Dave White wrote about his Digital Resident/Visitor model on the TALL blog back in 2008 (http://tallblog.conted.ox.ac.uk/index.php/2008/07/23/not-natives-immigra...) and it has been well received. I have recently been thinking about the Digital Native/Immigrant idea of Prensky again, and finding a lot of the criticism of it to be focussed on a particular point, and somewhat lacking in critical reasoning, so I thought it about time I went back and looked at Dave White's model too.
It is established in the opening paragraph that Prensky's work is not seen as being useful because it "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…”". That's OK, because there is no suggestion in Prensky's work (http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20-%20digital%20natives,%20di...) that I have seen that suggests it was intended to guide implementation of technologies - it actually calls for a change of working practices amongst teachers to adapt and use the technologies to hand, those which are used by their students. That is in itself open to criticisms, of course.
But the good news is that the Resident/Visitor model exists for a different purpose. Looking at the descriptions of Resident and Visitor The choice of words in the two descriptions are interesting.
For the Resident, we have generally slightly vague statements :
Whereas, for the Visitor we see :
Reading through these two descriptions several times leaves me with the distinct impression that the author somehow considers the Visitor to be superior in some way to the Resident. I am not at all sure, however, that this impression was meant to be given. The post differentiates itself from the general (I believe misinterpreted) view of Prensky's work by highlighting that the Visitor/Resident continuum is not based on age, and goes on to indicate that the distinction between Visitors and Residents is not based on skill level either.
We are given a passing reference to an ed-tech researcher who prefers to be a Visitor out of choice, but are given no hint as to whether they are actually good at using online services, or whether they tend to recognise the connections available to them in the rich eco-system available online. What is mentioned, though, is that the Resident is likely to have systems in place "to manage the relationship between services and the flow of information through their browser but this does not mean that they will be any more effective at researching a specific topic than a Visitor". This is quite probably true, but neither does it mean that the Visitor will be better, nor that the Visitor will get notifications about topics of interest, or see how the discussion of a topic is developing online.
It is also worth noting, again, that the choice of wording somehow suggests a level of perceived superiority being attached to the Visitor (to my mind, at least). There is then the bald assertion "This is why data from a survey that simply asks what online services a group of students use is next to useless". I must confess, I am not sure what this data is useless for, precisely. Nor, indeed, how this follows from the assertion that a Resident is not necessarily any better at researching a specific topic than a Visitor.
The post finishes off by telling us that the V/R distinction "is useful when considering which technologies to provide for online learners" going on to describe how some people will not partake in social discussion around a programme of study, and how others will.
Now, I have to agree - every study I have done indicates that along any axis I care to analyse the data, there are a proportion at the extremes who do not like whatever the system provides. At one end there are those who object, say, because of privacy issues, whilst at the other end there are those who object because, say, the system doesn't force social interaction.
The point here, surely, is that that divide will almost certainly always exist. If you design any system, you will have some people who don't like it. The best you can do is try to accommodate both 'extremes' as well as possible, while also making sure that the moderates in the middle get the best set of options available. Of course, even better, you can suggest a range of tools which are compatible with the way you work, and let the learners choose for themselves which ones they prefer to work with.
Does the Visitor/Resident model help guide implementation of technologies? Does it do it any better than the Native/Immigrant model? I don't think so - and more to the point, I don't think any metric of this kind ever will.
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