Out with the old, in with the new

The concept of digital “visitors” and “residents” offers a new way of interpreting how people participate in the digital world, providing a replacement for Prensky’s seemingly out-dated and heavily criticised notion of digital “natives” and “immigrants” (White and Le Cornu, 2011).

According to Prensky “today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” (Prensky, 2001, p.1) thus he believed that people of the newly centralised digital world fitted within one of two distinct categories, subsequently coining the terms ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’.

Digital Native                                                                                    

  •  Born during or after the digital age
  • Students
  • Fast
  • Young

Digital Immigrant 

  • Born before the digital age
  • Teachers
  • Slow
  • Old

Presumptuous and farfetched, and based solely on opinion it is no wonder the once widely recognised phenomenon has come under much scrutiny in recent years. Bennet et al. (2008) claims there is little evidence to suggest the younger generation process information differently, a claim supported by Prensky, who declared that the use of technology and its effect on cognitive processes is still being explored by neuroscientists (Prensky, 2001). Arguably over-simplistic (Luckin et al. 2009) harbouring nothing more than a predisposed assumption that a student’s digital literacy is far more adept than it actually is and creating a sense of panic among ‘immigrant’ educators who deemed themselves “wrong footed and unable to step-up to the plate” (Kuehn, 2012, p.131). I believe Prensky’s notion limits the capabilities of those like myself possessing a ‘can do’ attitude, with the motivation and passion to learn and adapt to the ever changing world around them.

Beetham and Sharpe (2010) acknowledge this in their ‘pyramid model’ of digital literacy describing the process as a development from ‘access’ through to the ability to create and hold an online identity. Unlike Prensky’s notion the new “visitors” and “residents” concept allows for this.


Beetham and Sharpe ‘pyramid model’ of digital literacy development model (2010)

Similar to marauders, as outlined in David Canter’s 2003 book Mapping Murder: The Secrets of Geographical Profiling, who maunders into an area to commit a crime, a “visitor” migrates onto the internet only to achieve a specific goal (Canter, 2003). Viewing the internet as a set of ‘tools’, the visitor is unlikely to hold any form of online profile, using ‘tools’ such as email and Skype to communicate in a more rapid manner than offline communicative methods would permit. Contrastingly, a “resident” sees the web as a virtual community frequently using sites such as Facebook and Twitter, thus when a resident logs off “an aspect of their persona remains” (White and Le Cornu, 2011).

Furthermore, the concept allows individuals to place themselves along a continuum rather than having to fit within one of two restricting categories.

To find out more about the continuum take a look at my Prezi below!



 Beetham, H. and Sharpe, R. (2010) Beetham and Shapre ‘pyramid model’ of digital literacy development model. Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies (Accessed: 12 February 2017).

Bennet, S., Maton, K. and Kervin, L. (2008) ‘The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence’, British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), pp.773-964. Available at: http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2465&context=edupapers

Canter, D.V. (2003) Mapping Murder: The Secrets of Geographical Profiling. London: Virgin Books.

Kuehn, L. (2012) ‘No More “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants”’, Our Schools, Our Selves, 21(2), pp.129-131. Available at: http://teachandtechassign3.weebly.com/uploads/1/4/2/0/14202725/no_more_digital_natives_and_immigrants.pdf (Accessed: 12 February 2017).

Luckin, R et al. (2009) ‘Do Web 2.0 tools really open the door to learning? Practices, perceptions and profiles of 11-16-year-old students’, Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), pp. 87-104. doi: 10.1080/17439880902921949

Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’, On the Horizon, 9(5) Available at: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf (Accessed: 12 February 2017).

White, D.S. and Le Cornu, A. (2011) ‘Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement’, First Monday, 16(9) Available at: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3171/3049%20https://comminfo.rutgers.edu/%257Etefko/Courses/Zadar/Readings/Selwyn%20dig%20natives,%20Aslib%20Proceedings%202009.pdf (Accessed: 12 February 2017).


29 thoughts on “Out with the old, in with the new

  1. Hi Harriet, I think this is a fantastic blog post! I particularly like the concept by Beetham and Sharpe (2010) that you have used to illustrate your point about digital literacies. I would like to find out where you see yourself fitting into this concept. Do you feel as though you are confident and proficient enough to claim you are at the summit of the pyramid (identity)? Or do you feel as though something is preventing you from reaching the ‘I am…’ stage, as though there is an obstacle in your way? I also wonder, whether you believe it is easy to move from the bottom to the top of the pyramid. Given the vast information we have at our disposal, and the extent to which digital technologies have integrated into (most of) our lives, do you feel as though it is easy for all of us to move away from simply being ‘aware’, and toward creating and maintaining an online ‘identity’?


    1. Hi Brad, thank you for your comment! Your blog is looking awesome! Interesting question, one I actually poised myself when commenting on Patricia’s blog.

      For me, I would love to be able to say I have already reached the summit of the pyramid in the decade I have been exposed to the digital world, however being quite late to the world of the Web (only getting broadband installed at home during 6th form) I feel I have been hindered slightly within my journey and there is still a great deal for me to learn. Thus I believe I would best be placed at the ‘can do’ stage of the pyramid and through choosing and partaking in the module I hope to soon be able to reach the summit.

