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  • Tue, 05 Jul 2011Teenagers Can Evaluate Online Content But Are They Digitally Literate?

  • The report, which is the latest publication of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)[1], measures the ability of 15 year-old students in 16 OECD member countries to read, understand and apply digital texts, including emails and websites, and compared this with their traditional (paper-based) literacy abilities. 

    As technology becomes increasingly integrated into teenagers’ lives, and as much of the written content that they view is now in electronic format, it is useful to have empirical and comparative research data available, such as that contained in the recent OECD report. Additionally, by identifying the digital reading skill levels of the younger generation, policymakers and educators will be better able to prepare them to perform more competently in a world where an increasing amount of content, which they will be required to read, will be electronic.

    It is encouraging that in many of the countries surveyed, the digital reading skill levels of teenagers were of a good standard, and the fact that the report also assessed candidates’ abilities to navigate web pages and evaluate the reliability of information on the Internet confirms that digital literacy requires a degree of critical evaluation. However, caution should be exercised in interpreting the skills assessed in the OECD report as those which constitute the broader concept of digital literacy. For a more complete evaluation of an individual’s digital literacy, other skills also need to be taken into account. These include the ability to navigate the Web securely and safely, and to effectively use common tools and applications, such as, email, and the basic functions of spreadsheets and word processing applications.

    The risk is that in assuming that just because individuals, in this instance teenagers, are adept at reading online and because they use technology on a daily basis, that they can be considered to be digitally literate. ECDL Foundation, as a leading global advocate for the promotion of digital literacy, welcomes the recent OECD report but cautions that the concept of digital literacy incorporates a broader set of skills and knowledge than those that have been assessed in the recently released report.


    [1]Students on Line: Reading and Using Digital Information” OECD (June 2011)

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