A common conception about information technology familiarity and usage is rooted in age of exposure. Younger people who have grown up with information technology have a more intuitive understanding of how it all works and are more likely to use it. Conversely, older people who did not grow up with this technology struggle to learn and use technology fluently. Thus, the young people are natives to the digital landscape, while the older people are immigrants to a new, strange land of which they must adapt to survive. In the world of education, this puts the onus of adaption on the shoulders of the ‘immigrant educators’ who must struggle to accommodate the needs of their ‘native students’ who are more intrinsically adept. Furthermore, this conception supports the idea that educators do not need to educate students about how to utilize technology since they are native to it.
Context and Motivation
Dr. Dave White has a different take on of how and why we learn and utilize technology with his “Visitors and Residents” theory. Dr. White’s theory posits that technology engagement is not based on age or skill, but on personal motivation and context. Our utilization of the internet exists as a spectrum which consists of two axises: Visitor to Resident and Personal to Institutional.
Visitor - Resident | Personal - Institutional
On the Visitor side of the spectrum, the individual approaches technology in a very task-oriented manner. Once the task is achieved, the individual leaves without any significant social trace. Most people utilize the internet is this way via web searches, research, purchases and other discrete end-goal activities. On the Resident side of the spectrum, the individual utilizes the internet as a social space to communicate and socialize with other people. Utilization of the internet in this way establishes a social presence that lingers after the individual logs off the internet. This form of utilization can be understood through social media networks, blogging, or commenting in discussion boards. The utilization of technology also lies along a spectrum between personal use and institutional goals. What is shared and what is searched often depends on the intentional motivations of the individual.
Building Institutional Residents
While younger people may have a greater exposure and knowledge of technology for personal use, they may not have yet to fully understand how to use these emerging technologies in a professional and academic context. As a future educator, I am cognizant that students may need that guidance to learn how to use technology in appropriate academic and professional settings. For example, students may be very comfortable with using the internet for creating and sharing personal works, but may be reluctant to do so in an academic setting. The internet has the potential to be nearly an unlimited audience who critiques and catalogues everything that an individual publishes. By creating private online class communities that students can utilize to safely discuss and post their ideas and commentary, I create scaffolds for students to be more comfortable online academic residents.
Being an Institutional Resident
Currently, I am building an online persona which represents who I am an educator of science and literacy. How I utilize twitter, blog posts, and other digital mediums represents my growth into an educational expert who learns from and contributes to the greater educational community. While my personal learning network is small now, I look forward to being able to look back into my digital history and see how far I have come.
D White. (2013, May 31). Visitors and Residents [Video file]. Retrieved from