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U.S. Eighth-Graders Outscore International Peers in Computer and Information Literacy

November 5, 2019 GMT

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. eighth-graders scored above the international average for computer and information literacy, according to the results of an international study released today of how well prepared students are for today’s digital learning and working environments. However, this study also shows that most eighth-graders struggled with some key skills, such as determining the credibility of online news and information.

The International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) measures eighth-graders’ ability to use computers to investigate, create, participate, and communicate at home, at school, in their future workplace, and in their communities. The 2018 study’s results were released today in the United States by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This is the first time that U.S. ICILS data are available.

“The study shows that the idea of the ‘digital native’ is more myth than reality,” said Peggy G. Carr, associate commissioner for assessment at NCES. “Today’s eighth-graders were raised in a world in which computers and smartphones are commonplace, but the majority of them were unable to execute basic tasks independently. Clearly, we have work to do to ensure that our students are prepared to use digital devices to successfully navigate all aspects of life.”

Ninety percent of U.S. students demonstrated a functional working knowledge of computers as tools and were able to complete simple tasks, such as opening a link in a new browser tab. Just 25 percent of U.S. eighth-graders were able to independently use computers as tools (e.g., for gathering information or managing work) and successfully distinguish the reliability of web-based information. The assessment found that girls in the U.S. and internationally scored higher than boys in computer information literacy.

“This finding on gender differences aligns with the National Assessment of Educational Progress results in 2014 and 2018 in the technology and engineering literacy assessment, in which girls outperformed boys,” Dr. Carr said. “It’s encouraging to see that this finding has been corroborated globally, and it is another signal that girls can succeed in STEM courses and careers.”

In addition to computer and information literacy, ICILS also measured a new, optional domain for the first time in 2018: computational thinking. Nine education systems, including the United States, tested computational thinking, which is the type of thinking used when programming a computer. It involves conceptualizing problems (through algorithmic or systems thinking) and operationalizing solutions (creating, implementing, and evaluating computer-based solutions to problems). The overall U.S. score for computational thinking was not measurably different from the ICILS average.

For computational thinking, the United States had larger percentages of students at both the highest and lowest performance levels (20 percent and 35 percent, respectively) compared to other participating education systems. Students at the highest level demonstrated an understanding of computation as a problem-solving network—meaning they could evaluate and implement efficient solutions to complex coding problems using non-linear and conditional logic. Students at the lowest level, on the other hand, demonstrated a functional working knowledge of basic conventions of digital systems, such as simple coding and the relationship between input and output, but struggled to successfully demonstrate higher level skills and understanding.

ICILS also asked students and teachers about their experiences using information and communications technologies (ICT).

Eighty-six percent of teachers “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that ICT was considered a priority for use in teaching at their schools, which was comparable with the ICILS average. Higher percentages of U.S. teachers than the ICILS average reported participating in professional learning ICT activities, such as training on subject-specific digital teaching and learning resources (70 percent compared with 50 percent).

However, just half of U.S. teachers reported using ICT when teaching, which was on par with the ICILS average. Students in education systems where a higher proportion of teachers reported using ICT in their teaching tended to outperform U.S. students overall in both computer and information literacy and computational thinking.

“The results of this study not only tell us that we can and must improve, they also help us better understand how to help students strengthen their digital capabilities,” said NCES Commissioner James L. Woodworth. “While the majority of American students are learning some key digital skills from their teachers, other critical skills are self-taught. Only 1 in 4 students can evaluate the reliability of information they find on a webpage and evaluate information that might be biased.”

ICILS is sponsored by the IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) and is conducted in the United States by NCES. This was the first time the United States participated in ICILS. Eleven other countries participated in ICILS in 2018:

In addition, Moscow and Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region participated as “benchmark” participants.

Other key findings for the U.S. include:



Visit https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/icils/ to view the report.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, is the statistical center of the U.S. Department of Education and the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. A part of the Institute of Education Sciences, NCES fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.

The International Computer and Informational Literacy Study (ICILS) is a computer-based assessment of eighth-grade students that measures international differences in students’ computer and information literacy: their ability to use computers to investigate, create, participate, and communicate at home, at school, in the workplace, and in the community. Starting in 2018, participating countries also had an option for their students to complete an assessment of computational thinking.

ICILS is sponsored by the IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) and is conducted in the United States by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This study allows the U.S. to begin monitoring U.S. student skills and experience using technology compared to that of other nations, and to provide data on factors that may influence student computer and information literacy and computational thinking skills. The data collected through ICILS provide valuable information with which to understand the nature and extent of the “digital divide” and have the potential to inform our understanding of the relationship between technology skills and experience and student performance in other core subject areas.

Linda Hamilton, NCES, linda.hamilton@ed.gov, (202) 245-6360 OR
Samantha Prior, Hager Sharp, sprior@hagersharp.com, (202) 706-7456

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SOURCE National Center for Education Statistics