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On the Horizon


Special Issue Guest Editor,

Christine Greenhow, Research Fellow, University of Minnesota

Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park (August, 2010)

Email: greenhow_christine@hotmail.com or greenhow@umn.edu


Connectivism as a Theoretical Framework for Information Literacy


Connectivism is a learning theory based on societal and technological changes that have affected how students find information and therefore how they learn. The societal changes that contributed to connectivism are the short half-life of knowledge, information overload, multiple career changes, glocalization, and social media. Connectivism illustrates how students learn where to locate information, rather than transporting that information to themselves as in traditional learning theories. These systems that contain knowledge may be objects (books, websites) or other people; often both of these kinds of information are obtained through social networks such as blogs, wikis, twitter messages, etc. Current philosophies of providing information literacy instruction for students at point of need meet connectivist student needs for discovering how to discover this kowledge that is stored outside themselves.


connectivism / information literacy article; Fall 2009

working title:

"Connectivism as a Theoretical Framework for Information Literacy"



  • development of connectivism as a learning theory


basics of connectivism

  • (see PPT slides)


why connectivism was developed

  • societal and technological changes that acted as catalysts for a different way of learning (or a different way of discovering/locating information)
    • short half-life of knowledge (excluding non-expiring areas like history) / information overload
      • internet
      • mobile internet access / communication devices
    • career changes
      • move from specific skillsets to broad background & ability to quickly learn
      • multiple positions & careers over lifetime
      • longer lifetimes = more position/career changes; more information created
    • globalization
      • internet
      • affordable/mass transportation
      • cultures more open to learning about other cultures
      • long tradition of immigration between countries


further development of connectivism (new ideas)

  • information goes both in & out of the learner (the questioner at the center of the connectivism process)
  • hence "connections," a peer/parallel-relationship word; maybe also "information conversations"
  • example: student "processes" or mulls over learned information in a blog post; others may comment, leading to an extended conversation exploring the topic
  • "direct" vs. "indirect" sources of information; when is a source a "person/contact" vs. just "information" or an "organization" (and does this distinction matter?)


social networking

  • examples of social networking use during connectivist methods of research
  • ways in which social software encourages/aids this method of research
  • relation to "older" methods of research/learning...?


distance education (?)

  • not actually sure this is a large enough topic to need its own section here; perhaps merely a statement about autonomy of learners, and that in many respects research/learning occurs similarly in a physical classroom and an online one


information source vs. information format vs. informational tools vs. information access method

  • distinguish between these, and point out muddy examples of these used in theoretical conversations
    • information source: journal article, blog post, print book
    • information format: PDF file, (various file formats?), print resource (monograph)
    • informational tool: database, blog, library catalog 
    • information access method: internet, RSS, physical access
  • we need to use terms clearly & precisely
  • does connectivism deal more specifically with one level than another, or does it deal with several levels at once?


connectivism's relationship to information literacy

  • idea of "point-of-need" or "just-in-time"
  • how students learn & research also affect how we should teach them these skills
  • teaching students how/when to use certain tools
  • relation to evaluating information (distinguishing authoritative/popular sources and relevant/irrelevant information)
  • information literacy as a practical application for connectivism (more than "a nice theory")


other issues & themes in connectivism

  • diversity / globalization
  • information overload / explosion of information creation
    • immediacy of information
    • currency of information vs. non-expiring fields of knowledge (history)
  • external storage of knowledge (in a digital, physical, and metaphoric sense)
  • multidisciplinarity / chaos theory
  • autonomy of the learner (distance education related; also student as co-creator--YouTube/Flickr/cheap technological tools make high production values possible)
  • restructuring traditional large lecture courses...


definition of "learning" (learning theory vs. pedagogy)

  • does connectivism really relate to a "lasting change," or merely to a way in which information is located and/or acquired?
  • perhaps connectivism is a learning theory in that it theorizes that traditionally "learning" was knowledge aquisition/storage, whereas now "learning" is knowledge discovery/location/bookmarking (external storage; not true acquisition)
  • has this been encouraged not only by technological/societal changes, but also by the nature of schooling/testing? (teaching to the test; memorization for a test without true understanding--forgetting material after test; "survival model" of schooling)
  • is this theory and these deductions applicable in other cultures? does that illuminate whether or not this should be considered a true learning theory?


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