Monday, February 19, 2007

Blog Post #4: New test shows shortcomings in students' cyber literacy

In section 1 page 6 of the Sunday Chicgao Tribune (2/18/2007) there is an article entitled "New tests finds students' cyber aptitude wanting." about the ICT Literacy Assessment – Information and Communication Technology Literacy,

According to the ICT Literacy Assessment Website:


“The ICT Literacy Assessment is a comprehensive test of Information and Communication Technology proficiency that uses scenario-based tasks to measure both cognitive and technical skills. The assessment provides support for institutional ICT literacy initiatives, guides curricula innovations, informs articulation and progress standings, and assesses individual student proficiency.”

The Tribune article says the piloting testing of 6,300 students in high schools and colleges across the U.S. produced mediocre scores.

“Today’s youths aren’t as tech savvy as they appear", according to the article.

I couldn’t find an online version of the Tribune article the Dominican database (Which hasn’t been working well at home or work, lately. It’s been giving me “This program cannot display the webpage” messages.”), or on the internet. However I found the original article --"New test shows shortcomings in students' cyber literacy.”--the Tribune reprinted in Sunday’s paper, to quote from.

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New test shows shortcomings in students' cyber literacy

By KELLY HEYBOER — Monday February 12, 2007c.2007 Newhouse News Service(UNDATED) Sure, today's students can download songs to their iPods, text message their friends and update their MySpace pages in a flash.But can they use a search engine to find reliable information to help them choose a new car? Can they determine if health information on a Web site is bogus or legit? Can they compose a decent e-mail?

As technology becomes an integral part of everyday life, schools and businesses have started looking for a way to assess the tech savviness of their students and applicants. The Educational Testing Service — author of the SAT and AP exams — has developed a test designed to grade students' knowledge of the cyber world.

The Information and Communication Technology Literacy Assessment, or ICT, is an online exam that gives test takers a series of tasks to see how they would use the Internet and computer programs in the real world. The tasks include sorting an e-mail inbox, using a search engine to write a report and creating a spreadsheet.

ETS recently piloted the new exam at high schools and colleges across the country. The scores of the first 6,300 students who took the test were surprisingly mediocre.Today's youth, it turns out, are not as tech savvy as they appear.

"We were quite surprised,'' said Mary Ann Zaborowski, executive director of product management at ETS. "It was shocking to us that students did not perform well.''

Just 52 percent of test takers could correctly judge the objectivity of a Web site and only 65 percent assessed the site's authoritativeness. When asked to use a search engine to look for information on the Web, only 40 percent entered multiple search terms to narrow the results.Test takers also had trouble figuring out when it's ethical to use information they find on the Internet in their own work and how to rewrite the facts they find on the Web for a new audience.

"The preliminary results do raise for us a warning flag ... and a cry for action,'' Zaborowski said. "These skills are not intuitive. They have to be learned.''

ETS officials say the scores from the pilot test are a snapshot and may not represent the technological skills of the entire American student population.

But teachers and librarians say the numbers confirm what they've suspected for years: Being able to use Google and Wikipedia doesn't mean a student knows how to do college-level research.

"They were raised using computers,'' said Sonia Gonsalves, a psychology professor at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, N.J. "Students were very technologically competent, but not necessarily proficient at using information.''

Stockton was among the first schools to test the new ICT exam. The majority of the 260 students who took the basic and advanced versions of the test did well, but not great, said Gonsalves, who serves as the director of Stockton's Institute for Faculty Development.

The school, which plans to give the test to another 270 students this year, is developing a two-semester course to improve students' computer and Internet knowledge. In the future, students who score poorly on the ICT exam may be steered into the new elective.

The test currently costs between $27 and $33 per person, slightly less than the SAT fee of $41.50. Test takers sit at a computer, though they never really log on to the Internet. Instead, they perform a series of tasks in a "simulated'' online world using the "Search-a-rama'' search engine and other mock Web sites and databases.

The computer keeps track of how the students navigate the tasks during the 75-minute exam. They are given a score ranging from 400 to 700, with the average student scoring a 550 last year.

A similar exam designed for businesses to test the tech knowledge of their employees is set to be piloted later this year. One of the first customers for the new exam will be a health care company that wants to identify tech-illiterate employees for extra training before it launches a new computer system, ETS officials said.

For now, the student version of the test is being used, mostly as an experiment, at about 80 institutions.

Finding ways to teach students the intangible skill of navigating the Internet and distinguishing shady Web sites from reliable pages may be tough, said Norbert Elliot, a veteran New Jersey Institute of TEchnology English professor who studies how to assess students' skills."It's not writing down equations. It's not identifying a grammatical error in a sentence,'' Elliot said. "A lot of this is experience.''

NJIT is also working on ways to weave better Internet and computer literacy training into its courses after giving the ICT test to 353 students on its Newark campus last year, he said. Having an exam to test students' tech knowledge is the first step in what may become a whole new field of teaching.

"We really are in new territory here,'' Elliot said.

A demonstration of the new ICT Tech Literacy Exam with sample questions is available on the ETS Web site, http://www.ets.org/ictliteracy/demo.html.

(Kelly Heyboer covers higher education for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. She can be contacted at kheyboer(at)starledger.com.) "
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I would say that this article paints quite a contrast and counterpoint to my Blog Post #2: What I learned about Net Gen Students at the Third Annual ARL Leadership Institute., the topic of which presents a tech savvy image of high and college students. This new article seems to show otherwise.

