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Study Finds Large Online Literacy Achievement Gaps Among Students

Study Finds Large Online Literacy Achievement Gaps Among Students

While teachers find that their students are masters at social media, they are disappointed to find a large achievement gap when it comes to online literacy. 

According to a recent study, "The New Literacies of Online Research and Comprehension: Rethinking the Reading Achievement Gap," many students are " unable to perform online research and distinguish accurate information on the web," according to an article on The study also found that "there is a large achievement gap in online reading ability between students in economically disadvantaged districts and their peers in wealthier schools."

According to Donald Leu, co-author of the study and director of the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut, "online reading is not simply taking a passage from a book and putting it on a computer screen. Rather, it is using the internet to read and learn new information—a skill that students need in an increasingly digital world."

"The study, conducted by the lab’s researchers, examined seventh graders in two Connecticut districts," the article said. "The districts had the same number of medium-power and internet-connected computers, but were substantially different in terms of family income levels. The study used Online Research and Comprehension Assessments [ORCAs] developed by the New Literacies Research Lab as part of a federal research grant. Students completed online reading tasks in science, and wrote short reports of their findings in an email message and on a classroom wiki. Those in the economically advantaged district, on average, performed twice as well with online reading as those in the economically disadvantaged district."

According to the article, "researchers found the achievement gap is about equal to a year of learning in middle school."

Despite the differences, the article said, "all students generally lacked online reading skills. Students in both districts responded correctly to less than 50 percent of items. Students in the high-poverty district responded correctly to less than 25 percent. Performance in both districts was low in the ability to communicate results and evaluate the reliability of information on the web."

According to the article, "the results are surprising, considering that the students are, after all, digital natives."

“They tend to be strong in social networking, texting, video and gaming, and incredibly weak with information,” Leu said.“We’ve learned that it’s important to look at those two categories of skills very differently, and not to assume that students are strong with online information use when they are strong with social networking.”

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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