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Reflection on Connectivism and Information Literacy

July 6, 2012

NOTE: This blog post and research paper has been revised and expanded. It has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Please access that article for my most complete treatment of this topic.
Transue, BM. (2013). Connectivism and information literacy: Moving from learning theory to pedagogical practice. Public Services Quarterly. 9(3): 185-195. doi: 10.1080/15228959.2013.815501. Retrieved from:

I am interested in learning more about the learning theory of Connectivism  (Siemans, 2005) and connecting that to my pedagogy within information literacy instruction. I’ve learned that Connectivism hypothesizes that knowledge resides within connections among networks, and learning takes place when students are able to “construct and traverse those networks” (Downes, 2007, paragraph 1).

I came into this program and class thinking that technology is simply a value-neutral tool to meet learning objectives. However, within Connectivism, technology becomes embedded in the theory. According to de Castell, Bryson & Jenson (2002), we should develop an Educational Theory of Technology, as opposed to a Theory of Educational Technology. This slight word changes encompasses a world of differences! Connectivism claims technology actually influences how we think and learn; technology becomes more than a tool.

I was excited to realize that many of the principles of Connectivism align with the standards of information literacy espoused by my professional organization, the Association of College and Research Libraries. I use these standards when desiging information literacy sessions.

Connectivism Principle (Siemans, 2005) ACRL Standards (ACRL, 2000)
Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions 3.2.a Examines and compares information from various sources in order to evaluate reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias
Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources 3.3.a Recognizes interrelationships among concepts and combines them into potentially useful primary statements with supporting evidence
Learning may reside in non-human appliances 1.2 The information literate student identifies a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information.
Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning Preface.Information Literacy Defined: Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill 3.3.a Recognizes interrelationships among concepts and combines them into potentially useful primary statements with supporting evidence
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities
Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision 1.3.a Determines the availability of needed information and makes decisions on broadening the information seeking process beyond local resources

Connectivism pedagogical strategies that specifically include educational technology could involve showing how students can expand their current networks (ie-Wikipedia) to include library resources. Embedding library online resources into students’ existing networks, and creating spaces for connections to occur are other strategies to consider. We are creating a Learning Commons in our library through renovations this summer; one reason is specifically to increase those connections, which will have enhanced technological spaces.

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved from

de Castell, S., Bryson, M., & Jenson, J. (2002). Object lessons: Towards an educational theory of technology. First Monday, 7(1). Retrieved from

Downes, S. (2007, February 3). Half an hour: What Connectivism is. Half an Hour. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3–10.


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