Ontario students among highest computer-literate

Nov 20, 2014 | Biz/Tech

By Kate Richards

A study released today shows that Ontario students scored among the highest in the world in computer and information literacy (CIL).

Ontario Grade 8 students scored an average 547 points out of a possible 600, with a possible five per cent margin of error, which is 47 points above the international average of 500 and tied with the Czech Republic.

Computer and Information Literacy is defined by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, who administered the study, as “an individual’s ability to use computers to investigate, create and communicate in order to participate effectively at home, school, in the workplace and in society.”

The results found that in a majority of the countries involved, female students scored higher than their male counterparts, with Ontario’s gender gap at 25 points above the international average.

The study also found that CIL scores were higher among students who emigrated to Canada and whose parents were also born outside the country.

Students who have more computers in their home scored higher, their score rising the more computers available to them. The study says that higher socioeconomic status was associated with higher CIL proficiency.

Interestingly, both teachers and information and communication technology (ICT) coordinators in Ontario indicated that they face more obstacles that prevent the best ICT education in schools. Insufficient plans to educate teachers in ICT and insufficient time to prepare lessons that incorporate ICT are their top concerns.

Clare Brett specializes in technology in education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and agreed that when it comes to technology in Ontario schools, most are in a transitional period. She said education in Canada is different than most countries because it’s not run nationally, but provincially.

Brett added there are many different school boards doing different things and this could account for the high number of obstacles teachers expressed concern about in the study.

“There’s a huge amount of variability in how schools have access to equipment and we’re in the process of changing from an old model to a new model,” she said.

An example of the old model is computer labs, which have software that needs updating and an employee to monitor that technology, both of which can be very expensive, she said.

“If you have a bunch of iPad minis to hand out in class, it can be cheaper than having a computer lab in schools,” said Brett.

“A modern education system requires us to build on this solid foundation and continue enhancing the use of ICT in schools. EQAO will do its part as it continues its transition to offering its provincial assessments online,” said Bruce Rodriguez, the CEO of Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office, in a press release.

The 2013 International Computer and Information Literacy Study is the first of its kind and tested Grade 8 students in more than 20 countries. ICILS researchers tested almost 60,000 students in more than 3,300 schools.