Academic Skills on Web Are Tied to Income Level

Posted by New York Times on October 06, 2014

A new study shows lower-income students lag their affluent peers in ability to find, evaluate, integrate, and communicate information found online, reports Motoko Rich for The New York Times. The study also demonstrates a general lack of online literacy among all students, indicating schools are not yet teaching skills needed to navigate digital information; student proficiency with social media is not the same thing. The study focuses on seventh-grade students from two schools in Connecticut and used state reading test scores and assessments that required students to perform tasks like researching the question “are energy drinks heart healthy?”using multiple web resources. Students were evaluated on whether they could use keywords effectively in search engines, determine the credibility of a website, discern bias of an internet author, and communicate findings through email. Despite higher rates of academic internet use among the more affluent students in the study, only a quarter performed well on tasks where required to discern reliability of facts on a particular web page. Only 16 percent of lower-income students performed well on those tasks. Some schools are working to develop student research abilities online, but with districts scrambling to implement the Common Core, many educators are more focused on traditional texts and reading-comprehension skills.

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