At first, it seems obvious. Our kids are used to living on their phones, so their technical skills certainly are on the rise. But a 12-country international study says something disturbingly different.
U.S. eighth graders can gather basic information and even make simple edits. But beyond that, they fall short.
The 2018 results of the International Computer and Information Literacy Study was a wake-up call.
Across the 12 education systems participating in the study, the average score on the test was 496 on a scale from 100 to 700. U.S. students scored just 519 — below Denmark, the Republic of Korea and Finland, but ahead of several other countries, including Germany, France, and Chile.
The results suggest students don’t “develop sophisticated digital skills” just because they grow up as digital natives.
But, entrepreneurs have taken note of the gap, and ed tech is now a fast-growing sector - expected to be worth $252 billion by 2020 by some industry analysts. In 2018 alone, American ed tech companies raised $1.45 billion —an all-time high.
Among the companies leading the ed tech trend:
Knewton focuses on adaptive learning. It creates digital learning tools that respond to students’ strengths and weaknesses as they study.
Kahoot’s interface transforms review sessions and homework assignments into micro-quiz-shows. Students work together to solve questions— and the right answers earn points.
Schoology’s learning management system is primarily designed for K-12 classrooms and emphasizes collaboration and fun. The system allows kids to work and chat together. It also offers teachers a one-stop portal for lesson planning, grading and quiz administration.
So can software bridge the education gap for young students? “Confidence, and crucially, competence, in the use of digital devices is of vital importance globally,” said Dirk Hastedt, the executive director of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, who conducted the study. “It is essential that young people are taught these skills at schools, and that their teachers are well supported in delivering this bedrock of modern education.”
And big tech is moving into the education space as well. Amazon launched the AWS EdStart program, an accelerator to support ed-tech startups, in 2017. It currently has members 34 countries and is growing. And Microsoft has been building its edutainment franchise — Minecraft —-after purchasing it for $2.5 billion back in 2014 and launched an educational version of “Minecraft” designed for classroom use.
As digital technology grows more and more central to our daily lives, it’s critical that students have access to tools and coursework that give them the power to learn with technology-enhanced systems. And, for day-to-day survival, understanding digital isn’t just a platform for games, it’s the key to our digital world around us.