Study finds digital skills influenced by economic variables

In terms of digital skills, students from less well-off families lag behind those from more affluent backgrounds. This is what recent research by Donald Leu of the University of Connecticut concludes.

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In terms of digital skills, students from less financially affluent families lag behind those from more affluent backgrounds. This is the conclusion of a recent research carried out by Donald Leu, from the University of Connecticut.  

On September 23, the New York Times stated. The study first compared the results obtained by pupils from 7e year (1time secondary) to reading exams. The study then asked the young people to perform certain tasks requiring the use of the Internet, for example to find information on a particular subject. The ability to use relevant keywords, the ability to judge the credibility of a website and the ability to communicate by email are among the tasks that were assessed. The students came from two different schools in the state of Connecticut, USA. One of the schools had an annual median family income above 100,000 $, while the other had an income around 60,000 $.

Professor Leu says that students from the school with the highest median family income generally performed better than those from the other school, where the median parental income is lower. Still according to the researcher, who is the director of the New Literacies Research Laboratory, the likelihood of even greater disparities between other socioeconomic backgrounds is significant.

This study pushes a little further the results of many other previous studies, which had observed that the socio-demographic origin of young people had an impact on reading and text comprehension skills.

Interviewed in the context of the publication of the results of this research, several specialists have spoken about the digital skills of students. This is the case of James Damico, a professor at Indiana University. For him, the population has the impression that students from the “Internet generation” are familiar with the entire Web universe. According to him, it is necessary to differentiate the ability to chat, to circulate photos and to send text messages from real academic digital skills.

“You have to differentiate the ability to chat, share photos and send text messages from real academic digital skills. »

The results of this study, although based on a small sample, are doubly interesting. They seem to confirm the worrying impression that the use of technology in education increases the disparities between more affluent and less affluent backgrounds. They also seem to indicate that, although comfortable on different levels, students may be less adept than we think in the digital world.

The results of the research titled “The New Literacies of Online Research and Comprehension: Rethinking the Reading Achievement Gap” are published in the latest issue of Reading Research Quarterly.

Note: Readers interested in the sociological questions of the integration of ICT in the school environment are invited to consult my article “Sociology of education and information and communication technologies. ICTs, factors of change towards a constructivist paradigm? » published in the spring 2014 issue of the journal Learning and Teaching Today of the Conseil Pédagogique Interdisciplinaire du Québec.

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About the Author

Dominic Leblanc
Dominic leblanc
A graduate in sociology, Dominic Leblanc is an educational advisor in the Programs and Educational Development Department of the Cégep régional de Lanaudière in L'Assomption.

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