Connected Learning and Digital Literacy

Blog Task 2: Write a 500 word reflective piece with demonstrates your emerging understanding of themes or issues of importance in the topic in relation to education and/or personal professional practice. 


 ~ Connectivism ~

A word which I’d never encountered before three weeks ago.

A theory which is beginning to make sense to me.

An area I’m growing my confidence in.

 This is my current understanding of what it means:

Connectivism is the next evolution of the learning “-isms”: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism. It differs from the others in that connectivism strives to make sense of the impact that technology has had on how we connect and communicate, live and learn (Siemens, 2004).

It is a learning theory for the digital age – one which acknowledges we live in a world of multiplicity. Individuals and communities are nodes of knowledge, scattered about, complicatedly connected. Chaos theory, an integral part of connectivism states that while yes, our information networks are multifaceted, unpredictable and diverse, there is meaning distributed across and within this network of connections (Downes, 2012).

It’s the job of the participant in this new information ecology to uncover patterns, make sense of these connections, and make new connections (Siemens, 2004). To make sense of the chaos. How individuals go about doing this, within learning communities and networked environments, is something which connectivism strives to understand.

To participate fully within the diverse ‘knowledgefield’ technology has afforded us today, individuals need to be “confident in their ability to make connections, understand concepts, critique, create and share knowledge” (Starkey, 2011, p37). If these are some of the competencies integral to living well in the future, then we want students leaving our schools to be well versed in their arts.

While it’s clear that the students of today are changing in response to the digital age it’s a myth that they come hard-wired to participate effectively in this world (the digital native argument). Learning design, therefore, needs to focus on providing experiences that will grow these literacies and competencies. A revamped set of literacies – digital literacies – indeed a reimagined pedagogy, is required.

Ford (2008) outlines one way learning can be designed within a connectivist framework. A central theme of Ford’s work is the flow between the concepts of mediation and autonomy.

The web is the source of a massive amount of knowledge. Students may have the autonomy to surf these networks, but the extent to which they are able to source information, critically evaluate and make sense of information may be limited. The goal is to help students along the path to becoming autonomous seekers and users of information, to be flexible and versatile navigating the digital currents. Mediation is required in assisting students to achieve this goal – in particular, fostering meta-cognitive awareness.

Much exploration has also been undertaken in regard to what exactly these new literacies that students require are. It’s a diverse area of research, with many different frameworks, strategies and models.

Bawden (2008) breaks down digital literacy into information literacy (which is actively finding and using information – the “pull”) and media literacy (dealing with and understanding media “pushed” at the individual). Added into this is the necessary elements of digital citizenship – the social and moral components required for effective participation and safety.

Retrieved from

The Digital Literacy Handbook from Future Lab UK highlights creativity, effective communication, collaboration, the ability to find and select information, e-safety, functional skills, critical thinking and evaluation, and cultural and social understanding as core dimensions of digital literacy.

Finding the commonalities between these facets of digital literacy then moulding them into the particular context of your school and community is key.

We are developing our understandings of the world in which we live in and the future the students of today will enter. Connectivism seeks to understand the role of learning in our new, diverse knowledge ecology, while models of digital literacy aim to provide educators with a framework of skills and competencies required for effective participation within them.



Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and Concepts Of Digital Literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Retrieved from

Downes, S. (2012). Connectivism and Connective Knowledge: Essays on meaning and learning networks. National Research Council Canada

Ford, N. (2008). Education. In Web-based learning through educational informatics: Information science meets educational computing (pp. 75-109). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Retrieved from:

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from

Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st century: A digital age learning matrix. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(1), 19-39.

7 thoughts on “Connected Learning and Digital Literacy

  1. I had never thought about 9C’s in relation to ICT. It actually sums so much of what are reading in this subject in a succinct manner. It’s interesting how much so many of these topics overlap too. I guess that why it can be so hard making sense of it all. You seem to be collating it sensibly too. It can be overwhelming at times and cause me to lose focus. Well done on this post!

    1. I agree, it’s overwhelming at times! The overlapping and intermingling means it’s complex to find the key points – perhaps in this radically diverse and networked world there aren’t really key points anymore (?). I’m just trying to really focus on what I think matters for my context, my school and my learners. Thanks for the comment!

  2. A great post Matt. I too had not heard of connectivism three weeks back but am enjoying exploring this idea…pedagogy?

    Yes the following statement is a bing one:

    “the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing”

    It acknowledges that we live in a world rich in knowledge and we as individuals can’t possibly know it all. So, we need to be able to access our networks and pull information from them, as you have so eloquently said in your post.

    1. Glad to hear we are in the same boat, Simon! You mention that “as individuals we can’t possibly know it all” – I wonder then, what do we need to know as educators. Is there a body of knowledge (subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge) we just need to know to be effective? Or are the skills to access such knowledge “enough”. Interesting stuff! Cheers for the comment.

  3. Hello Matt,

    A great post indeed! I agree the “9Cs” are a succinct summary of this part of the course.

    Your last line read, “Finding the commonalities between these facets of digital literacy then moulding them into the particular context of your school and community is key.” This resonated with me.”

    One approach we adopted three years ago, through the use of an experienced consultant, Delphian Learning, as to survey & interview both students and teachers about the use of technology. This informed us as to ‘where we at’ with our digital literacy. This, and other data, then enabled teachers and representative students, us to develop an eLearning Plan.

    This ‘whole school’ eLearning Plan has served as the framework from which all learning initiatives have evolved and has resulted in students being more involved in decision‐making processes, extensively using digital technologies and increasingly ‘learn by doing’ with relevance to the real world.

    Three years later we are in a far better place as seen as leaders in regional New South Wales; all because in this messy time of education we had a plan which guided and informed our decisions about learning.

    “Thank you” Delphian!


    1. Hi Greg.

      You sound like you did it right – getting baseline data, co-construction with the students, real world contexts. Involving the students (and community) is always a good way to make your systems / learning more meaningful. Social networks can facilitate this.

      Cheers for the comment!

  4. Yes, our Greg is pretty much on top of things..but of course we are very glad when a Principal can lead the way like this. What you are doing in your reflections also shows very strong reflection that is the stuff of ‘principal thinking’! The more we have educators able to see the connections, and know the theories and models that underpin those connections, the better chance we have of making a difference. From teacher to Principal, every bit of action counts. As to one of the other comments, I think the stuff in our subject is the foundational stuff that leading educators need to know, on top of regular discipline and pedagogical knowledge. While it might be considered the icing on the cake by some – I think digital change has made this knowledge critical to all. Great writing, and comments 🙂

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