Native, But Not Adept
Will students be prepared for life in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The results from the 2018 International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) were recently released and the findings are both unsuprising and dismaying. In short, students may be using technology often, but most of their usage is passive and focused on consumption, and they are not building the skills they need for a technology-rich future.
The ICILS focuses on two areas: computational thinking and students' digital information literacy (their capacity to use computers effectively to gather and share data and information). In both areas, few students achieved scores that would indicate readiness to participate in the era known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a time of "fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another...enabled by extraordinary technology advances... [that] are merging the physical, digital and biological worlds in ways that create both huge promise and potential peril. (World Economic Forum).
The assessment was administered to eighth grade students in fourteen countries, with only two percent of students achieved at the highest levels internationally. Digital equity played a significant role in students' scores. The highest scores were earned by students with the greatest access to computers; US students who reported having two or more computers in their home scored significantly better than did their peers. Twenty five percent of the US schools participating reported that students were provided with a personal device for use at home and school, with only Denmark (32%) and Uruguay (59%) scoring higher, with an international average of 12%. BYOD programs in which students brought a computer they personally owned to school, exceeded 10% in only two countries, Denmark (53%) and Chili (23%), with the US reporting a BYOD rate of 8%.
Access, while essential, is only the first step. The critical question is: What are US students doing with computers and what skills are they learning? The answer is unfortunately, not much beyond basic web searching, completing online worksheets/activities, and taking tests, the top three student activities. Perhaps even more disturbing is that while most teachers in the US reported that teaching students to use technology effectively is a priority at their school, student instruction is not including that priority. In a series of questions focused on the ability to research and analyze information, just under one-third (30%) of US students answered the questions correctly. In conjunction with this lack of skill, most US students reported that their research skills were self-taught (see image below). Just because students seem to be adept or confident (e.g. "native") with technology doesn't mean they have or are developing critically essential skills.
What do these results mean for US schools? It means that digital equity efforts must be focused on two fronts simultaneously: Equity of access and high-quality instruction must go hand-in-hand. It is essential that schools and districts seeking to develop 1:1 initiatives address teacher and leadership preparation while building infrastructure and acquiring devices. For more about readiness assessment, the the One to One Institute's 1:1 Readiness Assessment Tool, a free resource.