      I believe so yes! I think like you say we have Google at our disposal so other than personal resilience I can’t see why someone wouldn’t be able to progress to the top of the pyramid if they possessed the right attitude and desire to reach it. The only thing I can see being a hindrance would be the issues of privacy for a “visitor”? Would you agree?

      I will ensure I touch upon this question in my final reflection on the module as I would love to be able to illustrate an example of how someone can move up the pyramid in a relatively short period of time.

      Thanks again for your comment, I look forward to hearing what you think back.



      1. Hi Harriet, thanks and yours! I find it interesting that you feel as though you are behind, but I guess that goes to show just how inappropriate Prensky’s concepts were! I’m sure we will all be able to reach the summit in no time, particularly through partaking in this module.
        I agree with you, although in addition to issues of privacy, I am sure others across the world are likely to find access to technologies difficult, perhaps due to living in remote areas or lacking financial resources.
        Me too – here’s to some good discussion!


  2. Hi Harrietpigott2,

    I really enjoyed your post, you definitely presented some points that I hadn’t considered. In particular, the idea of Prensky’s thesis not accounting for users having the propensity to improve their digital capabilities by working towards it (i.e. applying the correct attitude). This is something I completely understand and have experienced mostly with family members of all ages who get frustrated when they can’t understand how to use something online, such as social media interfaces.

    You also touched on the importance of motivation and passion not being accounted for by Prensky. In my personal experience with my own digital troubles, I’ve had issues online when working on school projects for IT, for example, so the prospect of getting a good grade has served as my motivation. Out of interest, what else has motivated you to transition from being, in Prensky’s terms, ‘digital immigrant’ to become a ‘digital native’?


    1. Hi Louise, thank you for your lovely comments! Really interesting point right? I found it so alarming that someone had never questioned it sooner. Me too!

      Ooo good question! For me, as a prospective teacher I am always looking for new ways to stand out from the crowd and with the world we live in being so digitally centralized and the education system moving on rapidly I thought I must improve my digital literacy in order to better be able to support future generations.

      Thanks again for your comment!



      1. I definitely agree with that, being digitally competent is so important especially for teachers who are constantly expected to innovate their teaching methods.

        Thanks for your detailed reply



  3. Hi Harriet,

    The references beyond core resources, including Beetham and Sharpe, helped to expand previous frameworks (White and Le Cornu’s V&R, Prensky’s Native-Immigrant) in the digital engagement debate. Particularly, the digital literacy pyramid model was insightful, and the personal experience reflection within the Prezzi: I briefly outlined generational variances in my presentation, and find the human dimension you cover intriguing.

    I wondered if it would be possible to elaborate on the ‘where does that leave us’? Specifically, I’m unsure if the Visitor-Resident continuum was initially intended to include multiple people, though I think the adaptation to this continuum here is useful and necessary. My own personal experience constructing maps led me to develop alternative 3D/radar plot maps, encompassing the Web’s other multifaceted dimensions, including people and technologies, in addition to other applications. In your view, is encompassing other ‘actors’ (people, technologies, applications) requisite to mapping online engagement sufficiently?




    1. Hi Will, thanks so much for your comment!

      I’m so happy to hear it helped with your understanding, it’s great to be able to see how different people have interpreted the same topic and collate all the ideas together to gain a superior understanding.

      Of course, no problem. So I had originally intended the ‘so where does this leave us?’ to be a follow on from my comparison of my dad and I but upon reflection I think it would be really interesting to have placed a wider range of people on the continuum, maybe my 11-year-old cousin for example, and see how someone born even deeper into the digital world would be best placed. What do you think?

      I believe so yes as like you say the internet is such a vast thing that encompasses so many different aspects.

      Thanks again for your comments, I look forward to hearing what you think.



      1. Hi Harriet,

        Thank you for your reply,

        The variation in interpretation and implementation of Topic 1 in the blogs that I have come across so far is very diverse: perhaps I was expecting more homogeneity in posts, yet the diversity of approach seems to be anything but!

        In relation to mapping a wider range of people on the continuum, I very much agree this would be necessary to capture engagement in totality. When discussing mapping other people on the spectrum on Raziya Creates https://raziyacreates.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/tba/, it was suggested that there are possible challenges in subjectivity, individual context and exposure, if a person were to map other people.

        I therefore wonder, if I were to map others, if would I be mapping their actual experience and engagement, or my view of their experience and engagement.

        I wonder whether this poses a problem or not, as the V&R spectrum appears intended to map and model ones individual engagement opposed to collective engagement. This makes me wonder, precisely, what the purpose of the V&R mapping is: to model engagement personally, relatively or in an absolute way, at individual or comparative levels? However, I do think it would be useful to compare where I sit personally when reflecting on this mapping to help me reflect on personal experiences, to family and friends.

        Thank you for sharing your views about encompassing other ‘actors’. The Web is indeed very vast, and I do wonder if introducing other layers to mapping, which would consider so many dimensions, would reduce the V&R framework’s simplicity and applicability. V&R mapping seems usable and applicable to the masses, and I wonder if other mapping would work in a similar way, or be too complex to use in a flexible way.

