image by SCY, downloaded from pixabay

image by SCY, downloaded from pixabay

The word literacy describes man’s competence with the social constructs of his environment. To be literate means man has the capability and knowledge to access and internalise text, oral and other representations of ideas. It includes the ability to engage with, interpret and understand ideas in a particular context, use it, and re-purpose it. It refers to the capability and skills needed to communicate these ideas, in multiple formats and delivery modes, with the competence. Literacy enables a person the interaction needed for integration in the social environment.

When we speak of information literacy (IL), we refer to the capability to interact with information in a particular context, for a specific purpose. More than just the ability to decode text and the spoken word, it incorporates the identification of an information need as well as the plan and strategy executed to find and use the information to meet the need. It further encompasses a critical evaluation of the information, as well as an understanding of the economic, social and ethical issues surrounding the use of the information.

Through these studies my understanding of IL has evolved from a primarily skilled based and behaviourist approach: I now understand that knowledge is contextual and because information is the basic foundation of knowledge, IL is a catalyst and scaffold to ALL learning (formal and informal). IL is the essential capability and competence for lifelong learning and learning to learn. I have also come to understand that information practices are not individualist but inherently social –  originating socially amongst members of a community of practitioners – and is dependent on specific contexts and the setting of activities.

Information literacy is a foundational and fundamental competence and capability for being successful in the complex and changing information landscape.

Of all the definitions of IL the one from ACRL (2016), adopted in the Information Literacy Framework, reflects my understanding best:

“Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”


Association of College and Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from American Library Association website:

Fitzgerald, L. (2018) Introducing information literacy [ETL401 Module 5.1]. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from Charles Sturt University Website:

Lloyd, A. (2007).  Recasting information literacy as sociocultural practice: Implications for library and information science researchers. Information Research, 12(4).

Talja, S. & Lloyd, A. (2010). Integrating theories of learning, literacies and information practices. In Talja, S. & Lloyd, A. (2010). Practising information literacy: Bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together. WaggaWagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies. pp. ix-xviii.

The Need for Network Literacy

Being connected through networks has always been fundamental to the survival and development of humankind: social networks, learning networks, professional networks, trade networks, and communication networks, being some examples. Also, transmission of knowledge and innovation have always been dependent on networks. The knowledge and skills, or literacy, to operate within, and to use these networks, have been crucial to successful participation in society.

Through digital and communication technology we now have the vast network of computers, that we call the internet, which enables us to create and link knowledge artefacts, and to store and distribute vast amounts of information in digital format – instantaneously. Living successfully in the information era will once again, increasingly, depend on being able to proficiently use digital networks.

McClure (1994) defined network literacy in terms of the ability to identify, access, and use electronic information from the network, emphasizing essential knowledge and skills. He argued network literacy central to being personally and professionally productive and effective (p. 115).

Rheingold agreed with McClure on the importance of network literacy, identifying “network awareness” as one of the five literacies needed in the 21st century. He argued that a basic understanding of networks is vital in our connected world, because the structure and dynamics of networks influences political freedom, economic wealth creation, and participation in the creation of culture (Rheingold, 2010, pp.14-16). “The technical networks amplify and extend the fundamental human capability of forming social networks” (Rheingold, 2010).

Pegrum argued that personal, social and professional networks are all linked together technologically by the internet. To maintain balance between personal identity and social connections, and the civic engagement (locally, nationally and globally) through digital networks, require literacy and skills that cannot just be assumed, but must be acquired. We must teach about and through networks (Pegrum, 2010, pp. 349-350).

Siemens constructed a new learning theory for the networked age, called connectivism. He explained that “the amplification of learning, knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network is the epitome of collectivism.” Learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity; and teaching, in this networked world, means “guiding, directing, and curating the quality of networks learners are forming” (Siemens & Tittenberger 2009, p. 13).

Pegrum saw personal learning networks (PLNs), trusted networks of peers and experts, tools and technologies, resources and materials, as mirrors of networked knowledge and facilitators of networked learning. Network literacy could be enhanced by early exposure to and regular maintenance of PLNs.

Being connected through networks has always been fundamental to the survival and development of humankind. The knowledge and skills, or literacy, to operate within, and to use these networks, have been crucial to successful participation in society. This is as true of the networks of the information age, as it has been of any networked environment.



McClure, C. R. (1994). Network literacy: A role for libraries? Information Technology and Libraries, 13(2), 115-125.

Pegrum, M. (2010). I link, therefore I am’: Network literacy as a core digital literacy. E-Learning and Digital Media, 7(4).

Rheingold, H. (n.d.). Network literacy: Mini-course. Retrieved from

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and other 21st-century social media literacies. EDUCAUSE Review, 45(5), 14-16.

Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from

Siemens, G., & Tittenberger, P. (2009). Handbook of emerging technologies for learning.
Retrieved from