I recently came across a set of videos and articles from @daveowhite that counter Mark Prensky’s conceptions of the digital native/immigrant divide. White argues against Prensky’s conception of age as a framework for understanding how people engage with the web. White suggests that the use of digital technologies is about what tools you are most comfortable with and how often you decide to use them. He introduces the concept of Visitors and Residents as an alternative to Digital Natives and Immigrants.
According to White, Visitors envision the web as a set of tools which enable them to accomplish certain goals. For example they may use video conferencing tools such as Skype to communicate but ultimately they do not view the web as a place to think, develop or share ideas.
Alternatively Residents make use of the social affordances of the web and leave trails even when they are not actively logged in online. For example a person adopts twitter as the primary space where they connect with others, develop and share ideas. They become adept at using it as a networking tool and thus become residents with that environment.
Dave White’s premise is an intriguing one and perhaps an apt description of what motivates us to engage in certain digital environments as opposed to others. Perhaps it can help us to map out ways in which we can enable students to become residents of a digital world and also highlight how we can encourage faculty to create opportunities that enable students to become residents and thus contributors to a networked world.