        Thank you again for your reply; I too look forward to hearing your views about this in the future, and will check out future posts and reflections as they appear,




      2. Hi Will,
        No problem. I completely agree and feel its (for me) been very beneficial to be able to see such a variety within the different posts! Wow! Really detailed and interesting point, one I hadn’t come across myself. Upon reading Raziya’s blog I can further see the importance of placing more people on the spectrum and something I will keep in mind in the future.

        Hmm could it be a combination of all three?

        Thanks again Will.



  4. Hi Harriet,

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the digital visitor/resident debate. I particularly like the Prezi you created, which provided an in-depth exploration into visitors and residents, drawing upon both your own and your dad’s experiences. I also think your writing style is excellent for this type of post.

    I noticed that you included Beetham and Sharpe’s pyramid model of digital literacy development in your post. I hadn’t come across this model before but upon further reading, I can see how this model helps to explain the learning processes we go through from access, to developing functional skills, to establishing online identities. I am interested to know how you think this model relates to White and Cornu’s visitor/resident theory. In what ways do you think the visitor/resident continuum might contribute to our understanding of digital literacies? Let me know what you think!



    1. Hi Patricia, thank you so much for your comment!

      So upon further reading to respond to your comment, I first found it useful to define ‘digital literacy’. Cornell University define digital literacy as ‘the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet’ (Cornell University, 2009). However, I wonder if the definition maybe a little out dated? And find myself questioning if there can be a single definition of digital literacy? What do you think?

      Furthermore, it would be suggested then that literacy is a process of development, acquiring skills over time before coming proficient in them. Thus I feel that the visitors and resident’s continuum contributes to our understanding of digital literacies through being able to place yourself somewhere along the continuum allowing for this movement should you become more proficient in a certain area. The continuum also allows you to place yourself somewhere in the middle again suggesting if your digital literacy wasn’t so adept it would be okay and you wouldn’t be labeled as one or the other unnecessarily.

      Thanks again for your comment, I look forward to hearing what you think.



      Cornell University (2009) Digital Literacy is… Available at: https://digitalliteracy.cornell.edu (Accessed: 15 February 2017).


  5. Hello Harriet,
    I firstly would just like to compliment you on a very good looking blog, it is very sleek and cute.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post, it is clear you have done a lot of research. I agree with all of your statements about Prensky’s arguments being outdated in today’s society.
    I very much enjoyed your Presi also, I thought it was a very clever way of putting in more information on a different platform, and showing your capabilities to use online resources as a tool. The comparison of your own online activity and your fathers is a good way of showing how there is sometimes a gap in capabilities when it comes to age and became clear that your father uses technology as more of a tool and you more as a place. The illustration further supports your points


  6. Hi Harriet! I really like the way you’ve set out your blog – it’s really clear, interesting and easy to read, which I feel helps to relay the information in your blog post even better. The post itself is really well written. I feel you’ve approached the topic well, and written in a concise and clear manner, especially in terms of the bullet points and the visuals – it’s clear you’ve done a lot of reading around the topic. Your prezi in particular was impressive as it visually reflected the positioning of yourself and your dad in the continuum. As your dad likes to browse the internet and use platforms such as skype, do you think this could open him up to having more of a presence on the web? Or do you think the transition from visitor to resident would be a difficult one for our parents’ generation?



    1. Hi Madeleine, thank you for your comments!

      Good question and I must say upon further discussion with him regarding his presence online I think it’s fair to say his is very much firmly set in stone with a plethora of concerns about privacy! However, I don’t feel this is the case for all of our parents’ generation as my mum sent years sharing the same view as my dad before begging me to set her upon on Facebook (albeit to probably stalk my antics at uni) and her qualms about holding an online identity seem to have been put at ease following a lengthy discussion with her about how she can manage it within the privacy settings Facebook provides.

      Thanks again for your comments!


      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Harriet, I really loved your blog – particularly the incorporation of the Prezi presentation. It was a very effective way of presenting your information. You were also quite critical of the earlier theories about digital immigrants and natives which I think was good considering most other blogs provided a more factual account.

    I was interested by your argument criticising the age divide in Prensky’s division between digital natives and immigrants. You are quick to label it presumptuous and farfetched, but then I noticed on your Prezi that you discuss your dad’s experience with the digital world is far less experienced and adaptable compared to yourself. You point out that he uses the internet as a tool for emails whereas you are far more comfortable with social media and having online identities. I think it is pretty common for most people in our generation to notice a difference between them and their parents when it comes to digital engagement. Due to this, I was wondering why you are quite extreme in your argument against Prensky, when I think it is fair to say – even though there have been developments from his theories – that his original concepts still remain valid?


    1. Hi there! Thanks for your lovely comments, you blog is looking wonderful.

      Good point! I think my strong argument comes not from the fact his theory has gone on to be progressed but the fact that a number of his points were unjustified and lacked a great deal of evidence, for example suggesting the younger generation are wired differently from their predecessors, this was nothing more than a farfetched judgement a point Prensky himself questioned 8 years after his original thesis was produced.

      Thanks again for your comment!



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