Let’s take a look at some of point made in this new article on cyber literacy:

1-“Just 52 percent of test takers could correctly judge the objectivity of a Web site and only 65 percent assessed the site's authoritativeness. When asked to use a search engine to look for information on the Web, only 40 percent entered multiple search terms to narrow the results.”

Comment: 52% and 65% doesn’t sound too bad to me. I wonder how well adults would do. I suspect they wouldn’t be too much better. Why do I say that? Well, I have seen my fair share of adults to poorly in judging health information from the internet.

2-“ ETS officials say the scores from the pilot test are a snapshot and may not represent the technological skills of the entire American student population.”

Comment: I am intrigued about what the trend will be when more tests are done. However, the ICT test needs to and will probablyl gain more validly and reliability as time goes by.

3-“But teachers and librarians say the numbers confirm what they've suspected for years: Being able to use Google and Wikipedia doesn't mean a student knows how to do college-level research.”

Comment: Despite my comments above, I would have to concur will this point. It is something I have suspected too. I hope there will be more research into this topic and that the ICT will help improve information literacy.

4-“ Finding ways to teach students the intangible skill of navigating the Internet and distinguishing shady Web sites from reliable pages may be tough, said Norbert Elliot, a veteran New Jersey Institute of TEchnology English professor who studies how to assess students' skills."It's not writing down equations. It's not identifying a grammatical error in a sentence,'' Elliot said. "A lot of this is experience.''

NJIT is also working on ways to weave better Internet and computer literacy training into its courses after giving the ICT test to 353 students on its Newark campus last year, he said. Having an exam to test students' tech knowledge is the first step in what may become a whole new field of teaching.

"We really are in new territory here,'' Elliot said.”

Comment: When I look at how I learned to use and be literate with the internet, I see that I mostly did it on my own and taught myself. So it seems ironic that we need classes to do something that in the early days of the internet we had to learn out of necessity. Fend for ourselves and learn as you go was the only way available. Now learning about the internet can be done in formal classes with standards.

My sense is that about the 65% and 52% of students was due to the attitude and aptitude of each student, their reasoning ability, powers of intuition, and critical thinking, which are due to in part to personality, upbringing, biology, and schooling. So it is a combination of nature and nurture.


On a related side note--

I ask one of my previous library teachers about why Dominican University doesn’t have a specific information literacy class for the new incoming GLIS students. It was the instructor’s contention that the graduate program will provide the information literacy via the individual courses that students will be taking as he/she goes through the program.

Wow, that strikes me as an apriori assumption. I hope my instructor is right, do I respect her and plan on taking more classes with her.

It seems odd to me that one of the assumptions or hallmark of being a librarian:

That we as Librarians, are suppose to know about information literacy, and can make good decision about information

, is not a fundamental principle/goal/topic that has been determined or chosen by the library program, to be consciously and overtly disseminated to and nurtured in its library students.

I looked over the GLIS Bulletin 2005-2006, and could not find anything about information literacy.

It feels like it is an implied understanding that students will naturally aquire by the time they graduate.

I do believe my own information literacy has improved since I started school and has been an evolving process. Yet information literacy doesn’t feel like a conscious effort, it feels more by happenstance and being in the right place at the right time (i.e. being in the right class or talking to the right classmate or teacher).

It is similar to what a very knowledgeable lecturer once told me about the connection between enlightenment and mediation; enlightenment occurs in a manner like having an accident, meditation increases your chances of having that accident.

I guess as I hang around library school long enough, my information literacy will improve as by-product my attending classes, and the interaction with classmates and teachers, more so than as a deliberate goal, objective, or action of the library program.

3 comments:

Allison Harrell said...

I agree to a certain point that information literacy is a life learning process, but with that said, schools need to start incorporating information literacy into the classroom before graduate school. New methods of teaching critical thinking skills and problem solving methods are needed to develop information literacy in the classroom. Students need to engage in real world problem solving that transfers to evaluating websites, viewing issues, reflecting on what they are learning and identifying good and bad information on the internet. Only in this context of learning can students approach a higher cognitive level of learning.
That is why library 2.0 is so successful in a library environment. Stephen Abram discusses how library 2.0 can develop critical thinking skills, web safety, creativity and learning with enjoyment. The article is titled, “Some Tricks to Build Information Fluency—Part 2.” in MultiMedia & Internet @ Schools . For me this is the whole point of library 2.0, it connects the librarian to patrons, specifically teens while improving information literacy.

Brian said...

Thanks for this thorough post! My concern is that, while all forms of literacy are interrelated, not enough is being done to get students reading complex stuff (at all ages) that builds up their ability to think critically. Tech literacy is so vital.....but I do sometimes worry that it comes at a cost -- people have more options but less capability to evaluate them.

MegaLeslie said...

I'm not surprised with the findings. It seems that many adults assume that young people just somehow know more about digital information because they were raised with computers around them. Sure many kids can get online and find games or images or even information for an assignement. However, just because they are so willing and up for the challenge does not mean they have intuitive knowledge about search strategy or evaluting information.

I think many adults mistake a young person's eagerness and experiemental nature when dealing with computers as "skill" or understanding when in fact young people just seem to be more willing to just try things using trial and error. I work with children at a public library in which most families do not have a computer at home. These kids come in every single day and jump on the computers and quickly navigate from game to game and spend as much time as they are allowed online. But when I watch these same kids attempt to do research online, search through the library catalog and databases, or even type they are often hopelessly inept.
We need to do much more as educators and life long learning partners than just assume kids will learn these skills by simply being exposed to the internet.

P.S As an interesting aside;
Kids very often, when asking for online research help from me and other library staff, ask us to "Google"everything. They can barely stand it when we go to our library databases!