Highlights of International Study on Computer Literacy

Hello Colleagues,

Here are some important highlights -- and perhaps some surprises -- from a recent international study on children's computer literacy in which the U.S. participated (although the U.S did not meet the participation threshold for the study, so its results aren't considered as comparable.) As reported in this Education Week blog article, "International Study Finds Major Inequities in Computer Literacy," the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) assessed more than 46,000 students, 26,000 teachers, and 2,200 schools in 14 countries and territories for the study.

Here are some highlights:

  • Having access to a computer or tablet doesn't necessarily make students computer literate
  • There is greater variation in achievement levels within each country than between countries
  • "Students of higher socio-economic status, as measured by family conditions such as parental occupation and education, and the number of books in the home, had significantly higher computer literacy scores"
  • Denmark and South Korea were the top performers on the assessment; the U.S. scored in the middle
  • "In evaluating students' computer literacy, the study considered students' ability to do things like edit digital photographs, create a database using Microsoft or Access, write or edit text for a school assignment, search for relevant information for a school project on the internet, creating a multimedia presentation, or judge whether you can trust information you find on the internet."
  • "Teachers themselves may not be proficient at some computer-literacy skills. While 95 percent of teachers said they were comfortable using the internet to find resources, just 57 percent said they were confident in using digital tools for online collaboration."
  • "The study saw a huge difference between younger teachers—defined as those younger than 40 and older teachers when it comes to how comfortable educators were in helping students learn to use devices."
  • Overall, girls outperformed boys on computer literacy skills
  • Not much has changed since the last survey in 2013. "Computers are used in very old fashioned ways," Dirk Hastedt, the executive director of the IEA said. "Basic computer literacy skills are not taught to all students."

What do you find interesting, surprising, reaffirming, or confirming of your own experience teaching adults computer or digital literacy skills?

Do you teach adult learners to do any of these things? Which ones?

  • Edit digital photographs
  • Create a database using Microsoft or Access, or a Google tool
  • Write or edit text for a class or tutorial assignment
  • search for relevant information on the Internet for a class or tutoring project
  • create a multimedia presentation, or
  • judge whether they can trust information they find on the internet ?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group



I'm in a tutoring lab at a community college.   I work w/ "entry level" students; it's pretty much a requirement to write or edit text. 

What's not on this list is using the computer for required "online learning" which takes various forms and has various degrees of efficacy.   The math software is all about "enter the right answer," but they need to figure out how to navigate the complicated ways to "speak math" online, and accessibility is a huge issue (most of the software just isn't accessible).   Our psych classes use a thing called InQuisitive that are more challenging and even tho' it's multiple choice, "click 'til you get it right, don't read it" ... doesn't work because you get penalized for wrong answers.   (It hasn't been effective enough to inspire my "just wanna get through" student to, say, *read* an answer they guessed to learn from it...)   

Searching for relevant information -- they have to do it,  with lessons with highly variable degrees of structure.  So, the math classes are supposed to "find some data about a nonlinear relationship," w/o any real guidance; the humanities folks tend to do a little better with recommended sites and including figuring out if it is a good site. 

They are often asked to throw together a Powerpoint / Google Presentation.   That has finally gotten about as easy as figuring out how to do a text document (but usually they've done the latter and don't remember when that was strange, too). 

There are many simple spreadsheet assignments in the Math Literacy course and occasionally it's part of another course (though often optional).   Databases?  You must be kidding :-)   

Editing pictures?  Not an expectation.   We do have lots of courses in doing stuff like this but it's not in the "basic tech" stuff.   I'm thinking our awesome arts and graphic design folks should put together a "non-majors digital skills" class. 

HIghly varying education about "what's good on the internet" but it's showing up more and more.  

I also really wish things like speech recognition & text-to-speech were included.   We once had an "assistive technology" course all about using tech to support students in their classes, but the teacher retired (and I'm staff, not faculty and that's a good thing) and it has gone by the wayside. 

Oh, and yes, there is a *huge* range of tech literacy.... and so many things that all have their own procedures and pitfalls.   Some students recognize "Desmos" on my lanyard w/ my keys... others are very intimidated by ALEKS.   I know one student who was sent to me after weeks of perfect homework with horrible tests ... they'd relied on The INternet to get the right answers on the homework and couldn't use the homework on the tests, and ... no, it didn't carry over.    So, sometimes "literacy" is a problem...