on your mapping exercise. Do you think although you might use more visitor-type services, your use of the more resident-type activities is higher and that may bring you more into the centre or even towards resident?
    For example using the metaphors of tools and places/ spaces by White and Cornu (2011), you may use quantitively more ‘tools’ like Google, email and online banking, but actually in a qualitative sense you use spaces/ places more by spending more time in a place a site like Facebook creates?

    1. Hi Clayclay,
      Thanks for the feedback! I agree with you, I think I would be more in the centre of the box, but based on what the map looks like the majority of the services I use I could be classified as a visitor. That’s a good metaphor, I guess I do see online banking etc as more of a “tool” whilst Facebook as more of a “place”.
      I read a comment in White’s TALL blog (2008) by someone who used the metaphor of a “Holiday Home” for ‘places’ online where people feel comfortable and can create an online presence. However, if they were to venture outside of this haven they would find themselves lost. At the moment I find wordpress to be my “Holiday Home” because although I’m comfortable with blogging about some aspects of my life, I’m not entirely comfortable with creating an online persona (yet). What do you think about this “Holiday Home” idea? And how are you finding adapting to blogging and WordPress?

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